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

Nancy J. Delong

I have had a voice assistant in my property for the previous few yrs and it is really challenging to know how I ever did with no it. The total household uses it to change off the lights, ask for the temperature or, to my horror, pay attention to infinite […]

I have had a voice assistant in my property for the previous few yrs and it is really challenging to know how I ever did with no it. The total household uses it to change off the lights, ask for the temperature or, to my horror, pay attention to infinite amounts of Spotify-skewing pop audio. The Polk Respond delivers the usefulness of Alexa into a Tv-friendly, soundbar kind. The important dilemma is: Do we seriously want a Tv speaker which is also an assistant? 

Like

  • Amazon Alexa onboard functions well.
  • Great audio high quality for the value.
  • Sensible searching design

Do not Like

  • Only a single HDMI enter
  • Optional sub and surrounds are pricey.

The new Respond follows up Polk’s initial nearly-but-not-officially-an-Echo soundbar, the Polk Command Bar. The Respond differs from the Command because it won’t contain the wireless subwoofer — it is really just a single bar. The Respond appears quite very good and is similarly relaxed with films and audio, and its integration with Alexa is even slicker than prior to. The outcome is a well-rounded deal for your dollars.

But back to that important dilemma. Truthfully I choose holding my assistant in a independent, dedicated speaker. Question Alexa a dilemma on a hybrid device like the Respond and the audio grinds to a halt when the assistant does your bidding. That can be aggravating, specially when you have to interrupt your The Nevers session to ask a linked dilemma.

Then again, you may well choose an all-in-a single remedy, in specific if you really don’t currently have an Alexa speaker in your dwelling place. And the Respond is a better value than the $400 Sonos Beam, a further Alexa-powered soundbar, though it lacks Sonos’ multiroom chops. At the time of publication the Respond is readily available for $200, and if you want to improve the audio you can add an optional sub ($180) and/or the SR2 surrounds ($180), supplying a pleasant enhance path for the long run.

What is 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 delicate, woolen grill. The unique central ring section stays — with volume, motion and on/off buttons established in a circle that appears to be like the top rated of an outdated-university Echo — but the action light is now an illuminated bar across the front edge. 

polk-react-2

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The bar itself actions 2.2 inches high, four.seventy six inches deep and 34 inches wide. The soundbar is wall-mountable by way of keyhole keyhole mounts on the back. The audio section consists of two midrange motorists, two tweeters and two passive radiators beneath for added bass.

Inputs operate to a single HDMI (ARC) output, an optical enter for Tv audio, Bluetooth, and a USB which is strictly for firmware updates. I do desire it had the Polk Command Bar’s next HDMI port, which is a boon for end users with various units. The unit also delivers Wi-Fi connectivity, although not Ethernet, for connecting the voice assistant to the Online. 

polk-react-4

Ty Pendlebury

The Respond contains Amazon’s Multi-Home Audio compatibility in addition to Spotify Hook up, but unfortunately no AirPlay or Chromecast created in. I did respect that track requests through Alexa can be performed by means of Tidal by default, although.

polk-react-with-peripherals

The Respond can work with an optional Sub and/or encompass speakers.


Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The optional wireless Polk Respond Sub is significant, akin to the a single I saw on the JBL Bar 2.1 Deep Bass, and it fees a quite penny, way too, at $180. The massive 16.5-by-eight.6-by-13.seven-inch box has a seven-inch woofer onboard. 

In the meantime optional rear speakers come in dedicated Remaining and Appropriate variations and attribute 10-foot long electrical power cables. The speakers, shaped vaguely like a glasses case, are completed in gray marle and measure roughly eight inches long by four inches sq..

For a comparatively reasonably priced soundbar, the distant handle is quite in depth. It is really chunky but in a practical way and it delivers loads of handle capabilities — even for the levels of the rears and the sub. These latter controls could also be witnessed as a not-so-delicate upsell endeavor.

Interacting with Alexa

polk-react-3

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

In the time given that the introduction of voice assistant-enabled soundbars, I have some next views on the technology, as have seemingly several manufacturers. There are two major causes. Very first, people today possibly currently have a digital assistant in their dwelling space by now, because they’re moderately affordable. Second, the audio from the key speaker “ducks” or mutes anytime you challenge a command, this means your present or motion picture is interrupted. 

