Roku Smart Soundbar: A simple, potent streaming combination

    From Netflix to Disney Plus to Apple TV Plus to HBO Max to…properly, you get the thought, streaming TV is blowing up. And meaning media streamers are being constructed into not solely sensible TVs but additionally soundbars. I used to be fairly upset in first hybrid soundbar-streamer I noticed, the JBL Link Bar, however after reviewing the succesful and reasonably priced Roku Smart Soundbar, I’m considering it is a worthwhile mixture in any case.

    LikeThe Roku Smart Soundbar combines a full-function 4K HDR Roku streamer with a soundbar in a single, reasonably priced package deal. It’s straightforward to arrange and affords spectacular sound from a single bar. The elective $179 subwoofer is an economical improve.

    Don’t LikeSome competing streamer-less soundbars are inexpensive and sound higher. There are not any buttons on the unit (together with energy) and there is not any distant finder as seen on the Roku Ultra.

    The Smart Soundbar has been rock-solid from day one in all my assessments. Its sound high quality is excellent for a subwoofer-less bar and the streaming part works as easily I’ve come to count on from any Roku machine, working the corporate’s easy software program to stream 1000’s of apps to your TV.There are some bizarre trade-offs made within the identify of simplicity. You have to have the TV on so as to add Bluetooth, there are not any buttons on the bar itself and the optical port does not actually work in any practical means. And there’s the bigger difficulty of redundancy: Roku streamers are low cost, most new TVs are capably sensible and lots of separate soundbars are higher total values. But if you happen to do not already personal a Roku or different streamer and desire a soundbar too, the Roku Smart Soundbar makes a slick all-in-one leisure system that is excellent for older TVs or smaller dwelling areas.

    Sarah Tew/CNET
    Unlike final yr’s Roku Wireless Speakers the sensible soundbar works with any TV, though pairing it with a Roku TV can be the peak of redundancy. The design is slick for a sub-$200 soundbar with its rounded ends and seamless plastic development. It seems extra just like the Bowers and Wilkins Panorama than any of its price range competitors.The speaker is comparatively compact at 2.8 inches excessive and 32.2 inches huge, and it features a cloth-wrapped entrance with a single operation LED mild. Behind that grill the unit incorporates 4 2.5 inch full-range drivers.There’s no controls or perhaps a energy button on the unit itself — only a Roku emblem. Everything is dealt with by the distant.  As somebody who misplaces the distant so much I discovered the dearth of buttons a large trouble. While there’s a distant finder on the Roku Ultra, there is not one on the soundbar. Yes, you need to use Roku’s cellphone app to manage the bar in a pinch, however that is not excellent for lots of customers.

