Polk Audio is a brand that has kicked around the US market for decades, today it is a trusted name for a unique range of sound products that that are sold by some of the biggest sound retailers in the USA for the simple reason that consumers have found that they deliver when it comes to sound output and value.
When JB Hi-Fi took the brand on last year Australian consumers were presented with the option of purchasing a new generation of digital sound gear that bought together what appears to be the best in Hi-Fi fidelity and voice activation technology.
This combination of old and new technology can be found in the Polk MagniFi range of sound bars that are available in Max and Mini versions of the Polk product offering.
Polk is a brand that sees itself in the affordable premium market as opposed to the expensive top end market.
In fact, with some of their products, we have struggled to hear the difference between an expensive top end soundbar and the mid-priced Polk offering.
When we first tested the MagniFi soundbar with Chromecast built in we removed a soundbar that was twice the price and struggling to match the clarity that the Polk MagniFi Max delivered especially when listening to TV audio and in particular drama dialogue.
When you lift the bar out of the packaging you immediately notice the soft, rounded look that Polk Audio has opted for. I like this because the bar blends in better below a screen, especially as the bar, has more depth than height which in some cases creates a problem when trying to point a remote at the infra-red controller for a TV.
I also like the way that they have moulded the functions for this device into a sculptured centre console complete with voice activation.
In the box is everything you want a sub, highly functional remote, excellent instruction manual, HDMI cables as well as an optional optical audio cable.
Sony’s Dolby Atmos soundbar sells for double the price of Polk Audio’s Magnify Max and the Sonos and Samsung top end offerings are double the price of the Polk offering.
And when you consider the need for a $995 sub with the Sonos soundbar, you suddenly realise that Polk has something unique with their $749 soundbar.
As for the sub, it is remarkably light due in part to the fact that the speaker is enclosed in a foam membrane and while lighter in weight it also requires a small magnet to deliver quality output.
Even the remote is a big plus.
Apart from the buttons to control the volume it also has dedicated buttons for adjusting bass intensity as well ‘Voice Adjust’, which enhances human voices by adjusting volume in the 100-250 Hz frequency range. It also has three buttons at the bottom dedicated to Polk’ audio modes: Movie, Sports, and Music.
The middle segment of the soundbar is made from moulded plastic to indicate where the centre unit is located.
The soundbar also allows you to manually access Bluetooth, audio volume, and input via a series of buttons on the top of the bar.
On the bar are three HDMI inputs that are capable of 4K HDR pass-through as well as 1 HDMI output with ARC (Audio Return Channel).
All three HDMI inputs support CEC (this allows one to adjust audio volume via the TV’s remote control.
The soundbar also features an optical audio port, analogue AUX – also called mini-jack or 3.5mm jack – and an Ethernet port. In addition, you can connect via WiFi to take advantage of the built-in Chromecast feature, which you should prefer over Bluetooth for music playback.
Setup is easy all you do is connect the power and press the ‘On’ button. HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) works immediately. Though I do suggest that you invest in HDMI 2.0 cables as these are specifically designed to handle 4K content.
MagniFi Max offers three different audio modes and the idea is obvious, with the ‘Movie’ settings designed to be used for movies. This is not very different from modern TVs that also offer a handful of picture modes.
What you immediately notice is that the MagniFi Max delivers heavy bass that controls the lowest frequencies (Hz) without much distortion and to achieve this Polk has prioritized raw power over finesse.
Movies and TV series are meant to entertain so the sound element is a key part of the total experience. For me the marriage of great sound effects and audio tracks that actually deliver clear and audible dialogue are critical and this is where I found the Polk soundbar performed well, better than several others we have reviewed recently.
Polk Audio’s ‘Voice Adjust’ setting option lets you up- or down-prioritise the mid-tone range in frequencies from around 100 to 250 Hz where human voices often fall flat.
Near the top end of the Voice Adjust function’s volume setting – around 4 out of 5 – is where you get the best result for dialogue management.
The bottom line is that the Polk Audio’s MagniFi Max performs well and is extremely cost effective.
For the purpose of testing music performance, I relied primarily on the built-in Chromecast function. Bluetooth was only used momentarily to confirm that it actually worked as intended. MagniFi Max is also compatible with Google Home, meaning that you can use your voice to control playback (Hi Google, Play music on Spotify etc.) and certain other things.
The device also configures into the Google Home Hub.
As for music all you do is switch the soundbar to music mode and stream your source content whether its Spotify or Google Music.
The music dynamics are very natural, and the mid-tone was well tuned in Music mode. The bass is excellent, and the bar is an excellent way to play music.
Modern soundbars such as Polk Audio can be firmware upgraded and as such the sound balance can be tweaked, and right before I was ready to conclude the test, the company issued an equalizer update for the Music mode.
Polk Audio’s MagniFi Max is a soundbar designed for mainstream movies. It performs well for day-to-day use, and it gets the job done.
What would be nice is if the MagniFi Max automatically changed its audio mode to match the source (HDMI, Chromecast, Spotify). This is still a manual process.
As value for money goes this soundbar is up there with soundbars from the likes of Sonos for half the price.
As part of the Polk Audio MagniFi Max package, you get a large subwoofer with lots of power and kick arse performance.
As for the device itself, it’s slim and fits well in front of most TV’s over 42 inches.
It is easy to set-up and has features such as built-in Chromecast and Google Home support. I ran it alongside several other Google Voice devices. It also has HDMI pass-through for 4K, HDR and Dolby Vision technology built in.
One standout device is well designed and easy to handle remote control that takes care of everything.
It allows the user to switch between audio modes (Movie, Sport & Music).
Other built-in features include:
The Polk MagniFi MAX maximum-performance home theatre sound bar and wireless subwoofer system provides bigger, more dynamic sound than traditional sound bars—and is optimized to make movies, TV, sports and music come alive.
It features patented SDA surround technology for a wider, more immersive listening experience and Voice Adjust technology for crystal clear dialogue—and it works with your TV’s remote control right out of the box. Includes HDMI and optical cables for quick and easy setup. And built-in Bluetooth and Google Chromecast Built-in technologies let you stream all of your favourite music.
Patented Polk SDA Surround Technology
Creates an expansive soundstage and detailed stereo image, while delivering a natural multi-dimensional sound experience you would expect from a concert or theatre by eliminating cross-talk found in all other sound bars and TV speakers.
Polk Voice Adjust Technology
Customize the voice levels in the soundbar however you prefer to reproduce clear, crisp dialogue and never miss a single word of your favourite movie, TV show or sporting event.
Google Chromecast Built-in
Stream music from your favourite apps over Wi-Fi, connect to your Google Home speaker to create a whole home audio system and control your music through voice commands.
Virtual Surround Sound
Seven driver array and the included powerful wireless subwoofer creates an immersive multi-dimensional sound via 5.1 Dolby Digital, DTS and exclusive Polk SDA surround technology for an incredible room-filling listening experience.
Built-in TV Remote Control Compatibility
Polk Smart Remote technology allows for most Samsung, LG, Vizio, and Sony TV remotes to control the sound bars volume right out of the box (no programming required).
Slim design won’t block your TV’s remote sensor.
Exclusive Full Complement Deep Bass Technology
Included 8˝ ported wireless subwoofer give you a massive boost of the core-pounding deep bass impact that takes home theatre and music listening to a whole new level.
Movie, Music and Sport Modes
One button pre-set EQ settings for Movies, Music and Sports optimize the sound bar and subwoofer to ensure you get the clearest dialogue, big surround sound and deep bass for the best audio and home theatre experience.
Lowers the bass and increases Voice Adjust delivering clear dialogue all without raising the master volume.