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FIRST LOOK: Roku Smart Soundbar & Wireless Subwoofer Review – Should You Add This to Your Black Friday Shopping List?

Jason Gurwin

In early September, Roku announced the Roku Smart Soundbar and Roku Wireless Subwoofer. The former essentially combines a Roku device and a high-quality soundbar in a single device. Just like other premium Roku devices, the Roku Smart Soundbar can stream up to 4K with HDR support and includes their Voice Remote.

The optional Roku Wireless Subwoofer expands the Roku Smart Soundbar with even deeper, richer bass — without the need of running an additional audio cable. The products join the family of Roku wireless speakers, but bring a higher-quality premium sound experience to any TV with an HDMI input.

After using the Roku Smart Soundbar as our primary Roku streaming player (and soundbar) for the last month, we can safely say that this is one our favorite Roku devices. When you add the Roku Wireless Subwoofer, while it won’t give true Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, it does improve to make the experience feel more immersive.

While the devices are normally $179.99 each, starting Thanksgiving (November 28) through December 7, the Roku Smart Sound Bar will be only $149.99, or $269.99 when bundled with the Roku Wireless subwoofer.

To put in perspective how incredible of a deal that is — you’re getting a high-end Roku streaming device, plus a wireless soundbar for less than an Apple TV or NVIDIA SHIELD.

Roku Smart Soundbar

Roku Wireless Subwoofer

What’s In The Box

Roku Smart Soundbar

When you first open the box, you’ll see the Roku Smart Soundbar, along with a power cable, HDMI cable and optical cord. Included is a Roku voice remote with TV controls, including a mute button (which comes on 2019 Roku remotes).

The built-in Roku streaming player is somewhere between the Roku Ultra LT and a Roku Streaming Stick+. While it doesn’t have Ethernet, it does have the the latest 802.11ac dual-band wireless. Like the Roku Ultra, it has a USB port for local storage.

But more similar to the Roku Streaming Stick+, the remote doesn’t include the headphone jack for private listening. Like other Roku devices though, you can still enable private listening through the Roku App.

On the back of the soundbar, you can connect it to your TV using HDMI (for audio and video) or you can choose to use an optical cable for Dolby audio.

Roku Wireless Subwoofer

Since the Roku Wireless Subwoofer requires nothing but power, it simply includes just the audio device and a power cable.

Roku Smart Soundbar

Roku Wireless Subwoofer

Set-Up

The set-up of both devices is incredibly straight-forward. Since Roku devices are the first streaming player for a lot of users, they have nailed the on-boarding experience for even the most novice technophile.

First you need to decide if you are going to connect your audio via HDMI or optical. If your TV supports HDMI-ARC (audio return channel), which passes audio from your TV back to your soundbar (for other inputs), your best bet is to use HDMI.

Once you have the device plugged in, the set-up experience will be familiar to anyone who has used a Roku before. You will log-in or create your Roku account, install your apps and then you will be ready to go.

If you also purchase the Roku Wireless Subwoofer, you will pair it with the soundbar, as if you were setting up any bluetooth device.

Performance

Video Streaming

The device supports 4K HDR streaming including HDR10, but doesn’t support Dolby Vision. While there isn’t a lot of content that this will affect, it’s good to know if you are trying to future proof.

To test the device, we launched and streamed different Live TV Streaming Services like fuboTV and Sling TV, as well as On-Demand Streaming Services like Disney+ and Hulu.

If you’ve ever used a high-end Roku streaming player like Roku Streaming Stick+ or Roku Ultra, you will see very similar performance. You will not sacrifice any video quality by choosing the Roku Smart Soundbar over another Roku device.

Audio Performance

For less than $200, the Roku Smart Soundbar will give you a significant improvement over the built-in speakers in your television. It certainly isn’t a Sonos soundbar, but compared to other $150-$300 soundbars like Vizio SB3651 ($150), Polk Command Bar ($300) and JBL Link Bar ($400) it sounds good enough.

The soundbar has four 2.5” full range drivers which will produce a decent sound range. When we streamed the Mosasaurus attack scene from “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” the soundbar helped pick up the mud slushing as the dinosaur chased, as well as the background rain drops and when the Mosasaurus roars.

Sounds at the lower-end of the range, definitely could use some help. Fortunately, when you the Roku Wireless Subwoofer, it covers much of what is lacking bass-wise. It also adds some of that missing vibration that you’re used to from bigger surround sound audio systems. That same scene sounded even better with the subwoofer.

The device also comes with sound modes that can reduce or boost the bass, improve speech clarity and level the volume, which adds a nice touch. Since it has built-in Bluetooth, you can also connect your phone to stream music directly to the soundbar.

Roku Smart Soundbar

Roku Wireless Subwoofer

Should You Buy It?

For $179, the Roku Smart Soundbar is a great deal, and if you buy it for $149 on Black Friday, it feels like a downright steal. When you factor in that you’re getting a $70+ streaming device built-in, you are essentially getting a soundbar for $100.

While the audio quality is not best-in-class, it improves on the experience you would have if you just used the speakers in your television. If you’re not ready to invest a full-fledged Dolby Digital Surround Sound or $400+ soundbar, the Roku Smart Soundbar is a great option.

The Roku Wireless Subwoofer dramatically improves the soundbar, especially when listening to music or intense action sequences. At $179.99 by itself, or $269.99 when bundled with the Smart Soundbar, it is a worthwhile upgrade.

For those that want to improve their audio experience, with a built-in high-quality streaming player, you won’t be disappointed by the Roku Smart Soundbar or Wireless Subwoofer.

Roku Smart Soundbar

Roku Wireless Subwoofer