Q: I am putting together a media room with a 70-inch television and need a surround-sound system. The room is 14-by-15 feet with a 10-foot ceiling. I'd like to stay around $1,000 and want the system to be easy to install and maintain.
Is it possible to build a completely wireless surround-sound system without a receiver, subwoofer or separately wired speakers that will provide the immersive sound and impact of a movie theater?
A: No. If you want that kind of experience, you have to pay for it, both in price and complexity. Nothing can match the performance of a good audio/video receiver connected to five separate high-quality speakers and a subwoofer, especially if you place the speakers to optimize room acoustics and adjust and tune the system properly.
That being said, you can get very good sound from a soundbar-based system, and I think it is worth a try before you start investing a lot of money in speakers and running wires around your media room.
Because you want full sound immersion with surround effects, you should get something with separate surround speakers that you can place to the side or behind you. Polk Audio (polkaudio.com) is releasing a new system called the Magnifi Max SR that will include a soundbar, wireless subwoofer and two wireless surround speakers for $599. (Please note that even wireless surround speakers need to have power, which means they need to be plugged in somewhere.) I have high hopes for the Magnifi Max SR system, and I hope to try one when it is released in October.
The reason I'm so optimistic about the potential of this system is I recently tried the Polk Magnifi Mini system, and I came away very impressed. The $299 Magnifi Mini has a small soundbar speaker (about the size of an OontZ Angle 3XL speaker) paired with a wireless subwoofer. Setup is easy, with the subwoofer connecting effortlessly. The remote is simple and logical, with big buttons and a nice tactile feel.
The miniature soundbar has a small profile, but it has a big sound because it employs Polk's SDA technology, which expands the soundfield greatly to create a feeling of spaciousness. The subwoofer has surprising impact and integrates perfectly with the soundbar to create seamless, full sound from top to bottom. Whether watching television or movies, it is very satisfying and provides the high-grade sound quality you would expect from a storied audio manufacturer like Polk.
Another pleasant surprise was discovering that the Magnifi Mini is an exceptional music speaker. Wi-Fi and Google Chromecast are both built in, providing sound quality far superior to Bluetooth. Although it is designed as a TV sound system, the Magnifi Mini also would make an excellent music-only system for a dorm or office where space is at a premium. Bluetooth is included as well, but once you hear Wi-Fi and Chromecast, you probably won't use it much.
Bigger soundbars can play louder in a big room, but that is my only nitpick about this fine system. With its excellent performance from a small size at a small $299 price, the Polk Audio Magnifi Mini is a big winner.
Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.