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Polk MagniFi review

Tom Morgan
7 Jun 2015
Polk Magnifi lifestyle shot
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
400
inc VAT

Gives speech a real boost in films and TV, but the Polk MagniFi isn’t designed for music

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Specifications

Speakers: 3, RMS power output: 300W, Dimensions: 965x52x76mm, Weight: 2.2kg, Dock connector: N/A, Networking: Bluetooth (SBC, apt-X)

TV speakers are typically compromised in terms of sound as they have to be tiny in order to fit behind ever-thinner panels, but they also suffer because they aren’t pointed directly towards the viewer. Down-firing and rear-firing TVs relied on bouncing sound around off walls, but this can make it tricky to hear certain aspects of a sound mix. Polk’s MangiFi soundbar not only points the speaker drivers directly at you, but has been configured to improve speech comprehension in films and TV programmes.

At 960mm long the MagniFi is the perfect size for a 47-50in TV, although depending on the shape of the stand it may or may not fit directly under one. If you have a bigger TV, the soundbar starts to look a little out of place. The combination of grey and silver plastics isn’t exactly offensive, but we would have expected a little more in terms of construction given the price.

The MagniFi is surprisingly simple for a £400 soundbar, too. There’s only a digital optical input port on the back, along with a 3.5mm auxiliary input. With no HDMI, you’re out of luck if your TV doesn’t have optical S/PDIF and it means there’s no onscreen interface for adjusting the sound characteristics.

There’s no LCD display on the front of the unit either, just a row of LED lights that indicate the active input. They change colour when adjusting volume and flash with different patterns when changing the sound mode, but the lights are dim enough that they won’t be distracting if you’re watching TV in the dark.

 

polk magnifi buttons

You can switch input, change volume and adjust bass or voice levels using the buttons on the top of the unit or the remote control, but it’s a cheap, slim model that is easily misplaced down the side of the sofa. The Soundbar has a learning function, but it only works with IR remotes; our RF remote wasn’t recognized at all.

Polk has designed the MagniFi with films and TV in mind; the centre speaker has been given priority when balancing the drivers to ensure speech is always clear and easy to hear, with the mid-range making up a dominant part of the overall mix. It worked very well when watching broadcast TV channels, although the sound stage felt a little enclosed for films. Thankfully dialing down the Voice level restored some balance, giving the impression of a wider sound.

This focus does mean that music playback suffers as a result. There’s a distinct lack of treble, with the high-end sounding particularly muddied by the mid-range in most energetic songs. Adjusting the Voice level can’t help fix this either, as it merely redistributes the mix with more focus on the centre channel rather than tweaking its sound characteristics.

This is a shame, as the MagniFi has NFC for quickly pairing a smartphone and less-lossy aptX Bluetooth playback from compatible handsets.  Polk’s DJ Stream app takes this one step further, letting four connected devices build up a playlist and stream through the soundbar. We weren’t fond of the skeumorphic wood panels within the app, but it worked well, letting us create a playlist with music from three different smartphones at once.

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