When Roku debuted its wireless speakers, it seemed an odd turn for a streaming brand. But, as it turned out, the Roku Speakers are actually quite impressive — and the perfect pairing for a Roku TV. Ever since the follow-up of Roku’s Smart Soundbar and Wireless Subwoofer, though, we’ve been wondering: Why on earth can’t you add the speakers to the soundbar and sub for a wireless surround sound system?
As it turns out, this was always part of the plan. Roku just needed some more time to make it happen. Now that time is nearly here, and the results are pretty sweet. Following a forthcoming update, Roku’s entire audio family will work together, giving you full surround immersion at an impressive value.
For just a shade under $500, you can take a decent TV with a pedestrian streaming interface and not only make it way smarter thanks to the Roku Soundbar‘s built-in Roku streaming system, but you can also make it sound a lot better with the addition of the Roku Sub for deep bass and the Roku Speakers as left and right surround satellites. That’s a pretty hot deal for instant surround.
For those who’ve already got some Roku audio products, the new feature makes it easy to upgrade for a nearly wireless surround setup. If you already own the Soundbar and the Subwoofer, simply pick up a set of the $200 Roku Speakers (or vice versa).
Now, technically, even though the combined system is compatible with Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 surround soundtracks from services like Netflix and others, what you get isn’t true 5.1 sound — but it’s very close. The Roku Soundbar only has left and right channels — there’s no center channel — so the speaker has to do a bit of processing magic to create a virtualized center channel. Unless you’re a surround sound aficionado, you probably won’t notice much of a difference, especially as the Soundbar has a speech clarity feature that enhances dialogue.
When you factor in the price, the convenience of the wireless surrounds and subwoofer (the soundbar must still be connected to your TV via HDMI), and the built-in Roku OS, it’s a pretty great value.
We got the chance to sample Roku’s new Voltron surround system at a private event during CES 2020 and walked away generally impressed. The sound can come off a bit flat and processed, but it’s definitely well-matched, whirling the audio around the center seats with power and clarity. And with a relatively low cost for surround sound and Roku streaming in one simple package, it’s also a very approachable setup for those circling a surround system.
That said, if $500 is still on the pricey side for you, we’ve got more good news: The Walmart-exclusive Onn-branded Roku Soundbar, Subwoofer, and Speakers (which launch in mid-February), deliver all of the same features as the Roku-branded versions for just $410, but with a little less oomph in the power department.
The Onn-branded Roku Wireless Speakers are sonically identical to the Roku-branded versions, but they don’t come with the Roku’s two remotes. If you don’t need these extra gadgets, and already own the Roku Smart Soundbar and Wireless Subwoofer, it’s a good way to save some coin as they’re compatible with the Roku-branded versions.
Perhaps the best part for surround sound novices is that setup is a snap, all done by following simple commands over the on-screen Roku interface.
Once it’s ready to go, the speakers will deliver surround sound when it’s available on the show or movie you’re watching, and if it isn’t, it can even up-mix stereo sound, not only mirroring the left and right channels to the wireless satellites but also separating ambient noise via DSP surround modes so that it almost feels like surround sound.
Roku’s new surround sound feature will begin rolling out via a Roku OS software update for all Roku Smart soundbars beginning in February, while the Onn Roku Wireless Surround Speakers will be available at Walmart in mid-February for pairing to their Onn family soundbar and subwoofer.
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