A Better-Sounding Home Theater

Roku’s First Soundbar Is the Cheap Upgrade Your TV Needs


September 15, 2019 Tech By

Roku just announced its first-ever soundbar and wireless subwoofer, the Roku Smart Soundbar and the Roku Wireless Subwoofer, respectively. Each costs $180 and is designed to improve the sound quality of your entry-level TV. They are available for pre-order right now, with shipping expected to start in October.

Roku released the Roku TV Wireless Speakers ($150) last year, and it proved to everybody that it could make great hardware other than just streaming sticks; and actually, even with the introduction of its new soundbar, those wireless TV speakers are still probably the best (and definitely the cheaper) way for most people to upgrade their Roku TV’s sound quality. But not everybody has the space required for stereo speakers, which is exactly where the Roku Smart Soundbar comes in.

The interesting thing is that the Roku Smart Soundbar is much more versatile than the Roku TV Wireless Speakers, which are designed to only work with Roku smart TVs. The new soundbar, on the other hand, can work with basically any TV. Similar to the just-released JBL Sound Link, the Roku Smart Soundbar has its own OS baked into it (while the Sound Link features Android TV, however, the Roku Smart Soundbar has Roku’s own OS). This means that you can plug the soundbar directly into any TV, via HDMI ARC or optical, and turn it into a Roku smart TV.

It should be noted that if you already have the Roku TV Wireless Speakers, you should not consider buying the new Roku Smart Soundbar – the two will not work together.

The Roku Smart Soundbar has a couple of other tricks up its sleeve. It has built-in Bluetooth, so you can turn it into a really big Bluetooth speaker for parties. It works with both Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa, so it can be integrated into most smart home ecosystems. And it has various features synonymous with Roku TVs, such as Night Mode (lowers volume or loud noises), Automatic Volume Leveling (quiets loud commercials) and Speech Clarity (makes dialogue clearer).

The Roku Wireless Subwoofer is a little bit different because it needs to be connected to the Roku Smart Soundbar or the Roku TV Wireless Speakers; it can’t work by itself. The neat thing is that, when connected, the soundbar or stereo speakers will automatically lower its bass levels to allow the subwoofer and its powerful 10-inch driver to really shine.

It should be noted that if you already own the Roku TV Wireless Speakers, compatibility with the Roku Wireless Subwoofer isn’t available at launch. The company says it will roll out a software update over the next few months.

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