Powerful, expansive sound
Multiple HDMI inputs
Stereo channels can get overwhelmed
Poor surround sound support
You could say that the Magnifi 2 is the soundbar-iest soundbar. The 2.1-channel system pulls out all the stops to pull off a multi-speaker experience from its compact design, fully embodying the soundbar creed. To that end, it does as well as could be expected with the tools Polk has provided, and the combination of sheer brute force and clear detail the system musters from its limited armory is impressive.
But it's still a stereo soundbar at its core, and at $500, it's among the most expensive on the market. Nearly every modern rival at this price adds at least a center channel for dialogue. What’s more, the Magnifi 2 can’t decode high-end audio formats like Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio (let alone popular 3D formats like Dolby Atmos), leaving it to dwell somewhere in limbo between entry-level bars like Vizio’s V21 and multi-channel Atmos powerhouses like the Sonos Arc.
About the Polk Magnifi 2
Here’s a quick look at the Magnifi 2’s basic specs:
- Height x Width x Depth: 2.1 x 43 x 3.77 inches (bar), 14.5 x 12 x 14.6 inches (sub)
- Weight: 5.5 pounds (bar), 14.1 pounds (sub)
- Speakers/drivers: four 1x3-inch midrange drivers, two .75 tweeters (bar), 8-inch down-firing driver (subwoofer)
- Amplification: 200 watts of claimed power
- Wireless Connection: WiFi (Chromecast streaming), Bluetooth
- Wired connection: HDMI ARC input/output, three HDMI inputs, optical input
- Smart features: Google Assistant (separate smart speaker required)
- Sound formats: Dolby Digital, DTS
- Video support: 4K/HDR passthrough, including Dolby Vision
The Magnifi 2 arrives in the usual L-shaped box with all the accessories you’ll need, including optical and HDMI connecting cables; a stout, rubberized remote; power cables, and a setup guide. At 43 inches across the bar itself is relatively long, but impressively slim at just over two inches tall. It's sheathed in an increasingly familiar fabric-wrap exterior with flanged plastic horns at the sides that give it some flare.
The tubby wireless subwoofer is bigger than you’ll see with most soundbars of this size, with a down-firing 8-inch driver that rumbles dutifully from its pyramid-shaped cabinet. Both the bar and subwoofer are lighter than you’d expect for their size, but their 200 watts of amplification equates to plenty of velocity when called upon.
What we like
Sleek and simple design
As mentioned above, the Magnifi 2 does a good job of embodying all things soundbar (for good and for bad) and its light and nimble design is a prime example. The bar looks good on the mantle, its digital display of simple LEDs is basic, but relatively easy to follow, and its remote makes it easy to slip between modes like Music and Movie, the two you’ll likely use most for streaming music and watching TV respectively.
Also handy is the remote's layout of Bass and Voice Adjust toggles alongside the center volume, making it easy to add more thunder down low or clarity to dialogue with a flick of your thumb (though I did mistake the Voice key for volume a fair few times as I got acquainted). That’s important because you’ll likely need your levels on standby as you balance the bar’s powerful low-end and squeaky clean upper register across content. The remote even has built-in volume and level keys for Polk surround speakers (sold separately), though they do chunk up the size a bit.
The Magnifi 2 is also easy to connect to your TV via HDMI ARC thanks to a wide-open input cubby at the back, allowing you to use your TV remote for volume and power control. (If your TV doesn't have HDMI ARC, there's the usual optical digital input as well.) Even connecting to WiFi for streaming via the Google Home app is a relative snap.
Plenty of ports and some handy new features
The latest Magnifi 2 does a pretty good impression of an A/V receiver—or at least an HDMI switcher—thanks to its three HDMI inputs, two more than you'll usually get at this price. That lets you connect multiple components like a gaming console, Blu-ray player, and streaming device without stealing your TV inputs. All of the HDMI ports are 4K/HDR-ready so you’ll have no issues with high-end gear (on the video side, anyway).
WiFi streaming thanks to Chromecast via Google’s Home app is also new, and supports Spotify Connect and plenty of other high-profile streaming services—though without AirPlay 2 Apple Music fans will be confined to Bluetooth. You can also use a Google speaker for some basic smart assistant commands; it would have been nice if Polk included a built-in microphone for direct smart assistant control, but then again I rarely use that function anyway.
One missing feature that seems destined to become increasingly rare from here out is any form of analog input for connecting a turntable, but I suppose the multiple HDMI ports make up for it.
Thunderous, cinematic sound
There’s no doubt that the Magnifi 2 can impress on the performance front thanks to a powerful soundstage that starts with its deep-dive subwoofer. Reaching far into the sub-bass, the Magnifi 2’s cinematic punch is a church built on the foundations of its tubby sub. The subwoofer can sometimes be a bit boomy, but because its crossover is relatively low, it does a solid job covering the lowest frequencies without mingling into the bar’s upper bass register uninvited.
Above the subwoofer, the bar itself does fine work in the details department thanks in large part to its clear-cut upper midrange and treble. While sound is a bit soft and spongy in the lower midrange, the combination of the bass and treble frequencies makes the Magnifi 2 a stalwart musical companion, doing a good job delivering clarity and power across rock, acoustic, and even jazz tracks.
