Roku Streambar Review: Instant Sound and 4K Streaming Upgrade - CNET

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Compact soundbars similar the Vizio M-Series 2.1 and the Yamaha SR-C20A connection improved TV dependable successful a tiny package. 4K HDR streamers similar the Chromecast with Google TV and Roku Streaming Stick Plus present amended streaming to immoderate TV. Until now, however, nary merchandise has combined the 2 into a single, do-it-all bundle nether $150. That's what the Roku Streambar does, and it does the occupation precise well.

The Streambar follows the footsteps of past year's Roku Smart Soundbar with a smaller size and much affordable price. Usually the biggest contented with hybrid devices is that they've compromised excessively overmuch successful immoderate area, and portion the Streambar isn't sonically cleanable -- its deficiency of bass is its biggest weakness -- it makes up for that with fantabulous dependable for dialog and an quality to capable a country that belies its tiny footprint. Sure, it lacks a subwoofer, but adjacent without 1 it tin inactive bushed your TV's speakers . 

Then again, truthful tin a batch of other soundbars. If you privation superior dependable and don't request streaming, the Yamaha SR-C20 oregon Vizio V21 are amended choices. The Roku Streambar is cheaper than either one, however, and makes cleanable consciousness for radical who don't already person a bully streamer hooked up to their TV. If you privation to beryllium capable to hear your TV better, peculiarly vocals, and besides heighten its streaming capabilities, it's an fantabulous value. 

Editor's note, Dec. 3: Due to its performance, size and price, we're giving the Roku Streambar our Editors' Choice grant arsenic our favourite fund soundbar. While determination are newer soundbars that outperform the Roku, they are besides much expensive, and nary includes video streaming onboard. This reappraisal archetypal appeared connected Oct. 14, 2020.

What it is

The Roku Streambar is simply a 2.0-channel soundbar with side-firing "wide" speakers, and the institution says its onboard streaming capabilities are equivalent to those of the Roku Streaming Stick Plus. The strategy volition process 5.1 audio, which means you tin upgrade the strategy astatine a aboriginal day with Roku's wireless subwoofer and surround speakers oregon the Walmart-exclusive Onn products

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Just 14 inches wide, the Streambar (right)  is dwarfed by this 55-inch TV.

CNET staff

The main differences betwixt the Streambar and the archetypal Roku Smart Soundbar are size and shape. The Smart Soundbar is 32 inches wide, portion the Streambar is overmuch much compact astatine 14 inches. Although I haven't heard the 2 broadside by side, I tin beauteous overmuch warrant the larger furniture generates much bass.

The Streambar includes Roku's dependable remote, which lets you contented commands by speaking into the clicker. On the side, the distant includes measurement controls and mute. The shortcuts astatine the bottommost see Netflix, Disney Plus and Hulu.

The Streambar offers "simple measurement modes" which "lower large commercials, boost the measurement of voices and optimize the dependable for nighttime listening" arsenic good arsenic adjusting bass levels -- useful for controlling an outer sub. It's worthy noting that since I performed this reappraisal successful October 2020 Roku has added a bid of further dependable modes, which present see Music, Movie, Night, and Speech. I purpose to trial the caller dependable profiles arsenic soon arsenic I can.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Connectivity includes an optical integer input and HDMI with audio instrumentality channel capability. It's designed to link to a TV and if you person different devices, specified arsenic a crippled console, you'll request to use your TV arsenic a switcher. The soundbar is besides equipped with Bluetooth and Spotify Connect, portion Apple AirPlay 2 enactment is coming soon.

How it performs

The squad astatine CNET has written astatine magnitude astir our experiences with Roku streamers truthful I won't dwell connected the bar's streaming capabilities here. Suffice to accidental it's our favourite streaming level and the Streambar is much of the same. The menus were acquainted and simple, the effect velocity and representation prime were arsenic fantabulous arsenic expected and the dependable distant was a joyousness to usage arsenic always.

Instead I'm going to absorption connected dependable quality. The Streambar is smaller than astir soundbars but aft I plugged it successful I was struck by however people it performed with dialogue. There was nary chestiness connected antheral voices -- a occupation with immoderate soundbar/subwoofer combos -- and dialog had the articulation that made it casual to travel the story. I had been listening to a brace of Elac Uni-Fi 2.0 speakers instantly preceding the Streambar and it was casual to ideate that I inactive was. Given that vocal articulation is the Elac speaker's precedence this is astir apt the highest praise I could springiness the Roku speaker.

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The Streambar's distant tin crook your TV connected and disconnected too.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Of people determination were differences, astir surely owed to the Roku's tiny cabinet. When I compared the Streambar with the Yamaha SR-C20 the Roku's deficiency of bass oregon adjacent midbass was instantly apparent. With Mad Max: Fury Road the Roku again made dialog understandable portion besides making it look to travel from astir the room. The Roku's side-firing speakers truly bash assistance make a ample image. In examination the Yamaha speaker's Virtual:X bundle did a likewise bully occupation distributing dependable astir my listening space, but erstwhile Max spins up his Charger's engines, the Yamaha pulled ahead.

The Roku is truthful physically tiny that the engines and onscreen explosions successful Mad Max had small impact. The Yamaha was capable to amended seizure the roar of the cars and the blast that catapults Max into the air. The Yamaha lacked the oomph that a dedicated sub tin bring, but was a amended acceptable than the Roku for radical who privation to ticker much than the quality and dramas.

The lobby country from the The Matrix was adjacent and the Yamaha offered much of a balanced sonic mix, with little high-frequency and much low-end. The Roku sounded a small shrill successful contrast, peculiarly with the falling slug casings. Changing the dependable mode to bass boost helped a little, but the Yamaha was better.

Adding the $130 Onn subwoofer to the Roku helped rather a bit. Finally I could perceive the chugging bass score, the shotgun blasts had much interaction and the falling ammunition casings weren't arsenic piercing oregon irritating. If you are looking for an easy, economical upgrade to the Streambar, the Onn subwoofer is recommended. 

With euphony the Roku again lagged down the Yamaha for the aforesaid basal crushed -- deficiency of bass response. There isn't a dedicated euphony mode, which is simply a shame for radical who privation to usage the Streambar for listening to tunes from their phones oregon euphony apps similar Spotify. Songs similar Doves' Cathedrals of the Mind sounded hollow connected the Roku, contempt its fantabulous vocal articulation, and again the Yamaha made the opus fuller and much engrossing.

Should you bargain it?

If you privation existent location cinema thrills you inactive request to walk much than $130 connected a soundbar -- though the Roku's quality to adhd the subwoofer and rear-channel speakers does springiness you a wide upgrade way if you want. The $130 Roku Streambar is for radical who worth tiny size and simplicity yet inactive privation amended dependable and streaming for their TV. It's casual to link and acceptable up (one cable!), it's conscionable arsenic casual to usage and its streamer behaves similar an mean Roku successful each respect. And that's a bully thing.

First published Oct. 16 2020.

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Sound 6Value 10

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