Roku rolled out it’s first audio product in 2018: a stereo pair of wireless speakers designed to give life to thin-screen TV audio. This year, the company brings a soundbar and sub-woofer to market. But this is no ordinary soundbar, it’s also a complete Roku streaming device that will work with just about any relatively modern TV. The cost? $180—reasonable considering the dual functionality.
If you’re using an older dumb TV and haven’t tried the streaming universe yet, the Roku Smart Soundbar could fit your needs perfectly. As mentioned, it’s both a soundbar and a Roku streaming box (up to 4K UHD at 60 frames per second) that comes with a remote featuring Roku voice control, as well as support for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.
The soundbar is said to contain four drivers and offers HDMI, optical S/PDIF, and Bluetooth input. There’s also a USB port, though it wasn’t clear from the press release whether you can play files from a USB storage device. (Note: Roku confirmed that media playback from USB is a feature after this article published)
Different sound modes are available for night listening (volume limiting), and voice clarity, but fine control over the EQ is not possible—Roku is “keeping it simple, stupid.” The company uses digital signal processing to achieve those modes, though the sound field and low end are not being enhanced via psychoacoustics as some are.
In our short listening demo, the sound was quite well balanced, though perhaps not as brilliant in the high end or as full in the low end (no soundbar has enough air inside to do bumpy bass) as some might wish. For those who crave bass, Roku will offer an optional wireless subwoofer.
For the reasons I’ve just stated, Roku will also offer a $180 subwoofer that features a 10-inch down-firing woofer promishing frequency response down to 40Hz. It’s designed to connect and work seamlessly with either the soundbar or last year’s speakers in the Roku “audio fabric”.
Taking an even shorter listen to the subwoofer at the same demo, I was impressed with the way it blended seamlessly with the soundbar at its default settings, adding oomph without accentuating the bass so much that my ears screamed
subwoofer!”. Kudos for tasteful adjustment by Roku and their U.S./Danish sound division.
Note that I never laid hands on the unit, so this is not a review—just first impressions.
You can pre-order either or both speakers from Roku.com as of today, with availability predicted for sometime in October. The speakers will also be available at Best Buy.
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Jon Jacobi is a musician, former x86/6800 programmer, and long-time computer enthusiast. He writes reviews on TVs, SSDs, dash cams, remote access software, Bluetooth speakers, and sundry other consumer-tech hardware and software.