Polk React review: Built-in Alexa soundbar for your TV

Victoria D. Doty

I have experienced a voice assistant in my home for the past several yrs and it really is hard to know how I ever did devoid of it. The whole family members employs it to switch off the lights, check with for the weather or, to my horror, listen to countless amounts of Spotify-skewing pop audio. The Polk Respond brings the advantage of Alexa into a Tv set-pleasant, soundbar sort. The necessary question is: Do we truly will need a Tv set speaker that is also an assistant? 

Like

  • Amazon Alexa onboard functions properly.
  • Outstanding sound high quality for the rate.
  • Sensible looking layout

You should not Like

  • Only a single HDMI input
  • Optional sub and surrounds are high priced.

The new Respond follows up Polk’s authentic pretty much-but-not-officially-an-Echo soundbar, the Polk Command Bar. The Respond differs from the Command mainly because it isn’t going to consist of the wi-fi subwoofer — it really is just a single bar. The Respond appears really excellent and is similarly at ease with motion pictures and audio, and its integration with Alexa is even slicker than right before. The final result is a properly-rounded bundle for your dollars.

But again to that necessary question. Actually I desire retaining my assistant in a separate, devoted speaker. Talk to Alexa a question on a hybrid unit like the Respond and the audio grinds to a halt when the assistant does your bidding. That can be irritating, particularly when you have to interrupt your The Nevers session to check with a connected question.

Then again, you could desire an all-in-a single solution, in particular if you never presently have an Alexa speaker in your dwelling region. And the Respond is a far better benefit than the $400 Sonos Beam, another Alexa-driven soundbar, whilst it lacks Sonos’ multiroom chops. At the time of publication the Respond is obtainable for $two hundred, and if you want to improve the sound you can add an optional sub ($a hundred and eighty) and/or the SR2 surrounds ($a hundred and eighty), offering a pleasant up grade path for the foreseeable future.

What’s in the box?

The Polk Command Bar lacked the stylishness of the Sonos Beam, but the Respond smooths out the awkwardness with touches like its tender, woolen grill. The unique central ring part remains — with volume, action and on/off buttons set in a circle that appears to be like the major of an old-school Echo — but the exercise mild is now an illuminated bar throughout the entrance edge. 

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Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The bar by itself measures 2.2 inches high, four.seventy six inches deep and 34 inches large. The soundbar is wall-mountable by way of keyhole keyhole mounts on the again. The audio part is composed of two midrange motorists, two tweeters and two passive radiators underneath for added bass.

Inputs run to a single HDMI (ARC) output, an optical input for Tv set audio, Bluetooth, and a USB that is strictly for firmware updates. I do would like it experienced the Polk Command Bar’s second HDMI port, which is a boon for consumers with a number of gadgets. The device also features Wi-Fi connectivity, while not Ethernet, for connecting the voice assistant to the Online. 

polk-react-4

Ty Pendlebury

The Respond features Amazon’s Multi-Place Music compatibility in addition to Spotify Hook up, but unfortunately no AirPlay or Chromecast designed in. I did enjoy that song requests by way of Alexa can be performed by means of Tidal by default, while.

polk-react-with-peripherals

The Respond can get the job done with an optional Sub and/or surround speakers.


Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The optional wi-fi Polk Respond Sub is significant, akin to the a single I observed on the JBL Bar 2.1 Deep Bass, and it costs a rather penny, also, at $a hundred and eighty. The large sixteen.5-by-eight.six-by-thirteen.7-inch box has a 7-inch woofer onboard. 

Meanwhile optional rear speakers come in devoted Left and Suitable variations and aspect ten-foot extensive electric power cables. The speakers, formed vaguely like a eyeglasses situation, are finished in gray marle and evaluate approximately eight inches extensive by four inches square.

For a reasonably cheap soundbar, the distant manage is rather in depth. It is really chunky but in a practical way and it features lots of manage abilities — even for the stages of the rears and the sub. These latter controls could also be observed as a not-so-refined upsell endeavor.

Interacting with Alexa

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Ty Pendlebury/CNET

In the time given that the introduction of voice assistant-enabled soundbars, I have some second ideas on the technological innovation, as have seemingly many producers. There are two major reasons. Very first, folks possibly presently have a digital assistant in their dwelling home by now, mainly because they are reasonably affordable. Second, the sound from the principal speaker “ducks” or mutes each time you difficulty a command, indicating your display or movie is interrupted. 