    Sarah Tew/CNET
    At the again of the unit is an HDMI ARC port, an optical port and a USB port for enjoying media information. There are additionally a few wall-mounting screw holes.The Roku consists of Bluetooth in addition to compatibility with Spotify Connect (if you happen to set up the Spotify app) however the connection of the previous requires utilizing the TV interface by navigating to the Bluetooth tile. The system will decode PCM and Dolby Audio soundtracks — no fancy immersive codecs like Dolby Atmos right here.The Roku Smart Soundbar interface features a Bluetooth tile for connecting telephones
    Sarah Tew/CNET
    The Roku system consists of 4K video and help for HDR10 which signifies that apps like Netflix and Vudu will look nice on a compliant TV.  If you are acquainted with Roku TVs you may know that the interface affords the entire inputs on the prime they usually helpfully show the machine every port is linked to. The Roku Smart Soundbar, then again, affords a alternative of two inputs, nevertheless it solely needs you to make use of HDMI and join every thing to your TV. It’s not doable to modify to the optical enter, and optical will solely work if there’s nothing plugged within the HDMI port. Since it is not likely doable to make use of the speaker with out the TV interface over HDMI, I’m left to surprise why the optical port is there within the first place. Why would anybody purchase a streaming soundbar and never use the streaming options?
    Sarah Tew/CNET
    The Roku comes with the corporate’s acquainted voice distant. It permits you to search along with your voice by hitting a button in the course of the wand, in addition to providing quantity controls on the aspect. It’s a enjoyable little clicker. If you wish to use Roku’s headphone characteristic to pay attention with out disturbing others, wi-fi use the Roku app is the one choice.For extra bass, the corporate affords a $179 wi-fi Subwoofer as a complement. It’s a sizeable unit for the cash, too, at 12-inches cubed, and it incorporates a 10-inch driver. Unfortunately, you possibly can’t disable the sub whereas it is linked — for instance, if the neighbors complain throughout a loud film — it is advisable bodily take away it from the ability.Setup of the soundbar was straightforward and far less complicated than the competing Yamaha YAS-109, which wanted a selected app (from a dozen Yamaha apps) to work in any respect. In comparability, the Roku steps you thru each step of the method and I used to be able to go in minutes.  How does it carry out?The soundbar’s video high quality was as effective as any of the opposite Roku items I’ve examined lately, just like the Streaming Stick Plus — and I did not discover the loading points I’ve seen at house on my older-gen Roku Ultra. My take a look at Vizio 4K TV was capable of glean and show the HDR info the soundbar was sending from The Mandalorian. As you’d count on from a unit with out a sub, the Roku does not supply a lot in the way in which of house cinema slam, nevertheless it has a convincing quantity of readability and pop with each music and films. There is a few bass weight in there for the music, however it’s possible you’ll wish to experiment with the controls nestled within the menus relying on the content material.
    Sarah Tew/CNET
    For instance, I discovered the bass was a little bit overpowering for our take a look at monitor Red Right Hand by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. The track sounded a lot better with the Reduced Bass setting enabled. I in contrast the sound in opposition to the Yamaha YAS-109 and located that the Yamaha made the track larger and extra majestic sounding, with still-discernible bass. Yet irrespective of which sound mode I selected on the Yamaha, the track’s stabby organ chords sounded too harsh and troublesome to take heed to. Going again to the Roku I discovered the organ sounded far more natural and built-in throughout the track.Don’t count on enormous walloping house theater sound out of the Roku. It does not go all that loud, however least this implies it does not distort at most quantity. It was nonetheless completely audible throughout the compact CNET AV room, although.With the Oppo UDP-205 plugged in over HDMI and feeding into the soundbar over ARC, I discovered the dialog at first Avatar’s Thanator chase scene to be admirably clear. There wasn’t as a lot of the jungle’s ambient buzzing, nonetheless, and neither was there any thump when the shell bushes collapsed. There had been glimpses of atmosphere on sure sounds nevertheless it wasn’t as involving when the motion ramped up: I felt a scarcity of hazard or dynamics because the Thanator was attacking. The Yamaha’s dialog wasn’t as clear — Dr. Grace Augustine’s voice sounded a bit extra chesty — however the jungle got here to life: Bugs appeared from on excessive and the pachyderm factor that fees Jake reverberated across the room. It supplied extra of a thump with the shell bushes leading to extra drama, extra dynamic vary and extra bass.I additionally in contrast the Roku to my favourite price range soundbar, the Vizio SB3621. It has the unfair benefit of a subwoofer and made its prowess with the content material clear. The jungle got here alive, because it had earlier than with the Yamaha, and the Vizio’s sub made my chair transfer in a means the sub-less Roku merely could not. I wanted so as to add the Roku sub for higher punch, nevertheless it makes the product twice the worth. It’s value contemplating the sub although, because it makes it a fair higher system.Should you purchase it?What would you like a soundbar for? Is it to play out of your present sources? Get the Yamaha YAS-109. If you are ranging from scratch or simply wish to preserve the variety of gadgets to a minimal, nonetheless, the Roku is a effective alternative.As good because the Roku sounds, it is outclassed for house theater by the Vizio SB3612, and so if you happen to’re not fussed concerning the streamer side, or having HDMI, the Vizio is a less expensive, higher choice. While its streaming is redundant for individuals who have already got a Roku or different streamer of their system, the sensible soundbar brings a wealth of content material and gratifying sound high quality to older TVs for not very a lot cash.

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