Last year, Roku came out with wireless TV speakers so Roku TV users who wanted a better audio experience for their at-home movie marathons could have it. But the speaker duo only works with Roku TVs, severely limiting the number of people who could use one.
The company’s latest audio endeavor is more democratic, and it offers more value. The new Roku Smart Soundbar is exactly what it sounds like—a soundbar that replaces your dull, built-in TV speakers with a higher-quality audio experience. It also has the technology of a Roku Ultra inside, so it acts as both an audio device and a streaming device that serves up 4K content and can do everything a regular Roku set-top box, stick, or TV could do.
But the best thing about the Roku Smart Soundbar is that it works with almost any television. It connects to your TV using either an HDMI ARC port or an optical audio port, both of which are commonplace on the newest TVs and TVs that are many years old. Once plugged in and set up (the setup process is just like that of a Roku streaming device), you can use the included voice remote to navigate Roku OS just like you would if you were using any other Roku device.
The soundbar has four premium drivers, support for Dolby Audio, and advanced signal processing. The latter builds upon the same audio enhancements in the Roku Wireless TV Speakers and helps the soundbar sync its audio with whatever you’re watching and improve the listening experience overall. Features like dialogue enhancement work with this device, and Roku added new volume modes that optimize audio for different viewing environments. For example, the “night” mode will raise dialogue volume while leveling out the other audio frequencies. That means you can watch an action movie while the kids are asleep in the next room without constantly changing the volume to hear important conversations or quell booming explosions.
I’m not Ars’ resident audio expert, but Roku’s soundbar produced rich and room-filling audio when I received a short demo of it. It would certainly be an upgrade for those unhappy with their built-in TV speakers—and if those happen to be on a “dumb” TV, the soundbar adds even more value with its content-streaming capabilities. The soundbar also has Bluetooth, so you can connect it to a laptop, smartphone, or another Bluetooth device and stream music or other audio that way.
In addition to the Roku Smart Soundbar, the company also created a special wireless subwoofer to go along with it. This mammoth of a device connects via Wi-Fi to the Smart Soundbar and dramatically boosts the bass of any audio the soundbar plays. The subwoofer technically runs Roku OS as well, so all of the audio enhancement features that you can use on the soundbar will work when you have a subwoofer connected to it, too. Currently, the soundbar only supports one connected subwoofer, but that one addition will likely add enough umph to please most users.
The wireless speaker duo from last year was Roku’s first real dive into the home entertainment audio world as the company leaves built-in speaker hardware decisions for its Roku TVs up to the TV manufacturers. But Roku is serious about making all aspects of home entertainment easier and smarter for users, and now that’s true for more than just Roku TV users. It’s likely that even more people will gravitate to the new soundbar and subwoofer, rather than the original speaker set, because they don’t need a Roku TV to use either of them.
It also helps that they both come at a decent price. Both the Roku Smart Soundbar and the Roku Wireless Subwoofer cost $ 179 each, which is on the more affordable side when you consider a high-quality soundbar could cost you $ 200 or more. Both devices are available for preorder today from Roku’s website, and they will be more widely available in mid-October.
Listing image by Valentina Palladino