As streaming becomes more ubiquitous, Roku stands at the forefront of modern media. Offering countless apps on a simple user interface, they have cemented themselves as the go-to brand if you want to stream media. With that backbone, the Roku Streambar brings all the potential of one of the most populated streaming platforms in a simple soundbar-like audio experience. While it may stand as one of the most expensive Roku’s you can buy, the Streambar is also one of the best options for an all-in-one streaming home theatre experience, just add the popcorn, TV, and a couch and you are ready to enjoy some media.
The Roku Streambar is a relatively simple-looking 14-inch-long device that can plug-in to most TV setups. With the promise of a single HDMI Arc cable setup and the experience of the RokuOS at its core, brings the promise of a pain-free setup, meaning you can jump into your media as quickly as possible. While there were a few hiccups along the way, the Streambar manages to impress and bring with it some fantastic audio. The Streambar also is equipped with Bluetooth, Spotify connect, and Apple Airplay 2, meaning even when the TV is not on, it can act as a simple way to fill a room with sound.
The Roku ecosystem is one of the most robust offerings when it comes to streaming media. From Netflix to Amazon Prime, if there is a streaming service out there, most likely there will be an app on the platform. While there are some notable exceptions currently missing, Roku has made a name for itself as the place for streaming. With its simple interface that puts all your different channels right on the home screen, you will never (in theory) forget all the services that are currently draining your wallet.
The Streambar comes with the iconic Roku remote with a microphone and it feels like the pinnacle of Roku technology. It’s packed with all the bells and whistles that you want from Roku and serves the purpose of delivering quality sound, something most modern TV’s struggle with. Along with all of the other modern advancements, the Streambar sells itself as an all-in-one solution to bring streaming to any TV.
But while the sales pitch for the Streambar sounds incredible, it does come with a few caveats. Setup for the Streambar is only easy provided you have an HDMI Arc port. The Arc port is a standard that most modern TV’s have on offer and it allows your TV to send audio back to the soundbar. While this is the solution most modern soundbars utilize, it is still not ubiquitous, and if you are one of the unlucky few, then an optical cable is needed to enjoy any audio beyond what is on offer on the internal Roku player.
If you are only watching streaming apps, this is not a big deal, the problem comes when you want to indulge in gaming or experience audio from another device. Granted there are solutions for this, with some TV’s even offering optical pass through, it is not ideal. The Streambar is built for Arc in mind, even if there are other options on offer.
Thankfully, once things are hooked up, and sound is flowing from the Streambar, you are in for an audio treat. While granted, most TV speakers are serviceable at best, this soundbar delivers shockingly good audio. The four 1.9″ full range drivers drivers deliver vibrant audio throughout most standard size living rooms. It will be a while before this little $180 audio solution will best offerings from Sonos and Bose, but it manages to pump out enough to make most movie and TV show lovers happy. If you happen to want to invest more into the Roku echo system and live in the US, the Streambar processes 5.1 audio so it also works with the Roku Wireless Subwoofer ($180) and the Roku Wireless Speakers, but even on its own the Roku Wireless Speakers is a solid offering and should serve most streaming needs.
The Roku Wireless Speakers offers an overall balanced soundscape giving a good range of high, lows, and mids, and thankfully for the obnoxious people out there, it can be pushed should you need to wake all your neighbours. Roku even has a selection of presets to change the EQ of the audio, giving options that will offer enough for most people. Sadly, fine-tuning is missing, so audiophiles may want to look elsewhere.
Even gaming on the Roku Streambar surpassed expectations. Diving into Spider-Man, the Streambar managed to give enough impact to the action, while managing to maintain clarity during dialog heavy segments. It is often the case, that the tuning means that these segments get drowned out, so hats off to Roku for ensuring all aspects of media can be enjoyed.
The Streambar also brings with it “simple volume modes” that is said to lower loud commercials, boost volume of voices, and optimize the sound for when watching at night, it is also said to adjust the bass, ideal when combined with the Roku Sub. While this sounds like hype for the box, it works well in testing. While many soundbars can drown out dialog, especially in badly mixed scenes of shows and movies, the Streambar faired very well, keeping voices clear and easily understood. For anyone who has difficulties understanding modern media without subtitles, the Roku Streambar is a great addition to your arsenal.
Each of these settings works as advertised, and with the ease of setup, they can be turned on and adjusted with ease using the included remote. I found in testing, they all have their uses, and can be set up without needing to pause or stop your media. Living in the age of Dolby Atmos and 7.1 audio, the sound does lack the impact seen by other options on the market but overall the sound quality delivers on the promise of a sub $200USD audio option for most TV’s.
The Roku Streambar feels like a good starting point for media consumption, with a simple compact design and clear vibrant sound. It is hard to go wrong hooking this little guy up to your new 4K TV. Granted it won’t offer the latest and greatest in audio fidelity, but the simplicity and ease of use make up most of that ground. Provided you have a modern enough TV and have a free HDMI Arc port, the Roku Streambar is a good value and one of the easiest options to just get the movie night started.