Polk React + React Sub review: An injection of bass

(Pocket-lint) – In case your TV audio is not as much as snuff then there are a bevy of choices available on the market to assist step issues up a notch. Amongst these is Polk Audio’s React soundbar, which is on the market for much less money than many a rival.

However simply since you’re paying much less does not imply you may get much less when it comes to uncooked sound functionality. Particularly if, as we’ve got for this assessment, you go for the bundled React soundbar and React Sub package deal.

That mentioned, the Polk React would not supply any fancy object-based sound decoding, it would not even play fake – as there isn’t any Dolby Atmos encompass output right here from the bar itself – as a substitute sticking to Dolby Digital and DTS encompass codecs.

You may later spend money on Polk’s RS2 encompass audio system, that are merely paired on the contact of a button, to create a completely fledged 5.1 system (in case you have the Sub) in smaller steps somewhat than forking our a large chunk of change up entrance. That, we predict, is a giant a part of this soundbar’s wider enchantment.

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Design & Setup

  • Ports: 1x HDMI (ARC) output; 1x optical enter
  • Controls: Included distant / four-button top-of-‘bar panel
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Alexa voice management built-in
  • Dimensions (soundbar): 56mm (H) x 864mm (W) x 121mm (D)
  • Dimensions (sub): 348mm (H) x 218mm (W) x 419mm (D); 7.5kg

Having not too long ago reviewed the JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam – which is an all-in-one field resolution that may’t ever be related to separates – it was attention-grabbing to dig into the Polk React for its factors of distinction. The Polk is an extended soundbar – at 864mm it is 160mm longer by comparability – so even sat towards a 55-inch telly, as pictured, it is pretty good at overlaying nearly all of the display screen width, which is useful for a large soundscape to assist match the motion on display screen.

The Polk is less complicated than the JBL when it comes to core specification, although, as there isn’t any HDMI enter, simply the one HDMI enter – the latter of which is ARC (audio return channel) succesful. For us this meant a slight rejig of our TV’s 4 HDMI ports, as we could not passthrough utilizing the soundbar itself, guaranteeing the HDMI ARC cable supplied was operating from TV to React ‘bar.

Factor is, our ARC port is among the two 4K decision succesful HDMI ports on the TV (each maker does this at current), so our BT TV field for telly needed to be relegated to HDMI 4 (operating Full HD most – which, in equity, is how majority content material from there’s streamed) to save lots of HDMI 1 for our PlayStation 5 (our supply of Blu-ray and 4K streaming apps equivalent to Netflix). ARC does its job although: as soon as the TV is switched on the audio handshakes between system and soundbar.

Properly, it did not at very first. For a quick time frame we have been in a no man’s land of getting each TV audio and soundbar audio outputting concurrently. That is as a result of the setup is, to our thoughts, a little bit finicky. The soundbar wanted an replace out of the field, that a lot it advised us (by voice alert), however having suggested us to put in the Polk Join app – which we did on our Google Android cellphone – it then did not prefer it, forcing a handover to Amazon Alexa as a substitute. However the Alexa app initially didn’t get issues speaking efficiently.


Success did come after just a few makes an attempt, after which there’s been no points, but it surely very a lot factors to this Polk’s intentions: it is an Alexa voice management soundbar via and thru. There’s even an Alexa button satisfaction of place on the included distant management. There’s not even a correct off button – as your most important TV distant will take over for that responsibility anyway – and there is all the time a glowing gentle of some color to the entrance of the ‘bar, which we predict is a design draw back when watching films in darkened rooms.

Oh, and Alexa shouts crazily loud for some cause too – nearly to the purpose of distorting – and there isn’t any easy means that we will discover to show this down, which is irksome.

The included distant is not the prettiest, but it surely’s nicely appointed, in a position to change between TV and Bluetooth audio sources. There are changes for bass up/down on the left, quantity up/down within the center, voice up/down on the fitting, 4 quick-select film presets under this, and encompass sound quantity/steadiness adjustment to the underside of the controller.

