Polk's new Sonos Arc rivals pack 11 speakers of room-filling Dolby Atmos sound

The Polk MagniFi Max AX SR sitting on a home theater cabinet.
(Image credit: Polk)

The Sonos Arc, one of the best soundbars released in the last few years, will soon have two new rivals from audio designer Polk that deliver Dolby Atmos and DTS:X sound from 11 built-in drivers and a wireless subwoofer.

Dubbed the Polk MagniFi Max AX and MagniFi Max AX SR, both support Wi-Fi and Bluetooth streaming via Apple AirPlay 2, Google Chromecast and Spotify Connect, plus there’s three 4K HDMI-in ports on the soundbars if you need to connect multiple devices. The less expensive MagniFi Max AX comes with a wireless subwoofer while the MagniFi Max AX SR comes with both a wireless sub and wireless rear speakers. 

In terms of pricing, the Polk MagniFi Max AX will come in at $799 while the Polk MagniFi Max AX SR will come in at $899 — the same price as the Sonos Arc. Both the new Polk soundbars will be out in October, with availability in stores and online.

Analysis: How effective is spatial audio from a soundbar?

Having tested an equal number of both soundbars and proper speakers in my time, I can say without a doubt that spatial audio from a soundbar typically pales in comparison to a dedicated wireless speaker with upfiring drivers. 

That's something soundbar makers like Sonos and Polk are working on, however.

In Polk's case, the new 'bars have the company's Stereo Dimensional Array (SDA) technology that widens the sound stage using digital signal processing. The hope is that, with enough audio wizardry, the sound will feel just as immersive as if you had several separate speakers set up all around the room. 

Whatever SDA manages to add to the depth of the sound, having two wireless rear speakers with the MagniFi Max AX SR will help add some oomph to the rear channels  — something that Sonos can't claim with its standalone Arc soundbar.

Of course, like all products, we'll need to test the new Polk 'bars for ourselves before we can draw any conclusions. But, on paper at least, the Polk MagniFi Max AX and MagniFi Max AX SR are shaping up to be some real rivals to Sonos' living room audio supremacy.

On the hunt for a new soundbar that's not from Sonos or Polk? Check out the Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3 and/or the Sony HT-A7000.

Nick Pino
Managing Editor, TV and AV

Nick Pino heads up the TV and AV verticals at Tom's Guide and covers everything from OLED TVs to the latest wireless headphones. He was formerly the Senior Editor, TV and AV at TechRadar (Tom's Guide's sister site) and has previously written for GamesRadar, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade. Not sure which TV you should buy? Drop him an email or tweet him on Twitter and he can help you out.