What is the Roku Streambar?
The Roku Streambar is exactly what you think it is – a soundbar with a Roku 4K HDR streaming player built-in. As a result, you can boost the sonic performance of your TV, while simultaneously adding a comprehensive streaming platform with access to every video app imaginable.
The soundbar itself is small and basic, with a simple two-channel configuration. However it uses four speakers to create a larger soundstage, with two firing forwards and two off to the side. It also includes HDMI-ARC, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, AirPlay and works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
The Streambar is competitively priced at just £129 as at the time of writing (December 2020), so this compact and affordable outboard audio solution could be ideal for those with smaller TVs that have older or less comprehensive smart platforms. So, let's see how it performs.
The first thing to point out is the Roku Streambar isn’t big – to get a sense of scale the image below shows it next to the standard Roku remote control (which isn’t large either). In fact it measures 356 x 61 x 107mm (WxHxD) and weighs in at 1.1kg. It's definitely aimed at smaller screen sizes, and the Streambar looked vaguely comical in front of my LG 77C9, but, having said that, it feels well-made.
The curved design uses minimalist styling and a matte black finish. However, this is good, because you want a soundbar to be discreet and unassuming. Ultimately, it should just do its job, while sitting under your TV and not drawing attention to itself. The minimalism extends to there being no controls on the ‘bar itself, you just use the provided remote. You can choose between stand or wall mounting.
Connections and Control
The Roku Streambar houses all its physical connections at the rear, and it's a reasonable selection with an HDMI 2.0a port that supports 4K/60Hz, HDR10, HDCP 2.2 and ARC (audio return channel), an optical digital input for TVs without ARC, and a USB 2.0 port.
The Streambar also has built-in Wi-Fi (802.11ac dual-band, MIMO), Bluetooth 5.0 and Apple AirPlay. There's no Ethernet port, but if you want a wired connection you can buy a USB adapter.
There's a decent set of connections, well-designed controller, useful remote app, and even voice control
The Streambar works with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, so if you already have either of those smart assistants in your home you can connect the Roku and enjoy voice control using the included remote. This is particularly useful for searches and basic commands.
The remote itself is the standard Roku zapper, with a series of self-explanatory keys laid out in an intuitive fashion. The controller is compact, fits comfortably in your palm and is easy to use with one hand. There are direct access buttons for Netflix, RakutenTV, Google Play and Spotify, along with volume up/down and mute buttons on the side. You can use the remote to control the soundbar, Roku streaming player, and even your TV via HDMI-CEC. Roku also offers a handy and effective remote app for both iOS and Android.
Features and Specs
The Roku Streambar uses four 1.9-inch full-range drivers in a two-channel configuration. There are two drivers firing forwards, and two firing to the sides to create a soundstage that's larger than the soundbar itself. Roku doesn't say how much amplification is driving these speakers, but they can go surprisingly loud without distorting.
The Streambar supports Dolby Audio and PCM, plus it includes a number of sound settings – all of which are fairly self-explanatory. There are Sound Modes for Normal, Reduce Bass, Bass Boost and Bass Off. You also get a Speech Clarity feature with Off, Low and High settings, and Volume Levels with choices for Off, Leveling (to avoid loud advert breaks) and Night Mode.
This soundbar uses four drivers in a two-channel configuration, and includes a 4K HDR media streamer
The Roku media player and streamer is one of the best on the market, offering a comprehensive choice of streaming apps that includes Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, Apple TV+, Now TV, RakutenTV, and all the UK TV catch-up services. In terms of the USB port it also supports a number of video formats (MKV, MP4 and MOV), audio formats (AAC, MP3, WMA, FLAC, PCM, AC3/EAC3 and ALAC), and photo formats (JPG, PNG and GIF).
More: Audio Formats
Along with the Streambar, remote control and power adaptor, Roku helpfully includes an optical digital cable and a premium high-speed HDMI cable in the box. There are two M6 x 8mm threaded mount sockets at the rear, but if you're planning on wall-mounting you'll need to buy the necessary bracket separately.
Setup and Operation
The Roku Streambar couldn't be easier to set-up, and all you need to do is place it in front of or below your TV, plug it in and connect the HDMI port on the soundbar to the HDMI-ARC input on your TV using the included HDMI cable. If your TV doesn't support ARC, you'll need to send the audio from the TV using the included optical digital cable, but you'll still need to connect the HDMI port so you can use the Roku streaming player.
