They usually take the form of an all-in-one bar like the Yamaha YAS-306 and Bose SoundTouch 300, or a more fancy arrangement of soundbar and subwoofer.
Occasionally you also get models that come with rear speakers for the full-on surround-sound effect, but these tend to sit at the more expensive end of the price spectrum. For the most part it's the former two types that predominate.
Polk Magnifi Mini review
I’ve never seen a soundbar quite like the Polk Audio Magnifi Mini, though. It’s absolutely tiny in soundbar terms – no bigger than a large loaf of rustic bread – and it comes with a subwoofer shaped like an oversized air-freshener.
Despite its size, it packs in plenty of features, though, and these including Google Cast and Bluetooth support. If you’d prefer your TV speaker to be small and discreet, and don’t want to sacrifice sound quality, this is the product for you
Features and design
The big advantage the Polk Magnifi Mini brings to the table over most of its rivals (aside from the Creative), is that it comes with a subwoofer. The unit supplied here wireless – another big plus – and it comes pre-paired with the soundbar unit for ease of setup.
The Mini is also an extremely well-connected soundbar. Physical ports amount to a single HDMI ARC-enabled input, one optical S/PDIF and a 3.5mm stereo input. Wireless connectivity is covered by both Bluetooth and 802.11ac Wi-Fi with Google Cast compatibility.
That means you’ll be able to stream Spotify, Tidal or music from any other Google Cast-enabled audio app directly to the speaker but not from Apple Music – for that you’ll have to stick to lower quality Bluetooth streaming if you want to do that. It's still more flexible than most soundbars in this price bracket, though.
The speaker itself is supremely well-built. It has that solid heft you expect from a piece of top-quality audio equipment and with a thick rubber footplate on the bottom, it’s not going to rattle around on top your media cabinet when you crank up the volume.
It's magnificently simple, too. There’s no accompanying app; everything is controlled via either Cast-enabled apps, the rubber buttons set into the top of the soundbar or the simple infrared remote control. The latter gives you access to volume, bass and “voice” adjustments, has source buttons for the various physical inputs and allows you to switch between the soundbar’s various sound profiles.
Those profiles include settings for movies, music and sport, plus there's a night mode that reduces both the master volume, bass and speaker’s dynamic range, while at the same time boosting the frequencies where voices generally reside, so you don’t disturb the neighbours late when you’re watching TV late in the evening.
The Magnifi Mini packs quite a punch for a speaker so small. The soundbar itself hosts a pair of 0.5in tweeters and four 2.25in drivers, all driven by 150W-worth of DSP-controlled amplification. And the wireless subwoofer – the killer feature of this system – uses a downwards-firing 6.5in driver in a bass reflex enclosure with a frequency response of 40W to 110Hz.
This sub is what gives the Magnifi Mini the edge over the products mentioned above and it goes surprisingly deep for such a small unit. Whether it’s Explosions in movies, the kick of bass drums or the low pulse of electronic bass in tracks such as Trentemoeller’s Moan, the Polk kicks out the sound with a good solid, juicy, thump. So much so that I had to tone it down a little in my living room using the bass control on the remote.
It’s a good fun listen and the soundbar itself delivers the mids, highs and voices with good clarity as well. What’s most impressive about it, though, is the width this compact box is able to impart to the soundstage. I’ve currently got a couple of stereo speaker pairs set up in the same space as the Magnifi Mini and when I have the Polk playing music it sounds as if the audio is coming roughly from the locations of those speakers, even when I close my eyes.
Despite this, though, voices on movie soundtracks and TV shows are projected with superb focus and intelligibility, and where vocals are a little on the quiet side it’s possible to boost them using the Voice adjustment rocker on the remote. Indeed, the “Voice Adjust” tech behind this is clearly something Polk prides itself on. According to Polk it’s not just a level adjust; it’s based on “psycho-acoustically derived magnitude shaping for clear voice reproduction”. While this sounds like technobabble, it does appear to work more effectively than most “voice” modes on other soundbars I’ve tested.
Generally, I found audio quality to be excellent, but the Mini isn’t completely flawless. Whatever mode I used there was always a lightness and thinness to the mids and highs that robbed the sound of body. This is odd when voices come through so clearly, but the rest of the mid/high spectrum simply sounds slightly weak in comparison The plucked middle strings of Pat Metheney’s jazz guitar don’t ring out with the force and presence that I’d like and there’s a lack of richness to System of a Down’s heavy riffs on Hypnotize.
Price and competition
What isn't small, however, is the price. The Polk Magnifi Mini costs £299, which brings it into competition with the Orbitsound One P70 (£299) I reviewed recently, the Q Acoustics M3 (£299) and the Yamaha MusicCast YAS-306 (£239), which packs in a huge number of features for only £289. It’s also in competition with the superb Cambridge Audio TV2 (£212).
Polk Magnifi Mini review: Verdict
Still, if you absolutely must have a soundbar with a subwoofer, the Polk Magnifi Mini offers a good alternative to all-in-one units such as the Q Acoustics M3 and it offers more flexibility and features and better-sounding bass than the Creative Katana soundbar.
My favourite low-cost TV speaker remains the Cambridge Audio TV2 but if you prefer your speakers small, compact and your bass punchy, you won’t go far wrong with the Magnifi Mini.