“Wow, I can’t believe your TV is that small.”
That’s how most people react when they see the TV that’s in my parents’ house. And to be fair, it’s warranted. It’s a 26-inch HD TV that my parents purchased over a decade ago, and the custom cabinet it is housed in means there’s no hope in going any bigger.
Even though they can’t get bigger TV, they can improve its sound quality — and that’s where the new Roku Streambar ($130) comes in. It’s a miniature soundbar that’s 14-inches in length — which is tiny — and can perfectly fit in the cut-out located under my parents TV. And it actually solves two problems. The first is the sound quality and the second is streaming.
The Streambar is a 2-in-1 device because, in addition to being a 2.0-channel soundbar, Roku also baked one of its streaming sticks — the equivalent of Roku’s $50 Streaming Stick+, which supports 4K HDR streaming — into it. So you can plug it into a 4K TV and it’ll add Roku’s popular streaming platform, which enables your TV to stream apps like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max and Peacock, too. It’s essentially the perfect upgrade for people who have small old TVs, like my parents.
And that’s how I’ve been using it for the last several weeks. The Streambar is a good-sounding soundbar and if you’re looking for a cheap way to upgrade your TV’s awful built-in speakers, then the Streambar is absolutely it. It gets loud, It packs a decent bit of bass. And the audio that’s typically muddled by TV speakers, isn’t on the Streambar. However, don’t expect to be absolutely blown away with its sound — and considering its small size, that’s to be expected.
The Streambar is only a 2.0-channel soundbar, meaning it doesn’t have a dedicated center channel so it doesn’t deliver quite the midrange clarity that you’d get with a larger, 3.0-channel soundbar. And it doesn’t support Dolby Atmos. (It does support Dolby Audio, but that’s not the same.)
There are ways the Streambar can be integrated into more a surround sound setup. You can pair it with Roku’s TV Wireless Speakers, which would function as rear-channel speakers, as well as Roku’s Wireless Subwoofer. These are also things that you can do with the company’s larger soundbar, the Roku Smart Soundbar.
Streambar does have built-in Bluetooth so you can stream music straight from your smartphone or computer, no problem if you don’t already have better dedicated speakers for that purpose. It also comes with the same voice remote that comes with many of Roku’s other high-end streaming sticks, which makes searching for shows and movies very easy.
There’s no much bad to say about the Streambar. It’s a streaming dongle that’s the same price as an Apple TV, but it adds a freaking soundbar — one that sounds pretty great. And it’s so tiny that it can basically anywhere. If you have a small TV or your live in a tiny apartment, it’s the perfect cheap upgrade.
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