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Lifewire / Zach Sweat
Solid sound quality
No deep bass
Cheaper options if you don’t need smart stuff
No controls outside remote
Though it may not be necessary for those who already have a smart TV, the Roku Smart Soundbar has a lot to offer in its small affordable package.
We purchased the Roku Smart Soundbar so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full product review.
Roku has rapidly become one of the biggest players in the smart TV space since launching back in 2008. Over the last several years, the company has continued to stay relevant by revamping its platform and releasing a stream of new products.
One new product they’ve recently put out is their Roku Smart Soundbar—a device that not only provides enhanced audio quality for your entertainment experience, but also smart TV features without the need for extra hardware.
The smart soundbar world is relatively new, but definitely heating up as more manufacturers continue to enter the scene by releasing competing devices. So how does Roku’s soundbar stand up to the competition? Read our in-depth review here to see for yourself.
With an unassuming construction overall, the Roku Smart Soundbar doesn’t stray too far from your typical speaker design. The basic aesthetic comprised of black plastic and speaker cloth won’t stand out, but it also won’t be a major eyesore in your home.
The entire bar measures just 32 inches long and about 4 inches wide—making it one of the more compact soundbars I’ve tested. This slim design means it’ll easily fit on your cramped TV stand or can even be mounted to the wall.
The top of the unit is made of matte black plastic with a small Roku logo smack dab in the middle. Along the front, there’s mesh cloth wrapped around the speaker array that curves around the sides of the soundbar for a basic look.
At the back of the soundbar, you’ll find all your connections and ports. With a nice little cutout, cables can be easily routed behind the unit for easy cable management. Back here you’ve got a range of potential hookups, including an HDMI ARC port, optical port, and USB port. While not as extensive as some soundbars I tested, it should be enough for basic users.
Soundbars like this offering from Roku are a great way to enhance your home entertainment experience without spending a ton of money or needing lots of audio equipment experience.
Unfortunately, Roku has opted for sleek and minimalistic looks over functional design when it comes to the soundbar so don’t expect any handy LED display, external controls, buttons, or much any extra functions on the device itself. Instead, you’ll need to use the included remote for pretty much any command.
The remote is no different than any other Roku TV. If you’ve used one of these at any point, you’ll feel right at home. With just the right amount of minimalism and functionality in the way of design and buttons, I personally love the Roku remote and feel it has just enough to be useful without being complicated.
The voice remote doesn’t include some fancy voice assistant like Alexa, but it does allow you to search the UI with basic voice commands if you prefer to navigate that way. There’s also no 3.5mm jack for headphones like some Roku remotes had in the past, but you can still use the app if you want that functionality.
In order to set up the Roku Smart Soundbar, all you really need to do is plug it in and follow along with the on-screen instructions. The entire process should only take about 10 or 15 minutes, but there are a couple things you should know.
If you’re going to fully utilize the smart TV features of this device, your only connection option is to use the HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) port. By connecting the included HDMI cable to the soundbar and then to your TV’s HDMI ARC-enabled port, you’ll have sound and video without the need for any additional cables. Sticking with that HDMI connection, all you need to do is plug it in and run through the setup guide. It’ll have you connect to the internet, add apps, and perform your typical initial setup.
So let’s say your TV doesn’t have an HDMI ARC port. The only other option you’ll have here is to use the optical audio cable (also included) from the soundbar to your TV. With this connection type, you can fully utilize the soundbar as an external speaker, but you won’t get any of the Roku TV functions, so keep that in mind before you buy.
Now before I dive into sound quality, keep in mind the low cost of the Roku Smart Soundbar and its price-to-performance ratio. Sure, there are better sounding speakers to be had, but they are often more expensive or more complicated to set up.
Soundbars like this offering from Roku are a great way to enhance your home entertainment experience without spending a ton of money or needing lots of audio equipment experience. In order to properly test the sound quality, I tried out a range of music genres, movies, games, and TV shows to see how it performed.
