Polk React soundbar review: Built-in Alexa for your TV speaker

Maria J. Danford

I’ve experienced a voice assistant in my home for the previous number of many years and it really is difficult to know how I ever did without the need of it. The complete spouse and children makes use of it to convert off the lights, check with for the weather or, to my horror, pay attention to limitless quantities of Spotify-skewing pop songs. The Polk Respond brings the ease of Alexa into a Television-welcoming, soundbar kind. The essential question is: Do we truly need a Television speaker that is also an assistant? 

Like

  • Amazon Alexa onboard operates properly.
  • Exceptional seem top quality for the price.
  • Smart wanting layout

Never Like

  • Only a person HDMI enter
  • Optional sub and surrounds are costly.

The new Respond follows up Polk’s primary virtually-but-not-formally-an-Echo soundbar, the Polk Command Bar. The Respond differs from the Command because it will not incorporate the wireless subwoofer — it really is just a solitary bar. The Respond sounds incredibly great and is similarly snug with movies and songs, and its integration with Alexa is even slicker than prior to. The consequence is a properly-rounded offer for your dollars.

But back to that essential question. Honestly I want trying to keep my assistant in a separate, devoted speaker. Talk to Alexa a question on a hybrid system like the Respond and the audio grinds to a halt whilst the assistant does your bidding. That can be aggravating, specially when you have to interrupt your The Nevers session to check with a linked question.

Then again, you may well want an all-in-a person alternative, in unique if you will not previously have an Alexa speaker in your living space. And the Respond is a improved value than the $400 Sonos Beam, a further Alexa-powered soundbar, while it lacks Sonos’ multiroom chops. At the time of publication the Respond is offered for $two hundred, and if you want to strengthen the seem you can insert an optional sub ($a hundred and eighty) and/or the SR2 surrounds ($a hundred and eighty), offering a good up grade route for the upcoming.

What is actually in the box?

The Polk Command Bar lacked the stylishness of the Sonos Beam, but the Respond smooths out the awkwardness with touches like its tender, woolen grill. The exclusive central ring portion stays — with quantity, motion and on/off buttons set in a circle that seems like the leading of an aged-school Echo — but the exercise mild is now an illuminated bar across the entrance edge. 

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Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The bar itself steps two.two inches significant, 4.76 inches deep and 34 inches broad. The soundbar is wall-mountable by way of keyhole keyhole mounts on the back. The audio portion consists of two midrange motorists, two tweeters and two passive radiators underneath for added bass.

Inputs run to a solitary HDMI (ARC) output, an optical enter for Television audio, Bluetooth, and a USB that is strictly for firmware updates. I do wish it experienced the Polk Command Bar’s 2nd HDMI port, which is a boon for buyers with a number of equipment. The device also offers Wi-Fi connectivity, although not Ethernet, for connecting the voice assistant to the World wide web. 

polk-react-4

Ty Pendlebury

The Respond involves Amazon’s Multi-Area Tunes compatibility in addition to Spotify Link, but sadly no AirPlay or Chromecast created in. I did enjoy that music requests by way of Alexa can be played by means of Tidal by default, although.

polk-react-with-peripherals

The Respond can get the job done with an optional Sub and/or encompass speakers.


Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The optional wireless Polk Respond Sub is hefty, akin to the a person I noticed on the JBL Bar two.1 Deep Bass, and it expenditures a rather penny, way too, at $a hundred and eighty. The massive 16.five-by-8.six-by-thirteen.seven-inch box has a seven-inch woofer onboard. 

Meanwhile optional rear speakers occur in devoted Left and Right variations and function 10-foot extended electricity cables. The speakers, formed vaguely like a glasses situation, are concluded in grey marle and evaluate about 8 inches extended by 4 inches sq..

For a rather economical soundbar, the remote handle is rather extensive. It is really chunky but in a practical way and it offers a lot of handle abilities — even for the degrees of the rears and the sub. These latter controls could also be viewed as a not-so-refined upsell endeavor.

Interacting with Alexa

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Ty Pendlebury/CNET

In the time considering the fact that the introduction of voice assistant-enabled soundbars, I have some 2nd views on the technological know-how, as have seemingly many brands. There are two key motives. To start with, people in all probability previously have a electronic assistant in their living space by now, because they’re reasonably cheap. 2nd, the seem from the most important speaker “ducks” or mutes every time you problem a command, which means your present or movie is interrupted. 

