Polk Audio MagniFi Mini
“Small but magnificently mighty, Polk Audio’s Magnifi Mini is one of best little soundbars you can buy.”
- Powerful punch in a small package
- Expansive soundstage for the size
- Brilliant blend between bar and sub
- Warm and detailed midrange
- Intuitive and concise design
- Treble occasionally sounds strident and distorted
- Only one HDMI input
- 5.1 surround is more like 3.1
Polk Audio’s teensy, tiny Magnifi Mini doesn’t look much like a traditional soundbar — more like a sound brick, or maybe a sound stub. Yet, in many ways the Magnifi Mini embodies what soundbars are all about. With it’s forgettable foot print and forceful sound, the Magnifi Mini is a great solution for those seeking no-hassle TV audio enhancement. Add in a price tag of just $300, and this little sound blaster makes a serious case as the small-profile soundbar to beat.
Out of the box
Pulling the Magnifi Mini from its box lets the unit’s tiny size sink in. Stretching a shade past 13-inches long, the compact capsule looks more like a Bluetooth speaker than any home theater solution we’ve encountered. That said, its hefty weight hints at the array of six drivers and other solid internals within.
An included down-firing sub is almost the bar’s exact opposite: Set in a traditionally sized cabinet, the unit strikes an imposing stature compared to its counterpart, yet it’s light as a feather when you pick it up. As a result, this countertop duo is surprisingly portable, allowing you to easily pack the pieces up and take them on the road, should that strike your fancy.
Riding along in the box is a fully loaded IR remote layered in rubberized plastic on top, as well as the necessary power cables, HDMI, Optical, and 3.5mm cables, and a small setup manual.
Features and design
Small but furious, the Magnifi Mini is also a handsome little devil. Its namesake is no accident, as the unit looks a lot like [internal-link post_id=”671946″]Polk’s original Magnifi soundbar[/internal-link], squashed by magic hands to better fit your TV stand. While it easily disappears beneath your TV, angular sides and a silver plate set at the center of the unit’s peppered speaker grill make for a tidy and appealing aesthetic. The bar’s 13.4-inch length is matched by a height and depth of 3.11-inches and 4.25-inches, respectively. That makes it a lot smaller than competing bars like [internal-link post_id=”1270759″]Yamaha’s excellent YAS-207[/internal-link], though Yamaha’s offering sits a bit lower.
The Magnifi Mini’s wide soundstage is almost magical in its expansiveness.
Beneath the surface are six drivers, including dual 2.5-inch drivers at dead center flanked by a pair of 2-inch drivers at both sides, which are set at an angle to fire off a wider soundstage. The lanky subwoofer stands about 14.5-inches tall and deep, and 7.4-inches wide, sporting a 6.5 inch downward-firing driver. Polk Audio dubs the system as a 5.1 surround solution thanks to DSP and Dolby Digital decoding, but despite offering a much wider soundstage than you’d expect, performance offers a 3.1 experience at best. (More on that below.)
Inputs at the back include HDMI with ARC, digital Optical input, and 3.5mm Aux input. The hardwire options are matched by wireless connection in the form of Bluetooth, as well as Wi-Fi connection via Google Cast. The unit’s big sound is due in part to Polk Audio’s SDA surround sound DSP, while Voice Adjust allows you to crank up the center channel for clearer dialog. There’s also a night mode to limit dynamics when the family is sleeping and a choice of three DSP modes for film, sports, and music.
A section of LEDs on the front of the bar indicate volume, bass, or Voice level, while colored LEDs indicate source. Basic controls rest atop the unit’s rubberized control panel, while the loaded remote allows for quick and easy adjustment of bass and voice volume control, basic volume, input, and DSP selection. It’s a simple and intuitive setup, and ARC connection allows your TV remote to take the wheel as well.
The easiest and highest-quality connection is done via ARC HDMI, which allows for quality digital sound and helps the system “hand-shake” with your TV’s CEC information, allowing you to control power and volume via your TV’s remote. Alternatively, you can simply connect your TV’s optical audio output, or connect any 3.5mm source into the Aux input. Bluetooth pairing is done by pressing the Bluetooth key on top and pairing on your source device, while connection to Wi-Fi is done via Google’s Cast app.
