Polk Mag­niFi Max as good as sound bars dou­ble the price, it even has Chrome­cast built in

SmartHouse - - SOUND - Writ­ten by David Richards

When you lift the bar out of the pack­ag­ing you im­me­di­ately no­tice the soft, rounded look that Polk Au­dio has opted for.

Polk Au­dio is a brand that has kicked around the US mar­ket for decades, to­day it is a trusted name for a unique range of sound prod­ucts that that are sold by some of the big­gest sound re­tail­ers in the USA for the sim­ple rea­son that con­sumers have found that they de­liver when it comes to sound out­put and value.

When JB Hi Fi took the brand on last year Aus­tralian con­sumers were pre­sented with the op­tion of pur­chas­ing a new gen­er­a­tion of dig­i­tal sound gear that bought to­gether what ap­pears to be the best in Hi Fi fi­delity and voice ac­ti­va­tion tech­nol­ogy.

This com­bi­na­tion of old and new tech­nol­ogy can be found in the Polk Mag­niFi range of sound bars that are avail­able in Max and Mini ver­sions of the Polk prod­uct of­fer­ing.

Polk is a brand that sees it­self in the af­ford­able pre­mium mar­ket as op­posed to the ex­pen­sive top end mar­ket.

In fact, with some of their prod­ucts we have strug­gled to hear the dif­fer­ence between an ex­pen­sive top end sound­bar and the mid-priced Polk of­fer­ing.

When we first tested the Mag­niFi sound­bar with Chrome­cast built in we re­moved a sound­bar that was twice the price and strug­gling to match the clar­ity that the Polk Mag­niFi Max de­liv­ered es­pe­cially when lis­ten­ing to TV au­dio and in par­tic­u­lar drama di­a­logue.

When you lift the bar out of the pack­ag­ing you im­me­di­ately no­tice the soft, rounded look that Polk Au­dio has opted for. I like this be­cause the bar blends in bet­ter below a screen es­pe­cially as the bar has more depth than height which in some cases cre­ates a prob­lem when try­ing to point a re­mote at the in­fra-red con­troller for a TV. I also like the way that they have moulded the func­tions for this de­vice into a sculp­tured cen­tre con­sole com­plete with voice ac­ti­va­tion.

In the box is ev­ery­thing you want sub, highly func­tional re­mote, ex­cel­lent in­struc­tion man­ual, HDMI ca­bles as well as an op­tional op­ti­cal au­dio ca­ble.

Sony’s Dolby At­mos sound­bar sells for dou­ble the price of Polk Au­dio’s Mag­nify Max and the Sonos and Sam­sung top end of­fer­ings are dou­ble the price of the Polk of­fer­ing.

And when you con­sider the need for a $995 sub with the Sonos sound­bar, you sud­denly re­alise that Polk has some­thing unique with their $749 sound­bar. As for the sub it is re­mark­ably light due in part to the fact that the speaker is en­closed in a foam mem­brane and while lighter in weight it also re­quires a small mag­net to de­liver qual­ity out­put.

Even the re­mote is a big plus.

Apart from the but­tons to con­trol the volume it also has ded­i­cated but­tons for ad­just­ing bass in­ten­sity as well ‘Voice Ad­just’, which en­hances hu­man voices by ad­just­ing volume in the 100250 Hz fre­quency range. It also has three but­tons at the bot­tom ded­i­cated to Polk’ au­dio modes: Movie, Sports, and Mu­sic.

The bot­tom line is that the Polk Au­dio's Mag­niFi Max per­forms well and is ex­tremely cost ef­fec­tive.

The mid­dle seg­ment of the sound­bar is made from moulded plas­tic to in­di­cate where the cen­tre unit is lo­cated.

The sound­bar also al­lows you to man­u­ally ac­cess Blue­tooth, au­dio volume, and in­put via a se­ries of but­tons on the top of the bar.

