Few companies have done more than Roku to make streaming video easier, between its inexpensive players and streaming sticks, and its affordable (but surprisingly excellent) Roku TVs. And it's dipped its proverbial toes into the world of audio with the Roku Wireless Speakers, which connect seamlessly to Roku TVs.
Now it's taking on audio for everyone else with a pair of new releases — the Roku Smart Soundbar, and Roku Wireless Subwoofer. These are separate products — each will retail for $179 when they're released in October — but they work in concert.
Let's start with the Roku Smart Soundbar. As the name implies, it's not a dumb sound bar. That is, it's not just an audio output. This has the full Roku operating system built in. Connect it to your TV via HDMI and you've got access to the entire world of streaming video that Roku provides. Technically it's positioned sort of between the Roku Premiere and Roku Ultra, being more power than the former but lacking a few of the features of the latter. But really this is a different sort of product with a different sort of purpose. You get a great way to watch all the things you want to watch, and a much better way to hear all that content — all in one 32-inch sound bar. It supports 4K resolution and HDR 10. (Missing, however, is the Dolby Vision HDR standard.)
The Smart Sound Bar sports the sort of audio features you'd expect to find in a Roku product at this point, including Dolby Audio, automatic volume leveling to keep commercials from blowing out your ears (which somehow is still a thing in 2019), night mode for lowering the overall volume for louder scenes and ramping it up for lower ones, and speech clarity for clarifying speech.
In addition, the sound bar features Bluetooth connectivity (and optical audio if that's your thing, but HDMI ARC is really the way to go). It ships with HDMI and optical cables, as well as with a Roku Voice Remote.
The Roku Smart Sound Bar, while not having the catchiest of names, sports four 2.5-inch speakers. We haven't had the chance to listen to it yet, but given the price range you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect — audio that's far better than what comes out of your TV by default, but certainly not as immersive as a multi-piece Dolby Atmos set. You also can't use it with the aforementioned Roku Wireless Speakers. We asked, and they weren't telling. But you can see how it'd make sense to be able to use those bookshelf-sized speakers as side or rear speakers at some point — basically like what you can do with Sonos Play:1s and a PlayBar, only far more affordable.
What you can do from the outset, though, is snag the newly announced Roku Wireless Subwoofer. The name pretty much spells it out here. It's an optional 250-Watt sub that'll drive the low end far beyond what the sound bar is able to do, all the way down to 40 Hz. It's also got the Roku OS baked in, but that's to facilitate the handshake with the soundbar. And because it's wireless, you can put it anywhere in the room you want. (So long as it's close to a power outlet, of course.)
At launch, the subwoofer only works with the Smart Sound Bar. Roku is actively working on making it compatible with the Roku Wireless Speakers, but there's no ETA on that just yet.
Audio and video, all in one!
The fewer things you have to plug into your TV, the better. And the Roku Smart Sound Bar combines easy-to-stream video with easy-to-connect audio in what may be the perfect entry-level consumer device.
Roku Wireless subwoofer ($179 at Roku)
Make the room go boom
If you're at all serious about audio, you need a subwoofer. And this one from Roku makes it a breeze because it's wireless, employs Roku Connect — and basically is how to do things.
Roku Introduces the Roku Smart Soundbar and Roku Wireless Subwoofer
New Roku Audio Devices Make it Incredibly Easy to Add Both Premium Sound & Powerful Streaming to a TV
LOS GATOS, Calif. – Sept. 4, 2019 – Roku, Inc. (NASDAQ: ROKU) today announced it is expanding its portfolio of premium audio products to include the new Roku Smart Soundbar and Roku Wireless Subwoofer. Specifically designed for how people watch television, the Roku Smart Soundbar is an incredibly easy way to add premium sound and powerful movie, TV and music streaming to any TV with an HDMI input. The optional Roku Wireless Subwoofer expands the Roku Smart Soundbar with even deeper, richer bass. Customers can pre-order both products from Roku.com starting today for $179.99 MSRP each.
"We've been very successful in delivering best-in-class streaming experiences to our customers and we're constantly innovating in order to deliver on our promise of making TV better," said Mark Ely, Vice President, Players and Whole Home Product Management at Roku. "The Roku Smart Soundbar is a great value and makes it easier than ever to add incredible sound and powerful streaming to any TV. In addition, if you want heart-pounding bass you can easily add that too."
Roku Smart Soundbar
Meticulously engineered to deliver room-filling sound and powerful streaming in brilliant HD, 4K UHD and HDR, the Roku Smart Soundbar is powered by the Roku OS. The Roku Smart Soundbar reduces clutter while featuring simple set up, an easy-to-use home screen while providing access to 500,000+ movies and TV episodes and millions of songs. Four premium drivers offer distinctive clarity, immersive depth and dynamic bass response. Advanced volume modes enable consumers to reach for the remote less often. Automatic Volume Leveling offers uniform audio level across various types of content, including quieting loud commercials. Night mode lowers the volume for louder scenes and boosts it for quieter ones. Speech Clarity boosts voice frequencies for address intelligibility for crisp, clear dialogue. Automatic software updates will deliver new capabilities over time. Additional features include:
- Roku Connect: A wireless protocol that seamlessly connects the Roku ecosystem
- Dolby Audio™: Delivers rich, clear, powerful sound
- Bluetooth®: Listen to your favorite music, podcasts, and more from popular streaming channels or Bluetooth compatible devices
- HDMI ARC or Optical Support: Connect the Roku Smart Soundbar to a TV with a single cable via HDMI ARC or use HDMI and Optical
- Roku Search: Fast and easy cross-channel search offers results ranked by price
- Roku Voice: Makes it easy to launch streaming channels, search for entertainment, replay, turn closed captions on and off and more through the Roku Voice Remote
- Voice Assistant Compatibility: The Roku Smart Soundbar works with Google Assistant and is compatible with Amazon Alexa-enabled devices
- Roku Voice remote: The point-anywhere remote features channel shortcut buttons and TV on/off buttons
Roku Wireless Subwoofer
The Roku Wireless Subwoofer is optional adding powerful bass and a thunderous response to a Roku Smart Soundbar without needing to run a separate audio cable. Featuring an easy wireless setup, and a sealed cabinet design with a powerful 10-inch driver, the Roku Wireless Subwoofer allows users to expand the premium audio of the Roku Smart Soundbar with for a theater-like experience in the home. Roku TV™ Wireless Speakers that are connected to Roku TV models will receive a software update in the coming months to add compatibility with the Roku Wireless Subwoofer.
Pricing and Availability
The Roku Smart Soundbar and Roku Wireless Subwoofer are each priced at $179.99 MSRP. Both are available for pre-order at Roku.com starting today and are expected to ship in October. General availability at Best Buy and Roku.com is also expected in October.
For more information on the Roku Smart Soundbar or the Roku Wireless Subwoofer visit Roku.com.
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Phil is the father of two beautiful girls and is the Dad behind Modern Dad. Before that he spent seven years at the helm of Android Central. Before that he spent a decade in a newsroom of a two-time Pulitzer Prize-finalist newspaper. Before that — well, we don't talk much about those days.