I’ve had a voice assistant in my home for the previous few years and it is laborious to understand how I ever did with out it. The entire household makes use of it to show off the lights, ask for the climate or, to my horror, hearken to infinite quantities of Spotify-skewing pop music. The Polk React brings the comfort of Alexa right into a TV-friendly, soundbar type. The important query is: Do we actually want a TV speaker that is additionally an assistant? 

Like

Amazon Alexa onboard works nicely.Wonderful sound high quality for the worth.Good trying design

Do not Like

Just one HDMI inputOptional sub and surrounds are expensive.

The brand new React follows up Polk’s unique almost-but-not-officially-an-Echo soundbar, the Polk Command Bar. The React differs from the Command as a result of it would not embrace the wi-fi subwoofer — it is only a single bar. The React sounds excellent and is equally comfy with films and music, and its integration with Alexa is even slicker than earlier than. The result’s a well-rounded bundle to your cash.

However again to that important query. Actually I favor holding my assistant in a separate, devoted speaker. Ask Alexa a query on a hybrid system just like the React and the audio grinds to a halt whereas the assistant does your bidding. That may be annoying, particularly when you must interrupt your The Nevers session to ask a associated query.

Then once more, you may favor an all-in-one answer, particularly when you do not have already got an Alexa speaker in your dwelling space. And the React is a greater worth than the $400 Sonos Beam, one other Alexa-powered soundbar, though it lacks Sonos’ multiroom chops. On the time of publication the React is offered for $200, and if you wish to enhance the sound you possibly can add an non-obligatory sub ($180) and/or the SR2 surrounds ($180), offering a pleasant improve path for the long run.

What’s within the field?

The Polk Command Bar lacked the stylishness of the Sonos Beam, however the React smooths out the awkwardness with touches like its mushy, woolen grill. The distinctive central ring part stays — with quantity, motion and on/off buttons set in a circle that appears like the highest of an old-school Echo — however the exercise gentle is now an illuminated bar throughout the entrance edge. 

Ty Pendlebury/Proinertech

The bar itself measures 2.2 inches excessive, 4.76 inches deep and 34 inches vast. The soundbar is wall-mountable by the use of keyhole keyhole mounts on the again. The audio part consists of two midrange drivers, two tweeters and two passive radiators beneath for added bass.

Inputs run to a single HDMI (ARC) output, an optical enter for TV audio, Bluetooth, and a USB that is strictly for firmware updates. I do want it had the Polk Command Bar’s second HDMI port, which is a boon for customers with a number of units. The unit additionally presents Wi-Fi connectivity, although not Ethernet, for connecting the voice assistant to the Web. 

Ty Pendlebury

The React contains Amazon’s Multi-Room Music compatibility along with Spotify Join, however sadly no AirPlay or Chromecast in-built. I did recognize that track requests through Alexa might be performed via Tidal by default, although.

The React can work with an non-obligatory Sub and/or {surround} audio system.

Ty Pendlebury/Proinertech

The non-obligatory wi-fi Polk React Sub is hefty, akin to the one I noticed on the JBL Bar 2.1 Deep Bass, and it prices a reasonably penny, too, at $180. The big 16.5-by-8.6-by-13.7-inch field has a 7-inch woofer onboard. 

In the meantime non-obligatory rear audio system are available in devoted Left and Proper variations and have 10-foot lengthy energy cables. The audio system, formed vaguely like a glasses case, are completed in grey marle and measure roughly 8 inches lengthy by 4 inches sq..

For a comparatively cheap soundbar, the distant management is fairly complete. It is chunky however in a practical manner and it presents loads of management capabilities — even for the degrees of the rears and the sub. These latter controls may be seen as a not-so-subtle upsell try.

Interacting with Alexa

Ty Pendlebury/Proinertech

Within the time for the reason that introduction of voice assistant-enabled soundbars, I’ve some second ideas on the know-how, as have seemingly many producers. There are two main causes. First, individuals in all probability have already got a digital assistant of their front room by now, as a result of they’re fairly low-cost. Second, the sound from the principle speaker “geese” or mutes everytime you concern a command, that means your present or film is interrupted. 