Using the Voice Adjustment key, you can also fine-tune the upper midrange a fair bit, allowing you to pump up dialogue to your taste, and while the system often seems on the edge of getting too sharp in those frequencies, it mostly stays away from outright sibilance—though it can sound a little plastic-y for some effects and vocals. Thanks to the Magnifi 2's flanged side ports, part of Polk's Stereo Dimensional Array (SDA) system, music and other stereo audio is relatively expansive, even in the Music setting, popping up above and out to the sides of the bar’s 43-inch width.
What we don’t like
It’s easy to reach the limits of 2.1
I like the Magnifi 2 when it stays in its lane, but it can get into some trouble when it tries to stretch too far into surround sound with its mix of SDA and Voice Adjustment features. Likely due to the lack of a center channel, dialogue, especially lower voices like Gandalf’s comforting baritone from The Lord of the Rings, can be oddly subdued, forcing you to raise the Voice Adjust.
However, this can backfire when higher effects come into play, such as Boromir’s Horn of Gondor, which rang with so much high-frequency pressure my dog popped his head up from the couch like he was being called out by the cavalry. While you’ll still get powerful sound, this can lead to a balancing act raising and lowering the VA feature to keep things clear.
Part of the issue also seems to do with the bar’s limited surround sound support (which I’ll detail further below). LOTR, for example, is coded using DTS-HD Master Audio, which the bar can’t decode, leaving you with a much more basic sound source. The telltale LED on the bar’s front display lets you know when you’re getting a true DTS or Dolby signal, turning yellow and green respectively, or staying orange when the formats aren't registered.
Poor surround sound decoding
While Sony’s 3.1-channel HT-G700 costs $100 more, boy do you hear it when it comes to surround sound content. Not only can the bar decode all the major hi-fi signals (including both Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio), but it also decodes Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. Combining this with Sony’s impressive virtual surround tech allows that bar to leave the Magnifi 2 in the dust when it comes to expanding beyond its size, both for height effects and traditional surround.
You definitely will get some soundstage expansion in the Magnifi 2’s Movie mode, and perhaps a bit more still with the “3D” mode, but the difference between the two wasn’t much to speak of on any of the content I auditioned, and again you tend to lose presence in the middle of the sound when things get chaotic in action scenes. Even when you don’t have real surround, it can pay to get a real surround signal, which is why it’s unfortunate that Polk didn’t opt for better support for all those HDMI inputs the bar sports.
As referenced above, the spare HDMI inputs make the bar a great HDMI switcher, but you essentially receive no benefit from connecting high-end components directly rather than sending them through your TV's (likely) rudimentary decoding system. In other words, the good stuff isn't pulled from your devices when it comes to audio.
Skips out on modern extras
Speaking of connecting the bar to your TV, it’s somewhat surprising that a $500 soundbar doesn’t include HDMI eARC in 2020. Along with adjusting for sync issues, eARC lets you send full-resolution audio directly to an audio device from a TV with eARC support. If you don't have a fairly new TV it probably doesn't include eARC support, but it’s a nice inclusion if you’re hoping to future-proof your setup. Then again, the Magnifi 2’s limited surround sound format support makes the omission much less important.
Again, we’d also expect a bar at this price to include Google Assistant built-in, although Sony’s aforementioned HT-G700 doesn’t even include WiFi so some of this just depends upon where manufacturers want to put their marbles.
A pop when you get going
This is a small thing, but the Magnifi 2 makes a slight popping sound whenever it comes online. It’s possible this is just a fluke and it's not a huge problem, but it’s also probably not the best thing for those little drivers (audiophiles are cringing). I reached out to Polk for clarity there and their PR reps claimed it's not something they're familiar with so it could be just a fluke. I'll update this review when I hear more.
Should you buy it
At its retail price, probably not
The Magnifi 2 has some very cool features, including a whopping three HDMI inputs, along with WiFi streaming and relatively impressive audio performance, all in an attractive and thin package.
Unfortunately, its performance simply isn’t on par with rival mid-level soundbars on the market, such as the oft-referenced Sony HT-G700 (which has been on sale for some time now at $500). Heck, for under $500 you can get Vizio's immersive 5.1.2-channel Dolby Atmos soundbar with upfiring drivers and separate surround speakers.
And though the Magnifi 2 is more powerful and offers a more expansive soundstage than cheaper bars like Yamaha’s YAS-209, it's still tough to justify its $150 cost increase when comparing features side-by-side. It’s a shame because either a center channel or simply better surround decoding could have brought the system more value.
That said, if its $500 price point is a window-sticker place holder and Polk is willing to wheel and deal the system more in line with the $350 YAS-209, suddenly the Magnifi 2 becomes a lot more compelling. For now, going up or down in price will get you a fair bit more value for your money.
Meet the tester
Managing Editor - Electronics@ryanwaniata
Hailing originally from Montana, Ryan parlayed his time working as a musician and audio engineer into a career in digital media in 2013. Since then he's had extensive experience as a writer and editor, including everything from op-eds and features to reviews on TVs, audio gear, smart home devices, and more.
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