Polk React Overview: Reasonably priced, Expandable, And Sensible

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“With nice film and music sound high quality, it is a helpful addition to a TV room.”

  • Slim, low-profile design
  • Simple setup
  • Superb sound high quality
  • Reasonably priced wi-fi equipment
  • Alexa built-in
  • No HDMI inputs
  • Distant is lacking playback controls
  • Requires Alexa for Wi-Fi streaming
  • No Chromecast or AirPlay

By far the largest profit of shopping for a soundbar is simplicity. One speaker, two cables, and bam! Method higher sound than your TV can do by itself. However as soundbars add on options like subwoofers, encompass audio system, or voice capabilities, their value and complexity are inclined to go up as effectively.

Polk’s $250 React soundbar is designed to treatment this considerably. By itself, it’s an Alexa-powered sensible speaker that may ship first rate digital encompass sound. However it’s also possible to increase the system to a full 5.1 setup by including Polk’s $200 wi-fi subwoofer and $200 encompass audio system.

Does that $650 funding rival or beat the competitors? Let’s test it out.

What’s within the field?

Polk packages up the React soundbar with every thing you might want to get going, together with an HDMI cable, an optical cable, a distant management with batteries, a wall-mounting template, and wall mount {hardware}. There’s a good quantity of styrofoam to throw away (or recycle if appropriate services exist close to you) and quite a few polybags too.

It calls little or no consideration to itself, which is strictly what you need in a soundbar.

Design

At simply 34-inches large, the Polk React must be straightforward to put in entrance of just about any TV and its 2.2-inch top means it’s quick sufficient to keep away from blocking the underside of the display screen (and any infrared receivers that may be situated there).

Polk React Soundbar
Wealthy Shibley/Digital Developments

The (nearly) utterly darkish gray fabric-wrapped exterior is completely impartial and calls little or no consideration to itself, which for my part is strictly what you need in a soundbar. I feel it’s much more enticing than Polk’s first effort at a sensible soundbar — the $299 Polk Command Bar.

On the highest floor, it appears like somebody punched an Echo Dot-sized gap into the speaker after which dropped an Echo Dot into it. This isn’t that removed from the reality — that round set of buttons and microphones are certainly the telltale indicators that the React can be an Alexa sensible speaker.

In contrast to the Sonos Beam or Arc, or Bose Soundbar 300, utilizing Alexa is central to the React’s setup, however we’ll talk about that additional under.

Hidden behind the React’s material exterior are two midrange drivers, two tweeters, and two passive bass radiators. Additionally hidden (till they mild up) are two LED indicators: An extended, segmented horizontal bar that does double-duty as a stage indicator for settings like quantity and bass, in addition to Alexa’s colourful, animated responses cues, and a small LED dot that lights up completely different colours relying on the supply sign (blue for Bluetooth, inexperienced for Dolby Audio, and so on.).

The React wi-fi subwoofer, like so many different subs, is a primary black field, however due to its rectangular form, you might discover it simpler to cover behind or beside a sofa than among the extra cube-like designs we’ve seen.

However I’m very taken with the non-compulsory Polk SR2 wi-fi rear audio system. They’ve a material grille that matches the React soundbar, and a trapezoidal form that offers them plenty of flexibility by way of placement. Their rubber toes allow them to sit comfortably on any floor whereas their normal speaker-mount threaded holes allow you to use a wide range of third-party mounts and stands. Or, you may merely use the included mounting {hardware}. Encompass audio system are not often notable for his or her design, which makes the SR2 a refreshing change.

Connections

Polk React Soundbar inputs
Wealthy Shibley/Digital Developments

The React is pretty barebones from a connections standpoint. You get a single HDMI ARC port for audio-only, an optical port in case your TV doesn’t help HDMI ARC, and a USB port. There’s no analog enter, so don’t depend on having the ability to join an exterior wired sound supply like a conveyable media participant.

The process of getting the React arrange utilizing the Alexa app couldn’t be simpler.