These caveats apart, the Polk React was comparatively painless when it got here to issuing instructions, listening to my “Alexa” wake phrase even when on the highest quantity. The speaker would not mute utterly when it geese, that means you possibly can nonetheless form of hear what is going on on. Queries have been rapidly resolved and so the interruption wasn’t as nice as with different sensible soundbars I’ve examined, such because the Yamaha YAS-209 or JBL Hyperlink Bar.

Ty Pendlebury/Proinertech

If you happen to do not wish to use the distant you can too use your voice for the entire controls, together with the power to change the sub and rear volumes. In a associated trend, the one factor that irked me throughout setup was that neither the soundbar nor the subwoofer guide inform you the best way to sync the peripherals. Hopefully the corporate can repair this for its Could launch, however when you’re caught you have to press the sync button on the soundbar for 4 seconds, then the synching system’s for 4 seconds, after which contact the soundbar’s button rapidly once more.

An evening on the sofa

As with the wonderful sequence of TV audio system earlier than it, the Polk React is equally at dwelling with films as it’s with enjoying music. The array of quickly-changeable sound modes means which you can ask Alexa on the fly if you wish to enhance intelligibility (voice quantity) or bathe in pseudo-surround sound (film mode).

Sadly, I didn’t have the Sonos Beam readily available for direct comparability, however I did have two subwoofer-less soundbars, the Vizio M21D-H8 ($150) and the JBL Bar 5.0 Multi Beam ($350), that bookend the Polk in worth.

I began my testing with probably the most memorable sequences from a superhero film — up there with Superman flying world wide backwards — which is Surprise Lady going “excessive” of the World Struggle I trenches (1:14:00). Bullets fly as our hero strides confidently via the mud earlier than bracing herself with the assistance of her protect for a machine gun assault. The scene introduced me chills.

The Polk was in a position to seize the film’s epic sweep, the soundtrack swelled and bullets zinged, however I did miss a number of the oomph and immersiveness a bigger system might deliver. As compared, the Vizio wasn’t as clear and did not have as a lot bass. It merely felt a bit underpowered for this scene, even with the oft-reliable DTS Digital:X processing employed.

Nevertheless it was the JBL Bar 5.0 which sounded essentially the most majestic on this take a look at. With the JBL’s Good Mode turned on, dialogue was nonetheless clear however bullets whizzed across the room in a manner that they did not with the opposite two bars. There was additionally loads of backside finish for the shells that exploded round our pals as they approached the German line.

With this and different materials I discovered that the Polk supplied one of the best compromise of sounding full for an inexpensive sum, however the JBL was the higher dwelling cinema speaker. Perhaps it could possibly be price the additional $100 for film watching, however not if you wish to hearken to music.

Like different Polk’s earlier than it, the React is ready to faucet out a tune very convincingly. Nick Cave’s Crimson Proper Hand sounded pure and balanced on the Polk at each quantity degree. Whereas the JBL can go a lot louder than the Polk, its musical efficiency got here with sonic artifacts. The bass line began to distort and change into synth-like past solely midway up the dial.

After I added the non-obligatory sub and rears the Polk was at its greatest, as you’d anticipate from a system that now prices $650. The advantages of the sub and rears could possibly be felt whichever sort of materials I used to be listening to, generally in surprising methods. For instance, Lifeless Can Dance’s Yulunga Spirit Dancer, particularly in Film mode, was as satisfying as ever — the world-music-tinged tune sounded large, and it was laborious to consider it was coming from a soundbar system.

Must you purchase it?

With the Polk React the producer has given customers a transparent improve path, a rarity on this class, by providing the non-obligatory sub and surrounds. If you must select between the 2 it is a robust name. If you happen to primarily watch TV sports activities or dramas, then the surrounds will take advantage of distinction as they offer the listener the best sense of immersion. Alternatively when you like your music loud or your motion films explodey, then it is the sub it’s best to get. 

With out the non-obligatory audio system, the Polk React presents glorious sonics for a single bar with a smattering of nice options for the cash. For individuals who desire a hybrid Alexa speaker, it is one other satisfying system that lives as much as the sensible soundbar legacy created by the unique Polk Command Bar.

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