“Polk’s high quality Signa S3 soundbar will get lots proper, however lacks vital options for the value.”

Clean design

High quality stereo sound

Wi-Fi connectivity

Restricted low finish

Lacking sound

The soundbar market is deceptively cutthroat. It doesn’t matter how good your options are or how nice your sound is, if there’s something barely higher for a similar worth, you’re going to be the odd bar out.

That’s the arduous lesson Polk Audio’s new, $250 Signa S3 soundbar system is studying. It’s a strong possibility by itself, being a Wi-Fi-enabled soundbar with efficient two-channel sound, however Polk simply forgot in regards to the funds behemoth ready within the reverse nook of the ring. In case you don’t know who we’re speaking about, you’re about to.

Design

At numerous occasions up to now, each I and my co-workers at Digital Developments have heaped reward on the soundbars which can be in a position to be heard, however not seen. That’s, the bars that boast a design that doesn’t stick out, and blends into the room nicely sufficient to the purpose that you just wouldn’t realize it was there if it wasn’t blasting sound out towards you — the Bose Soundbar 700 is a superb instance of success right here.

Nick Woodard/Digital Developments

Soundbars from Vizio, LG, Samsung, and the like have all achieved that to 1 diploma or one other up to now. And I’d argue the Polk Signa S3 most likely slots proper into that class as nicely, and there’s something in regards to the aesthetic on this specific soundbar that appeals to me greater than, say, the Vizio counterpart. One notable level is that the colour and form of this bar appears much less harsh by comparability. The Vizio V Sequence is a black, brick-shaped bar with a grille that was barely much less black. The Polk, in the meantime, appears softer and extra palatable with a lighter, extra gray-colored grille that performs off the in any other case black bar nicely. That coloration is paired with a extra rounded form with out all of the sharp edges, which I additionally favored.

The Signa S3 sits at simply over two inches tall and about 35 inches large, which measures intently with rivals just like the Vizio V Sequence. Inside the two.1 channel bar are two pairs of tweeters and midrange drivers. For comparability functions, the Vizio has a devoted driver for the middle channel of its 5.1 configuration. One driver could not appear to be an enormous distinction, however as we’ll get to, this specific driver is an important one.

The wi-fi subwoofer for the Signa S3 is front-ported and follows the footprint of soundbar woofers just like the LG SN7Y. They’re so related in dimension, the truth is, that it took every week for my important different to launch the sub within the nook of the room was a distinct one than had been there every week earlier. That gave me some preliminary concern for the reason that subwoofer for the SN7Y didn’t impress me with its output. Extra on that in a second.

The distant for the Signa S3 could really feel considerably low-cost to the contact, but it surely’s conveniently on the smaller facet and suits properly in your hand. Relying on how your soundbar is related to the TV, and in case your TV helps CEC, you might be able to management the quantity and mute features in your soundbar out of your TV with none extra steps. That’s contingent, although, on the connection and the kind of TV you’ve.

Setup

The Signa S3 has a e-book report-sized quickstart information that accommodates it, and I strongly counsel you do your homework on this one. Take it from somebody who, for years, was too cussed to learn manuals: Setting apart the delight and letting the included paperwork information you thru the soundbar’s setup will make issues infinitely less complicated.

Nick Woodard/Digital Developments

It begins like every typical soundbar: Join your soundbar to your TV, plug each the bar and the subwoofer into energy, pop the included AAA battery into your distant, and energy the whole lot on. The subwoofer ought to mechanically hook up with the bar, and the whole system must be playback-ready inside a matter of moments.

Not like some competing bars the place the enter that the soundbar is related to is actually spelled out for you… the Signa S3 communicates this to you thru a horizontal row of LED lights.

That every one went easily for me, however the subsequent steps did give me some pause. Not like some competing bars the place the enter that the soundbar is related to is actually spelled out for you — the aforementioned LG SN7Y involves thoughts — the Signa S3 communicates this to you thru a horizontal row of LED lights. Some make sense (a single blue mild signifies that the bar is in Bluetooth mode), but it surely will get complicated past that. Fortunately, the quickstart information breaks it down for you, appearing as a translator for the international language of lights that the S3 is chatting with you.

The information additionally directs you to the Google House app for connecting the Signa S3 to Wi-Fi, which is a gratefully simple course of. It’s a clean transition from the information to the House app for the reason that app takes you thru including your community and optimizing your bar at a step-by-step tempo. I didn’t have the wherewithal to attempt it on the time, however I’m assured a far much less tech-savvy particular person may have this technique utterly arrange inside 15 minutes. That’s the mark of an excellent, easy-to-use soundbar for my part.

Connections

Even by soundbar requirements, the Signa S3 retains issues restricted with regards to connections. There’s a single HDMI ARC port, a digital optical port, and an auxiliary enter. For context, the Vizio V Sequence provides a three.5mm stereo audio enter into the combo, in addition to a USB port. I’ve gone on file earlier than saying most soundbars want extra connections, and I stand by that. However that is, in spite of everything, a funds $250 soundbar. Extra HDMI ports would have been nice, however at this worth, it’s not fairly a deal-breaker.