There’s additionally no method to make use of the optical and HDMI ARC as separate inputs. They’re mutually unique. Connecting considered one of them locks out the opposite.

Setup and configuration

Sure, it’s potential to make use of the Polk React soundbar by itself, with out setting it up to be used with Amazon Alexa, but when that’s your intent, I like to recommend discovering a special soundbar. Wi-Fi entry, multiroom audio, and sensible speaker features all require the Alexa app.

The excellent news is that the process of getting the React arrange utilizing the Alexa app couldn’t be simpler.

Merely place the soundbar and join it to your TV. In case your TV has HDMI ARC, and also you don’t thoughts sacrificing an HDMI port in your TV, use that connection — it’s going to let the soundbar management TV quantity/mute features and vice versa. In any other case, an optical connection is okay and received’t affect sound high quality in any respect.

Plug within the energy cable and open the Amazon Alexa app. Inside just a few seconds, the app will routinely acknowledge that the React is offered to be arrange and can immediate you to take action.

Polk React Soundbar with remote
Wealthy Shibley/Digital Developments

Professional Tip: When you’ve by no means downloaded or used the Alexa app earlier than, take a couple of minutes to obtain it and create a brand new account or use your current Amazon account. Doing this earlier than turning on the React for the primary time will make the method a lot smoother.

The Alexa app will stroll you thru just a few steps like choosing the React’s location in your house and selecting a default music service.

When you go for the wi-fi subwoofer or SR2 surrounds, the method of including them must be equally painless. All I needed to do was join them to energy and the React routinely acknowledged them and created a wi-fi connection. A voice immediate even notified me that the SR2 audio system wanted to be up to date earlier than they may work, and the React bar routinely carried out that replace and restarted itself. I’ve by no means skilled such a hands-off setup.

When you’ve been utilizing your TV’s built-in audio system, the React will really feel like a severe improve.

I say this “ought to” be painless as a result of, for me, it was. Nevertheless, our senior editor Caleb Denison additionally arrange a React soundbar and located that including the surrounds didn’t go fairly as easily (see our video overview above).

Sound high quality

By itself, the React soundbar sounds actually good contemplating its dimension and value. In contrast to plenty of budget-friendly audio system, it maintains a superb steadiness of frequencies. Greater registers like speech are clear and exact, the mid-tones are well-rendered, and the bass is much stronger than I used to be anticipating on condition that the soundbar depends on passive bass radiators — not powered drivers — for its low finish.

Polk React Soundbar
Wealthy Shibley/Digital Developments

When you’ve been utilizing your TV’s built-in audio system, the React will really feel like a severe improve. Polk guarantees “massive, detailed, digital encompass sound,” and I’d say the React largely delivers on this — at the least within the “massive” and “detailed” classes.

So far as simulating a real encompass sound setup, it’s not fairly as profitable as, say, the Bose Soundbar 300. The React actually supplies a pleasant, large soundstage that simply fills even reasonably sized rooms with sound, but it surely doesn’t fairly obtain the wraparound impact that the most effective digital encompass techniques can do. This may be as a result of the React bar is definitely a two-channel speaker with discrete left and proper drivers. If you’ve obtained to virtualize a middle channel, it doesn’t go away plenty of room for virtualizing two encompass channels as effectively.

Polk provides 4 EQ presets: Music, Film, Sport, and Evening. Music and Film sounded similar to me. Evening tones down a lot of the decrease frequencies, making it much less possible that you simply’ll disturb other people in your home who’re making an attempt to sleep, and Sport ought to actually be known as “speech” because it enhances larger frequencies for higher dialog readability.

The surrounds aren’t used in any respect when streaming music, which looks as if a giant missed alternative.

The soundbar can be a very easy performer with regards to music, however that is the place the Wi-Fi connection — enabled by the Alexa app — comes into play. The React has Bluetooth so you may stream music from any smartphone, pill, or pc, however you’ll get method higher high quality should you stream utilizing the companies obtainable throughout the Alexa app, or through Spotify Join.

