Roku is charging further into the home audio zone with a new soundbar that also works as a Roku set-top box. In other words, the new Roku soundbar turns any TV into a smart TV that’s running Roku software supporting 4K HDR content. Oh, also, Roku made a beastly subwoofer to round out its speaker lineup.
This is exciting news for anyone who’s hoping to up their TVs game on multiple fronts. Roku is already a very popular set-top box platform and deservedly so. The company has set itself apart by being a neutral platform, and in expanding its home audio offerings, Roku is moving forward with a strategy that emphasizes simplicity and affordability.
The new Roku soundbar doesn’t have any buttons, for instance. Once you plug it in using an HDMI ARC connection, you can navigate to that input on your TV, and you’ll be greeted by Roku’s home screen. The soundbar is already setup, and you can control everything with an included Roku Voice Remote. (If your TV doesn’t offer HDMI ARC, you can still use the soundbar with an optical audio connection.) The audio settings are almost identical to those found with the Roku Wireless Speakers, which were released last year but only worked with TVs running Roku’s operating system. Again, the new soundbar will work with any TV.
Then there’s the Roku Subwoofer. Its hulking frame contains a 10-inch woofer, and it’s powerful at 250 watts. When you plug it in, the sub connects to the Roku Soundbar or Roku Wireless Speaker over low latency wifi, so you can place it anywhere in the room. Once it’s connected, Roku’s software automatically adjusts the audio crossover so that bass is redirected through the subwoofer, and the speakers handle the upper range. Roku says the sub can pump out bass as low as 40Hz which is very close to the lower end of what humans are capable of hearing.
It all looks so easy, and based on a recent demo I attended, the new Roku audio lineup sounds great. The soundbar isn’t quite as powerful as the Roku Wireless Speakers, and partly due to its more compact design—there are four 2.5-inch drivers in a 32-inch enclosure—the sound stage isn’t quite as realistic. The Roku Subwoofer, meanwhile, is a beast that’s strong enough to make your toes tickle. Also, when you step back and look at all the speakers Roku now makes—two satellite speakers, a soundbar, and a subwoofer—it sure looks like the company is getting ready to offer a surround sound option. Roku would neither confirm nor deny this claim in our demo.
The Roku Soundbar and the Roku Subwoofer will go on sale at Best Buy in mid-October. Each device will cost $180, and it’s unclear if the company will offer any sort of bundle. The Roku Soundbar, in particular, sounds like a deal since it also offers the features of a 4K HDR Roku device. We’re looking forward to spending more time with both the soundbar and the subwoofer, so expect a full review soon.