These caveats apart, the Polk Respond was rather pain-free when it arrived to issuing commands, hearing my “Alexa” wake word even when at the best quantity. The speaker will not mute wholly when it ducks, which means you can nonetheless form of listen to what’s going on. Queries were rapidly solved and so the interruption was not as excellent as with other intelligent soundbars I’ve analyzed, these types of as the Yamaha YAS-209 or JBL Backlink Bar.

Polk remote

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

If you will not want to use the remote you can also use your voice for all of the controls, which include the capability to change the sub and rear volumes. In a linked vogue, the only factor that irked me through setup was that neither the soundbar nor the subwoofer guide tell you how to sync the peripherals. With any luck , the firm can resolve this for its Could launch, but if you are trapped you need to push the sync button on the soundbar for 4 seconds, then the synching device’s for 4 seconds, and then touch the soundbar’s button rapidly again.

A night time on the couch

As with the fantastic collection of Television speakers prior to it, the Polk Respond is similarly at property with movies as it is with enjoying songs. The array of rapidly-changeable seem modes suggests that you can check with Alexa on the fly if you want to increase intelligibility (voice quantity) or bathe in pseudo-encompass seem (movie mode).

Sadly, I did not have the Sonos Beam on hand for immediate comparison, but I did have two subwoofer-fewer soundbars, the Vizio M21D-H8 ($a hundred and fifty) and the JBL Bar five. Multi Beam ($350), that bookend the Polk in price.

I began my screening with a person of the most unforgettable sequences from a superhero movie — up there with Superman flying close to the world backwards — which is Surprise Female going “about the leading” of the Globe War I trenches (1:14:00). Bullets fly as our hero strides confidently by means of the mud prior to bracing herself with the enable of her shield for a machine gun assault. The scene introduced me chills.

The Polk was ready to capture the movie’s epic sweep, the soundtrack swelled and bullets zinged, but I did skip some of the oomph and immersiveness a much larger program could carry. In comparison, the Vizio was not as very clear and failed to have as a great deal bass. It basically felt a tiny underpowered for this scene, even with the oft-reliable DTS Virtual:X processing used.

But it was the JBL Bar five. which sounded the most majestic in this examination. With the JBL’s Smart Manner turned on, dialogue was nonetheless very clear but bullets whizzed close to the space in a way that they failed to with the other two bars. There was also a lot of bottom conclude for the shells that exploded close to our friends as they approached the German line.

With this and other product I discovered that the Polk offered the very best compromise of sounding entire for a affordable sum, but the JBL was the improved property cinema speaker. It’s possible it could be well worth the further $a hundred for movie watching, but not if you want to pay attention to songs.

Like other Polk’s prior to it, the Respond is ready to tap out a tune incredibly convincingly. Nick Cave’s Pink Right Hand sounded natural and well balanced on the Polk at every single quantity degree. Even though the JBL can go a great deal louder than the Polk, its musical functionality arrived with sonic artifacts. The bass line began to distort and turn out to be synth-like over and above only halfway up the dial.

When I added the optional sub and rears the Polk was at its very best, as you would assume from a program that now expenditures $650. The gains of the sub and rears could be felt whichever sort of product I was listening to, often in unexpected methods. For illustration, Lifeless Can Dance’s Yulunga Spirit Dancer, specially in Film mode, was as satisfying as ever — the world-songs-tinged tune sounded substantial, and it was difficult to think it was coming from a soundbar program.

Ought to you invest in it?

With the Polk Respond the maker has offered buyers a very clear up grade route, a rarity in this classification, by offering the optional sub and surrounds. If you have to pick out between the two it really is a tough get in touch with. If you mostly observe Television athletics or dramas, then the surrounds will make the most difference as they give the listener the best sense of immersion. On the other hand if you like your songs loud or your motion movies explodey, then it really is the sub you should really get. 

Without the optional speakers, the Polk Respond offers fantastic sonics for a solitary bar with a smattering of excellent features for the dollars. For people who want a hybrid Alexa speaker, it really is a further fulfilling program that life up to the intelligent soundbar legacy developed by the primary Polk Command Bar.

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