Polk Audio manages to tease some comparatively spectacular digital 3D audio out of its 2.1-channel MagniFi soundbar, which makes the speaker’s subpar bass response all of the extra disappointing. Equipped with built-in Chromecast and Google Assistant help, the MagniFi 2 is straightforward to arrange, and Polk Audio’s customized digital sound processing delivers refined encompass and peak results with out undue harshness.

The $499 MagniFi 2 additionally comes with three HDMI inputs, a pleasing shock for a soundbar on this worth vary. But whereas it’s unquestionably an improve over commonplace TV audio system, the MagniFi 2’s in any other case crisp audio is undermined by muddy bass from the wi-fi subwoofer, robbing the sound of punchiness.

This assessment is a part of TechHive’s protection of the most effective soundbars, the place you’ll discover opinions of competing merchandise, plus a purchaser’s information to the options you need to take into account when procuring.

Configuration

Polk Audio has three strains of soundbars. The finances Signa collection consists of soundbars that vary in worth from $129 for the 2.0-channel Signa Solo to $249 for the 2.1-channel, Chromecast-enabled Signa S3. The mid-range MagniFi line consists of the MagniFi 2, which we’re reviewing right here, together with the compact 2.1-channel MagniFi Mini ($299) and the 5.1-channel MagniFi MAX SR ($599), which comes with wi-fi surrounds and Chromecast help. Finally, the 2.1-channel Polk Audio Command Bar (which we’ve additionally reviewed) comes with onboard Alexa, full with Alexa’s telltale halo gentle on high.

The Polk Audio MagniFi 2 is a 200-watt, 2.1-channel soundbar, with two oval-shaped 1 x 3-inch midrange drivers and one 0.75-inch tweeter for every of the left and middle channels in the primary unit, plus an 8-inch down-firing cone within the ported wi-fi subwoofer for low-frequency results. Each driver will get its personal devoted Class-D amplifier.

Like different 2.1-channel soundbars, the MagniFi 2 lacks a devoted middle channel, which is usually reserved for dialog. Instead, the left and proper channels mix to create a 3rd, “phantom” middle channel, a method that may (relying on the standard of the soundbar’s audio processing) make dialog sound distractingly echo-y. We’ll consider the MagniFi 2’s audio high quality just a little later in our assessment.

The MagniFi 2 doesn’t help immersive 3D audio codecs resembling Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, nor does it come geared up with DTS Virtual:X, a preferred sound mode that teases virtualized encompass and peak results from as few as two drivers, with out the necessity for both in-ceiling audio system or upfiring drivers that bounce audio off the ceiling. Instead, the MagniFi 2 boasts Polk Audio’s personal SDA (Stereo Dimentional Array) audio processing and its new 3D audio mode, which permits the soundbar to ship virtualized encompass and peak cues.

Virtualized 3D sound has its professionals and cons. Unsurprisingly, you’ll hear extra exact peak cues from upfiring drivers that bounce hold forth your ceiling, or—even higher—peak audio system which are put in in your ceiling. That stated, not everybody needs to undergo the trouble of putting in in-ceiling audio system, and upfiring drivers received’t be efficient you probably have a vaulted ceiling or acoustic ceiling tiles. In these situations, a soundbar with a digital 3D sound mode could be the best choice. Again, we’ll assess the effectiveness of the MagniFi 2’s customized 3D audio mode within the efficiency part of our assessment.

The MagniFi 2 can’t be upgraded with wi-fi encompass audio system for true encompass sound—or not less than, not fairly but. While Polk’s current SR1 wi-fi encompass package, which works with the MagniFi MAX soundbar, isn’t suitable with the MagniFi 2, a brand new SR2 wi-fi encompass package ($199) that will work with the MagniFi 2 is due in January 2021, so grasp tight.

Measuring about 37.5 x 3 x 2.1 inches (LxWxH), the fabric-covered MagniFi 2 is a tad narrower than the width of my 55-inch LG C9 OLED, and it’s simply shy of the underside fringe of the LG’s low-slung display. The 14.6 x 12.1 x 145-inch (LxWxH) subwoofer has a rounded rectangular design that tapers from backside to high, a departure from the boxy-looking subwoofers that sometimes ship with soundbars.

Setup

The most important MagniFi 2 soundbar unit may be both positioned instantly in entrance of your TV, or mounted on a wall beneath your TV. The soundbar comes with a mounting information however no screws or brackets. I opted to easily put the MagniFi 2 in entrance of my OLED. The roughly 10-foot energy wire is available in two segments, with a chunky AC brick within the center (which means no annoying wall wart), whereas the second phase terminates in a regular two-prong plug.

Once the primary soundbar part is plugged in, you may then place the included subwoofer close by and then join its personal energy wire (so no, the subwoofer isn’t actually wi-fi). The subwoofer comes pre-paired to the primary unit; there’s additionally a button in again of the primary soundbar housing that triggers the handbook pairing course of. For me, the subwoofer paired seamlessly with the soundbar.

Ben Patterson/IDG

The fabric-covered MagniFi 2 soundbar comes geared up with buttons for energy, enter choose, Bluetooth, mute, and quantity up/down.

With the soundbar and subwoofer each powered up, it’s time to attach the MagniFi 2 to your own home Wi-Fi community, which you are able to do with the Google Home app for iOS or Android (you’ll want to put in it and sign up together with your Google Account, in the event you haven’t already). Setting up a soundbar with Google Home is usually a painless course of, and certainly, I instantly discovered a “Set up Polk MagniFi 2” banner on the app’s most important display. Tapping the banner steps you thru the method of choosing your own home wi-fi community.

