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

I have experienced a voice assistant in my property for the earlier couple of yrs and it can be hard to know how I at any time did devoid of it. The complete household utilizes it to turn off the lights, request for the climate or, to my horror, hear to infinite amounts of Spotify-skewing pop music. The Polk React provides the usefulness of Alexa into a Television-friendly, soundbar sort. The necessary problem is: Do we genuinely have to have a Television speaker that is also an assistant? 

Like

  • Amazon Alexa onboard functions effectively.
  • Superb sound good quality for the value.
  • Smart searching layout

Really don’t Like

  • Only one HDMI input
  • Optional sub and surrounds are costly.

The new React follows up Polk’s primary practically-but-not-officially-an-Echo soundbar, the Polk Command Bar. The React differs from the Command because it isn’t going to consist of the wi-fi subwoofer — it can be just a one bar. The React appears really excellent and is equally comfy with films and music, and its integration with Alexa is even slicker than before. The final result is a effectively-rounded bundle for your cash.

But again to that necessary problem. Actually I favor retaining my assistant in a individual, dedicated speaker. Request Alexa a problem on a hybrid unit like the React and the audio grinds to a halt though the assistant does your bidding. That can be frustrating, specifically when you have to interrupt your The Nevers session to request a similar problem.

Then yet again, you might favor an all-in-one answer, in unique if you really don’t currently have an Alexa speaker in your living space. And the React is a better price than the $400 Sonos Beam, one more Alexa-powered soundbar, despite the fact that it lacks Sonos’ multiroom chops. At the time of publication the React is readily available for $200, and if you want to increase the sound you can include an optional sub ($a hundred and eighty) and/or the SR2 surrounds ($a hundred and eighty), offering a great upgrade path for the future.

What is in the box?

The Polk Command Bar lacked the stylishness of the Sonos Beam, but the React smooths out the awkwardness with touches like its delicate, woolen grill. The exclusive central ring segment continues to be — with quantity, action and on/off buttons set in a circle that appears to be like like the best of an outdated-faculty Echo — but the action gentle is now an illuminated bar throughout the front edge. 


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The bar itself steps two.two inches higher, 4.seventy six inches deep and 34 inches broad. The soundbar is wall-mountable by way of keyhole keyhole mounts on the again. The audio segment is made up of two midrange motorists, two tweeters and two passive radiators underneath for included bass.

Inputs run to a one HDMI (ARC) output, an optical input for Television audio, Bluetooth, and a USB that is strictly for firmware updates. I do desire it experienced the Polk Command Bar’s next HDMI port, which is a boon for customers with several products. The unit also presents Wi-Fi connectivity, nevertheless not Ethernet, for connecting the voice assistant to the World-wide-web. 

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Ty Pendlebury

The React involves Amazon’s Multi-Space Audio compatibility in addition to Spotify Join, but regrettably no AirPlay or Chromecast created in. I did enjoy that song requests by way of Alexa can be performed as a result of Tidal by default, nevertheless.

polk-react-with-peripherals

The React can get the job done with an optional Sub and/or surround speakers.


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The optional wi-fi Polk React Sub is hefty, akin to the one I saw on the JBL Bar two.1 Deep Bass, and it prices a quite penny, as well, at $a hundred and eighty. The substantial sixteen.5-by-eight.six-by-thirteen.seven-inch box has a seven-inch woofer onboard. 

In the meantime optional rear speakers arrive in dedicated Left and Ideal variations and attribute 10-foot extended energy cables. The speakers, formed vaguely like a glasses case, are concluded in gray marle and measure around eight inches extended by 4 inches square.

For a reasonably economical soundbar, the remote management is quite comprehensive. It can be chunky but in a practical way and it presents plenty of management capabilities — even for the concentrations of the rears and the sub. These latter controls could also be witnessed as a not-so-delicate upsell attempt.

Interacting with Alexa

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Ty Pendlebury/CNET

In the time due to the fact the introduction of voice assistant-enabled soundbars, I have some next feelings on the technology, as have seemingly quite a few manufacturers. There are two big reasons. Initially, people likely currently have a digital assistant in their living area by now, because they’re reasonably cheap. Next, the sound from the main speaker “ducks” or mutes each time you situation a command, this means your exhibit or film is interrupted. 

