The makers of the first soundbar with built-in Alexa are back with a new model, and unlike many budget-priced models, this all-in-one soundbar can actually be upgraded with wireless surround speakers and a subwoofer. Don’t expect Dolby Atmos, however.
Slated to go on sale today for $249, the Alexa-enabled Polk React from Polk Audio comes equipped with a four-driver array, including a pair of 96- x 69mm mid-range drivers and two 25mm tweeters. Two 110- x 100mm passive radiators supply the low-frequency effects.
Now, the Polk React’s predecessor, the Polk Audio Command Bar, came with both built-in Alexa and a separate wireless subwoofer, which generally delivers better bass compared to a built-in subwoofer. That said, the Polk React can be upgraded with not only a wireless sub (the $199 React Sub), but also a pair of wireless surround speakers (the SR2 kit for $249) for true surround sound. The Polk Command Bar, on the other hand, didn’t support wireless surround speakers at all, making it a strictly what-you-hear-is-what-you-get affair.
Besides its support for wireless surround speakers, the Polk React comes with built-in Alexa, complete with a telltale blue indicator light and a four integrated far-field microphones for voice pickup. As with any other Alexa-enabled speaker, you can use voice commands to ask Alexa for news headlines, local weather reports, or what’s next on your agenda, and you can also control your compatible smart home devices and place free phone calls to numbers in the U.S, Canada, and Mexico.
The Polk React supports Alexa voice commands for some “basic” soundbar features, including adjusting the volume and subwoofer level. You can also pair Alexa on the soundbar with Amazon’s Fire TV Stick, allowing you to play TV shows and movies without a remote, or connect the Fire TV Blaster for hands-free control of TVs, cable boxes, and other IR-enabled components. Finally, the React supports Alexa’s multi-room audio functionality, meaning you can add it to Alexa speaker groups.
The Polk React comes with a standard set of sound modes, including Movie, Music, Voice Adjust (for boosting the sound of dialog) and Night modes. Both Dolby and DTS audio are supported, but not 3D sound formats such as Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, or DTS Virtual:X.
In back of the Polk React is a single HDMI-ARC port (no eARC support for lossless Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio, but that’s no surprise given the React’s budget price point), along with an optical (Toslink) input.
We’ll have a full review of the Polk React once we properly wring out a review unit.
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.