The $180 Roku Smart Soundbar Will Make Your TV Sound Better

Daniel Varghese

Roku Smart Soundbar
>Buy Now at Best Buy, $180

We’re living in the golden era of television, but not in the way that you’re thinking. Yes, it is true that there are far more actually good TV and direct-to-TV movies being made today than you’d ever be able to actual watch. But it is also true that the television itself, one of those big-ticket devices that millennials are supposedly killing, is better than it’s ever been. Today’s TVs are exponentially better than the TVs of the past—they have bigger screens in thinner bodies, they have pristine picture quality, and they’re largely cheaper than they used to be. But as the picture and design on TVs have gotten better and cheaper, manufacturers have generally neglected one aspect of the viewing experience: sound.

It makes sense, a smaller TV isn’t going to have room for the big tweeters and drivers necessary to reproduce accurate, exciting sound. And anyways, when was the last time you really thought about how your TV, a thing you look at, sounds?

The best way to address this failure of the modern TV is to purchase a soundbar, a long speaker that sits at the base of your TV (or can be mounted onto the wall under your TV). For much less than the price of building out a good stereo system, a soundbar will render audio that’s far more clear and accurate than the built-in speakers of your TV. You’ll notice this immediately after plugging in something like the Sonos Beam, the Vizio SB2920-D6, or something more premium like the Denon Heos Soundbar. Scenes that were previously muddy and hard-to-parse will become clearer, more exciting, more fun to watch.

Knowing this, it’s no surprise Roku, who make some of the most popular and well-reviewed streaming devices and TVs available, has released a soundbar, which became available to purchase this week. The $180 Roku Smart Soundbar is a conventional soundbar with a built-in Roku streamer. It’s the second audio product the company has made, but the first that you can actually use if you don’t have a TV with Roku software built-in. It’s the perfect product for someone like me, who purchased their TV for $25 off of Craigslist 3 years ago. As long as you’ve got an HDMI port, you can use the Roku Smart Soundbar.

Like every Roku product I’ve tested, the Smart Soundbar is incredibly simple to set up. You plug it in, connect it to your WiFi network, create a Roku account if you don’t have one, and download the apps for streaming services you actually use. You annoyingly have to login to each of them individually, but you’d have to do that with any streaming device. Once you’ve done that, you’ll notice the Roku interface is laid out logically and that everything works really quickly. There’s really no better platform for streaming available at this time.

As for the audio quality of the soundbar itself: Dialogue from the bar sounds crisp and clear, but music doesn’t sound quite as good as I had hoped. It struggles to render super low and super high frequencies really well, which makes it unideal for listening to pop and hip-hop. (For example, several songs off of Mark Ronson’s excellent Late Night Feelings, which feature female vocalists over occasionally bass-heavy production, lose a little bit of punchiness and sparkle.)

If you’re so inclined, Roku has released a $180 subwoofer that pairs seamlessly with the soundbar and fixes a lot of those issues. But really, even without the subwoofer, the quality is only a little bit off from other speakers at this price point, like the updated IKEA Sonos Lamp speaker, and likely a vast improvement over the built-in speakers on your TV. If you need a streaming device and TV speaker, the Roku Smart Soundbar is the highest-value solution we’ve seen.

Roku 2.0 Channel Soundbar

180.00, Best Buy

BUY NOW

Originally Appeared on GQ