Roku sets out to compete with Sonos with its new speakers for Roku Smart TVs

  • Roku announced a new set of speakers on Monday that are designed to enhance the sound of what you’re watching on a Roku Smart TV. From the time we spent listening to them, Roku seems to have delivered on that promise.
  • The speakers give Roku the opportunity to own Roku users’ full TV-watching experience.
  • The bundle – which includes two new RF remotes, a mobile and a stationary one – won’t be available until October, but it can be pre-ordered for $US150 for a limited time over on Roku’s website.
  • Roku says it doesn’t plan to sell the speakers in retail locations.

Roku announced on Monday that it’s making its debut into the audio market with a set of speakers.

Like its competitors, Roku’s Smart TVs, which are owned by one in four smart TV owners in the US, according to the company, will sound better if you hook up dedicated speakers instead of just going with the built-in speakers. That usually means investing in a soundbar or standalone speakers from a third-party manufacturer like Sonos. But Roku’s latest announcement symbolises an expanding product line that will allow Roku to potentially own the entire TV-watching experience, from streaming hardware to smart TV to speaker setup.

The new ‘wireless’ speakers require a single cord for power, and connect to Roku Smart TVs (and only to Roku Smart TVs) via WiFi, meaning they can be plugged in across the room from one another for a stereo sound experience. And for ease-of-use, the entire setup process is done via the TV itself. Roku said users will also be able to use the speakers to listen to music from iTunes or Spotify, with the idea being that Roku wants you to be able to replace your entire audio setup.

Roku TV Wireless SpeakersRokuRoku Speakers, Roku Touch, new remote that controls both speakers and TV

Because the speakers won’t be available until October and are still very much in beta, I didn’t have the opportunity to experience the setup process or see the sound controls, but I did get to hear them – and they sound pretty impressive.

Watching a “Transformers” action scene on a TV with the Roku speakers and a TV without them, you could clearly hear the difference in audio, much like you would with a Sonos soundbar.

The volume adjusts seamlessly between dialogue and effects so you’re not reaching for the remote every time the commercials come on. And the different layers – a helicopter’s blades, the sound of metal on metal, an explosion – were distinguishable from one another, as opposed to the cocktail of sounds you usually get from the special effects of today’s action scenes.

The speakers are bundled with a new remote and the new Roku Touch – a tabletop controller that relies on RF transmission, meaning it doesn’t need to have a line of sight to communicate with the speakers. Instead, you can control the volume, launch a playlist, or play/pause/skip what you’re watching from anywhere in the room using the buttons on the surface. The mobile remote also comes with RF technology and voice capability.

As for existing remote controls, the ones with mics will upgrade to accommodate the new voice control capabilities, but won’t have the RF technology that the speakers are built to respond to.

Roku TV owners can buy the bundle for $US150 on Roku’s website starting today, but the price will increase to $US180 on July 24 and then up again on October 15. Roku says it won’t be available in retail stores like previous products have been in order to avoid any confusion about the products and services the speakers work with.

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