Roku Streambar review: A very good streamer inside a pretty good soundbar

The diminutive Roku Streambar is not one of the world’s great soundbars, but there’s plenty of value packed into its 2.4 x 14 x 4.2-inch enclosure (HxWxD) for the audience that Roku is targeting. The Roku Streambar not only sounds better than the speakers built into most TVs—including some of the higher-end models—it also features Roku’s 4K HDR streaming hardware and operating system.

Our cord-cutting expert, Jared Newman, just reviewed the new-for-2020 Roku Ultra for us, so I’ll focus primarily on the Streambar’s audio experience here.

If you’re of a mind to, you can expand the Streambar with Roku’s wireless subwoofer and surround channels—although doing so will take your initial $130 investment north of $500—at which point you’re probably not Roku’s target audience and should consider buying a higher-end speaker instead. But if you want to start small now and expand over time, the option is there. That can’t be said of most audio products in this price range.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best soundbars, where you’ll find reviews of competing products, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping for this type of product.

roku streambar 2 Michael Brown / IDG

The Roku Streambar has two front-firing 1.9-inch drivers, and one at each end set at oblique angles to widen the speaker’s sound stage.

The Streambar’s cabinet is fabricated from a blend of neutral-sounding polycarbonate and ABS plastic and is wrapped in black fabric on the front and sides. Its top is covered with a rubbery soft-touch surface without any buttons. The Roku logo on the front of the speaker is considerately painted black and doesn’t draw much attention to itself.

Two of the Streambar’s four full-range drivers are mounted in the face of the enclosure, and the other two are mounted at oblique angles in the left and right end caps, an arrangement that endows this soundbar with a wide soundstage that belies its size. The 1.9-inch (48mm) paper cone drivers feature neodymium magnets, and each one is powered by a discrete Class D amplifier producing 8 watts RMS each (total output of 32 watts RMS or 64 watts peak power).

Around back you’ll find the typical inputs and outputs, leading with HDMI 2.0 with support for ARC (audio return channel), HDR10, and HGL high dynamic range information pass-through (but not Dolby Vision); an optical digital audio (Toslink) input; and a USB 2.0 port that can be used to access music and video files stored on a USB drive (more on that later). Another use for the USB port is to plug in an optional ethernet adapter if you have weak Wi-Fi, but are blessed with ethernet cable in your walls. (Speaking of Wi-Fi, the Streambar has a relatively quick 802.11ac adapter onboard.)

Finally, there’s a barrel-type power connection. Roku uses an inline power brick—death to wall warts!—and provides enough electrical cable to reach a two-prong outlet up to 7 feet away. Most people will set the Streambar in front of their TV, but the cabinet is outfitted with a pair of M6 x 8mm threaded mounts if you choose to hang the 2.4-pound speaker on the wall beneath your TV. Roku doesn’t sell a mount of its own, but you’ll have no problem finding compatible third-party options.

roku streambar rear panel 2 Michael Brown / IDG

The Roku Streambar provides (left to right) Toslink optical digital input, HDMI with ARC, and a USB port for streaming from local storage.

The Streambar has no analog audio inputs or outputs, which leaves Roku’s wireless sub as your only choice if you want bass reinforcement. There’s a Bluetooth 5.0 radio onboard, so you can stream music from your smartphone or tablet, but Roku has apps for all the most popular music-streaming services—including Spotify, Tidal, Pandora, and Amazon Music—so I think most people will stream music over Wi-Fi. But if you have a favorite service for which there is no app—Qobuz, for instance—Bluetooth provides the means.