Nick Woodard/Digital Developments

Right here’s the place I feel the Signa S3 turns into an amazing worth, at the least when it comes to connections. Not like far dearer bars just like the LG SN7Y and the Sony HT-G700, this Polk Bar has Wi-Fi built-in. For my cash, that’s large, because it opens a world of prospects. Due to it, the bar has Google Chromecast built-in, with choices for streaming Google Play Music, Spotify, and loads of different providers straight to the bar. Moreover, you need to use a Google Assistant-equipped gadget to manage your music, and you may group your soundbar with different Chromecast-enabled audio system to create whole-house sound. Much more, your soundbar can be eligible to obtain computerized software program updates to proceed enhancing the product over time.

This Polk Bar has Wi-Fi built-in. For my cash, that’s large, because it opens a world of prospects.

The Signa S3 has Bluetooth connectivity obtainable, too. However with the choice of streaming of Wi-Fi and having fun with sound with out dropouts or lapses in connection, I don’t know why you’ll ever select the previous over the latter. By outfitting its bar with Wi-Fi, Polk not solely did what all soundbars — together with the competing Vizio V Sequence — ought to do, but additionally what we imagine there must be no excuse for not doing in 2020.

Sound high quality

That is the make-or-break class for the Signa S3. For some, the stereo sound that it produces can be sufficiently pleasurable, and definitely worth the worth of admission. However for others hoping for a extra immersive expertise from their soundbar, they’ll seemingly need to look elsewhere.

Nick Woodard/Digital Developments

The factor is, this actually isn’t a controversial — and even debatable, actually — assertion. The Signa S3 is, in spite of everything, a 2.1-channel soundbar. It’s going to do higher with audio that’s meant to be heard in stereo (i.e., music), and worse with content material that advantages from a surround-sound setup (most TV exhibits and flicks). Polk does get slightly sneaky by saying it helps the Dolby Digital 5.1 sound format, which it technically does. It simply can’t reproduce it since, once more, it’s solely a two-channel bar. Assist doesn’t equal efficiency right here, in order that language is irritatingly deceptive.

For music, I discovered this bar to be stellar. Polk is an organization that made its identify in audio first in spite of everything, in contrast to the larger manufacturers like Vizio, Samsung, and LG. The corporate has a historical past of constructing music-friendly audio system, so it got here as no shock to me that the bar is able to delightfully clear copy of tracks like Mumford & Sons’ Lover of the Mild. So far as bass is anxious, the S3’s compact woofer dealt with quick, punchy low notes successfully. However when requested to achieve decrease, or when the bass was elevated through the bar’s distant, the sub succumbed to the restrictions of its dimension and sadly sounded prefer it was stretching for a frequency it simply couldn’t fairly attain. In case you don’t ask an excessive amount of of it, you’ll be proud of this subwoofer — you simply have to be cognizant of what it might probably and might’t do.

While you attempt to squeeze 5 (or extra) channels into two, the result’s simply not going to end up the best way it’s purported to.

I need to be as clear as I can with this soundbar almost about watching motion pictures or TV exhibits: Objectively, it’s an prompt and important enchancment over customary TV audio system and will get you far nearer to the best way this content material was meant to be heard. The readability I discussed when discussing music remains to be there, and the sub provides a modest rumble to your listening expertise.

However, for the third and sure not final time, it’s a numbers sport. While you attempt to squeeze 5 (or extra) channels into two, the result’s simply not going to end up the best way it’s purported to. On this regard, I’ll take the immersion of the Vizio V Sequence’ 5.1 setup or the impression of Dolby Atmos with the LG SN7Y’s three.1.2 configuration, albeit for a significantly greater worth. Possibly I’m simply too used to having sound above or behind me, however my go-to check choices (Mad Max: Fury Street, John Wick, A Quiet Place) simply weren’t the identical audio spectacles I’ve come to know them to be on the Signa S3.

The Signa S3 does have three sound modes to assist customise your audio: Film Mode “enhances audio copy in TV and flicks,” in response to Polk; Night time Mode dampens bass and dynamic sounds to maintain the neighbors at bay; and Music Mode is, nicely, meant for music. These all work insofar that they’re the very best presets for every scenario however don’t count on them to be game-changing modes that can dramatically alter the audio copy. The identical goes for Polk’s Voice Modify function, which helps you to toggle between three completely different ranges of voice enhancement. It’s useful, however not as useful as a devoted middle channel could be.

Our take

The Polk Signa S3 is a 2.1-channel soundbar that does what it’s designed to do remarkably nicely. That’s, the bar takes the audio offered to it and creates a enjoyable listening expertise that’s exponentially higher than something customary TV audio system may produce. The issue is its worth is broken by rivals that deliver extra to the desk with out significantly impacting value.

Is there a greater various?

The $250 Vizio V Sequence offers you a 5.1 expertise for a similar worth making it a greater possibility for film evening, although I’d nonetheless favor the sound of the Signa S3 with regards to stereo music. The $350 Yamaha YAS-209 is a extra superior various to the Polk, with Amazon Alexa constructed into the bar and compatibility with DTS: Digital X.

How lengthy will it final?

Polk has a two-year guarantee on this bar, which additionally occurs to be a well-made product. With the bonus of software program updates, this bar ought to be capable of be a fixture beneath your TV.

Do you have to purchase it?

No. The Polk Audio Signa S3 has lots going for it, together with built-in Wi-Fi and distinctive stereo sound. Its essential downside is the Vizio V Sequence, which regardless of not having Wi-Fi nonetheless outclasses it on the similar worth by providing to rather more to disregard. I just like the Polk Signa S3 soundbar. I simply assume most folk worth sound over streaming music functionality, and I can’t suggest a bar that falls on the mistaken finish of that scale. In different phrases, the worth king wins by a tricky choice.

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