Individuals caveats aside, the Polk Respond was reasonably painless when it came to issuing commands, hearing my “Alexa” wake phrase even when at the maximum volume. The speaker isn’t going to mute entirely when it ducks, indicating you can however sort of hear what is actually likely on. Queries ended up immediately fixed and so the interruption wasn’t as excellent as with other clever soundbars I have tested, these kinds of as the Yamaha YAS-209 or JBL Backlink Bar.

Polk remote

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

If you never want to use the distant you can also use your voice for all of the controls, together with the means to change the sub and rear volumes. In a connected vogue, the only matter that irked me for the duration of setup was that neither the soundbar nor the subwoofer handbook explain to you how to sync the peripherals. Ideally the corporation can correct this for its May possibly release, but if you’re trapped you will need to press the sync button on the soundbar for four seconds, then the synching device’s for four seconds, and then contact the soundbar’s button immediately again.

A evening on the sofa

As with the excellent series of Tv set speakers right before it, the Polk Respond is similarly at house with motion pictures as it is with participating in audio. The array of immediately-changeable sound modes means that you can check with Alexa on the fly if you want to enhance intelligibility (voice volume) or bathe in pseudo-surround sound (movie manner).

Regrettably, I did not have the Sonos Beam on hand for direct comparison, but I did have two subwoofer-considerably less soundbars, the Vizio M21D-H8 ($a hundred and fifty) and the JBL Bar 5. Multi Beam ($350), that bookend the Polk in rate.

I commenced my testing with a single of the most unforgettable sequences from a superhero movie — up there with Superman traveling all over the planet backwards — which is Speculate Girl likely “above the major” of the Entire world War I trenches (1:14:00). Bullets fly as our hero strides confidently by means of the mud right before bracing herself with the aid of her protect for a machine gun assault. The scene introduced me chills.

The Polk was in a position to seize the movie’s epic sweep, the soundtrack swelled and bullets zinged, but I did overlook some of the oomph and immersiveness a greater program could convey. In comparison, the Vizio wasn’t as apparent and failed to have as considerably bass. It merely felt a tiny underpowered for this scene, even with the oft-reliable DTS Digital:X processing utilized.

But it was the JBL Bar 5. which sounded the most majestic in this examination. With the JBL’s Sensible Manner turned on, dialogue was however apparent but bullets whizzed all over the home in a way that they failed to with the other two bars. There was also lots of base close for the shells that exploded all over our pals as they approached the German line.

With this and other content I observed that the Polk supplied the most effective compromise of sounding entire for a reasonable sum, but the JBL was the far better house cinema speaker. Perhaps it could be worth the further $a hundred for movie looking at, but not if you want to listen to audio.

Like other Polk’s right before it, the Respond is in a position to faucet out a tune really convincingly. Nick Cave’s Crimson Suitable Hand sounded natural and well balanced on the Polk at each volume degree. When the JBL can go considerably louder than the Polk, its musical efficiency came with sonic artifacts. The bass line commenced to distort and turn out to be synth-like beyond only midway up the dial.

When I added the optional sub and rears the Polk was at its most effective, as you would hope from a program that now costs $650. The advantages of the sub and rears could be felt whichever sort of content I was listening to, from time to time in unanticipated methods. For example, Lifeless Can Dance’s Yulunga Spirit Dancer, particularly in Motion picture manner, was as satisfying as ever — the planet-audio-tinged tune sounded substantial, and it was hard to believe it was coming from a soundbar program.

Need to you get it?

With the Polk Respond the producer has provided consumers a apparent up grade path, a rarity in this class, by presenting the optional sub and surrounds. If you have to pick between the two it really is a rough call. If you largely watch Tv set sports or dramas, then the surrounds will make the most variance as they give the listener the greatest perception of immersion. On the other hand if you like your audio loud or your action motion pictures explodey, then it really is the sub you really should get. 

With no the optional speakers, the Polk Respond features excellent sonics for a single bar with a smattering of excellent attributes for the dollars. For folks who want a hybrid Alexa speaker, it really is another satisfying program that life up to the clever soundbar legacy established by the authentic Polk Command Bar.

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