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Roku Turns Up the Volume with Roku TV Wireless Speakers

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For anyone who thought Roku would soon leave the hardware business and focus on licensing its operating system, think again: The leading set-top box creator today announces Roku TV Wireless Speakers, which promise depth and stereo sound for movies, TV shows, and music. 

Roku devices are known for their simple setup, and the company made sure to continue that here. Owners will plug in their speakers and pair them to Roku TVs using Roku Connect (software available to OEMs that allows them to connect home entertainment devices; a free software update will bring Roku Connect to all OEM devices later this year). One sour note for Roku set-top box owners: These speakers only work with Roku TVs, and Roku has no plans to make them compatible with Roku set-top boxes. In the U.S., Roku TVs are currently produced by Element, Hisense Hitachi, Insignia, Magnavox, Philips, RCA, Sharp, and TCL.

The speakers can automatically level TV sound so that loud scenes or commercials don't wake the kids. They also support Bluetooth streaming from mobile devices, so they can be used as regular music speakers. 

Buyers will get a standard voice remote which can control the speakers and the TV. But they'll also get Roku Touch, a new square-shaped tabletop voice remote made for music listening without the TV. People use the Roku Touch by tapping it and speaking commands. The company says it will be able to launch playlists or streaming channels, change inputs, search for content, and control playback. It offers two preset buttons which can be used for Roku Entertainment Assistant voice commands, such as launching channels, starting playlists, or switching inputs. The Roku Touch also includes a mysterious button with a double diamond design. Roku isn't saying yet what that one is for.

The most eye-opening thing about the Roku TV Wireless Speakers is that they exist at all. The company announced its whole home licensing program in January in order to create an ecosystem of home entertainment products from OEM partners, and the first results of that haven't hit the market yet (TCL plans to release the TCL Roku Smart Soundbar late this year). Isn't Roku undercutting its own partners by creating its own entertainment hardware? Or is this a sign that the licensing program didn't find enough interest? 

Asked about it, a Roku representative said, "Wireless home audio is part of the ongoing effort to make Roku TVs the best TVs in the world. We have a long history of building products people love and because we own the OS on the TVs and the speakers, we are in a unique position to deliver wireless connectivity, audio video sync, and optimize sound based on what someone is watching. Better audio means a better streaming experience, which we believe should lead to more streaming hours. We have many great OEM partners and continue to discuss new programs with new potential partners. The Roku TV Wireless Speakers are in addition to the Whole Home Entertainment Licensing Program."

Roku TV Wireless Speakers will ship in late October, but are available for purchase now. The package includes a pair of speakers and both remotes. From now until July 23 they're available for $149.99, and from July 24 to October 15 they'll cost $179.99. After they, they'll list for $199.99. The speakers are sold exclusively though Roku.com.

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