Roku has long been known for its set-top boxes and Roku TVs, but now, the entertainment company is introducing the Roku TV Wireless Speakers. They’re the Roku’s first pair of wireless speakers that will harness the Roku Connect platform that was announced at CES to link up with your Roku-powered smart TV over Wi-Fi.
The goal of the Roku TV Wireless Speakers isn’t necessarily to compete with ultra high-end home theater setups but with the built-in speakers on your smart TV that tend to be the default option for most users. If you’re the kind of person who obsesses over your sound system, the Roku TV Wireless Speakers probably aren’t for you. They’re more for the sort of person who wishes their movies and music sounded better without having to rewire their entire living room. They’re a more simple and entry-level way of stepping into the wide (and oftentimes, jargon-filled and confusing) world of audio equipment.
I was able to listen to a pre-production demo of the Wireless Speakers compared to the built-in speakers on a TCL Roku TV, and they do what Roku is promising here. The paired speakers offered a fuller, richer stereo sound than the TV speakers. Music had a better range, especially on the low end, and movie clips had more detailed audio than without the extra punch the speakers provided. We’ll obviously have to wait for the speakers to come out to see how they sound compared to their competition, but Roku seems to have succeeded in its goal of outperforming the default option.
In line with offering a less complicated entertainment experience, the Roku TV Wireless Speakers are very simple to use. Simply plug in the two speakers, press the “Connect” button on the back, and the speakers will wirelessly connect over Wi-Fi to your existing Roku TV device. There’s also a Bluetooth option, if you’d like to use them for playing music from your computer or phone instead.
And while wireless audio may bring concerns of latency, Roku claims to have solved the issue by running its operating system on both the TV and speakers, letting the two devices communicate to each other and keep audio and video in sync at all times. For scenarios where latency is even more important, like gaming, the system can automatically switch over to using the built-in TV speakers. The speakers are part of the product of Roku’s acquisition of Danish audio startup Dynastrom for $3.15 million last year, and they leverage that company’s experience in wireless audio.
Adding to the experience is the included Roku TV Voice remote and square Roku Touch remote. While the speakers don’t feature onboard microphones, the idea is that you’d use the remotes (which only offer push-to-talk functionality and aren’t always listening to you in the background like Amazon’s Alexa devices) for voice controls. The new Touch remote takes it a step further, with several programmable preset buttons that you can set to store a specific command or playlist.
The Roku TV Wireless Speakers aren’t smart speakers in the traditional sense; there’s no onboard digital assistant like Siri or Alexa, no option to control other devices in your smart home, and no support for things like trivia queries or weather updates. And while Roku is still working on its own Roku Entertainment Assistant (which will work with Roku TV devices and, by extension, the new speakers), it’s still going to be an entertainment-focused voice assistant, not an Alexa replacement.
The Roku TV Wireless Speakers are just the beginning of Roku’s audio ambitions, and while the company didn’t have any specifics to share, it’s easy to imagine future products that leverage Roku Connect at different price points and form factors that allow Roku TV owners to further build out their living room audio setup. If you can add a pair of speakers, why not a subwoofer? Or a soundbar? Or a full 7.1 surround sound system?
The Wireless Speakers will be exclusively available from Roku.com in October, but the company is doing things a little differently with the preorder. In October, the two speakers bundled together with both the Voice remote and Touch remote will cost $199.99. But customers can preorder them today for an introductory, first-week price of $149.99, with a second, longer preorder option starting on July 24th through October 15th that will cost $179.99.