That encompass sound adjustment will not do something until you’ve got purchased into the Polk’s expandable choices although. Because the React soundbar itself is a straight ahead left, centre, proper speaker association. However when you purchase the RS2 encompass audio system – not on check right here – then you may simply sync them on the contact of a button on the again of the soundbar and enhance issues to a 5-channel system.

Go along with the subwoofer – paired in the identical means, utilizing the identical button to shortly sync with out additional wires – and that brings 5.1 channel potential into your front room. The sub is fairly beefy when it comes to scale – and deeper than it’s both vast or tall – however the addition of true bass on the decrease finish of the spectrum is transformative to the sound profile. We expect it is an important addition to make the React ‘bar ship its potential.

Sound High quality

Which brings us to the entire cause to purchase a soundbar: to reinforce audio high quality, notching up TV audio to new heights. And the Polk React does a typically respectable job, though given its positioning to the bottom of a display screen (inevitable, in fact) and lack of object-based sound management it lacks any distinct verticality – so on bigger screens voice components may not give the impression they’re coming from the particular person talking with the best of precision.


In any other case there’s a variety of tweaking that may be finished with ease, so it is nice to have all that management straight handy. The presets are significantly helpful, choosing Film to reinforce that additional bass – there’s all the time a great down-pitched “wommm” in an motion flick – or Night time to quieten such frequencies and permit your loved ones/neighbours/whoever to get some shut-eye whenever you’re having a late night time session.

The unbiased controls for bass and voice are useful too, the latter actually adjusting the mid-to-high-end of the frequency vary to provide extra curvature to vocal output. So when you’re discovering the bass steadiness is a bit too excessive, then this may help voices to chop via the combination with higher readability. We like that it is a easy system, too, not over-complex in what number of methods it could possibly all be adjusted.


Nonetheless, bass-wise we have heard soundbars with chunkier functionality. Which is why, as soon as paired with the React Sub, you may actually hear and really feel the distinction. With the React subwoofer linked up the sound has a way more rooted enchantment, delivered with gusto. It is acquired nice musicality too, to the purpose we have ceased utilizing our Marshall standalone speaker in the lounge and as a substitute simply tuck into the Polk React and Sub on Music mode for the absolute best pay attention.

Via the Alexa app it is easy sufficient to get the soundbar to register as a part of your property community. With Google Residence open it is simply recognized (though in a roundabout way controllable right here, as Alexa guidelines the best way), so Spotify performs good – and you may ask Alexa by voice to load your favourites.

We suspect that including a pair of RS2 audio system would add to the expanse of the general sound as, like we mentioned up prime, the Polk React would not help object-based audio, so you are not going to get any Dolby Atmos pseudo peak and all-around sense from this soundbar. However, actually, given how such methods can typically fly off the deal with in bizarre (and never all the time great) methods, we predict Polk delivers right here precisely what individuals will need – enhanced sound on a smaller price range.


That can elevate the query, nevertheless, as as to if you need one thing smaller and extra technologically full, such because the JBL Bar 5 MultiBeam that we talked about at first of this assessment. It could actually’t match the smacking bass of the subwoofer by any means, but when you do not have the area then it could be a greater match to your wants – and the Atmos discovered there’s spectacular given the fitting supply materials.

Additionally contemplate


JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam


It is a totally different prospect, as it is a single field resolution – so you may by no means be capable to add extras or a sub – however which may higher fit your area restrictions. Nonetheless, it permits passthrough (because of HDMI out and in ports with eARC) and presents Dolby Atmos decoding, which with the fitting supply delivers a extra full sound. That mentioned, the Polk’s React Sub, if you wish to fork out the additional money, takes impactful sound to the subsequent step the place the JBL merely can’t attain.


Yamaha SR-C20A


In search of one thing smaller? If what you want is a little bit of every little thing out of your soundbar – ignoring that, at this value level, you may’t anticipate encompass sound – you may’t go far mistaken with this little Yamaha. It is a one-box resolution (so, just like the JBL above, there there isn’t any subwoofer right here) and may flip its hand to just about something, with out ever making itself the centre of consideration. A unique prospect, however a pleasant neat little package deal.

Writing by Mike Lowe.