Polk Magnifi 2 soundbar is a fantastic Google TV companion and Cast target. Google Home Essentials

Over the past several years, soundbars have gained enormous popularity because, despite not being on the same level as a true home theater setup, they will still be a significant improvement over the sound that your TV produces on its own. The Polk MagniFi 2 is a really good option if you’re trying to enhance what your TV delivers or perhaps upgrade your current soundbar.

Let’s start by discussing the sound quality right away.

MagniFi 2’s 3.1 channel, 200 watt system creates a generally acceptable soundscape. It sounds best front-on and at a reasonable distance, so you should listen to it on the couch in front of the TV, which is where you’ll naturally want to sit.

The four presets—Movie, Music, Sports, and Night—perform admirably for the purposes for which they were designed. The soundbar does a great job with dialogue. Action movies have more effect because movies emphasize the small details and increase the bass. In contrast, music creates a flatter, more organic environment. Sports, whether it be a sporting event or something like the daily news, is actually better for dialogue-heavy content. In order to stop sound from flooding the entire house, everything is turned down in night mode, which I will admit I didn’t test very thoroughly.

As you might think, sound quality sounds greatest when you’re sitting on the sofa, in the middle of the room, a few ways away from the TV or soundbar. But that starts to have a bit of a two-edged effect. While sound quality is pleasant in that sweet spot, it degrades slightly if you are significantly off to the sides. I became aware of that while listening to music through the soundbar while seated at my workstation, which is located slightly to the left of the soundbar. Although not as clear, it still sounds good. Surround sound would probably assist with that, but you’ll have to pay an additional $200 for it.

Polk’s virtualized 3D mode, which is accessed by quickly pressing the remote, is the only saving grace. Although the effect is better than I had anticipated, it is not quite as nice as a complete 5.1 speaker setup. In the introduction of that season finale, sound effects such as automobiles passing by or a Falcon flying by actually sound like they are coming from different locations in the space. Even a surround sound tester can be opened. The only time it ever fails is when the effect is overstated. That frequently occurs in movies with lots of music. When watching the In The Heights beginning, for instance, the 3D effect detracted from the experience rather than enhanced it and made it difficult to clearly hear several aspects.

Bass is the only instrument where this configuration fails, regardless of mode. Although the subwoofer is enormous and extremely powerful, it feels like it either hits way too hard or not hard enough. When it’s turned up, it obscures some nuances, but when it’s turned down, the audio sounds poor and even a little hazy. As with the majority of the other items listed, adjusting settings or the ratio of voice to bass can be helpful, but nothing will completely fix that problem. I’d advise reading this review from TechHive for a more in-depth look at the audio quality.

Looking at the actual hardware, the soundbar itself has an understated style that won’t stand out in a living room, which is, in my opinion, for the best. It will also neatly fit beneath a variety of TVs thanks to its elegant design, though generally larger TVs given its width of more than 37 inches. The top of the soundbar has physical buttons for power, input, volume, and a specific button to start Bluetooth pairing. Buttons for the aforementioned audio presets, voice and bass tuners, and adjustments for real surround sound speakers, should you decide to purchase them, are all located on the remote control, which is where the majority of the work will need to be done. The remote is comfortable in the hand, but if you leave the all-rubber front alone for too long, it will gather a lot of dust that will be difficult to remove.

But you can also use this soundbar as a Google Cast target in addition to merely using the three HDMI passthrough connectors on the back. This occurs when you use the Google Home app on an Android or iOS device to connect it to WiFi. Once linked, it becomes a target for Assistant devices and allows you to send audio from programs like Spotify or Google Podcasts. Although the Polk MagniFi 2 lacks built-in microphones, it can receive sounds from adjacent Google Home Minis or other similar devices and can even be added to speaker groups.

The final point I want to make is how this soundbar handles HDMI to wrap up the discussion. In general, I’ve discovered that HDMI passthrough works really well with no visual difficulties. Additionally, my TCL Roku TV receives wake commands from my Chromecast using the Google TV remote with reliability thanks to CEC. However, my experience with an older Polk soundbar has been excellent overall when it comes to HDMI CEC, despite the fact that that TV in particular doesn’t work particularly well in the opposite direction. However, I do have one issue with HDMI: the way the speaker displays interactions. The lights intended to indicate which input you are using or switching to lack clarity and are frequently perplexing. This issue also affects switching between presets. It can be difficult to know if something is on or off. In later incarnations, I’d love to see Polk adopt a style of LED screen like some competitors do because it’s lot simpler to grasp. It would be a significant advantage for a product at this price.

There are a lot of highlights with the Polk MagniFi 2. The sound quality of this soundbar may improve the viewing experience on any TV, and its CEC performance makes it a perfect soundbar to use with a Google TV or Android TV streaming device. It is undoubtedly on the more costly end of the range at $499, but less expensive choices offer comparable sound quality and more loudness. Polk’s simulated surround sound is its lone defense, and honestly, I’d rather spend an extra $100 to upgrade the MagniFi SR to a true 5.1 system. However, if for whatever reason you can’t use physical surround, this soundbar won’t let you down.

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