Reportedly, Roku wants to be more than just an outfit that throws Netflix onto our TV screen. As evidenced by the wireless speakers it launched last year and its growing team of audio researchers and engineers, Roku also wishes to be the corporate that makes our streaming media-sound great. And that’s where its new Smart Soundbar enters the scenario. On Wednesday, Roku introduced the Smart Soundbar, which is a TV speaker that doubles as a full Roku player. This means the speaker can serve up the complete array of Roku apps to a TV without the need for a separate box or input.
The 32-inch, Dolby-compatible soundbar will go on sale later this year for $180, and it packs four 2.5-inch speakers along with the guts of a Roku Ultra — quad-core processor and all. Unlike last year’s Smart Speakers, the Soundbar is meant to drive the TV by itself, and thanks to those borrowed components, it can manage streaming video playback at up to 4K resolution. Simply speaking, the soundbar isn’t meant to augment the Roku players users already own as much as replace them outright. The soundbar isn’t alone, either. An additional $180 will also net them a wireless subwoofer that — appropriately enough — looks like a Roku Ultra that went through a late growth spurt. Aesthetics aside, it packs a single, downward-firing 10-inch woofer and its output peaks at 250W.
Since the soundbar uses the same chipset and internals as the Roku Ultra, there’s more processing power here than one might expect, and the corporate’s clever audio software puts it to good use.
This is all well and good, but it sorts of belies an important point. Yes, Roku’s soundbar and sub sound good, but they’re also extremely simple to set up — just connect the soundbar to a television with an HDMI cable and the users are all set. Once plugged in, the sub automatically connects to the soundbar, at which point the soundbar starts figuring out how best to divvy up audio responsibilities. It’s extremely simple, as we’d probably expect from Roku hardware.