These caveats aside, the Polk React was reasonably painless when it came to issuing instructions, hearing my “Alexa” wake term even when at the highest quantity. The speaker isn’t going to mute completely when it ducks, this means you can nonetheless kind of hear what is heading on. Queries were being swiftly solved and so the interruption wasn’t as excellent as with other clever soundbars I have analyzed, such as the Yamaha YAS-209 or JBL Backlink Bar.

Polk remote

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

If you really don’t want to use the remote you can also use your voice for all of the controls, including the capability to change the sub and rear volumes. In a similar vogue, the only point that irked me during set up was that neither the soundbar nor the subwoofer guide explain to you how to sync the peripherals. Hopefully the business can repair this for its May possibly launch, but if you’re caught you have to have to push the sync button on the soundbar for 4 seconds, then the synching device’s for 4 seconds, and then contact the soundbar’s button swiftly yet again.

A night on the couch

As with the superb series of Television speakers before it, the Polk React is equally at house with films as it is with actively playing music. The array of swiftly-changeable sound modes suggests that you can request Alexa on the fly if you want to increase intelligibility (voice quantity) or bathe in pseudo-surround sound (film manner).

Unfortunately, I did not have the Sonos Beam on hand for direct comparison, but I did have two subwoofer-much less soundbars, the Vizio M21D-H8 ($150) and the JBL Bar 5. Multi Beam ($350), that bookend the Polk in value.

I began my testing with one of the most memorable sequences from a superhero film — up there with Superman traveling all-around the environment backwards — which is Speculate Girl heading “over the best” of the Environment War I trenches (1:fourteen:00). Bullets fly as our hero strides confidently as a result of the mud before bracing herself with the enable of her defend for a equipment gun assault. The scene brought me chills.

The Polk was able to capture the movie’s epic sweep, the soundtrack swelled and bullets zinged, but I did miss out on some of the oomph and immersiveness a bigger method could deliver. In comparison, the Vizio wasn’t as very clear and didn’t have as considerably bass. It just felt a small underpowered for this scene, even with the oft-reliable DTS Digital:X processing used.

But it was the JBL Bar 5. which sounded the most majestic in this examination. With the JBL’s Smart Method turned on, dialogue was nonetheless very clear but bullets whizzed all-around the area in a way that they didn’t with the other two bars. There was also plenty of base finish for the shells that exploded all-around our mates as they approached the German line.

With this and other substance I found that the Polk supplied the finest compromise of sounding entire for a acceptable sum, but the JBL was the better house cinema speaker. It’s possible it could be well worth the further $a hundred for film seeing, but not if you want to hear to music.

Like other Polk’s before it, the React is able to tap out a tune really convincingly. Nick Cave’s Pink Ideal Hand sounded natural and well balanced on the Polk at every quantity level. Even though the JBL can go considerably louder than the Polk, its musical functionality came with sonic artifacts. The bass line began to distort and become synth-like further than only halfway up the dial.

When I included the optional sub and rears the Polk was at its finest, as you would count on from a method that now prices $650. The advantages of the sub and rears could be felt whichever type of substance I was listening to, occasionally in sudden methods. For illustration, Useless Can Dance’s Yulunga Spirit Dancer, specifically in Motion picture manner, was as pleasurable as at any time — the environment-music-tinged tune sounded massive, and it was hard to believe it was coming from a soundbar method.

Really should you obtain it?

With the Polk React the maker has provided customers a very clear upgrade path, a rarity in this classification, by offering the optional sub and surrounds. If you have to decide on between the two it can be a challenging simply call. If you mostly look at Television athletics or dramas, then the surrounds will make the most variance as they give the listener the greatest feeling of immersion. On the other hand if you like your music loud or your action films explodey, then it can be the sub you should get. 

Devoid of the optional speakers, the Polk React presents superb sonics for a one bar with a smattering of excellent functions for the cash. For people who want a hybrid Alexa speaker, it can be one more fulfilling method that life up to the clever soundbar legacy produced by the primary Polk Command Bar.