Soundbars come in all shapes size and price these days but if your taste runs to small, it’s hard to get much smaller than Polk’s new Magnifi Mini.
The main speaker enclosure barely qualifies as a sound bar at all since it only a smidge over a foot in length. I’ve had center speakers on surround sound systems bigger than that. But if you were hoping the old adage about good things coming in small packages applies to this package, you might be disappointed. Despite Polk’s best efforts, small speakers mean small sound. Or at least smaller than you can get with bigger speakers. You will never mistake this for a full blown home theater sound system or even a bigger high-end soundbar setup.
Highs are quite good, as you might expect. Lows from the hefty 6 1/2-inch subwoofer are quite strong too. But midrange is barely there at all. There is only so much you can do with tiny speakers, no matter how many of them there are. (There are six, amazingly enough, crammed into the main speaker enclosure.) Oh sure, it sounds a LOT better than standard TV speakers. The wireless subwoofer, housed in a large oddly shaped rounded cabinet adds plenty of punch. Too much sometimes, But the tightly packed collection of small speakers in the main soundbar seem to struggle sometimes. They can shine on very high notes, as long as the volume is not too high (distortion is a problem there) but can’t manage to pump out enough midrange to produce a what I would consider a natural sound. Everything from music to movies sounded a bit flat to me.
Another issue: Since the speakers are crammed into such a small short enclosure, it always sounded mono to me. Zero stereo separation, despite the 2.0 designation. And no simulated surround sound, of course. I assume the most outboard speakers on each end of the soundbar are pointed off at more than 45 degree angles to address this issue but it doesn’t seem to help much
One saving grace, however, is the excellent Voice Adjust feature that allows you to pump up dialogue on movies, which seem perpetually too low in most surround sound tracks. That works well. There is a special voice volume control feature on the remote. There are also special equalization buttons for optimum sound with music, sports and movies, as well as a night mode that mutes the bass. All seem to hit the mark pretty well.
I am less enthused about the remote, despite the fact that is bigger than the tiny credit card type remotes that come with a lot of soundbars. That’s good. So is the fact that it has controls for main volume, as well as individual volume controls for voice and bass. The problem (aside for the cheap no-name batteries that come with it) is the IR blaster. Very precise aiming is required for it to work. It must be slightly above the soundbar and aimed directly at it. Probably OK for living room setups, but not for bedrooms, where the aim is likely to be dead on or lower than the soundbar. That simply does not work.
I had the same problem when I programmed a third party remote so the issue must be the IR receiver on the soundbar, which seems to be behind the speaker cloth. Which may explain why it barely works. Too persnickety for my taste.
The speaker also seems a bit slow to respond and it’s impossible to tell where you are in the range of each control. A vertical row of tiny LEDS on the front of the speaker is supposed to tell you all sorts of things depending on what color they are, how many LEDs are lit, which ones are lit, etc. Good luck remembering the crazy secret code. A not very useful design. A text or graphics capable screen would have been more useful.
The good news is the soundbar automatically comes on when you turn on the TV (with HDMI or optical connections.) With some delay.
The build quality is excellent, at least on the main speaker cabinet. The rounded case is sturdy black plastic and the speakers are covered by a black speaker cloth. Quality work. Very heavy for its size. Membrane buttons for power, Bluetooth, volume and sound modes run across the top but are black on black and not backlit so are mostly invisible except in bright light.
You have a choice of HDMI (ARC), optical or aux cable connections to your TV. All cables are provided, a nice plus.
Chromecast is built in as is blutetooth support and wi-fi, which is necessary for Chromecast to work.
Installation was easy thanks actual printed instructions, almost unheard of in this day and age. Everything worked right away, right of the box. (It defaults to HDMI so you have to change TV input to optical or aux if you go that route)
Bottom line. If space is in short supply and you are not too picky about sound quality, the Magnifi Mini may be just the ticket. Given it’s small size, it produces pretty decent sound. But those with more discerning ears or who demand better stereo spatial imaging, as well as 5.1 sound, will need to keep looking.