If you find the world of home theater audio too complicated for your liking, Roku has just the ticket. Its new $180 Smart Soundbar puts everything you need to enjoy streaming media with great sound in one convenient package. It joins the more expensive $400 JBL Link Bar and the Bang & Olufsen Beosound Stage as the market for multi-use soundbars starts to expand.
With Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and of course, the Roku OS itself, there are two ways to use the 32-inch Smart Soundbar: If you already own a Roku TV or a Roku streaming device like a Roku Streaming Stick+, you can hook it up to your TV via HDMI-ARC or optical cable, and use it as a way to get much better sound out of your TV. It packs four 2.5-inch speakers, which can deliver 2-channel Dolby Audio to fill a room with sound. Your other option is to use the Smart Soundbar as your streaming device too — it’s perfect for people who have a “dumb” TV, or who would like to ditch their existing media streamer for a simpler, clutter-free setup. With Roku OS on board and compatibility with both Alexa and Google Assistant, the Roku Smart Soundbar is a modern take on the old home-theater-in-a-box concept.
As a media streamer, the Smart Soundbar has some decent specs: It’s 4K Ultra HD- and HDR-capable and can handle streams up to 60fps. For those with older TVs, it can still do both 1080p and 720p resolutions. It’s worth noting that the Smart Soundbar isn’t Dolby Vision– or Dolby Atmos-capable. If you want those features in a Roku-powered product, you’ll have to buy a TCL 6- or 8-Series Roku TV (for both Dolby technologies) or a dedicated Roku device like the Roku Streaming Stick+ which offers Dolby Atmos pass-through to compatible TVs and A/V receivers.
The Soundbar comes with Roku’s excellent RF remote control, which gives you access to the Roku Voice function — a button- and a menu-free way to access and search for content. The Smart Soundbar also has some smart audio management features. Automatic Volume Leveling offers uniform audio levels across various types of content and can quiet loud commercials. Night mode lowers the volume for louder scenes and boosts it for quieter ones, making it less likely that you’ll disturb others in your home. Speech Clarity boosts voice frequencies for clearer dialogue.
If you really want to take that home theater idea to the next level, Roku is also debuting its $180 Roku Wireless Subwoofer. Designed to work in tandem with the Smart Soundbar, the Wireless Subwoofer has a digital amplifier with 250 watts at peak power (125W RMS), which moves a single 10-inch driver. Roku claims this is good for reproducing frequencies as low as 40 Hz. The Subwoofer will also — via a future software update — be compatible with Roku TVs that have an existing set of Roku TV Wireless Speakers. Digital Trends asked Roku if all three devices (soundbar, subwoofer, and wireless speakers) could be used to create a full-fledged 4.1 or 5.1 surround sound system, but for now, that’s not a supported configuration.
Both the Roku Smart Soundbar and the Wireless Subwoofer can be pre-ordered today through Roku.com, and they’re expected to ship in October — the same timing as general retail availability.
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