Polk Signa S3 Soundbar Review

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Polk Signa S3 Soundbar Review
SRP: £279.00

What is the Polk Signa S3?

The Polk Audio Signa S3 is a 2.1-channel soundbar and wireless subwoofer combination. This affordable model uses a low-profile design, so as not to block your TV's screen or IR remote sensor. To keep the price down Polk has limited the features but this 'bar still includes built-in Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Chromecast, HDMI-ARC, and the company's patented Voice Adjust technology. It also works with Google Assistant.

The Signa S3 continues Polk's tradition of keen pricing, and can be picked up for £279 as at the time of writing (November 2020). As a result, this soundbar could be an affordable way of beefing up the audio on your new big-screen TV. So let's wire this baby up and find out how it performs against similarly-priced competition.

Design

The Polk Audio Signa S3 uses a sleek and low-profile cabinet that's finished in black and has a fabric grille covering the front and top. The design is intended to sit in front of your TV without blocking the screen or IR remote sensor. The soundbar is well made considering the price, and its unassuming appearance ensures it can sit under your TV without drawing attention to itself.

Polk Audio Signa S3
Polk Audio Signa S3 soundbar

The Signa S3 can also be wall mounted under the TV using the screw holes at the rear and included wall mount spacers. The soundbar itself measures 898 x 56 x 83mm (WxHxD).

Polk Audio Signa S3
Polk Audio Signa S3 subwoofer

The included wireless subwoofer is also well-made, and uses the same styling, black finish, and fabric at the front. The sub is front-firing and has a front-facing bass port for added depth. It measures 171 x 311 x 343mm (WxHxD).

Connections and Control

The Polk Audio Signa S3 is fairly basic in terms of connections, but has sufficient to make the most out of its inherent capabilities. There's a single HDMI connection that supports ARC (audio return channel), and while there's no eARC support, given the soundbar doesn't support lossless audio that's largely moot.

Polk Audio Signa S3
Polk Audio Signa S3 connections

In terms of other physical connections there's also an optical digital input and an auxiliary analogue input. There's built-in Bluetooth, along with Wi-Fi and Google Chromecast.

Polk Audio Signa S3
Polk Audio Signa S3 controls

There are some basic controls on the top of the soundbar, and these include power on/off, source select (HDMI-ARC, optical, aux, Bluetooth), Bluetooth pairing, and volume up/down.

Polk Audio Signa S3
Polk Audio Signa S3 remote

The included remote control is fairly good for a soundbar at this price point. It's small but comfortable to hold and easy to use. All the buttons are sensibly laid out, with power and mute at the top, and the inputs beneath. In the middle are controls for adjusting the bass and volume, and beneath these are the sound modes. Finally, at the bottom are the three Voice Adjust settings. The remote also works with leading TV manufacturers' remotes to control volume as well as most CEC-enabled TVs.

Features and Specs

The Polk Audio Signa S3 is a 2.1-channel soundbar, which means there are two built-in speakers, each composed of a 1-inch tweeter and 1.25- x 4.4-inch mid-range driver. There is 80W of amplification split evenly between the two speakers. There's an additional 80W of amplification built into the wireless subwoofer, making this a fairly powerful system.

 

This 2.1-channel soundbar includes Polk's Voice Adjust technology and Dolby Digital decoding

While the Signa S3 is limited to 2.1 channels, it is able to decode 5.1-channel Dolby Digital. The soundbar also includes Polk's patented Voice Adjust technology, allowing you to choose from three distinct levels to reproduce clear, crisp dialogue and never miss a single word of your favourite movie, TV show or sporting event.

Polk Audio Signa S3
Polk Audio Signa S3

The Signa S3 has two sound modes: Movie and Music. It also has a Night mode  to lower the bass and increase Voice Adjust for clear dialogue, without raising the master volume and disturbing the rest of the house.

 

There's support for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Chromecast, plus the Signa S3 works with Google Assistant

There's support for Google Chromecast, allowing you to stream music from your favourite apps including Google Play Music, YouTube Music, Amazon Music HD, Spotify, Tidal, Deezer, Qobuz, TuneIn Internet Radio and more over Wi-Fi. If you have a Google Home speaker, you can use your voice and Google Assistant to control your music by playing, pausing and adjusting the volume. You can also use the Google Home app to group the Signa S3 with other Chromecast-enabled speakers to play music throughout your home.

Setup and Operation

The Polk Audio Signa S3 is easy to set up, you simply place it in front of or under your TV – either on a stand or wall mounting. Then all you need to do is place the subwoofer to the left or right of the TV. This may require some experimentation to find the location that provides the smoothest bass, and don’t forget that while it is wireless, you’ll still need to plug it into a power socket.

Polk Audio Signa S3
Polk Audio Signa S3 table mount

Polk provides everything you need in the box, including both HDMI and optical digital cables. To make a Bluetooth connection simply press the Bluetooth pairing button, and you can connect the Signa S3 to your network using the Google Home app on your smartphone or tablet. You can then setup the soundbar to work with Google Assistant, which again you do using the Google Home app.

