This cheap soundbar comes with virtual surround sound and can even call your friends

polk react soundbar
(Image credit: Polk Audio)

If you're looking for a cheap soundbar that doesn't skimp on smart specs, the latest model from Polk Audio could be the perfect addition to your home cinema setup

The Polk React – which the company claims is the world's most advanced Alexa soundbar – comes with the smart assistant built-in, allowing you to control your audio playback with your voice alone.

That voice control could be extended to your entire home if you have Alexa-compatible smart home devices and want to use your soundbar as the central controller for your smart lights, thermostat, or locks. 

Not only that, but support for Alexa's Communication features means you can even sync your contacts from the Alexa app and use voice commands to call them at no extra cost. 

Alexa Multi-room Music integration also means you can pair multiple Alexa speakers with the new soundbar to bring sound into your entire home. 

Using voice commands with the Polk React should be simple, with four far-field microphones built-in and echo cancellation software designed to pick up your commands clearly.

The Polk React is also capable of delivering virtual surround sound with support for Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1, which is handy if you don't have the space or the budget to deck out your home with rear speakers. 

If you do want to go big on your home cinema setup however, you can purchase the new Polk SR2 wireless surround speakers and the Polk Audio React Sub 1, which features a seven-inch long-throw woofer to boost the bass frequencies. 

The new soundbar comes with Polk Audio's Voice Adjust technology, which the company says allows you to precisely tweak voice levels and make dialogue "crystal clear", without needing to crank up the volume.

There are also preset sound modes including Movie Mode, Music Mode, and Night Mode, with the latter preventing the sound of your films and music from disturbing your neighbors by reducing bass levels and enhancing the dialogue. 

HDMI ARC means the Polk React should be easy to install with nearly any TV, while Bluetooth connectivity allows you to stream music wirelessly.

In terms of design, the new soundbar looks pretty sleek, with a dark gray fabric grille, a circular control panel, and a slick blue light bar that presumably glows when you interact with Alexa, as with Amazon Echo speakers.

polk react soundbar

(Image credit: Polk Audio)

Budget-friendly bars

With the ability to double up as a smart speaker, support for multi-room audio, and virtual surround sound, you may expect the Polk React to be expensive. 

In fact, it's priced at a very reasonable $249 / £249, which works out at around AU$320, with the SR2 wireless surround speakers and React Sub costing an additional $199 / £159 (about AU$250) and $199 / £179 (about AU$250) respectively.

While it won't be available to buy until mid-February, the Polk React is the latest in a glut of budget-friendly yet highly-specced soundbars to enter the market, many of which are available with a variety of add-ons like wireless rear speakers and subwoofers. 

These pick 'n' mix bars – which include new models like the Cowin Soundbar and the Denon Home Soundbar 550, make setting up a home cinema system more accessible than ever, particularly if you're working with a tight space or a restrictive budget. And, in the case of the Polk React, built-in Alexa means you can pair the soundbar with your existing compatible speakers, making it even more budget-friendly.

Olivia Tambini

Olivia was previously TechRadar's Senior Editor - Home Entertainment, covering everything from headphones to TVs. Based in London, she's a popular music graduate who worked in the music industry before finding her calling in journalism. She's previously been interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live on the subject of multi-room audio, chaired panel discussions on diversity in music festival lineups, and her bylines include T3, Stereoboard, What to Watch, Top Ten Reviews, Creative Bloq, and Croco Magazine. Olivia now has a career in PR.