The Polk React soundbar may be the perfect soundbar for your home theater. It’s designed to give you great sound without the need for a complete surround sound system, and you’ll appreciate how it blends in with any décor.
The Polk React will make your TV and movie time even more enjoyable, from its sleek and stylish design to its rich and room-filling sound.
Check out our Polk React soundbar review for all the details on this excellent product!
- 1 What is the Polk React Soundbar?
- 2 Overview About Polk React Soundbar
- 3 Digging Into This Polk Soundbar Hardware
- 4 Who Should Buy This Polk Soundbar?
- 5 FAQs
- 6 Conclusion
What is the Polk React Soundbar?
The Polk React soundbar seems to be an Amazon Echo product right out of the box. The soundbar is 34 inches broad by 2.2 inches in height. Almost the whole thing is wrapped in a light gray cloth, similar to what you’ll find on Amazon’s first-party Echo speakers. The circular button array on top is similarly reminiscent of an Echo Dot.
This isn’t a pricey soundbar at $250, but it’s meant to compete with more costly versions, such as the excellent-but-expensive Sonos Beam. Polk promotes Alexa compatibility as one of its key benefits, and it’s essential if you want the greatest performance while streaming music (more on that later).
Pros And Cons
- Amazon Alexa works well onboard.
- Excellent sound quality for the price
- Smart looking design
- One HDMI input
- Additional sub- and surrounds may be available for an additional cost.
Overview About Polk React Soundbar
The new React follows Polk’s original almost-but-not-officially-an-Echo soundbar, the Polk Command Bar. The React is different from the Command in that it does not include the wireless subwoofer. It’s just one bar.
The React is enjoyable to listen to, with both movies and music. It also integrates with Alexa much more smoothly than ever before. This package is well-rounded and worth the money.
Let’s get back to the essential question. In truth, I prefer to keep my assistant in a separate speaker. If Alexa asks a query using a hybrid device such as the React, the audio stops, and the assistant performs your bidding.
This can be frustrating, especially if you need to interrupt your The Nevers session to ask a similar question.
You might also prefer an all-in-one solution, especially if you don’t have an Alexa speaker already in your home. The React is cheaper than the Sonos Beam ($400), another Alexa-powered soundbar.
However, it lacks Sonos multiroom capabilities. The React retails for $200 at the time of publication. To enhance the sound, you can also add an optional sub ($180) or SR2 surrounds ($180). This will provide a nice upgrade path in the future.
What’s Inside The Box?
Although the Polk Command Bar was not as stylish as the Sonos Beam’s, the React makes up for it with features like the soft woolen grill.
It retains the distinctive central ring section — volume, action, and on/off buttons are set in a circle similar to an Echo’s top — but the activity bar is now illuminated along the front edge.
The bar measures 2.2 inches in height, 4.76 inches deep, and 34 inches wide. Keyhole mounts at the back allow for wall mounting of the soundbar. The audio section includes two midrange drivers, two tweeters, and two passive radiators beneath for added bass.
The inputs include:
- A single HDMI output (ARC).
- Optical input for TV audio and Bluetooth.
- A USB is used for firmware updates.
It would be an excellent addition for those with multiple devices, but I wish it had the Polk Command Bar’s second HDMI port. Although it does not have Ethernet connectivity, the unit has Wi-Fi connectivity that can connect the voice assistant to the Internet.
React also includes Amazon Multi-Room Music compatibility, Spotify Connect, and AirPlay. Unfortunately, there is no Chromecast or AirPlay built-in. However, I was pleased to see that Alexa song requests can be played through Tidal automatically.
The optional wireless Polk React Sub, which is also available, is heavy, similar to the one on the JBL Bar-2.1 Deep Bass. It costs $180. The large 16.5-by-8.6-by-13.7-inch box has a 7-inch woofer onboard.
Optional rear speakers are available in the Left and Right versions and have 10-foot power cables. These speakers are shaped like glasses cases and measure approximately 8 by 4 inches in length.
The remote control is quite comprehensive for a relatively affordable soundbar. Although it is bulky, the remote control has many controls, including the rears and sub. These controls could be seen as an attempt to upsell the product.
