…If You Have A Roku TV
As a growing number of toddler toys have taken up my basement’s floor space, it’s had the effect of equally displacing hopes of turning that room into a home entertainment area. So, I was on the hunt for a home audio fix to add gusto to our main upstairs TV-viewing room where we have to balance sound quality with space constraints that make it unfit for a large surround-sound system (like the one boxed up in the basement).
I briefly looked at soundbars, but after doing a little research, the decision really was a no-brainer to splurge for Roku’s wireless speakers ($199, but often available for $150). The two bookshelf speakers are a soundbar alternative compatible only with Roku TV’s (TCL, Sharp, Hisense), and I have a TCL. They’re no replacement for a multi-speaker home entertainment system, but as they turned out, a painless solution for adding more oomph and clarity over the puny, flat-sounding built-in speakers.
Roku TV Setup
Roku speakers are wireless in the sense that the audio signal is wirelessly delivered to the TV. There’s no need for a separate receiver or amplifier to power these speakers, no speaker wires, and no HDMI or optical cable (like a soundbar) to connect to your television.
Setup is stupid easy because the TV does the hard work. All you have to do is bleep, blap, bloop into a TV audio menu and boom, all done; just make sure your Roku TV is on the latest firmware so you have the needed sound settings. The speakers are, however, wired to power, and each speaker has individual power wires; not uncommon in other wireless home entertainment speaker setups. If you need more outlets, I’ve liked this surge protector/power strip. The speakers have provisions for wall mounting, but I placed them on top of my entertainment console below the wall-mounted TV because it puts the speakers at ear level. I could see where this might not be ideal for some, like if your TV is stand-mounted on a console that’s only as wide as the TV; in this scenario, the speakers would block the TV screen and a low-profile soundbar might make more sense.
How Do the Roku Wireless Speakers Sound?
I wasn’t expecting the Roku speakers to sound as full and vibrant as they do. The first time they surprised me was while watching “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, and Finn’s thumping heartbeat could be heard while he laid flat on a medical stretcher at the end of the flick. I had just watched the film days earlier through the built-in TV speakers and didn’t notice this subtle effect until the Roku speakers were doing their thing.
The Roku speakers certainly provide a well-rounded experience in subtle moments at mid-to-low-volume listening. The 3.5-inch “woofers,” as Roku calls them, can’t keep up at higher volumes, however, and had trouble carrying blasting action and booming explosions in the same flick. A Roku accessory wireless subwoofer is available for $179, though the combined $380 (at non-discounted, retail price) is lot to swallow for that sub/speaker combo when soundbars with a sub are easily had for less than $200. I like that I don’t need a subwoofer, however, because I’d struggle where to find space for it in this particular room.
The main remote is Roku remote that looks like the one that came with my TV, but with voice recognition that was an upgrade over the non-voice-control-remote that came with my TV — I cheaped out for the less-expensive Best Buy version that didn’t include voice control like the Amazon version (difference between the Best Buy TCL R615 and Amazon TCL R617). The other remote is supposed to be a tabletop controller, but anything on my coffee table gets covered in milk and whatever sticky gunk is perpetually on toddler’s hands (my guess is a combination of maple syrup and boogers), so that redundant remote has already been stored away and forgotten – literally, I don’t remember where I put it.
Should You Buy The Roku Wireless Speakers?
Yes, but on the condition that you have a Roku TV and room for bookshelf speakers. If you have a Roku streaming stick or a non-Roku TV, then your only option is no, because neither are supported. Asking the little Roku speakers to do big sounds is too much. These speakers’ sweet spot, sans accessory subwoofer, is in everyday casual listening, perfect as an accessory for a high-usage TV that’s not necessarily the main entertainment room, or a smaller room where you don’t want a giant center channel with four 6.5-inch speakers and hulking towers.
Like TV’s with the built-in Roku streaming system, perhaps the biggest advantage is that the speakers let you take advantage of all this cool functionality completely effortlessly. Controlling volume is as easy as if they were built right into the TV; there isn’t a separate remote, nor different audio sources or configuration to fuss with. Simply fire it up and enjoy a serious upgrade over the built-in speakers.