 

It's easy to setup, with everything you need in the box, and only the lack of a proper display disappoints

The Signa S3 doesn't have a proper display, and instead uses a row of four LEDs that provide status indications like source, volume and sound modes. Unfortunately this does mean it'll be a miracle if you can remember the different combinations of lights and colours without having to resort to the manual.

Performance

The Polk Audio Signa S3 delivers an excellent 2.1-channel performance that benefits from the company's years of experience when it comes to designing speakers. As a result, the two speakers built into this soundbar produce an excellent front soundstage with some impressive stereo imaging and precise placement of instruments and effects. The separate wireless subwoofer also plays its part, producing a solid foundation of bass for both movies and music.

The two-channel nature of the soundbar ensures the Signa S3 handles music extremely well. There’s some excellent stereo separation, combined with an energetic delivery. The subwoofer is also nicely integrated, ensuring the opening drum salvo of David Bowie's Young Americans is delivered with all the precision that his 'Plastic Soul' period deserves. The saxophone breaks are nicely rendered, while the soundbar handles Bowie's falsetto delivery before the chorus with skill.

The lack of a dedicated centre speaker doesn’t seem to affect the clarity of dialogue, which remains clear and focused on the screen. Whether its Sean Pertwee’s voiceover on Masterchef: The Professionals, a commentator in a sports broadcast, or movie dialogue, the Polk remains intelligible. However, should you find that you are struggling to understand what someone is saying, the Voice Adjust feature can prove very helpful.

Polk Audio Signa S3
Polk Audio Signa S3 wall mount

The Signa S3 manages to produce a front soundstage that has sufficient scale and amplification to fill an average sized room and complement a big-screen TV. As a result, it handles TV dramas with ease, spreading the music across the front of the room, focussing the dialogue on the screen and placing effects where appropriate. The sub ensures there's some punchy bass that gives effects more impact, and watching the second season of His Dark Materials is an engaging experience.

This dynamic performance is equally applicable to movies, although the decoding is limited to lossy Dolby Digital. However, there are also no apparent lip sync issues, and the resulting delivery is certainly powerful enough to handle today’s blockbuster soundtracks, with a bass-heavy movie like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice sounding suitably epic. The music, effects and dialogue are all delivered with gusto, giving the super-heroic battles added weight.

 

Movies sound punchy and music is effectively delivered, making this soundbar a great all-rounder

Of course expectations need to be managed and, despite the Signa S3's sonic prowess, there's no sense of surround envelopment. The soundstage is obviously focused at the front of the room, but it's still a major step-up from a TV's built-in audio. However, you can give the sound greater presence by engaging the Movie mode. There's also the Music mode, which proves effective with two-channel content, while the Night mode is useful for late night sessions that don't wake the rest of the house.

Verdict

Pros

  • Impressive front soundstage
  • Well integrated subwoofer
  • Great with movies and music
  • Voice Adjust technology
  • Supports Google Chromecast
  • Works with Google Assistant
  • Competitive price

Cons

  • No centre speaker
  • Limited connections
  • No DTS Virtual:X support
  • Lacks a proper display
  • No support for lossless audio

Polk Signa S3 Soundbar Review

Should I buy one?

The Polk Audio Signa S3 represents another great soundbar from the company, one that effortlessly combines affordability with a solid sonic performance. This unassuming 2.1-channel soundbar is well-made and produces an impressive front soundstage, while the wireless subwoofer is effectively integrated, and provides a solid foundation of bass.

As a result, the performance is good with both movies and music. In the case of the former, the soundstage is spread across the front of the room, dialogue remains clear despite the lack of a centre speaker, and the sub also gives low frequency effects real punch. In the case of music, the delivery benefits from excellent clarity and plenty of energy.

Unsurprisingly given its price, the Signa S3 has a limited set of features, with a single HDMI connection that supports ARC, along with Chromecast and Bluetooth. The decoding is restricted to lossy Dolby Digital, but there are a few sound modes, along with Voice Adjust tech to enhance dialogue. This soundbar can even work with Google Assistant.

Overall, this is a well-made, great-sounding and competitively-priced soundbar that proves to be an excellent all-rounder and comes recommended.

What are my alternatives?

The obvious alternative is the Yamaha YAS-209, which is a similarly-specified 2.1-channel soundbar with a wireless subwoofer. This model is a bit more expensive compared to the Signa S3, but the added cost is justified by an HDMI input, built-in Amazon Alexa and support for DTS Virtual:X.

In most other respects the two soundbars are quite similar, both are limited to lossy audio, have built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, various sound modes and there's a Clear Voice feature. They also sport matching designs, although the Yamaha is slightly better built, and have comparable remotes.

The YAS-209 is impressive sonically, producing a solid overall performance with both movies and music. There's a decent front soundstage, excellent clarity, plenty of bass and an energetic delivery, making this excellent soundbar and subwoofer combination a great all-rounder.

Recommended

Scores

Build Quality

.
.
8

Connectivity

.
.
.
7

Ease of use

.
9

Sound Quality

.
.
8

Features

.
.
.
7

Value for Money

.
9

Verdict

.
.
8
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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