As a minimalist sound solution, the Magnifi Mini doesn’t include multiple HDMI inputs, meaning all HDMI source components must be connected via your TV and, therefore, will rely on your TV to decode the surround sound codecs (unless your TV supports surround sound pass-through). This is not the optimal sounding solution in most setups, but considering the price and size of the Magnifi Mini, we’ll give it a pass — this system isn’t designed for audiophile-grade playback.
The first thing you notice about the Magnifi Mini is just how big it actually sounds, especially when it comes to the width of its stereo image. While it certainly doesn’t reach 5.1 stature, thanks to its angled design and some DSP trickery, this unit’s soundstage is almost magical in its expansiveness. You can enjoy constantly surprising those who walk in the room as you divulge the sound source: “That much sound is coming from that little speaker?!”
It’s not just the wide soundstage that impresses here, either. The near-uncanny balance between the sub and the bar is a sonic partnership made in heaven. The proficiency of any soundbar/subwoofer combo is dependent upon the effectiveness of blending the lower frequencies to mold two distinctive sound sources into one, and the Magnifi Mini’s dual units have this partnership down pat. The sub fills up the bar’s lower midrange brilliantly, allowing for a warm and punchy thump that appears to come from dead center, while the bar is free to fill in the top side with clarity and some impressive detail.
The system is at its best playing back basic TV, from your favorite Netflix streams to the NFL playoffs. The sub reaches down into the lower bass with just enough authority to create vibrancy and excitement in the necessary moments, while the bar offers rich resonance in dialog, mixed with some sparkle in the upper midrange that lets through just enough detail to keep you transfixed on the subject at hand.
The compact capsule looks more like a Bluetooth speaker than a soundbar.
When it comes to powerful cinematic moments, the Magnifi Mini may not be the baddest bar around, but it gets the job done. The fury of fantasy flicks like Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings Trilogy is recreated with plenty of verve — the pounding drums of war, the singing arrows flying through the air, and the thunderous spells of good and evil beings are all well captured, while dialog floats on top with clarity. We did notice a few moments when we had to ride the volume a bit; Softer scenes didn’t have as much midrange presence as we’d like, forcing the volume up, while the action scenes came back in with explosive force that jolted us to lower the volume again.
Another quibble we have is a spindly tone in the upper midrange that occasionally borders on distortion. This is especially present with action films pumping at full force, as explosions and other jolting effects tend to cause a little breakup in that sparkly upper register. The same issue affects music playback, washing out crash cymbals, especially on brighter recordings. The Police’s Synchronicity is a particular offender, as Stuart Copeland’s cymbal play is constantly fighting the tips of those small tweeters. In comparison, Yamaha’s YAS-207 does a little better at crafting clarity in the upper realms of the sound.
Still, as long as you don’t expect audiophile reverie here, the Magnifi Mini is a welcome companion for everyday TV and music playback. Using the system as our daily sound machine for weeks, we were constantly amazed that all that warm, detailed sound was coming from such a tiny system.
Offering massive sound in a tiny package, Polk Audio’s Magnifi Mini is one of the most affordable and intuitive sound solutions in the soundbar genre, and one well worth considering for those looking to improve their TV’s sound without even nudging the furniture.
How long will it last
Polk Audio is a veteran brand with a solid track record, and the Magnifi Mini’s simple and robust design should make it a stalwart piece of your audio collection for years to come.
What are the alternatives
While not nearly as compact, [internal-link post_id=”725286″]Yamaha’s YAS-203[/internal-link] is a go-to soundbar at the $300-400 price point, and a solid alternative. Those looking for richer, more detailed sound — especially for music playback — may also want to look at [internal-link post_id=”501486″]Pioneer’s Andrew Jones SP-SB23W[/internal-link], though that will likely cost you more. For the moment, few alternatives at this size, price, and quality level exist.
Should you buy it
Yes. If you’re looking to shrink down your system’s profile, or simply enhance your TV audio with a minimalist solution, the Magnifi Mini is one of the best choices available.
Update: Added information about Yamaha’s competing soundbar the YAS-207.