The MagniFi MAX SR--Polk Audio's first soundbar to be bundled with surround speakers--was a key highlight of the several new products introduced by parent company Sound United at a sneak peak event for reporters in New York on May 11. It was the first media event for the company since Sound United, also the parent of Definitive Technology and Polk BOOM, announced in March the acquisition of the D+M Group, owner of the Denon, HEOS by Denon, Marantz, and Boston Acoustics brands.
The $599 MagniFi MAX SR, which will ship in August, will be bundled with wireless surround speakers that automatically connect with the soundbar to deliver 5.1 surround sound. The company will also ship a separate MagniFi MAX without the surround speakers for $499, as well as SR1 wireless speakers at $149. The three SKUs will be available at Best Buy, Amazon, and Crutchfield in the United States. Consumers can also buy the soundbar at PolkAudio.com.
The MagniFi MAX SR features Polk's patented Stereo Dimensional Array (SDA) digital surround technology that Michael Greco, Polk's global brand director (pictured below), told us creates a "really big soundstage without compromising imaging"--something that was noticeable while listening to demos of the songs "In My Room" by The Beach Boys and "Time" by Pink Floyd and watching a scene from the movie Deadpool in surround. The psychoacoustic technology being used in SDA was developed by Matthew Polk in the early 1980s, and company engineers have "continued to evolve it," Greco said.
Via its integrated Google Home technology, the MagniFi MAX SR easily connects with any Chromecast audio-enabled device as part of a multi-room audio solution, enabling users to control the soundbar with their voice and stream music from their favorite apps. As is typical with soundbars, the MagniFi MAX SR is equipped with Bluetooth for connection to almost any other mobile streaming device.
The soundbar also features preset EQ settings for Movies, Music, and Sports that the company said in a news release will "optimize the soundbar and subwoofer levels to ensure users get the clearest dialogue, big surround sound, and deep bass for the best audio and home theater sound." With the Night Effect EQ mode, the mere touch of a button lowers the bass and increases dialogue without touching the master volume.
Via Polk's new Smart Remote technology, the MagniFi MAX SR is also instantly controllable via popular IR TV remotes from Samsung, LG, Sony, and VIZIO, so users can control the soundbar with the TV remote already sitting on their coffee tables, Greco said.
The MagniFi MAX SR is the second Polk soundbar to feature HDMI ports, after the MagniFi Mini (check out Adrienne Maxwell's review here). The MagniFi MAX is the Mini's "big brother," Greco explained, adding that the new soundbar includes a few more firsts for Polk soundbars: three 4K HDMI inputs (with HDCP 2.2) and one HDMI (ARC) output, with support for High Dynamic Range (HDR) pass-through.
Prior to the MagniFi MAX SR, consumers who bought a Polk soundbar from its higher-end (and considerably more expensive) Omni product line could create a surround system by buying separate Polk Play-Fi speakers for the rear channels, he pointed out. But it would have cost a consumer more than $1,000 to buy an Omni SB 1 Plus soundbar ($699) and a pair of even the lowest-priced Play-Fi speakers ($179 each) to serve as the rear channels. That makes the MagniFi MAX SR "a heck of a package for $599," although Greco conceded that "we're never going to be as inexpensive as the TV manufacturers' soundbars."
The new soundbar features one more patented Polk technology: Voice Adjust addresses the "number one complaint" of TV viewers, which is not being able to hear what people are saying. The technology "allows you to improve vocal intelligibility without just jacking up the volume," he said. Voice Adjust has been featured on Polk soundbars for about three years, but the company continues to "improve upon the performance" of the technology, based on the functionality of each product using it, said Brad Starobin, Polk director of research, who holds the patent for the technology.
New Marantz AV Receivers
At the press event, Sound United also spotlighted two new Marantz slimline network AV receivers: the 7.2-channel NR1608 at $749 and the 5.2-channel NR1508 at $549. Both 50-watts-per-channel receivers are available this month. The NR1608 is fully compatible with 4K/60p video and HDR, with support for Dolby Vision and Hybrid Log Gamma (via a firmware update due before year's end) pass-through. It also features eight HDMI inputs and decoders for both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X 3D surround sound, and it also allows users to upscale legacy video sources to 4K. The receiver will stream music from local network storage or the Internet, and includes services like TuneIn, Pandora, Spotify, Amazon Prime Music, iHeart Radio, Sirius XM, TIDAL, and Napster. The NR1508, meanwhile, is also compatible with 4K video through its six HDMI inputs. Each new receiver can also become part of a complete wireless multi-room music system via HEOS integration.
For now, Sound United is continuing the process of merging the two organizations, "making sure that we can leverage the best possible" elements of the various brands, said Aaron Levine, director of global marketing. "At this point nothing's been identified" in terms of possible closures of any D&M or Sound United offices, he said--noting that D&M's headquarters are in Mahwah, New Jersey, while Sound United's headquarters are in Vista, California. One goal is to gain new retail accounts for each of the brands as a result of the merger, he explained, adding that the company has no plans to phase out any of the brands.