The React soundbar is slim and looks almost like an Amazon Echo Dot. The React is essentially an updated Polk’s Command Bar. However, it’s smaller and doesn’t include a wireless subwoofer.
It measures 34×4.8×2.2 inches and can slide under most TV stands. Polk placed two soundbar drivers inside, two tweeters, and two passive radiators.
The front panel has a light bar that displays the volume level and lights up when Alexa is engaged. Below the light bar, a small LED status indicator switches the color to indicate sound input.
The top features Echo-like controls. These buttons include buttons to activate Alexa and mute the microphones. You’ll love using Alexa voice commands for sound adjustments. The React has four microphones that can be used to make Alexa more responsive to your voice.
The back of the React includes an HDMI port with an audio return channel (ARC), which allows for connection to your TV. Or, you can use an optical digital cable. You can also purchase the React separately with a USB port, a button to pair it with Polk’s wireless subwoofer or wireless surrounds.
The buttons are large and well placed. You can use the remote to activate Alexa, change between TV audio or Bluetooth, adjust the volume, adjust the voice level, and choose a sound mode. You can adjust the volume and balance of wireless surrounds by using the remote.
It is easy to set up and use React. Once the React is connected to your TV using an HDMI cable, it’s ready for use. Launch the Alexa app, and it will be connected to your TV via an HDMI cable. React comes with a QR code at its back to make this process simple.
The remote can be used to adjust the volume and bass. Although I didn’t need to crank up the bass, I wanted more dialog. You can switch between three sound modes using the remote or your voice: Movie, Sport, and Music. Even when listening to music, I found the Movie mode the most lively.
You can further adjust the sound by going into Alexa and finding a three-band equalizer. I added more treble to the sound and increased the midrange. However, the effect on the overall sound was minimal.
The Polk React is powered by a four-driver array that includes two 96 x 69-mm mid-range drivers and two 25mm tweeters, and a pair of 110 x 100-mm passive radiators for low-frequency effects.
The React supports Dolby and DTS audio and Polk’s virtual surround-sound technology, but it does not support object-based Dolby Atmos or DTS:X audio, so that you won’t get immersive 3D sound. Polk Audio has recently introduced its first Dolby Atmos soundbar, the Polk Audio Signa S4. At the same time, its previous MagniFi 2 soundbar (see our Polk Audio MagniFi 2 review) does have a 3D audio mode that provides simulated height cues.
The Polk React may be upgraded with the wireless React Sub ($199) and the Polk SR2 wireless surround kit ($199). When the subwoofer and the surrounds are added to the React, it becomes a full-fledged 5.1-channel system.
Of course, adding the additional speakers raises the total price to $650 (like with the React, these supplementary speakers are sometimes reduced). In that price range, several appealing soundbars do support Dolby Atmos. Polk provided me with the Reach Sub and its SR2 wireless surround kit for testing, and I’ll go into their results later in the review.
Inputs and outputs
A single HDMI-ARC interface and an optical (Toslink) input for vintage TVs without HDMI outputs are housed in a rear cavity of the Polk React’s main casing. A USB-A connection is also available for firmware updates only.
You can’t connect video sources (such as streaming video sticks, game consoles, and Blu-ray players) directly to the React because it only has one HDMI-ARC port; instead, connect your video sources to the HDMI inputs on your TV, which can then send audio back down to the soundbar via its HDMI-ARC interface (an HDMI cable is included in the box).
Unfortunately, the HDMI-ARC connection on the React does not support eARC, an “improved” version of ARC with the ability to accommodate lossless Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks.
If you prefer streaming to physical media, the React’s absence of eARC compatibility won’t be as noticeable since Dolby TrueHD, and DTS-HD Master Audio tracks are often found on Blu-ray discs rather than streaming services. If eARC support is important to you, you’ll need to spend more money on a more expensive soundbar, and don’t forget that your TV must also support eARC.
Buttons, indixcators, and remote
A circular, four-button interface on the Polk React’s top panel may remind Alexa users of an older-generation Amazon Echo, replete with a microphone mute button, two volume buttons, and an “Action” button that may rouse Alexa as well as stop timers and alarms.
