Everyone needs one dedicated sound system to go with their TV – seriously, most built-in TV speakers are evil. But in a sea of look-alike black boxes, deciding which is right for you may require learning some terminology. That’s why I love Polk’s new Signa S4: it’s Volvo’s station wagon of soundbars, plain and boring, and it does exactly what you need it to.
It might not be a great option at first, and it’s a bit expensive at $399, but after a few weeks of listening to this soundbar and subwoofer combo, it’s now the system I recommend to anyone looking for an easy audio upgrade. You don’t want to bother with satellite speakers, complicated menus or, quite frankly, any implement? The Signa S4 may be for you.
out of the box
The new Polk soundbar is a black, fabric-wrapped stick about 3 inches high, 4 inches deep, and 41 inches long, thin enough to fit under the frame of every TV I’ve tested it with. It comes with a wireless subwoofer (wireless in the sense that it only needs to be connected to a wall outlet), a small black box that’s easy to hide where the power source is most convenient.
Once you’ve placed the soundbar under your TV, the subwoofer near an outlet, and you’ve plugged them both into a power source, all you need to do is plug in the HDMI cable included in the HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) port on your TV. ; most modern televisions have an HDMI port labeled “ARC”. The soundbar should connect automatically and be ready to play, at least that’s how it worked on the various Vizio and LG TVs I tested it with.
If it doesn’t work instantly, you may need to configure it in your TV’s audio settings menu under “ARC Settings”, especially if your device is older. If you don’t have an HDMI ARC port, don’t worry! You can also use the Signa S4’s optical input for high quality digital sound. (It comes with optical and HDMI cables.) Universal mounting holes on the back make it easy to place it under a wall-mounted TV, but I tested the S4 on a wide TV stand.
This simplicity also extends to the remote control. You can choose between Music, Movie, and Night mode settings (indicated by clip art on the buttons). Otherwise, you have volume controls and a basic bass EQ setting. Night mode limits the bass so you don’t annoy your neighbors watching Keanu Reeves movies at 3 a.m. My only complaint? I wish the buttons had a backlight – it’s hard to tell what you’re pressing in a dark room.
It may look like a super basic 2.1 soundbar, but the Signa S4 packs a lot of punch under the hood. It can do digital surround sound by bouncing audio off the walls of your room, but it’s also capable of Dolby Atmos object-based surround sound, thanks to two speakers that bounce audio off the ceiling.
You won’t hear the same level of immersion you’d get from a system with dedicated surround speakers and more drivers in the bar, like the much more expensive Samsung HW-Q950A, but the Signa S4 delivers quality sound significantly better than its peers. without Atmos capability. You’ll hear some audio behind you and the sound will extend farther to the sides, which really helps you immerse yourself in the action when watching sports, gaming FIFA 22or watch the latest episode of Halo.