Polk Omni S2R Wireless Speaker Review

The Polk SR2 speaker
Polk puts up bold competition with its SR2 speaker.

Sonos dominates the market for WiFi-based wireless multi-room audio; the company's market share in the category is well beyond that of the competition. Powerhouses like Apple and Bose have gone after them, only to watch Sonos' success grow. However, there's a different wireless standard called Play-Fi, which is licensed by DTS, and is trying to acquire some of the market share dominated by Sonos. Polk's debut for a Play-Fi audio product is the Omni S2R speaker.

So why would you want a Play-Fi-compatible wireless speaker instead of a Sonos? Mainly because Sonos is a closed system that's not open to other manufacturers. Sonos only works with Sonos. Play-Fi, on the other hand, is a licensable system that is open to any manufacturer. This means that a Play-Fi multiroom system could be composed of a mix and match of different brands (i.e. top speaker companies) to suit individual needs.

Play-Fi had originally been available for a while in products from Phorus and Wren Sound. But with the addition of Polk and Definitive Technology (Polk's sister company), and the eventual addition of Paradigm, MartinLogan, Core Brands companies (Speakercraft, Niles, Proficient), and many more, there's a wide choice of options for Play-Fi products.

The Omni S2R is, in itself, a sales pitch for Play-F. It sports features no Sonos product offered at the time of release: an internal rechargeable battery and a weather-resistant design. Thus, once charged you can carry the Omni SR2 around the house or even outside without having to plug it in.

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Polk Omni S2R: Features and Specs

The rear side of the Polk Omni SR2 speaker
The rear side of the Polk Omni SR2 speaker. Brent Butterworth

• Two 2-inch full-range drivers
• Two passive radiators
• Weather-resistant design
• Internal rechargeable battery rated at 10 hours typical playback time
• 3.5mm analog input
• Downloadable iOS/Android control app
• USB jack (for device charging)
• Available in black or white
• 3.0 x 4.5 x 8.6 in / 76 x 114 x 219 mm (hwd)

Polk claims a 100-foot range for the wireless capability. We tested it about 40 feet from the wireless router and never experienced a disconnect or drop-out.

Polk's mobile app for the Omni SR2 is easy to download and set up. It's also easy to get the S2R connected to a WiFi network. One downside is that remote control is only through the iOS/Android app. Play-Fi control apps for Windows and Mac computers are said to be available, but none are offered with the S2R or on the Play-Fi site.

The Polk Play-Fi Android app operates much like the Sonos Android app. It automatically goes out and finds the compatible files on your network and presents them all in one simple menu. It's not entirely clear from Play-Fi's website which digital audio file formats Play-Fi is compatible with, but we had no problem playing MP3s, FLAC, and AAC.

What Play-Fi doesn't offer is a comprehensive set of streaming audio services. But you do get Pandora, Songza, and Deezer, plus an Internet radio client (which has a much less friendly interface than TuneIn Radio). In contrast, Sonos lists 32 available streaming services on its site.

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Polk Omni S2R: Performance

An image of an Android smartphone using the Polk mobile app
The Polk Play-Fi Android app operates much like the Sonos Android app. Brent Butterworth

The Polk Omni S2R is about the same size as the Sonos Play:1 speaker. The two are fairly close in price, which begs the question, "does the Polk Omni SR2 beat the Sonos Play:1?" The short answer is "no, but.."

The basic sound quality of the Omni S2R is above-average for a wireless speaker of its size. Overall reaction to the sound output is positive; the audio comes across full, satisfying, and it plays reasonably loud. We put the SR2 up against some of our favorite audio test tracks to see how it delivers.

Holly Cole's recording of Tom Waits' "Train Song" speaks volumes about the S2R. Cole's voice sounds pretty smooth, particularly for coming from a compact wireless speaker (although it seemed like we could hear the plastic enclosure resonating a little). The sound is loud enough to fill an average-sized bedroom or kitchen. The bass does distort on the deep notes that start off "Train Song." But a lot of subwoofers distort on this tune, so it's not such a big deal.

Playing Toto's "Rosanna," we can hear that the S2R has a great tonal balance for a small speaker, with a great mix of bass, mids, and treble that never leaves the speaker sounding thin or ​obviously colored. Even though it doesn't have tweeters, the Omni SR2 does have a nice high-frequency extension that does a nice job of conveying the detail in cymbals and acoustic guitars.

The Polk Omni SR2 doesn't sound as neutral as the Sonos Play:1, nor does it sound as dynamic. But you can't easily haul the Sonos Play:1 from room to room – you have to unplug it from the wall, relocate it, plug it back in, and then wait for it to reconnect to the network before being able to play.

For overall sound, we prefer the Sonos Play:1. But for versatility, the Polk Omni S2R may be the better people-pleaser. The SR2 sounds (almost) just as good as the Play 1 in most instances. But it's the built-in battery for easy portability makes the Omni SR2 far more fun and convenient.

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Polk Omni S2R: Final Take

Two speakers from Polk and Definitive Technology side-by-side
Brent Butterworth

We really like the sound of the Polk Omni S2R, and we especially love the design and convenience. Polk did a fantastic job with this product.

However, regarding the Omni SR2, the purchase decision will likely hinge on whether or not someone wants Play-Fi. Simply put, Play-Fi is not Sonos. But Play-Fi does let you gain access to certain features Sonos doesn't have, while allowing a mix-and-match of brands/speakers that are also Play-Fi compatible.