“Clear sound and breezy setup make Roku’s Wireless Speakers a brilliant Roku TV upgrade.”
- Utterly simple setup
- Seamless wireless connection
- Clear, detailed sound
- Classy, minimalist design
- Backup TV remote
- Bluetooth streaming a bit clunky
- Subwoofer option would be nice
- Roku-only connection limits options
Roku TVs have become extremely popular thanks to their low cost and a built-in operating system that’s not only easy to use, but also lets you stream virtually anything on the web. Little did we know, however, that Roku had been quietly working behind the scenes on a hardware addition to its TV software suite in the form of wireless speakers built exclusively for its growing Roku TV army. What are they called? The Roku Wireless Speakers, naturally.
A bespoke pair of wireless speakers built just for Roku TVs may seem like an odd niche, but with multiple TV brands now running Roku OS and TV sound being … well, terrible, an intuitive wireless audio system that integrates seamlessly with Roku TVs actually makes a lot of sense. Frankly, we had our doubts as to whether Roku could pull this one off but, as it turns out, Roku’s talents span well beyond the realm of intuitive streaming.
The Roku Wireless Speakers arrive in a slim box that almost seems too small to bear any worthy sonic treasure inside. Flipping the top reveals a pair of smart, rounded towers with a profile similar to a pair of Sonos Ones. Dressed in matte black and finished with fabric acoustic grills, the speakers have some nice weight to them, while their minimalist design is interrupted only by a power connection, a ¼-inch mounting hole, and pairing and reset buttons at the back side of each.
Roku TV owners (i.e., the only people buying these bad boys) will be delighted to see a point-anywhere remote inside that mirrors their TV’s remote (in the case of our TCL 6 series, nearly exactly) and works like it too, hosting TV power and volume controls, voice command and navigation keys, and the familiar streaming quick keys. Also riding along is a rectangular “Table Top” remote with basic audio controls on the top designed to let you dial up tunes from the speakers while in another room. There’s also a quick-start guide, but no real manual.
The easiest setup we’ve ever encountered in a supplemental sound solution.
One of the Roku Wireless Speakers’ best features is their brilliantly simple setup. Just plug them in and follow the verbal instructions and the speakers (and your TV) do the rest, including a quick sound test that, among other things, automatically sets your correct stereo channels. Frankly, this is the easiest setup we’ve ever encountered in a supplemental sound solution.
That simplicity extends to everyday use, too — with a few caveats. One important point to remember here is that, unlike a soundbar, soundbase, or virtually any other pair of wireless speakers on the market, the Roku Wireless Speakers are not only inextricably linked to your Roku TV (which limits their versatility) but also its menu. The Roku TV menu controls all, from EQ to streaming music.
For example, changing bass boost, bass reduction, and dialogue boost for the speakers is all done by hitting the star key on the remote and scrolling through the Sound settings. The same goes for Automatic Volume Leveling, which helps limit your chances of being blasted by commercials or major action moments, and Bluetooth streaming from your phone, which requires you to dive into the Accessories menu to pair your source device.
This layout also means your TV screen will be on by default when you stream music to the speakers. If “Fast TV” is enabled in your TV’s settings, you can launch Bluetooth without the TV being on by simply saying “Launch Bluetooth” after hitting the voice key. You can also hit the star button on the remote(s) while Bluetooth audio is playing and turn the display off.
We found plenty of sonic bliss in these little $200 pods.
You can also use voice commands like “play ‘80s music,” and the Table Top Remote even hosts two preset keys for internet radio services, but we found these solutions to be more novel than practical, especially since they’re limited to certain apps and don’t work with our preferred service, Spotify. You’ll also notice an odd double-diamond key on the spare remote, but Roku isn’t divulging what that does (or will do) yet, as it’s meant for a future feature rollout.
While streaming music can be clunky, everything else is simply seamless. Turn on the TV, and you’re ready to rock. Volume, mute, and power are all handled by your primary remote. Of course, thanks to ARC HDMI, the same can be said for most soundbars with your TV remote, but many at the Roku Wireless Speakers’ low price point don’t have ARC, not to mention that CEC control can be spotty when dealing with separate manufacturers. Not so here — that’s the beauty of a tailor-made solution.
The best way to describe the Roku Wireless Speakers’ performance is that they simply sound dang good for the money. Smooth, clear, and surprisingly rich sound shoots forth from the speakers for a relatively powerful and detailed sound signature across genres and sources.
You won’t notice much bite or sibilance here, even as the speakers do a fine job fleshing out clarity in the upper midrange. That’s partly because, unlike a soundbar, they don’t have to do heavy lifting with undersized drivers since they pack a hefty 3.5-inch woofer and a ¾-inch tweeter into each cabinet for a two-way, bookshelf design. While Roku has rolled off the top end a bit, we’re impressed by how much warmth and presence you get in the middle of the sound, which brings out presence and definition in dialogue, vocals, and acoustic instruments.
The speakers do have some trouble competing in the lower register, losing some points when it comes to cinematic punch. That’s where some listeners will miss the wireless subwoofer paired with most soundbars. Still, from the first notes of Roku’s sound demo, we were surprised with how much bass is on offer for a pair of speakers this small, adding just enough gravitas to films like Black Panther and Thor: Ragnarok to bring all that visceral action to life.
What’s more, the speakers take back some lost ground when compared to soundbars thanks to their wide stereo image, which expands their soundstage beyond virtually any bar you can buy (depending on how you arrange the speakers, of course), and gives films, TV, and especially music more room to spread out and fill up your listening space. Putting them about 5 feet apart on our TV console made for a wide stereo image with a big, accessible sweet spot.
A wide stereo image with a big, accessible sweet spot.
When we set up to test streaming music, we were extremely disappointed at first — that is, until we realized we’d accidentally clicked “Reduced Bass” in the TV menu. After fixing that little mistake, things improved vastly, though we were still disappointed with the Bluetooth quality. This may vary, of course, because you’re not really streaming to the speakers but the TV, so you’re relying on whatever Bluetooth hardware your TV includes.
Luckily, our TCL 6 series offers Spotify Connect, allowing us to stream gloriously clear music over Wi-Fi. From the tight grooves of The Weeknd’s Starboy to the delicate guitars of Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain, we found plenty of sonic streaming bliss in these little $200 pods.
Roku’s Wireless Speakers are a pleasantly surprising first entry into audio for the brand, offering clear, full, and detailed sound and seamless integration with your Roku TV, all at a price that adds minimal sticker shock to your TV purchase.
Is there a better alternative?
There are a ton of options around the $200 price point, so we’ll just point out a couple to consider. If you’re willing to jump up $100, Yamaha’s YAS-207 offers detailed performance, along with bigger bass and even virtual surround. At $50 less, Vizio’s popular SB3261 soundbar is another fine option, with bigger bass, though it’s going to be a step down when it comes to stereo image. There are also countless options in the wireless/computer speaker marketplace, but the lion’s share will require a separate remote and cables, curbing the convenience factor.
How long will it last?
The speakers appear to be well-built, like everything we’ve seen from Roku thus far, while mysterious new features are still in development, teasing that they should last for years to come.
Should you buy it?
Yes. If you’re a Roku TV owner looking for a slick and simple audio solution on a tight budget, Roku’s Wireless Speakers are an excellent choice.
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