Polk Signa S4 soundbar review: more Dolby Atmos for less

Immersive sound standard Dolby Atmos it had a rather unsuccessful start as far as soundbarswith speakers such as Yamaha YSP-5600 being both insanely expensive ($ 1,500 or more) and “tremendously huge.” But in the following years, with the help of companies such as Vizio, the size of the products and the portfolios needed to finance them became more manageable. Now with Polk Signa S4 you can buy a real Atmos-enabled system for half the price of one compatible AV receiver. And it’s also quite compact.

Dolby Atmos soundbars are designed to add a dimension in height, making them great for action movies and video games. What sets the Atmos-toting Polk Signa S4 apart from other $ 400 soundbars are the physical up-firing speakers (competitors such as Sonos Beam Gen 2 use psychoacoustics to mimic the effects of growth). The Polk also sounds good with music, and Atmos films really have a chance to shine.

However, the Polk Signa S4 has some shortcomings. There is no way to adjust the channel levels or the speaker height, and it’s cheaper S3 mark offers Wi-Fi connectivity, making it better suited for music lovers. If you can stretch your budget even further, Vizio M512a offers even better sound as well as dedicated surround channels for true immersion.

But if you want the best possible Dolby Atmos performance for the least amount of money possible, the Polk Audio Signa S4 is a soundbar to get.

Design and features

The Polk Signa S4 is a Dolby Atmos soundbar with 3.1.2-channels of playback (left, right, center, front and wireless subwoofer). Offers a range of connectivity options and a range of useful sound modes.

Polk Signa S4 soundbar

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When it comes to competition, there are a few comparable soundbars with simulated or physical Dolby Atmos – Sonos bundle and LG Ekler, respectively. While the Eclair was briefly on sale for $ 400 at the time of writing this review, it has since reverted to the more prohibitive $ 600. For $ 100 more than the Polk, you can get the Vizio M512a, which comes with surround speakers.

Connections in Polk run to one HDMI eARC, digital optical and analog 3.5mm input. While the Signa S3 comes with Wi-Fi and Google Chromecast built-inthe newer Signa S4 is Bluetooth just. If you want a question option Google play a song on a compatible audio device, Signa S3 (or even MagniFi Mini) is a better way. Finally, in the absence of a network, there is a USB-A port for future firmware updates.

Polk Signa S4 soundbar

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One of the distinguishing features of previous Polk soundbars are the sound modes: movie, music, night, and especially voice control. The latter mode allows three separate levels of regulation, which oppose this Zvox – a company that also offers many customizable modes to improve your hearing. The main disadvantage of this soundbar is that you cannot adjust the levels of any of the channels except the subwoofer. For example, if you have high or vaulted ceilings, you may not be able to hear overhead at all, allowing you to repair other soundbars such as the Vizio M512a.

While some models on the market allow you to add rear ends later, the Signa S4 does not. If the rear channels are something you want, you should take a look at the Polk Respond or MagniFi soundbars.

Polk Signa S4 soundbar

Ty Pendlebury / topwatchbest

Polka Clicker is just as user-friendly as its predecessors, with large, easy-to-read buttons and the ability to adjust the level of sound enhancements without dealing with the menus.

How does it sound?

Polk soundbars are invariably great with music, and the Signa 4 certainly carries a torch for musical repetitions. And he is just as talented when it comes to movies. Whether you are watching action movies in Dolby Atmos or watching unobtrusive drama, Polk will deliver the goods.

I compared the Polka with three competitors: LG Eclair, Vizio M512a and Sonos Beam Gen 2. There was only one clear loser in this group – and it has as much to do with price as with performance.

I started my tests with Mad Max: Fury Road, one of the best films presenting the capabilities of any Dolby Atmos system. Despite the lack of surround channels, the Polk was able to fill the topwatchbest listening room with the right amount of post-apocalyptic atmosphere. The opening scene begins with disembodied voices being thrown into the corners of the room in a good system. Polk was definitely able to keep up with the competing LG Eclair (another soundbar that lacks rear speakers).

While the Sonos Beam may not have physical pitch controls, you won’t know it when you watch this scene. The sense of width and height with Sonos was able to match LG and Polek.

Polk Signa S4 soundbar

Ty Pendlebury / topwatchbest

It wasn’t until the switch to the Vizio M512a that the benefits of surround sound were immediately recognizable. Instead of a wall of sound, Vizio created a real bubble around my listening position. For example, next to one of the keys, the girl’s voice asks: “Where are you, Max?” In most soundbars, dialogues come from the speakers at screen height. But in any decent surround system, the voice appears directly above the viewer’s head, similar to the Vizio’s.

Then I tried the movie The Matrix (Chapter 9). There, LG Eclair did a better job integrating the pulsating bass soundtrack. Sometimes the bass was a bit lost in the Polek, but the trade-off was that it offered more midrange, more bullet buzzing effects and more “air” with the shouted “Stop” command at the start of the scene.

Although LG Eclair was tuned to music by people from the high-class Meridian company, it was overshadowed by a Pole in most of the songs I listened to. Both devices have dedicated music modes, but Polk was able to convey even the softest of music while LG gave the tracks a bright, almost hard shine.

For example, in the acoustic ballad Naked As We Came by Iron and Wine, LG mixed up the basics. While it’s a simple song with only a finger-picked guitar and Sam Beam’s raspy voice, LG made the guitar distant and Beam’s vocals sounded overbearing. I had to turn it down. For comparison, the Polk had the right balance, with a well-formed central vocal and a slightly ambient, but present guitar backing. Here, too, Polk fared better than Vizio, as Sam Beam’s voice sounded smudged on a bar with surround sound support, even in music mode.

Moving on to something more tart, Polk was able to find a party in the song Sunnyboys Alone With You. This 1960s comeback features swirling guitars and central tenor vocals, but it’s a moving guitar solo that comes out after 1 minute and 16 seconds, which can mess up some systems. Vizio offered better vocal performance but was set back by solos, as did LG.

Soundbars that offer more detail are fine, but if you have a music collection that is a bit rough around the edges, some systems can make listening to these tracks difficult. Polk sees good in everything and comes out here.

Should you buy it?

If you want true Dolby Atmos that is also affordable then the Polk Signa S4 is the cheapest I’ve seen so far. The low price doesn’t mean a lack of performance, though, as the Polk is just as solid as the rest of the line, for both music and movies.

The only “problems” with the Pole come down to how the soundbar copes with the competition. Soundbars with better specs can be purchased for a little more. For example, the Signa S4 doesn’t have the Sonos Arc’s Wi-Fi music capabilities (let alone the Signa S3), and you can’t adjust the levels of each channel as you did with the Vizio M512a.

What if you are trying to keep it in the family? For example, if you choose between Polk React and Signa S4, remember that they are completely different. React turns Atmos into Alexa while forgoing the subwoofer.

If you want a turnkey system that plugs into your TV and sounds great, the Signa S4 is definitely the one to go for. It doesn’t come with too many streaming or expandability options, but it does provide great performance right out of the box. And that’s all you really need.

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