Polk MagniFi: Slim Soundbar with Booming Bass

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At 38 x 3 x 2 inches, the MagniFi features one of the lowest profiles of any soundbar I've tested, which makes it easy to slip the speaker beneath your TV. It's also less likely to block remote signals to the TV — an annoyance you'll find with some taller units, like the Sony HT-CT370 (35.5 x 4.5 x 2 inches) and the Sonos Playbar (35.4 x 5.5 x 3.4 inches).

The case houses three 3-inch drivers: center, left and right. On top, the MagniFi includes the unit's controls: Power, Volume, Bass and "Voice," which controls the center channel volume. There's a Bluetooth button for enabling a wireless connection for music.

The unit comes with just one way to connect to your TV: a single optical digital port. Some other soundbars, like the Sony HT-CT370, come with HDMI, which can be more convenient — especially if your TV doesn't come with an optical digital connection. The MagniFi also includes a 3.5mm analog input.

The 13 x 12 x 9-inch wireless subwoofer is larger than many that come with soundbars, and includes a 7-inch woofer. But it's still small enough that you can tuck it in a corner, and the extra oomph really improves the sound.

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Setup and Use

I connected the MagniFi to my TV with the optical digital audio cable. The soundbar and wireless sub come paired — they synced as soon as I turned them on. If needed, you can manually sync the two by pushing the button on the back of the soundbar and back of the subwoofer.

To pair the soundbar with a Bluetooth device, you press the Bluetooth button on the unit and then find "Polk MagniFi" in the list of available devices on your phone, tablet or computer. If you have an Android device with NFC, you can pair it by touching the mobile device to the soundbar and confirming that you want to pair. 

You can adjust bass and voice to find the right mix for your room. In my setup, I raised the center channel to the max to help offset the deep bass. You can also select between two sound modes — movie or music — to modify the sound. Movie seemed to focus more on the center channel to make dialogue more pronounced.

Because it lacks HDMI, there's no on-screen display. Instead, LED indicators flash to show levels and modes. It worked well enough, mainly because the unit doesn't feature that many options. If you choose Movie, the lights flash in one pattern; if you choose Music, they flash in a different arrangement. Since you have only two choices, it's not hard to remember which is which. LED indicators on a soundbar with more features, like the Yamaha YAS-203, aren't as effective.

The MagniFi ships with a "credit-card-style remote" — meaning it's small and not very functional. It had limited range, and I found I needed to push buttons multiple times for the unit to react. Fortunately, you can teach your TV remote to control the main functions, like power and volume.

Audio Performance

The MagniFi boasts big, room-filling sound, especially when it comes to movies and television. 

The soundbar excelled at both dialogue and action scenes. Cate Blanchett's voiceover at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring resonated with gravitas, and Kevin Spacey's drawl as Frank Underwood in House of Cards was easy to distinguish during his frequent asides. When Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence) shot down the planes attacking District 8 in Mockingjay Part 1, the force of the explosions rumbled my floor, thanks to the big subwoofer.

The MagniFi's shortcomings only become apparent when playing music. The subwoofer helps songs sound rich, but a lack of treble keeps the system from besting the Sonos Playbar for music playback. On the MagniFi, the drum and bass line at the core of Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars' "Uptown Funk" thumped with plenty of drive, but the horns fell short. John Bonham's drums boomed and Robert Plant's vocals soared on "Trampled Under Foot," though the missing high end took some of the attack out of Jimmy Page's guitar. And while the acoustic bass on Cannonball Adderley's jazz classic "Autumn Leaves" sounded rich and detailed, the horns lacked crispness.

The system doesn't offer a two-channel mode, which is how most music sounds best. When I listened to songs, the music setting sounded better than the movie setting, but it still introduced unneeded processing to the mix.

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Bottom Line

At a glance, the Polk MagniFi doesn't seem big enough to fill a room with sound, but it does it with ease. With the wireless subwoofer, it shakes and rattles better than other soundbars in this price range, like the Sony HT-CT370. The more expensive Sonos Playbar sounds better for music, but the MagniFi produces much more bass — a key to making the movie- and TV-watching experience immersive. It offers few frills, but if you're only interested in adding great sound to your TV, the MagniFi is an excellent choice.

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Michael Gowan
Freelance tech writer

Michael Gowan is a freelance technology journalist covering soundbars, TVs, and wireless speakers of all kinds of shapes and sizes for Tom’s Guide. He has written hundreds of product reviews, focusing on sound quality and value to help shoppers make informed buying decisions. Micheal has written about music and consumer technology for more than 25 years. His work has appeared in publications including CNN, Wired, Men’s Journal, PC World and Macworld. When Michael’s not reviewing speakers, he’s probably listening to one anyway.