Those caveats apart, the Polk Respond was comparatively painless when it came to issuing commands, listening to my “Alexa” wake phrase even when at the greatest volume. The speaker won’t mute totally when it ducks, this means you can even now sort of hear what’s heading on. Queries were being immediately resolved and so the interruption wasn’t as excellent as with other wise soundbars I have analyzed, these kinds of as the Yamaha YAS-209 or JBL Link Bar.

Polk remote

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

If you really don’t want to use the distant you can also use your voice for all of the controls, including the potential to alter the sub and rear volumes. In a linked style, the only detail that irked me all through set up was that neither the soundbar nor the subwoofer guide convey to you how to sync the peripherals. Ideally the organization can repair this for its May launch, but if you happen to be stuck you want to push the sync button on the soundbar for four seconds, then the synching device’s for four seconds, and then contact the soundbar’s button immediately again.

A evening on the sofa

As with the excellent collection of Tv speakers prior to it, the Polk Respond is similarly at home with films as it is with playing audio. The array of immediately-changeable audio modes suggests that you can ask Alexa on the fly if you want to enhance intelligibility (voice volume) or bathe in pseudo-encompass audio (motion picture manner).

Sadly, I did not have the Sonos Beam on hand for immediate comparison, but I did have two subwoofer-a lot less soundbars, the Vizio M21D-H8 ($a hundred and fifty) and the JBL Bar 5. Multi Beam ($350), that bookend the Polk in value.

I started out my tests with a single of the most memorable sequences from a superhero motion picture — up there with Superman flying all around the earth backwards — which is Speculate Woman heading “around the top rated” of the Entire world War I trenches (1:fourteen:00). Bullets fly as our hero strides confidently by means of the mud prior to bracing herself with the aid of her protect for a machine gun assault. The scene brought me chills.

The Polk was capable to seize the movie’s epic sweep, the soundtrack swelled and bullets zinged, but I did pass up some of the oomph and immersiveness a greater method could bring. In comparison, the Vizio wasn’t as obvious and failed to have as substantially bass. It merely felt a little underpowered for this scene, even with the oft-reliable DTS Virtual:X processing employed.

But it was the JBL Bar 5. which sounded the most majestic in this test. With the JBL’s Sensible Mode turned on, dialogue was even now obvious but bullets whizzed all around the space in a way that they failed to with the other two bars. There was also loads of base close for the shells that exploded all around our pals as they approached the German line.

With this and other product I identified that the Polk supplied the finest compromise of sounding entire for a reasonable sum, but the JBL was the better home cinema speaker. Maybe it could be truly worth the additional $100 for motion picture seeing, but not if you want to pay attention to audio.

Like other Polk’s prior to it, the Respond is capable to tap out a tune quite convincingly. Nick Cave’s Pink Appropriate Hand sounded organic and well balanced on the Polk at each volume level. While the JBL can go substantially louder than the Polk, its musical overall performance came with sonic artifacts. The bass line started out to distort and become synth-like beyond only midway up the dial.

When I added the optional sub and rears the Polk was at its finest, as you would assume from a method that now fees $650. The added benefits of the sub and rears could be felt whichever form of product I was listening to, often in surprising strategies. For illustration, Lifeless Can Dance’s Yulunga Spirit Dancer, specially in Movie manner, was as pleasing as ever — the earth-audio-tinged tune sounded enormous, and it was challenging to feel it was coming from a soundbar method.

Ought to you purchase it?

With the Polk Respond the maker has supplied end users a obvious enhance path, a rarity in this category, by presenting the optional sub and surrounds. If you have to pick out in between the two it is really a tricky contact. If you largely watch Tv sports or dramas, then the surrounds will make the most distinction as they give the listener the biggest sense of immersion. On the other hand if you like your audio loud or your motion films explodey, then it is really the sub you must get. 

With out the optional speakers, the Polk Respond delivers excellent sonics for a single bar with a smattering of excellent features for the dollars. For people today who want a hybrid Alexa speaker, it is really a further enjoyable method that lives up to the wise soundbar legacy created by the initial Polk Command Bar.

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