On the bar are three HDMI in­puts that are ca­pa­ble of 4K HDR passthroug­h as well as 1 HDMI out­put with ARC (Au­dio Re­turn Chan­nel).

All three HDMI in­puts sup­port CEC (this al­lows one to to ad­just au­dio volume via the TVs re­mote con­trol. The sound­bar also fea­tures an op­ti­cal au­dio port, ana­logue AUX – also called mini-jack or 3.5mm jack – and an Eth­er­net port. In ad­di­tion, you can con­nect via WiFi to take ad­van­tage of the built-in Chrome­cast fea­ture, which you should pre­fer over Blue­tooth for mu­sic play­back.

Setup is easy all you do is con­nect the power and press the ‘On’ but­ton. HDMI ARC (Au­dio Re­turn Chan­nel) works im­me­di­ately. Though I do sug­gest that you in­vest in HDMI 2.0 ca­bles as these are specif­i­cally de­signed to han­dle 4K con­tent.

Sound

Mag­niFi Max of­fers three dif­fer­ent au­dio modes and the idea is ob­vi­ous, with the ‘Movie’ set­tings de­signed to be used for movies. This is not very dif­fer­ent from mod­ern TVs that also of­fer a hand­ful of pic­ture modes.

What you im­me­di­ately no­tice is that the Mag­niFi Max de­liv­ers heavy bass that con­trols the low­est fre­quen­cies (Hz) with­out much dis­tor­tion and to achieve this Polk has pri­or­i­tized raw power over fi­nesse.

Setup is easy all you do is con­nect the power and press the 'On' but­ton.

Movies and TV se­ries are meant to en­ter­tain so the sound el­e­ment is a key part of the to­tal ex­pe­ri­ence. For me the mar­riage of great sound ef­fects and au­dio tracks that ac­tu­ally de­liver clear and au­di­ble di­a­logue are crit­i­cal and this is where I found the Polk sound bar per­formed well, bet­ter than sev­eral oth­ers we have re­viewed re­cently.

Polk Au­dio’s ‘ Voice Ad­just’ set­ting op­tion lets you up- or down­pri­ori­tise the mid-tone range in fre­quen­cies from around 100 to 250 Hz where hu­man voices of­ten fall flat. Near the top end of the Voice Ad­just func­tion’s volume set­ting – around 4 out of 5 – is where you get the best re­sult for di­a­logue man­age­ment.

The bot­tom line is that the Polk Au­dio’s Mag­niFi Max per­forms well and is ex­tremely cost ef­fec­tive. For the pur­pose of test­ing mu­sic per­for­mance, I re­lied pri­mar­ily on the built-in Chrome­cast func­tion. Blue­tooth was only used mo­men­tar­ily to con­firm that it ac­tu­ally worked as in­tended. Mag­niFi Max is also com­pat­i­ble with Google Home, mean­ing that you can use your voice to con­trol play­back (Hi Google, Play mu­sic on Spo­tify etc.) and cer­tain other things.

The de­vice also con­fig­ures into the Google Home Hub.

As for mu­sic all you do is switch the sound­bar to mu­sic mode and stream your source con­tent whether its Spo­tify or Google Mu­sic.

The mu­sic dy­nam­ics are very nat­u­ral, and the mid-tone was well tuned in Mu­sic mode. The bass is ex­cel­lent, and the bar is an ex­cel­lent way to play mu­sic.

Mod­ern sound­bars such as Polk Au­dio can be firmware up­graded and as such the sound bal­ance can be tweaked, and right be­fore I was ready to con­clude the test, the com­pany is­sued an equal­izer up­date for the Mu­sic mode. Polk Au­dio’s Mag­niFi Max is a sound­bar de­signed for main­stream movies. It per­forms well for day-to­day use, and it gets the job done.

What would be nice is if the Mag­niFi Max au­to­mat­i­cally changed its au­dio mode to match the source (HDMI, Chrome­cast, Spo­tify). This is still a man­ual process.

