Roku is trying to solve one of the biggest headaches when watching telly with an external soundbar, which can often require juggling between multiple remote controls, losing an HDMI output, or downloading another new app to your smartphone to tweak settings and sound preferences… The company has added a slew of manufacturers to its Roku TV Ready certification scheme, which enables supported soundbars to integrate with the audio settings and volume controls built into the Roku software that powers Roku TVs. That means, even if your soundbar arrived with a separate remote or instructions to download an app, you’ll be able to plug it in and use the same menu used for every other setting on the television – handy!
The Roku TV Ready certification scheme has been around for a little while, but the latest expansion brings a number of big brands, including Polk Audio and Westinghouse. These brands will be added next year, Roku says. These soundbar manufacturers join the likes of Philips, JVC, and Element.
While some of the earliest soundbars certified to be Roku TV Ready had to be connected via HDMI, like those that rely on the eARC standard to pull audio from the television or any other HDMI inputs you’re watching, some of the newest models can work wirelessly. For example, the TCL Roku TV wireless soundbar needs to be plugged into power, but that’s it. No other cables are needed, with all of the settings you’d want to change on a soundbar – EQ, volume – available within the same menu used for everything else on your Roku-powered Smart TV.
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Roku is a direct competitor to the likes of Google’s Android TV and Amazon’s Fire TV, both of which are available preinstalled on Smart TVs as well as standalone devices. Building in the operating system means you don’t have to sacrifice one of your HDMI ports to access popular streaming services, like Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, Apple TV+, fitness class apps, games, and more. Roku, Android TV and Fire TV all have voice search functionality too, so you don’t need to arduously type-out the name of your favourite show, actor, director, or movie to find it across the wide range of catch-up and streaming apps.
Roku also sells its own soundbar – with all of the same functionality as its plug-and-play HDMI dongles built-in. That means you’ll be able to enhance the audio from your set-up and access a dizzying array of new streaming services by plugging in a single device. Of course, if you have a Roku TV with any of the Roku TV Ready certified speakers, you’ll get the same experience without losing one of your HDMI ports.
The next batch of Roku TV Ready-certified soundbars will begin hitting shelves in the first few months of the new year.