My solely criticism is that the Alexa app doesn’t help some companies. Tidal and YouTube Music are notably absent. And because the React doesn’t have AirPlay or Chromecast, you’ll have to make use of Bluetooth in case your favourite service isn’t listed.

Including the wi-fi subwoofer does precisely what you’ll anticipate. Low-end bass goes from one thing you hear to one thing you’re feeling too, a vital part for followers of motion films.

Including within the wi-fi SR2 encompass audio system lastly supplies the lacking depth, although as Denison factors out in his video overview, you might want to crank the extent on these audio system to get probably the most out of them. Annoyingly, the surrounds are only for 5.1 soundtracks. They aren’t used in any respect when streaming music, which looks as if a giant missed alternative.

Controls and value

The React’s distant management isn’t fancy, however that’s an excellent factor. It’s comfy to make use of, it has devoted buttons for all the most necessary settings, and regardless that it’s not backlit, the white labels on the black, rubberized floor are straightforward to learn even in a reasonably darkish room. When you don’t need to say “Alexa” earlier than issuing a voice command, you may press the devoted Alexa button as an alternative.

I particularly like that should you add the SR2 wi-fi audio system, the distant offers you quantity and steadiness controls only for these channels.

The one lacking part is playback management when streaming music, which is an odd omission. Given the React’s beneficiant music choices (together with MP3 storage on a USB gadget) you’d suppose there can be at the least a play/pause button.

Polk React Soundbar remote
Wealthy Shibley/Digital Developments

The distant additionally appeared to have issue relaying its infrared instructions to the soundbar. I needed to maintain adjusting the angle of the distant as I pointed it on the bar — typically the button pressed registered immediately, different instances by no means.

Within the directions, Polk does warn that if a light-weight supply is pointed immediately on the soundbar’s IR sensor, that might trigger interference, however I’m pretty sure this wasn’t the case.

Bringing Alexa into the equation takes management to the following stage. Not solely can you employ the React for the myriad duties we are able to assign to sensible audio system like telling us the climate forecast or setting reminders, but it surely additionally allows you to summon any music or podcast from the obtainable companies.

Utilizing Alexa or the Alexa app to regulate music playback is straightforward, however restricted. You’ll be able to entry songs, albums, and playlists, however there’s no method so as to add new favorites or create playlists — all of this have to be executed within the related service’s app. It actually can’t evaluate to what Sonos provides, however then once more, the Sonos Beam prices significantly extra.

I want Alexa had TV-based capabilities like having the ability to flip the TV on and off, or altering inputs, however that’s not included in the meanwhile.

Our take

Although it doesn’t supply the identical versatility as different sensible soundbars just like the Sonos Beam or Bose Sensible Soundbar 300, the Polk React is a good worth for each films and music, and might be simply — and affordably — expanded into a real 5.1 encompass sound residence theater system.

Is there a greater different?

If you would like a midrange soundbar that doubles as a sensible speaker, there merely isn’t the rest in the marketplace that comes near the Polk React for the worth.

When you’re keen to spend $150 extra, each the Sonos Beam and Bose Sensible Soundbar 300 provide you with a alternative of voice assistant, higher music streaming choices, and higher multiroom audio. But it surely prices considerably extra to broaden them into full encompass sound techniques.

When you simply need a easy soundbar with none bells and whistles, the Vizio V21 is difficult to beat at simply $180, which features a wi-fi subwoofer.

How lengthy will it final?

Polk Audio has a fame for making solidly-built audio system and the React seems to observe this development. It comes with a one-year guarantee on the amplifier and a three-warranty on the audio system. I anticipate it’s going to final for a few years to return.

Do you have to purchase it?

Sure. The Polk React is straightforward to make use of and sounds nice for each films and music. The power to affordably broaden it and use it as a sensible speaker are helpful extras.

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