When Alexa is listening or speaking, a long, narrow light bar flashes blue on React’s front panel. The light bar also functions as a volume indicator, glowing white when the volume buttons are pressed.
A multicolor LED below the light bar flashes depending on the input source, audio format, or sound mode. When one of the TV inputs (either HDMI-ARC or optical) is engaged, the LED shines white, and when a Bluetooth device is attached, it glows blue. The light indicates whether the audio format (PCM, DTS, or Dolby) has been identified and whether Night Mode is active.
The Polk React has a remote similar to those seen with other Polk soundbars, such as the MagniFi 2 that we tested earlier this year. Many of the remote’s buttons (including the music modes) are flat and edgeless, making them impossible to locate in the dark.
However, the primary volume and mute buttons feature smooth indentations, making them much simpler to locate with your thumb. Nonetheless, a backlight would be quite beneficial.
Interact With Alexa
Since the introduction of voice assistant-enabled audio bars, I have had some second thoughts about the technology, as have many manufacturers. There are two main reasons.
Because they are affordable, most people already have a digital assistant installed in their living rooms. The second is that the main speaker’s sound ducks or mutes when you issue a command. This means your movie or show is interrupted.
These caveats aside, the Polk React was very easy to use when issuing commands. I could hear my Alexa, even at high volume, and it was very painless. You can still hear the speaker’s activity even if it ducks. The interruption was less severe than other smart soundbars like the Yamaha YAS-209 and JBL Link Bar.
You can use your voice to control all controls, including volume adjustments and sub-volume adjustments. The only problem I had with the setup was that neither the subwoofer manual nor the soundbar explained how to sync peripherals.
The company will hopefully fix this for the May release. If you are stuck, you can press the sync button on your soundbar for four seconds, then the synching device for four seconds, and quickly touch the soundbar button again.
A Night On The Sofa
Like the other excellent TV speakers, the Polk React can be used to play music and movies. You can quickly change the sound modes to make Alexa more understandable (voice volume) or even bathe in pseudo surround sound (movie mode).
Unfortunately, the Sonos Beam was unavailable for me to compare. However, I had two subwoofer-less soundbars: the Vizio M21D -H8 ($150) and the JBL 5.0 Multi-Beam ($350), priced at the same price as the Polk.
My testing began with Wonder Woman over the top in the World War I trenches (1.14:00). As our hero confidently walks through the mud, bullets fly. She then braces herself with her shield to defend herself against a machine-gun attack. It gave me chills.
Although the Polk captured the movie’s epic sweep and the soundtrack swelled, bullets zinged, and the soundtrack swelled, I missed some of the immersiveness and oomph that a more extensive system could provide.
The Vizio was more apparent and had more bass, but it wasn’t as impressive. Even with the reliable DTS Virtual:X processing, this scene felt a bit underpowered.
The JBL Bar 5.0 sounded the most impressive in this test. The JBL Bar 5.0’s Smart Mode was activated. Although the dialogue was clear, bullets moved around the room differently than they did with the other bars. The bottom end of the shells that exploded in our friends’ vicinity was also plentiful.
The Polk was my favorite choice for sounding full, and it cost a fair amount. However, the JBL was a better home cinema speaker. It might be worth it if you enjoy music, but maybe not for movie viewing.
The React can tap out a tune like other Polk’s. Nick Cave’s Red Right-Hand sounds natural and balanced on the Polk at all volume levels. The JBL is louder than the Polk, but its musical performance was affected by sonic artifacts. The bass line began to distort, becoming synth-like above halfway up the dial.
The Polk performed at its best when I added the rears and sub-woofers. This is what you would expect for a system that costs $650. The sub and rears had a positive effect on any music, although sometimes it was in surprising ways.
Dead Can Dance’s Yulunga Spirit Dancer was a great choice, especially in Movie mode. The world-music-tinged track sounded enormous, making it hard to believe it was coming out of a soundbar system.
Check our article to know more Why Does My Soundbar Keep Cutting Out?
Digging Into This Polk Soundbar Hardware
A pair of mid-range speakers, two tweeters, and two passive bass radiators are housed below the simple fabric cover. Compared to some of the more complex versions on the market, which feature a dozen or more perfectly positioned speakers spewing music in every direction around the space, this is a pretty basic setup. These are also often far more expensive than $250.
