If you have recently purchased a large smart TV, chances are you’ll likely want to complete your plasma unit by adorning it with some sort of accompanying audio. For many, that will take the guise of a soundbar, and often one from the same brand as the TV if you’re particularly pedantic like we are.
That said, there are some great options out there if you’re willing to do a little searching. This brings us to a brand that we have very little experience in – Polk – so when the chance to review its Signa S3 Soundbar System, we snapped up the opportunity.
What follows is our experience with the Signa S3 over the course of two weeks, the pros, cons and whether it is a wise investment.
First a little primer about Polk, which is an American audio hardware brand well known for its home theatre and surround sound systems, especially those in the premium price bracket.
But what about the more affordable end of the scale and something the Signa S3, which retails for R6 199 depending on where you look locally?
That’s what we aimed to find out.
A quality first impression
Being relatively inexperienced when it came to reviewing this brand, we weren’t quite sure what to expect when it comes to the Signa S3. As it turns out, our anxiousness was completely unfounded as the Soundbar System (which includes a subwoofer) really impressed us upon an initial unboxing.
The materials employed by Polk are lightweight yet premium. While the plastic and metal portions of the soundbar have a pleasing matte finish, the front of the soundbar is covered in a brindle-esque charcoal fabric. It had an almost alcantara-like feel to it that fits in nicely for anyone wanting a subtle piece of audio hardware a top their plasma unit. It also made for a nice change of pace from the RGB-laiden peripherals and accessories we’ve been seeing of late.
The subwoofer is also relatively lightweight given its dimensions, and the wooden frame has been pained Black throughout. That might not seem like a big thing, but given how the rear of a subwoofer is often neglected compared to the rest of a surround sound system, it is a nice to see. The front of the subwoofer also features that aforementioned charcoal fabric, keeping a uniform look between the pair, as is expected.
The last piece of kit, of the parts you see at least, is the remote. Polk have added a few smart features to it that we’ll touch on shortly, but in general it is light, fairly compact and takes a single AAA battery (included in the box).
As little fuss as possible
All in all then, the Polk Signa S3 Soundbar System has made a solid first impression, which made us eager to set up.
On this front, things are similarly straightforward.
As seen in the image below there are a bevvy of connections included in the box, particularly when it comes to power with both three and two and three pin plugs. There are a pair of each to power the soundbar and subwoofer respectively, but the three pin option is design with American power points in mid, so they are out of the question. Luckily the two pin options get the job done.
There is also an HDMI-to-HDMI cable in the box to serve as a single connection for audio between the soundbar and smart TV, with the subwoofer connecting wirelessly. The latter is very handy should you wish to place the subwoofer somewhere else in the room as there are no long wires to fret over.
Lastly Polk has included a TOSLINK optical cable should HDMI not be your thing, but seeing as how more smart TVs will naturally have multiple HDMI ports, we went with that connection instead.
As smart as your TV
We’ll get to the sound quality shortly, but the smart features on this soundbar system need to be unpacked first.
Here, Polk has added quite a bit, with a Google Chromecast built into the unit, as well as support for Google Assistant and the company making its own proprietary voice adjust technology available to pick between levels of audio for when you’re listening to spoken word heavy content – podcasts and audiobooks immediately spring to mind here.
As for Chromecast it is a solid addition, especially if your smart TV does not feature support for enough streaming platforms, but seeing as we were using this on an LG unit, that was not a concern. That said, it may come in handy for those who may have an older TV that does not feature an OS at all.
Shifting to Google Assistant, basic controls and commands for music are found natively, which is always helpful should the remote not be immediately at hand. Should you wish to ask for more complex tasks to be performed, you’re going to have to download the Google Home app and pair the Signa S3. It is only handful of steps if you’re wanting to turn the Signa S3 into a smart speaker akin to that of some of Google’s own offering.
In terms of smart features then, Polk has ensured that this system comes well appointed.
Touching on the remote control, it can be setup to be your primary device, controlling both the soundbar system and your TV. While there is merit in having a single remote to control everything, the fact that we use our current smart TV remote to type and do a few other things beside switch from one output to the other, the one that Polk has provided does not quite do the trick.
Well balanced audio
Now for the most important element – the sound. Here, the Signa S3 performed solidly. It is only once you compare the movie watching experience between the built-in speakers of your TV to that of a dedicated soundbar, that you realise what you’ve been missing. Where the built-in speakers are designed for volume primarily, the soundbar adds depth and nuance to any listening experience.
We particularly enjoyed playing games, such as Resident Evil Village pictured in the header image, with the Signa S3. The heavy breathing of the protagonist, building of tension and chaos of boss fights all felt that much more impressive thanks to having the Signa S3 paired up.
While headphones are often the go-to audio accessory for most gamers, having a soundbar system capable of working on the 45Hz to 20 000Hz range is always appreciated.
The same went for the audio experience while we watched football and enjoyed series on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Here the subwoofer shined quite a bit, adding the depth of bass while we watched Blade Runner 2049 for the umpteenth time.
This system simply showcased that your entertainment experience is all the better with an additional piece of audio kit in the mix.
At R6 199 the Polk Signa S3 is in the same ball park as similarly specced soundbar and subwoofer combos. What sets it apart for us, however, is the clean design, simple setup and smart features that the American manufacturer has thrown into the mix. If you are wanting something seamless that delivers great sound too, the Signa S3 is certainly worth looking at.
While Polk is a brand we weren’t too familiar with before, it is one we definitely want to explore moving forward.
As sich, the Signa S3 comes highly recommended as an entry into soundbar systems.
FULL DISCLOSURE: THE POLK SIGNA S3 WAS PROVIDED TO HYPERTEXT FOR REVIEW BY LOCAL RETAILER HOMEMATION. THE SYSTEM HAS SINCE BEEN SANITISED AND RETURNED.
Polk Signa S3
A soundbar and subwoofer combo, the Polk Signa S3 was a joy to setup and use. It also does not hurt that it looks sleek and stylish too. In terms of sound quality it delivers the goods, enriching entertainment experiences in a way that built-in smart TV speakers cannot. It also has a few smart features of its own.