Roku, the company best known for its cheap-but-good video streaming products, that it's adding audio to its product mix. And even though it may be late to the multiroom audio party, the first Roku Connect product certainly feels as if it could eventually rival Sonos and Apple's AirPlay.
The $200 Roku TV Wireless Speakers will begin shipping on Friday, Nov. 16. In addition, the speakers will be available for $150 from Sunday Nov. 18 through Cyber Monday, Nov. 26, at Roku.com.
Where the Roku TV Wireless Speakers differ from other multiroom speakers is that they're TV-based, and use the streaming apps on a Roku TV rather than on your phone. These $200 stereo speakers are also voice operated, and come with a tabletop remote with an integrated microphone.
The speakers come as a stereo pair, with each unit roughly the size of a Sonos One ($179 at Amazon) -- about 6 inches tall -- and the only wires you need to worry about are the power cord for each one. On the back is a pairing button and a threaded hole for a wall mount, that's it. The speakers are designed to pair with your Roku TV over Wi-Fi and offer AV lip-sync as well. The company says that the speakers will play anything that's playing on your Roku TV -- whether its audio from one of the streaming channels, or coming in via HDMI.
The speakers do offer the ability to pair via Bluetooth to your phone, but don't think you can buy them as a simple Bluetooth speaker. Roku representatives said that the system only works if you have Roku TV, and they wouldn't elaborate on whether they would pair with Roku streamers sometime in the future. The company did say that this is the start of a new ecosystem with rears and other add-ons planned.
Samsung offers a system called TV Sound Connect, which is supposed to do a similar thing, but it gets lost among the billions of other things a Samsung speaker tries to do. What Roku's solution looks to have going for it is simplicity. If you have a Roku TV, such as the TCL 55R615, the speakers offer the promise of plug-and-play operation: Plug them into a power socket, press the pair button on the back and just follow your TV's onscreen prompts. If this speaker indeed negates the need to trawl online forums, dig through obscure TV menus or find the proprietary app it's a big win for Roku TV owners.
We listened to the speakers and they did seem to generate a decent amount of bass for such a small enclosure, and sounded so much better than the integrated speakers on the TCL Roku TV they compared it to. Dialogue seemed to be both crisp and understandable, but as the speakers were preproduction models it's impossible to draw any conclusions yet.
Meanwhile, TCL and Roku announced a Smart Soundbar based on Roku's multiroom system at CES 2018, but it doesn't appear that product will come to fruition. Though the representatives said that they're "incredibly proud of [their] collaboration with TCL" it's now unclear if we'll see the product this year, if at all.
If the Roku TV Wireless Speakers are as easy to set up as they appear, and sound in any way decent they could be the new go-to for all Roku TV owners. We're excited to look at these when they arrive.
Originally published on July 16.
Update, Nov. 15: Added release details.