Roku Wireless Speakers Review: This Pair Sounds Like a Success
The common wisdom on the Roku Wireless Speakers, which started shipping on November 15th, is that they're limited. They only work with Roku TVs, which is a bummer for anyone with a Roku set-top box, and they don't tie in with smart speaker systems (such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home) or other networked home speakers (such as Sonos). At a time when smart home devices are exploding in popularity, Roku has released speakers that are sadly self-contained. All this is true, but for those who don't mind the limitations these speakers are actually highly flexible.
For a list price of $199 (currently marked down to $179), buyers get two wireless speakers that look a lot like Sonos speakers, as well as a voice remote and table remote. The speakers plug into power outlets, but that's all. Place them anywhere in the room because they don't need a physical connection to the TV. Roku has built its reputation on easy setup, and it carries that through here. Pairing two speakers with a TV is a simple process that takes about a minute. The speakers even talk the the owner through it. It couldn't be easier.
One big reason to get the Wireless Speakers is that they provide advanced audio modes that increase the volume of dialogue and level out loud and soft sounds. While a standard Roku set-top box offers night listening mode (decreasing loud sounds and increasing soft sounds), these other two modes are limited to the Wireless Speakers. The difference when boosting dialogue is immediately noticeable, and will be appreciated by anyone who's struggled to hear murky vocals that mix with the background noise.
Music fans will find just as much to appreciate here. Owners can play music through iHeartRadio, Pandora, TuneIn, and Spotify apps. Use either of the two included remotes to call up songs or playlists with spoken commands. We love that the Roku TV automatically downloaded the TuneIn app when we asked for a local radio station. It didn't bother with an on-screen message explaining what app to download; it just downloaded the app on its own.
The new tabletop remote lets owners create two music presets for fast recall. After calling up a favorite artist, playlist, or station, hold one of the preset buttons until it makes a chirp sound. The tabletop remote also features a button marked with a double-diamond design that has no function. Roku is clearly keeping that in reserve, but for what we have no clue.
Connect a Bluetooth device to the Wireless Speakers to play locally stored music even when the TV is off. Use the Roku app on a phone or tablet to play any songs or podcasts stored on that device. Throughout our testing, with were always happy with the speakers' audio quality. And the compact and flat tabletop remote is a great addition to the lineup, ready to provide songs with just a tap.
While we'd like to see Roku's Wireless Speakers learn to play well with other home systems, they're an excellent first draft. For any Roku TV owners looking to buy themselves a gift this season, this set is a great choice.
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