Con­clu­sion

As value for money goes this sound­bar is up there with sound­bars from the likes of Sonos for half the price.

As part of the Polk Au­dio Mag­niFi Max pack­age you get a large sub­woofer with lots of power and kick arse per­for­mance.

As for the de­vice it­self it’s slim and fits well in front of most TVs over 42 inches.

It is easy to set-up and has fea­tures such as built-in Chrome­cast and Google Home sup­port. I ran it along­side sev­eral other Google Voice de­vices. It also has HDMI pass-through for 4K, HDR and Dolby Vi­sion tech­nol­ogy built in.

One stand­out de­vice is the well de­signed and easy to han­dle re­mote con­trol that takes care of ev­ery­thing.

It al­lows the user to switch between au­dio modes (Movie, Sport & Mu­sic).

Other built in fea­tures in­clude:

The Polk Mag­niFi MAX max­i­mum-per­for­mance home theatre sound bar and wire­less sub­woofer sys­tem pro­vides big­ger, more dy­namic sound than tra­di­tional sound bars—and is op­ti­mized to make movies, TV, sports and mu­sic come alive.

It fea­tures pa­tented SDA sur­round tech­nol­ogy for a wider, more im­mer­sive lis­ten­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and Voice Ad­just tech­nol­ogy for crys­tal clear di­a­logue—and it works with your TVs re­mote con­trol right out of the box. In­cludes HDMI and op­ti­cal ca­bles for quick and easy setup. And built-in Blue­tooth and Google Chrome­cast Builtin tech­nolo­gies let you stream all of your favourite mu­sic.

Key Fea­tures

Pa­tented Polk SDA Sur­round Tech­nol­ogy

Cre­ates an ex­pan­sive sound­stage and de­tailed stereo im­age, while de­liv­er­ing a nat­u­ral mul­ti­di­men­sional sound ex­pe­ri­ence you would ex­pect from a con­cert or theatre by elim­i­nat­ing crosstalk found in all other sound bars and TV speak­ers.

Polk Voice Ad­just Tech­nol­ogy Cus­tomize the voice lev­els in the sound bar how­ever you pre­fer to re­pro­duce clear, crisp di­a­logue and never miss a sin­gle word of your favourite movie, TV show or sport­ing event.

Google Chrome­cast Built-in

Stream mu­sic from your favourite apps over Wi-Fi, con­nect to your Google Home speaker to cre­ate a whole home au­dio sys­tem and con­trol your mu­sic through voice com­mands.

Vir­tual Sur­round Sound Seven driver ar­ray and the in­cluded pow­er­ful wire­less sub­woofer cre­ates an im­mer­sive multi-di­men­sional sound via 5.1 Dolby Dig­i­tal, DTS and ex­clu­sive Polk SDA sur­round tech­nol­ogy for an in­cred­i­ble room-fill­ing lis­ten­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Built-in TV Re­mote Con­trol Com­pat­i­bil­ity

Polk Smart Re­mote tech­nol­ogy al­lows for most Sam­sung, LG, Vizio, and Sony TV re­motes to con­trol the sound bars volume right out of the box (no pro­gram­ming re­quired).

Low-Pro­file

Slim de­sign won’t block your TVs re­mote sen­sor.

Ex­clu­sive Full Com­ple­ment Deep Bass Tech­nol­ogy In­cluded 8˝ ported wire­less sub­woofer give you a mas­sive boost of core-pound­ing deep bass im­pact that takes home theatre and mu­sic lis­ten­ing to a whole new level. Movie, Mu­sic and Sport Modes One but­ton pre-set EQ set­tings for Movies, Mu­sic and Sports op­ti­mize the sound bar and sub­woofer to en­sure you get the clear­est di­a­logue, big sur­round sound and deep bass for the best au­dio and home theatre ex­pe­ri­ence.

Night Mode

Low­ers the bass and in­creases Voice Ad­just de­liv­er­ing clear di­a­logue all with­out rais­ing the mas­ter volume.

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