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CNN  — 

Roku is a household name when it comes to streaming and set-top boxes, but for the last couple of years, the company has ventured into a new area: audio. More specifically, 2-in-1 devices that combine soundbar-quality audio and a 4K Roku streaming player all in one. The original Roku Smart Soundbar was once our top soundbar pick, and its successor, the Roku Streambar Pro, is currently sitting at the top of our best soundbars list for 2021.

So why take some time to give it a full review now, months after it was released and earned our top nod? Because you, dear reader, deserve a thorough review. After extensively using the Roku Streambar Pro, which is currently on sale through September 11 for $149.99, we’re ready to opine.

The best soundbar you can buy
The Roku Streambar Pro combines quality sound with a robust 4K Roku player for an excellent all-in-one package.

The who, what and how

Who it’s for: The Roku Streambar Pro is for the person who wants better audio than what current TV models can produce, and at the same time it provides a streaming experience that millions of Roku owners enjoy. This all-in-one device requires fewer connections to your TV, and it frees up an additional power outlet as well.

What you need to know: The Roku Streambar Pro is effectively the same soundbar as the Smart Soundbar that Roku released in 2020. However, Roku is streamlining its product names. In a lot of ways, the Streambar Pro is more like a Smart Soundbar 1.5. Some of the other changes Roku made include a new voice remote and earbuds included in the box.

How it compares: When it comes to sound quality, the Streambar Pro isn’t going to compete with high-end sound systems that cost hundreds more, like the $799 Sonos Arc, or just a little more, like the $250 Vizio V-Series 5.1 CineHome II complete sound system. Both of those options will fill the room with richer, more robust sound. But what makes the Streambar Pro so appealing is its price and performance, along with the fact that it’s also a streaming box.

A familiar design and a seamless setup process

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If you were to compare the original Smart Soundbar and Streambar Pro on paper, you’d be hard-pressed to find many differences, especially when it comes to design. It’s the same price, and offers the same 4K quality streaming via Roku’s long list of supported streaming platforms like Disney+, Discovery+, Paramount+ and HBO Max. Roku’s own Channels offering has plenty of shows and movies available to stream for absolutely free.

The Streambar Pro’s body is made of plastic around the side and back of the soundbar, with a mesh-like fabric covering the front. It’s not the most elegant design, but to be totally honest, we haven’t paid much attention to its looks after we first set it up. It blends in nicely with our surroundings and sits in the background while doing its job. It’s not massive, measuring just 32 inches long and 3 inches tall. It’ll easily fit on most TV stands for larger TVs, but it won’t overpower a smaller TV.

If you were to peel back the cloth cover on the front, you’d find four 2.5-inch drivers. We look forward to setting up Roku audio products, not because the process is simple (it is), but because when you’re finished, Roku plays some sample audio that highlights the capabilities of the product. In the case of the Streambar Pro, that means an extra boost of bass that rumbles across the room, following the digital art dancing across the screen.

All in all, the setup process is really easy. After unboxing the Streambar Pro, you’ll connect it to power, connect it to your TV’s HDMI eARC port (assuming it has one), and then follow the prompts using the included remote. The benefit of using an eARC port is that you’ll be able to use Roku’s remote to control the volume, as well as the power state of your TV. Speaking of the remote, the Streambar Pro now comes with an upgraded Voice Remote and a pair of wired earbuds. The earbuds can be plugged into the side of the remote, allowing you to privately listen to a show while a roommate or your partner is sound asleep nearby.

Good sound quality, but a little light on bass

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But, how does it sound? Glad you asked. The relatively small speakers handle low, mid and high tones well, providing much more liveliness than the muddy sound that most TV speakers deliver. During testing, we sat roughly 10 feet away from the TV and Streambar Pro setup. Whether we were watching the 2021 Olympics, Ted Lasso or playing just one more match in Call of Duty: Warzone, it sounded as if the conversations were occurring right beside us. Or in the case of Warzone, the gunshots were all around us — in a good way.

Our favorite part of the Streambar Pro’s audio experience, however, is how well it plays off of spatial audio. That is — playing a sound in the same direction as the object that’s creating it. For example, when watching “Avengers: Endgame,” we could hear Captain America’s shield fly from left to right across the screen — and room — as he threw it.

In addition to a solid sound stage, there are two features that make the Streambar Pro really shine. Speech Clarity, which has to be turned on in the settings, will single out and amplify just the voices in whatever you’re watching. And night mode takes sounds like explosions that are normally loud, and lowers their overall volume. The end result is being able to watch TV without raising or lowering the volume and taking away from the overall experience.

The Streambar Pro has a weakness, and it’s bass. There’s definitely bass there, as is evident by the sample audio we referenced earlier, but the quality is no better than we’d expect from a soundbar of this size and price. If you find yourself wanting more bass from the Streambar Pro, keep in mind that Roku’s audio products are compatible with each other and expandable. Roku also has a pair of wireless speakers that can extend the surround sound to each side of the room behind you, and a wireless subwoofer that brings the bass.

A soundbar that doubles as a streaming player

The Streambar Pro is more than an audio device, so we’d be remiss if we left out any details about how it performed as a streaming device. It runs Roku OS, which is the same platform you’ll find on all Roku streaming devices. You can browse Roku’s list of services and install practically every streaming service available.

When the Streambar Pro first launched, it came with Roku OS 10 and a Virtual Surround 5.1 feature. Later, however, Roku released the same update for the Smart Soundbar. To use the new feature, you’ll have to enable it in Sound Settings on the soundbar. We were excited to give the feature a try, but we haven’t really noticed a difference with it on or off.

The quality of anything we watched was sharp and crisp thanks to the Streambar Pro’s support for 4K content in HDR. We never felt like we waited too long for an app to open or a show to start streaming.

One last benefit to the Streambar Pro that’s worth calling out is the fact it’s compatible with Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Apple HomeKit smart home platforms. That means you can control the soundbar using your preferred virtual assistant, or in our case, connect it to HomeKit and tell Siri to play a show or turn off the TV at a set time each night through a HomeKit automation.

If you’re not already invested in one streaming box platform or a home theater system, then there’s really no way you can go wrong with the Roku Streambar Pro. It does everything you’d want from a soundbar and a set-top streaming device, at a fraction of the cost of buying the two separately.

Bottom line

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Every time we test one of Roku’s sound products, be it the smaller Streambar or the Streambar Pro, we’re pleasantly surprised by the overall experience. Between our favorite shows and streaming platforms loading quickly, the sound quality that’s sure to impress (or wake up) our neighbors, and the fact that all of that comes in a single device for an attractive $179, the total package is hard to beat.

If you use a different streaming device, such as an Apple TV, or want more robust sound, Vizio’s V-Series 5.1 is worth a look. It comes with two satellite speakers and a subwoofer for $249. For those who want a soundbar but are shopping on a budget, the Roku Streambar’s compact design is impressive, as is the $129 price tag.

That said, the Roku Streambar Pro is an affordable way to fill your room with impressive audio while enjoying all of the features of a streaming device. It’s a no-brainer.