Everything appeared to be going easily when, oddly, I received a “Something went wrong” error after the app had efficiently linked the soundbar to my Wi-Fi router. Backing up and repeating the connecting course of appeared to repair the issue, so it may need been a random hiccup, and the MagniFi 2 didn’t have any subsequent connectivity points.

Ports and connectors

When it involves connecting the MagniFi 2 to your TV, you could have a coupe of choices. First, you can plug all of your video sources (resembling a set-top field, a recreation console, and a Blu-ray participant) into your TV’s HDMI inputs, and then join the TV to the MagniFi 2 by way of the soundbar’s HDMI-ARC (brief for Audio Return Channel) port. (A high-speed HDMI cable is included within the field, by the best way.) It’s a handy technique in the event you already occur to have your video sources plugged instantly into your TV, however the draw back is that the MagniFi’s HDMI-ARC port doesn’t help eARC (‘enhanced” ARC), which permits the lossless Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio codecs prized by Blu-ray aficionados. (Click right here to learn extra about eARC.)

polk audio magnifi 2 ports Ben Patterson/IDG

The Polk Audio MagniFi 2 contains a trio of HDMI inputs, plus an HDMI-ARC port.

An various is connecting video sources into the MagniF 2i’s HDMI inputs, and fortunately, there are three of them, a rarity for a $499 soundbar. Plugging a regular or UHD Blu-ray participant into one of many MagniFi 2’s HDMI means you’ll be capable of get pleasure from lossless audio, and the soundbar can go 4K HDR video to your TV. Of course, the draw back of connecting video sources via the MagniFi 2’s HDMI ports is that you just received’t be capable of pipe audio from sensible TV apps via the soundbar; for that, you’ll need to go the HDMI-ARC approach.

Besides HDMI connectors, the MagniFi 2 has an optical (Toslink) enter that may help Dolby Digital (however not Dolby Digital Plus) audio, whereas a USB-C port is reserved for firmware updates.

Remote management and buttons

On high of the primary Polk Audio MagniFi 2 soundbar cupboard are buttons for energy, enter choose, Bluetooth, mute, and quantity up/down. On the entrance of the soundbar and peeking out from its cloth overlaying are 10 standing LEDs that flash in numerous colours to point quantity ranges, detected audio alerts (resembling Dolby or DTS), Bluetooth pairing standing, and extra. Most of the LEDs go darkish after a quick interval of inactivity, and whereas a single audio mode LED does stay lit, it’s not vivid sufficient to be distracting.

The MagniFi 2’s non-backlit distant is logically laid out (with the quantity rocker within the middle and the mute button simply beneath), however lots of the buttons are completely flat and edgeless, making them troublesome to seek out at the hours of darkness. The excellent news is that an important buttons, together with the quantity rocker, the ability, mute, and enter buttons, and the quantity buttons for the elective (and not-yet-available) wi-fi encompass audio system do have both tactile bumps or indentations. That stated, the extent buttons for bass response and voice increase (extra on that in a second), together with the audio modes and 3D buttons are all flat as a pancake, and I needed to activate my telephone’s flashlight to seek out these buttons whereas watching a film or a present.

(*2*) Ben Patterson/IDG

While the quantity and mute buttons on the MagniFi 2’s distant have indentations and bumps that can assist you discover them at the hours of darkness, virtually all the opposite buttons are completely flat and edgeless.

While the MagniFi 2 is Wi-Fi-enabled, it lacks a devoted cell app for controlling playback tweaking its settings. You can take some measure of management utilizing the Google Home app, however for probably the most half, the obtainable settings (quantity, speaker title, room, speaker group, and so on) are just about the identical as they’re for any Google sensible audio system, which implies no equalizer or discrete quantity ranges.

Features and performance

The Polk Audio MagniFi 2 comes with built-in Chromecast, which implies you may “cast” audio to it from supported Chromecast-enabled apps resembling Spotify, YouTube Music, Tidal, Deezer, Qobuz, and so on. You can even add the soundbar to a Google speaker group for multi-room audio, in addition to designate it as the popular audio playback speaker for, say, a Google Nest Mini or a Google hub. If your favourite music app (resembling Apple Music) doesn’t help Chromecast, you may at all times stream tunes to the soundbar by way of Bluetooth 4.0.

Besides its Chromecast help, the MagniFi 2 additionally helps Google Assistant voice instructions, however solely to a restricted diploma. You can, for instance, ask Google to play music on the MagniFi 2 as you’ll any Chromecast-enabled speaker (“Hey Google, play The Beatles on Polk Soundbar”) in addition to management the quantity and pause or resume the music. That stated, a Polk rep advised me that Google Assistant voice instructions received’t work for soundbar features on the MagniFi 2, which implies you received’t be capable of ask the Assistant to vary video inputs or sound modes, and in my assessments, asking Google to show the soundbar on or off didn’t work, both. Still (and as I’ve stated earlier than), I don’t suppose it’s a dealbreaker for a soundbar to have iffy or no voice assistant help, provided that it’s virtually at all times simpler to easily use the distant.

Click right here to learn concerning the MagniFi 2’s sound modes and efficiency

Ben Patterson – www.techhive.com

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