Starting with the speaker’s treble, I was a bit unimpressed while listening to music, but it did sound superior to my TV’s built-in speakers. The higher you go with volume, the more distortion you’ll notice. Often I felt that the highs became a bit muddied with the other sounds while testing.
The midrange, on the other hand, fared much better. The Roku Smart Soundbar performed well, providing much clearer dialogue during movies and games compared to the TV. If you’re someone who finds themselves raising volume during quiet talking scenes and then back down when the action pops off, this will help remedy one of the biggest downfalls of TV audio systems.
Compared to other manufacturers and even other audio setups offered by Roku, the Smart Soundbar is very well priced for what you get.
Bass performance is much better than I expected, especially compared to TV speakers, but it’s not much better than any other soundbar. Soundbars that don’t come with a subwoofer are notoriously poor in the bass department, so it’s to be expected. That said, Roku does offer an additional subwoofer that can be paired (wirelessly) with this soundbar, giving users a dramatically better experience for bass. While it essentially doubles the price at an extra $180, I’d recommend getting the subwoofer to really round out the sound quality of the Roku Smart Soundbar.
Unlike your run-of-the-mill soundbar, this smart version also doubles as a smart TV box. If you’ve ever used a Roku-equipped TV or added a Roku media player/stick to an existing TV, the experience and features here are mostly the same.
Roku’s TV OS is one of the more popular options around aside from Android TV or Apple TV, though they all pretty much do the same thing. The service provides easy access to all your favorite streaming apps, channels, and even the ability to access HDTV antenna channels right inside the software.
There are also some handy audio-only features for the wireless speakers, including Bluetooth streaming from your phone. Users can do things like play Spotify directly from their phone’s app to the soundbar for easy music listening. You can also stream video from your phone using the Roku app.
While I do enjoy the simple layout and navigation of Roku TV, the inclusion of non-removable ads throughout the platform remains an annoyance on an otherwise great platform. Even still, the ability to plug the soundbar into any old TV and transform it into a smart device is awesome and couldn’t be easier to use.
These smart soundbars are usually a bit more costly than their “dumb” counterparts, so make sure you actually plan to utilize this component when shopping for a new soundbar.
At about $180 from any online retailer, the Roku Smart Soundbar is one of the cheapest options you can find. Compared to other manufacturers and even other audio setups offered by Roku, the Smart Soundbar is very well priced for what you get.
The total package of soundbar and Roku TV device makes the overall package a great buy—so long as you’re going to use the Smart TV features baked into the device. If not, you may want to look for other non-smart soundbars.
The Roku Smart Soundbar is an affordable device with lots of great features packed in.
One last point of note is that for an additional $180, you can add a wireless subwoofer to the soundbar for truly impressive sound quality. Despite being a significant cost, it’s great to have as an option if you want to boost your audio performance at a later date since some manufacturers don’t have the option.
As mentioned earlier, there are a number of options in the smart soundbar space, but each of them comes with various platforms, hardware, and features potential buyers should know about before settling on a final choice.
Anker is another big name to pop up in the tech world over the last several years, especially with soundbars and other small speaker setups. The company recently put out their own smart speaker with the Nebula Soundbar (see on Amazon), so let’s look at the two and see what they each have to offer.
Purely looking at price, the Roku Smart Soundbar is a considerably better value at $180 compared to the $230 Nebula Soundbar. For $50 less, you get almost the same sound quality as the Anker without missing out on too many features.
The Anker does include some cool things like an LED display for quick info, built-in Amazon Alexa, and Fire TV, but those extras may not matter to some users. If you personally prefer Fire TV to Roku or vice versa, your decision should be easy.
The last thing to consider between these two is whether you want to add a subwoofer. I’ve mentioned the Roku soundbar can add this for an additional cost, but Anker soundbar doesn’t have an option for this and will never match the bass performance of a standalone subwoofer.
An affordable soundbar with bonus features and solid audio quality.
The Roku Smart Soundbar is an affordable device with lots of great features packed in. If you’re looking to upgrade to a smart TV but also want better audio, this setup offers great value.
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