Soundbars are a great addition to any lounge, especially if you have a large screen TV. Most 4K Smart TVs offer various sound format support, provided you have the right hardware.
I remember when we first bought a 65” 4K Smart TV and heard the sound from the built-in speakers, it was not a vibe. It felt like it didn’t match the quality of the TV.
This was when I considered a soundbar, which by the way, can be seen as the “cheaper” option when compared to a full-on sound system that are usually very expensive.
However, soundbars are all not necessarily cheap. Sure, you get entry-level like any product of any kind of tech, but you can also go a bit premium despite not having a budget for a sound system.
So, when the opportunity came to test Polk Audio’s soundbar, I wanted to check it out. The one I have I’ve been using for about 7 years, so it made sense to try something else.
Homemation provided the Polk MagniFi Max AX for testing. This is a premium soundbar aimed at those who’ve tried entry level options and want to upgrade, or if you want to go premium on the onset.
It is aimed at those who watch a lot of movies, play games on the latest gaming consoles, or stream music from the likes of Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, etc so you can experience superior sound.
MagniFi Max AX Quick Look
- Soundbar and subwoofer set (2 pieces)
- 1.2 Dolby Atmos and DTS:X 3D sound
- Soundbar has left, right, centre, and height channels
- Wireless 10″ subwoofer is downfiring (driver faces towards the floor)
- Bluetooth 5.0; WiFi 2.4GHz + 5GHz; no Ethernet
- 3x HDMI; 1x HDMI eARC 4K (60Hz); optical out; 1x USB-A
Setting up the MagniFi Max AX
The soundbar comes in large packaging, don’t be alarmed when it gets delivered to you. Something you should note is the length of the soundbar – it’s 115cm long so you need space for it on your TV cabinet. But if it doesn’t fit on your existing furniture, it can be wall mounted.
Included in the box is the soundbar, subwoofer, power cables, remote control, HDMI cable, a wall mount template and two brackets, and a quick start guide. There is no manual in the box, you will have to download it from the Polk website.
The soundbar has a total of 4x HDMI ports but one supports eARC (enhanced audio return channel) 4K 60Hz that supports high-res audio. You may want to connect a PlayStation 5 or Apple TV 4K to this port. We connected a PS5.
I have a lot of media devices so I had to choose which I wanted to connected to the speaker. One HDMI port connects to the TV, the other was for toggling a Google Chromecast or Apple TV 4K, and two gaming consoles. My other devices like a decoder went directly into the TV. If your TV is older you can use the optical out.
The soundbar supports WiFi connectivity and to get into pairing mode, you simply press and hold the power button till you hear a beeping sound. Once you do, you can connect it to either Google Home or Alexa. This is only needed to update the firmware.
It took me several tries before it connected to Google Home but never connected to Alexa. Despite a little bit of frustration, it is only needed on one app, not both; and as mentioned for a software update.
Features and what stood out for me
The soundbar has buttons on the top for controls, such as power, input, Bluetooth, mute and volume. It has an OLED display to show your adjustments and dims when not it use.
Behind it, and hidden are the ports, a button to pair to the subwoofer or extra speakers, status lights and power out. The wireless subwoofer just has a connect button and a status light.
The Infrared remote control has lots of buttons, which you have to really press hard to accept your input. In terms of design, I would have preferred something modern. But there’s a button for everything, including power, input, Bluetooth, TV, bass, treble, voice, height, delay and surround. There’s volume keys of course, mute, sound, and info to check what mode you’re on.
I like that you can go into modes such as TV mode, auto, movie, night or music, and honestly, these are great ‘presets’ depending on what you’re watching. Auto is good for casual watching, and then you can also choose movie, night or music based on your viewing.
For music, I preferred using the individual tweaks, and adjusting bass or treble where necessary. If you’re a big music streamer, it supports many apps like Spotify, Deezer, Amazon Music, Tidal, TuneIn Radio, and SoundCloud. It also supports Apple AirPlay, Google Chromecast, and Works with Alexa.
Polk Audio also has a cool feature called “voice” on the remote. VoiceAdjust is their patented speech clarifying tech that works together with its centre-channel speakers to adjust the volume of the voices only instead of other elements.
I really loved this feature because sometimes I feel in movies or TV series, the background noises feel overpowering or simply the speech levels are not audible (remember those Game of Thrones episodes we struggled to hear?). This feature lets you increase voice only and not the volume as a whole; and it makes such a big difference!
Night Mode is great if you want to be mindful of house guests or family – it reduces the bass but improves voice; and TV Mode will enhance dialogue or effects when the volume is low.
As mentioned, it supports Dolby Atmos at DTS:X and if you have content that supports this on whatever console, either Apple TV or PlayStation 5, you need to connect it via the eARC HDMI port, which is basically HDMI 2.1. This mode supports height and sound adjustments. Polk lets you adjust the height to make sound come from different levels, but I have to be honest here, I couldn’t really the difference with the height settings.
I found the sound for movies and gaming quite deep and immersive, which really enhances the experience. But overall, it delivers powerful sound. If you’re having a party, you can run all your playlists through it and you will not be disappointed – even the neighbours will hear it.
The Polk Audio MagniFi Max AX is a step up from my previous soundbar with even more granular controls. I just wished it had an app to control it. It would appeal to you if want something more than an entry-level sound system. It delivers deep immersive sound for movies, games and music. This particular model lets you buy additional speakers for a full-on surround sound experience, instead of just virtual surround.
You can buy it at Homemation for R15 499.
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