If you have a Roku smart TV — and there’s a good chance you do, as one in every four smart TVs that was sold in the U.S. during Q1 of 2018 was a Roku-powered TV — it’s about to get way easier to upgrade your TV’s audio. And way cheaper, too. That’s because Roku just announced its first speakers, the Roku TV Wireless Speakers, and they’re specifically designed to work with your Roku TV. The two speakers are a 2.0 sound system and connect to your Roku TV over wi-fi, so there’s no need to worry about any wires or finding the right HDMI or audio ports on your TV. Plug in the speakers. Turn your TV on. And, after clicking a few buttons on your TV remote, you’re good to go. Easy.
These new Roku TV Wireless Speakers have a couple big things going for them. First, the built-in speakers on your Roku TV suck. They’re small and most likely downward- or backward-firing — not great. Secondly, Roku’s new entries actually sound pretty good. I had a chance to demo the speakers in New York last week, on one of TCL’s latest 4K Roku TVs, and, compared to just listening to the TV’s built-in speakers, it was a night-and-day listening experience. In late 2017 Roku acquired Dynastrom, a Danish audio company, and effectively turned them into its audio division — so despite this being Roku’s first speaker, the company actually holds some clout in the audio realm. Roku’s speakers also have built-in Bluetooth, so guests don’t have to be connected to your home’s wi-fi to stream music.
I already mentioned how easy the Roku TV Wireless Speakers were to set up, but it’s worth mentioning again that these speakers are really one-of-a-kind. In a normal situation to get proper stereo audio out of your TV, you’d have to have an AV receiver and two loudspeakers. Roku’s new speakers don’t need a receiver, so you don’t have to worry about that extra component (or its extra cost). Another way to ditch the AV receiver is to go the Sonos route; but in order to configure its bookshelf speakers (either its Play:1 or Sonos One speakers) in a multi-channel system, you need one of Sonos’s soundbars, which aren’t cheap.
The Roku TV Wireless Speakers are cheap, however. If you order the speakers between July 16 and July 24, you can get them for only $150. And if you order them between July 24 and October 15, they’ll cost $180. After that, the pair will cost $200. (All speakers are expected to ship in October.) Either way, these speakers are a bargain way to upgrade your TV’s speakers. Also included in the purchase are Roku’s TV Voice Remote, so you can turn the TV on/off, change inputs, and switch to different apps with your voice, and Roku’s Touch tabletop remote, allowing you to program buttons for specific commands, in case you don’t want to use your voice.
There are a few caveats with Roku’s new wireless speakers. They only work with TVs that have Roku’s built-in operating system, for starters, meaning they won’t work with any of the company’s portable streaming dongles. Also, as of right now there’s no way to add additional channels, such as a soundbar, subwoofer or surround sound speakers — the Roku TV Wireless Speakers are a fixed 2.0 system. Lastly, although the TV Voice Remote enables voice control, the speakers don’t have a built-in virtual assistant, so you can’t talk out loud and expect it to hear you like you with the Sonos Beam and by saying “Alexa.”
All-in-all, it’s pretty exciting that Roku is taking a further step into hardware; and it’s most likely that this is just the beginning when it comes to speakers for the company. Diving deeper into soundbars and multi-channel home theater systems that are both affordable and intimately connected to your TV seems like the obvious next step for Roku. Still, like most popular Roku TVs, the company’s new wireless speakers are designed as an easy and affordable upgrade for most people — they not necessarily the best. For people who don’t want to deal with an AV receiver, multiple audio cords and a couple of loudspeakers, Roku’s new wireless speakers are an easy buy. For those who want a high-quality surround sound system, maybe pass on these.
The Roku TV Wireless Speakers are available today, exclusively on Roku’s website.
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