Polk MagniFi Mini 2.1 Soundbar with Chromecast Review

Soundbars are a popular way to add better sound to a TV. They generally don’t achieve the fidelity of AVR-based systems with standalone speakers, but soundbars typically offer “good enough” sound quality and easy installation, and they take up little space. Polk’s MagniFi Mini ($269 on Amazon) is an affordable 2.1 soundbar system that exceeds that expectation by packing surprising audio fidelity into a small footprint.

I heard a demo of the MagniFi Mini at CES 2017 and found it to be bafflingly capable considering its size. When I learned the price, I realized it’s not “just another soundbar” and asked for one to review. Between its many features, compact size, and high-fidelity sound, Polk’s MagniFi Mini offers a lot of performance for your money.

Features and Specifications

The MagniFi Mini is a 2.1 soundbar that processes 2-channel PCM surround signals as well as Dolby Digital bitstream. Notably, it has an HDMI input with ARC (Audio Return Channel).

Other wired audio inputs include TosLink optical-digital and an analog 2-channel 3.5mm aux. connection. Polk includes cables for all three in the package.

This soundbar has an Ethernet port as well as Wi-Fi connectivity (802.11a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4GHz & 5GHz). It features Chromecast built-in, making it easy to stream sound directly from thousands of apps. And it offers Bluetooth wireless-audio capabilities as well.

The Mini comes with a dedicated IR remote. You can use it to change sources, select EQ presets, adjust the volume, engage night mode, tweak the bass level, and activate the Voice Adjust feature that enhances the clarity of dialog. Plus, universal support for IR remotes means you can use any TV, cable box, or satellite remote to control the volume.

Polk’s smallest soundbar lives up to the Mini designation. It’s only 13.4″ wide, 3.2″ high, and 4.3″ deep. It includes two 0.5″ tweeters and four 2.25″ midrange drivers. A compact 6.5″ wireless sub handles bass and pairs with the soundbar automatically. Total system power is rated at 150 watts.


MagniFi Mini exploded view. Photo courtesy of Polk Audio.

Polk thoughtfully included controls for power, volume adjustment, source selection, Bluetooth, and night mode on top of the soundbar. And these are not fidgety touch-sensitive controls, they are rubberized buttons that click.

Setup and Performance

I chose TosLink for the TV-to-soundbar connection; it’s easy and reliable. I used the HDMI input to receive uncompressed audio from a Samsung UBD-M9500 UHD Blu-ray player that features dual HDMI outputs (one for audio).

The Bluetooth connection proved ideal for use with an Amazon Echo Dot and a subscription to Amazon Music Unlimited. Finally, I connected the Mini to my home Wi-Fi network and added it as a Chromecast-enabled device using the Google Home app. That’s a lot of connectivity for a sub-$300 device!

I measured the response of the sub and soundbar combo outdoors; from 1 meter away, the result indicated a flat response (+/-3 dB) from 40 Hz to 16 kHz with -10 dB points at 35 Hz and 17 kHz. Peak output was approximately 95 dB, which is quite loud for a budget soundbar.


The MagniFi Mini, measured outdoors from 1  meter away.

The MagniFi Mini comes with three preset EQ modes: Music, Movie, and Sports. Measurements indicated that Music offers the flattest response, while Movie adds just a touch more bass to the mix. Sports EQ reduces the bass ever so slightly and boosts higher frequencies.

As impressive as it sounds, the Mini has to compromise somewhere—specifically, a high crossover point to the subwoofer. Consequently, if you place the sub far away from the soundbar, it becomes localizable. But if you find a spot for it near the soundbar, it blends perfectly.

Playing Grand Theft Auto 5 offered a good look at what the MagniFi Mini can do. It accurately rendered the 5.1 Dolby Digital surround audio coming from a PS4 Pro via TosLink. It may be virtual surround, but it put me in the action.

During game play, the front soundstage extended out to where I typically place standalone speakers—seven feet apart. And the surround effect was immersive, wrapping around my head. Plus, whenever I changed my character’s perspective, the soundfield shifted accordingly.

The Music EQ setting best suited my taste, so I used it for all my listening. It provided neutral yet engaging sound with games, movies, TV, and music. And, the sub is no joke—it sounded deep, crisp, and dynamic when reproducing the gunshots and explosions of John Wick 2 or the bass tones of a Meat Beat Manifesto track like “Zenta” from Answers Come in Dreams.

When it came to audio fidelity, music sounded crisp and clear, even at fairly high volume levels—for a soundbar. Streaming with Chromecast worked great; I added it the same way I’ve added Chromecast devices in the past.

The Mini fit right in with my existing collection of Chromecast-enabled devices; I added it to my home group as a fourth system, and it immediately worked. From Bassnectar to Pink Floyd to Massive Attack to The Beatles, with a dash of Skinny Puppy and Mobb Deep (rest in peace, Prodigy) in between, the Mini served up tunes with verve.

Polk’s MagniFi Mini handled stereo music playback better than I imagined was possible from such a diminutive box. The soundstage and imaging created a holographic illusion evoking a pair of standalone speakers spaced six or seven feet apart. The effect was at least as good as what I’ve heard from larger soundbars costing twice as much.

Conclusion

The Polk MagniFi Mini is among the most versatile budget-friendly soundbars you can buy. Thanks to its compact size, it fits almost anywhere. Crucially, the sound quality is extremely good considering the price; in my view, it can serve as an entry-level hi-fi stereo system. After all, who said a soundbar must always be paired with a TV? With Chromecast, a few Minis are all you need to assemble a great multi-room audio system.

Of course, the primary purpose of the MagniFi Mini is to complement a TV. It takes this task seriously, providing crisp and clear dialog and a surprisingly wide soundstage (considering its diminutive size). Importantly, the virtual 5.1 surround effect is legit, putting you in the middle of the action.

Ultimately, I found the MagniFi Mini to be engaging, even fun to listen to. It’s a soundbar I’d recommend to friends, family, and just about anyone looking for an economical way to get great sound in their lives. To my ears, when it comes to delivering an affordable, compact, and connected all-in-one AV sound system, Polk hit a homerun with the MagniFi Mini.