The Polk soundbar’s auxiliary speakers are equally simple and functional. The sub is a black box that, once adjusted, blends into the scenery of your living room. The rear speakers seem to be, well, speakers. If you want something genuinely designer or space-age, like the Apple HomePod, you should search elsewhere.
Let’s Watch Some Movies
Before watching your favorite movies, you should choose one of the Polk React soundbar’s preset sound selections. Music, movie, and sports modes are available, as well as a unique night mode meant to make your rumbly sound system less annoying to the rest of the people in your home or apartment complex.
I didn’t see any significant distinctions between the three primary settings, although the night mode appears to be more subtle than the others. Sport has also reduced the bass in the mix but has kept the highs bright and crisp, making it easier to hear people chatting.
I watched the slick action film Gunpowder Milkshake on Netflix to test out the soundbar. The React has enough loudness and power on its own–the bullets had the expected unsettling effect.
However, trained audio ears may begin to detect the comparatively tiny number of drivers within when it comes to immersion. Because you’re effectively listening to a set of stereo speakers within the bar, you won’t get the same in-your-face sensation as with a system with a genuine center channel.
Adding The Secondary Speakers To This Polk Soundbar
The React system unsurprisingly provides significantly greater immersion when the surround speakers are connected. Each speaker has a single driver, allowing the devices to be relatively small. I just set them on shelves behind my sofa for this review, but you could easily permanently install them if you don’t have a surface to adhere them to.
The subwoofer also performed its job, producing noticeably more rumbling during on-screen explosions and anything else with a lot of low-end. The soundbar depends on passive radiators for low-end, which easily outperforms your TV’s built-in speakers but cannot match anything with actual power.
Surprisingly, the system modifies the soundbar’s output to suit the subwoofer’s presence in the mix. The Polk soundbar automatically pushes out less low-end to stay out of the way of the subwoofer, which is clever.
The output of the sub was powerful and crisp. However, it did become a touch muddy when I initially placed it immediately next to my TV cabinet. Moving it around and allowing it some breathing room around the unit made it sound tighter and cleaner.
Who Should Buy This Polk Soundbar?
The Polk React soundbar is a significant boost over most built-in TV speakers. When you include the subwoofer and the auxiliary speakers, you have a rather good-sounding system for the same price as a Sonos Arc soundbar on its own.
There are several drawbacks. It does not support the famous Dolby Atmos surround format, which has gained popularity in recent years. You’ll also need to purchase into the Alexa ecosystem to get the most out of it. If you’re not already significantly committed to Apple’s HomePod ecosystem or Google’s Nest Audio platform, you should seek elsewhere.
If you’re starting from scratch and want a small but visible improvement in your home theater sound, the Polk soundbar will get you there while leaving you enough money to rent some movies. Could I suggest Encino Man?
Why does my Polk soundbar stop working?
Check the HDMI connection if your Polk Soundbar doesn’t work. Verify that the HDMI cable is connected to the correct port. Use only the HDMI cable between your TV and the Polk Soundbar to prevent it from connecting with other sources.
How can I connect my Polk soundbar with my Samsung TV?
Connect using an HDMI cable
- Make sure you have an HDMI cable.
- Connect the cable to your TV’s HDMI IN(ARC).
- Connect to the HDMI-OUT (TVARC) port on the soundbar.
- Turn on the soundbar, and change the source set to D.IN.
- Your soundbar will play the TV sound.
Why is my Polk soundbar constantly turning off?
Make sure you check the power outlet where your Polk soundbar is plugged in. The power supply may be poor, and the soundbar could turn off.
The soundbar will shut off again and again if the power source keeps disconnecting. You must ensure that the switch is properly plugged in and that the source supplies the required voltage.
There you have it! The Polk React is an excellent soundbar to enhance your TV and movie experience. Hooke Audio certainly thinks it’s a great-looking, affordable, and easy to set up a product that will add some great sound to your movies, shows, and music!
Thanks for reading our Polk soundbar React review. Do you have any questions about the product or experiences with it? Please leave a comment below and let us know what you think!