The set-up of the Roku player is equally simple, and once you've connected via HDMI all you need to do is turn the soundbar on and follow the on-screen instructions. The set-up wizard will take you through setting up the Wi-Fi, your Roku account, the soundbar and optimising the video output based on your TV. Anyone who's ever used a Roku device will know this process is completely painless, and only takes a few minutes.
The Streambar is incredibly easy to set-up, and before you know it you'll have fully-functioning Roku streamer as well
Once you've set-up the soundbar, logged into all your relevant streaming services and optimised the video output, you can then tweak the sound if necessary. Personally I found the Normal Sound Mode worked best and I left the Speech Clarity and Volume Levels off, but feel free to experiment. Once all this was done, it was time to start testing.
Since the Roku Streambar is essentially two products in one, let's start with the streaming player that's built-in. This is excellent, which shouldn't surprise anyone who has tried a Roku device over the last few years. The interface is clean and simple, intuitive to use and easy to navigate. The system is also fast and responsive, which makes opening different apps straightforward. The picture quality is excellent, with detailed 4K images and effective upscaling of lower resolution content.
All this makes watching your favourite shows a pleasure, and no matter which service, the Streambar has you covered. Roku offers a comprehensive choice of streaming apps, and where appropriate this includes 4K up to 60Hz and HDR10. There's no support for dynamic metadata formats like HDR10+ and Dolby Vision, but that's hardly the end of the world. There's also no support for Dolby Atmos, but given the soundbar itself doesn't support the audio format that's largely moot.
Speaking of the audio side of things, this is equally impressive and, despite its diminutive proportions, the Streambar produces a surprisingly big soundstage. It might have looked comical sat in front of a 77-inch screen, but if you closed your eyes the sonic presence sounded entirely appropriate. There's decent stereo separation, no doubt helped by the angled drivers firing out to the sides, and the delivery is clear and pleasingly detailed.
In fact, the Roku Streambar really surprised me in terms of its overall sonic performance, and there's no doubt it can easily boost the audio of any TV with a screen size of less than 55 inches. The one area where it's obviously lacking is bass, but that's hardly a surprise given its dimensions and the lack of a separate subwoofer. The amount of bass in the Normal mode felt balanced and appropriate, where as the Reduce Bass and Bass Off modes felt thin, and the Bass Boost was a bit boomy.
An effective method of boosting your TV's audio, adding a streaming platform or filling in gaps in the existing system
The Streambar delivered clear and focused dialogue, despite the lack of an actual centre speaker. I suspect its lack of width actually helps in this respect, but if you do struggle to hear dialogue, the Low and High Speech Clarity settings might come in useful. The same can be said of the Volume Level controls, with the Leveling feature proving useful when watching commercial TV channels. Conversely, the Night Mode compresses the sound, allowing you to binge in the wee small hours without annoying the rest of the household.
The Roku Streambar is an interesting all-in-one solution that not only delivers the goods in terms of streaming apps and sonic performance, but is also an effective solution to a number of potential limitations in your current TV. For a start, the Streambar will undoubtedly sound better than most TVs, especially cheaper ones with smaller screen sizes. It also provides an opportunity to add a fully comprehensive streaming platform to older TVs or ones with a limited smart system. Even if your TV has a smart system, it might not support everything, and the Streambar can fill any gaps for you.
- Surprisingly big soundstage
- Roku streaming built-in
- Easy to set-up and use
- Compact and well-made
- Competitively priced
- Limited bass
Roku Streambar Soundbar Review
The Roku Streambar is a product aimed at a specific segment of the market – those looking to beef up the audio on their older TV, while simultaneously adding a comprehensive smart platform or plugging any streaming app holes in their TV’s current operating system.
In this regard it’s an undeniable success, with a surprisingly big sound considering its diminutive dimensions, and a highly effective streaming media player. The Streambar is well-made, discreet, incredibly easy to set-up, and the selection of apps on offer is the very definition of comprehensive.
The Roku’s size means it can’t compete with larger and more expensive sound systems, and there’s no support for Dolby Vision, HDR10+ and Dolby Atmos. But that’s hardly a surprise in an all-in-one soundbar and media player that can be picked up for less than a hundred quid!
Ultimately, if you own an older TV, the Roku Streambar is an affordable and highly effective method of giving your ageing gogglebox a new lease of life.
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