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

Slim, low-profile design

Straightforward setup

Excellent 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 most important 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 properly.

Polk’s $250 React soundbar is designed to treatment this considerably. By itself, it’s an Alexa-powered good speaker that may ship respectable digital encompass sound. However you may also 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 part you must get going, together with an HDMI cable, an optical cable, a distant management with batteries, a wall-mounting template, and wall mount . There’s a good quantity of styrofoam to throw away (or recycle if appropriate amenities exist close to you) and a variety of polybags too.

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

Design

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

Wealthy Shibley/Digital Traits

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

On the highest floor, it seems 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 also be an Alexa good 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 beneath.

Hidden behind the React’s material exterior are two midrange drivers, two tweeters, and two passive bass radiators. Additionally hidden (till they gentle 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 totally different colours relying on the supply sign (blue for Bluetooth, inexperienced for Dolby Audio, and so forth.).

The React wi-fi subwoofer, like so many different subs, is a primary black field, however due to its rectangular form, chances are you’ll 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 optionally available Polk SR2 wi-fi rear audio system. They’ve a cloth grille that matches the React soundbar, and a trapezoidal form that provides them quite a lot of flexibility by way of placement. Their rubber ft 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 . Encompass audio system are not often notable for his or her design, which makes the SR2 a refreshing change.

Connections

Wealthy Shibley/Digital Traits

The React is pretty barebones from a connections viewpoint. You get a single HDMI ARC port for audio-only, an optical port in case your TV doesn’t assist 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 transportable media participant.

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

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

Setup and configuration

Sure, it’s attainable 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 unique soundbar. Wi-Fi entry, multiroom audio, and good speaker capabilities 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 is going to let the soundbar management TV quantity/mute capabilities and vice versa. In any other case, an optical connection is ok and gained’t impression sound high quality in any respect.

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

Wealthy Shibley/Digital Traits

Professional Tip: For those who’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 present 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 a number of steps like choosing the React’s location in your house and selecting a default music service.

For those who 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 robotically 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 might work, and the React bar robotically carried out that replace and restarted itself. I’ve by no means skilled such a hands-off setup.

For those who’ve been utilizing your TV’s built-in audio system, the React will really feel like a critical 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 assessment above).

Sound high quality

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

Wealthy Shibley/Digital Traits

For those who’ve been utilizing your TV’s built-in audio system, the React will really feel like a critical improve. Polk guarantees “huge, detailed, digital encompass sound,” and I’d say the React largely delivers on this — no less than within the “huge” 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, extensive soundstage that simply fills even reasonably sized rooms with sound, nevertheless it doesn’t fairly obtain the wraparound impact that the very best digital encompass methods can do. This is perhaps as a result of the React bar is definitely a two-channel speaker with discrete left and proper drivers. Once you’ve acquired to virtualize a middle channel, it doesn’t go away quite a lot of room for virtualizing two encompass channels as properly.

Polk gives 4 EQ presets: Music, Film, Sport, and Night time. Music and Film sounded similar to me. Night time tones down many of the decrease frequencies, making it much less possible that you simply’ll disturb folks in your own home who’re attempting to sleep, and Sport ought to actually be referred to as “speech” because it enhances larger frequencies for higher dialog readability.

The surrounds aren’t used in any respect when streaming music, which looks like an enormous missed alternative.

The soundbar can also be a very easy performer in the case of 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 manner higher high quality if you happen to stream utilizing the companies out there inside the Alexa app, or through Spotify Join.

My solely criticism is that the Alexa app doesn’t assist 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’d count on. Low-end bass goes from one thing you hear to one thing you are feeling too, a vital element 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 assessment, you must crank the extent on these audio system to get essentially 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 like an enormous missed alternative.

Controls and value

The React’s distant management isn’t fancy, however that’s a very good factor. It’s snug to make use of, it has devoted buttons for the entire most essential settings, and regardless that it’s not backlit, the white labels on the black, rubberized floor are simple to learn even in a reasonably darkish room. For those who don’t need to say “Alexa” earlier than issuing a voice command, you may press the devoted Alexa button as a substitute.

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

The one lacking element is playback management when streaming music, which is a wierd omission. Given the React’s beneficiant music choices (together with MP3 storage on a USB gadget) you’d assume there can be no less than a play/pause button.

Wealthy Shibley/Digital Traits

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

Within the directions, Polk does warn that if a light-weight supply is pointed straight 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 subsequent stage. Not solely can you employ the React for the myriad duties we will assign to good audio system like telling us the climate forecast or setting reminders, nevertheless it additionally permits you to summon any music or podcast from the out there companies.

Utilizing Alexa or the Alexa app to regulate music playback is straightforward, however restricted. You may entry songs, albums, and playlists, however there’s no manner so as to add new favorites or create playlists — all of this should be achieved within the related service’s app. It actually can’t evaluate to what Sonos gives, 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 for the time being.

Our take

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

Is there a greater various?

In order for you a midrange soundbar that doubles as a sensible speaker, there merely isn’t anything in the marketplace that comes near the Polk React for the value.

For those who’re keen to spend $150 extra, each the Sonos Beam and Bose Good Soundbar 300 offer you a alternative of voice assistant, higher music streaming choices, and higher multiroom audio. However it prices considerably extra to broaden them into full encompass sound methods.

For those who simply desire a easy soundbar with none bells and whistles, the Vizio V21 is tough 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 comply with this development. It comes with a one-year guarantee on the amplifier and a three-warranty on the audio system. I count on it is going to final for a few years to come back.

Must you purchase it?

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

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