That’s good news for Smart Soundbar users, who previously lacked a way to upgrade the two-channel soundbar to a full-on 5.1 system.
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Roku Smart Soundbar
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Slated for release in February, the update will include a pair of new sound modes, including a “Movies & TV” mode that upmixes stereo content to 5.1 surround sound, and a “Music” mode that synchronizes your tunes across all your Roku speakers. There’s also a direct mode that plays stereo content over only the soundbar’s left and right speakers.
While the addition of surround speakers will allow for 5.1 sound, the Smart Soundbar still doesn’t support object-based Dolby Atmos or DTS:X formats, nor does it offer virtualized 3D sound in the form of DTS Virtual:X or Atmos with height virtualization.
The setup process for pairing wireless Roku speakers with the soundbar looks similar to the on-screen menus for pairing Roku’s wireless subwoofer with the soundbar or a remote.
New to the setup wizard is a “sound check” step that emits tones from the left and right wireless speakers to ensure that they’re correctly arranged in your living room.
The new surround functionality will arrive in a Roku OS software update that’s slated to begin rolling out in February, Roku reps said.
The update will also coincide with the release of Walmart’s new onn Roku Wireless Surround Speakers. The $150 speakers share the same design and functionality as the standard Roku wireless speakers, but they don’t ship with the voice-enabled and tabletop remotes that come with the Roku version.
Ben has been writing about technology and consumer electronics for more than 20 years. A PCWorld contributor since 2014, Ben joined TechHive in 2019, where he covers smart speakers, soundbars, and other smart and home-theater devices. You can follow Ben on Twitter.