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Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR Soundbar Review

Tested using Methodology v1.0
Reviewed Aug 31, 2021 at 07:53 am
Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR Picture
7.7
Mixed Usage
8.6
Dialogue/TV Shows
7.7
Music
7.0
Movies
Channels
5.1

The Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR is a 5.1 setup with a sleek design. It comes with a discrete subwoofer and two satellites. It has a Stereo Dimensional Array surround sound feature advertised to help create a more immersive sound, though we don't test for this. Also, it has a Voice Adjust dialogue enhancement feature, and you can adjust its volume to customize the dialogue performance based on your preferences. This soundbar scored well on many of our sound tests, conducted using a sine wave tone to measure frequency response. However, we noticed several issues when listening to real-life content like music and movies. Audio seemed diffused and processed at times, and we noticed very audible port noises when listening to bass-heavy tracks. There was also a lot of compression and distortion present, especially in the bass range. We even had connectivity issues with the Google Home app. Though we retested the bar and updated the firmware, we experienced the same problems. It seems that many other users have reported similar issues with the bar, which you can read about herehere, and here.

Our Verdict

7.7 Mixed Usage

With its 'Music' preset, the Polk Audio MagniFi MAX has a somewhat U-shaped sound profile when listening to real-life content, making it suitable for listening to most types of audio content. Voices reproduce clearly and accurately, and you can enhance them using the unique Voice Adjust feature. However, audio can seem diffused and processed, and you may notice port noises and compression when listening to bass-heavy audio content. It doesn't support Dolby Atmos content, either.

Pros
  • Gets loud.
  • Adjustable dialogue enhancement feature.
Cons
  • Noticeable compression at max volume.
  • No Atmos support.
8.6 Dialogue/TV Shows

The Polk Audio MagniFi MAX has a discrete center channel, which helps to more accurately localize voices within the sound image. This channel offers a balanced mid-range, so voices reproduce clearly and with detail. There's also an adjustable Voice Adjust feature that lets you control how crisp and clear dialogue sounds. While you can wirelessly stream podcasts and audiobooks to the bar via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Chromecast built-in, unfortunately, it doesn't support Apple AirPlay.

Pros
  • Gets loud.
  • Adjustable dialogue enhancement feature.
Cons
  • Noticeable compression at max volume.
7.7 Music

With its 'Music' preset, the Polk Audio MagniFi MAX has a somewhat U-shaped sound profile when listening to real-life content, so there's a little extra emphasis in the bass range while vocals and lead instruments are bright and sparkling. It's suitable for listening to most music genres, although the port noises and compression when listening to bass-heavy content may not be ideal for fans of genres like EDM and hip-hop. While you can adjust its bass level, there aren't a lot of other customization features available.

Pros
  • Bass adjustment feature.
  • Gets loud.
Cons
  • No graphic EQ.
  • Noticeable compression at max volume.
7.0 Movies

The Polk Audio MagniFi MAX has two discrete satellites that help more accurately localize sound objects like voices and footsteps within the sound image when you watch surround content. Unfortunately, these surround channels have a very boomy, bass-heavy frequency response that can muddy voices and instruments. Also, it doesn't support Dolby Atmos content.

Pros
  • Bass adjustment feature.
  • Gets loud.
Cons
  • Noticeable compression at max volume.
  • No Atmos support.
  • 7.7 Mixed Usage
  • 8.6 Dialogue/TV Shows
  • 7.7 Music
  • 7.0 Movies
  1. Updated Aug 31, 2021: Review published.
  2. Updated Aug 25, 2021: Early access published.

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Market Context
Market Context
Market Context

The Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR is a high-end 5.1 soundbar system. It has a sleek design, and it comes with a dedicated subwoofer and satellites. However, it doesn't support Dolby Atmos content. Its main competitors include the JBL Bar 5.1 Surround, the Bose Soundbar 700, and the JBL Bar 9.1.

Design
Design
Style - Bar

The Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR is a sleek, stylish soundbar with a somewhat unique design. It's mostly plastic, and there's fabric covering the front and top of the bar. There's also a golden ring surrounding the center channel. On its ends, there are open passive ports.

Design
Style - Subwoofer

The Polk Audio MagniFi MAX's sub is mostly plastic and sits on four pegs with rubber grips. The port and the speaker are located underneath.

Design
Style - Satellites

The Polk Audio MagniFi MAX's satellites have a similar design to the bar. They're mostly plastic, with fabric covering the front and the top. There's also a small Polk Audio logo on the front.

Design
Dimensions - Bar
Width 42.9" (109.0 cm)
Height 2.0" (5.0 cm)
Depth 3.7" (9.5 cm)

The Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR is wide and likely won't fit between the legs of a 55" TV stand. That said, it also isn't very tall, so it shouldn't block your TV screen unless your TV sits flush on your table.

Design
Dimensions - Subwoofer
Width 11.4" (29.0 cm)
Height 14.6" (37.0 cm)
Depth 13.8" (35.0 cm)

The sub is a bit larger than some of the others we've tested, but it shouldn't take up much more room than an average desktop computer.

Design
Dimensions - Satellites
Width 7.9" (20.0 cm)
Height 4.7" (12.0 cm)
Depth 3.7" (9.5 cm)

The satellites are a bit wide and tall, but they connect to the bar wirelessly, so you have more flexibility when placing them in your setup.

Design
Back - Bar
Bar Mounting
Proprietary

The back of the bar has an opening for the power cable and other inputs. There are also proprietary wall-mounting holes. While the bar comes with wall-mounting brackets, you have to purchase the screws separately. The manufacturer advises that you should buy screws that work with the type of walls in your home.

Design
Back - Subwoofer
Enclosure
Ported

The back of the sub has the input for the power cable. There's also a pairing button.

Design
Back - Satellites
Mounting
Universal (holes on back)

The back of the satellites has an input for the power cable and universal wall-mounting holes.

7.0
Design
Build Quality

The Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR has a decent build quality. The bar and the satellites are both mostly plastic, which feels pretty solid and durable. The fabric coverings are tight, so it's unlikely that they rip easily. However, they still seem prone to collecting dust over time. The subwoofer is also mostly made of plastic.

Design
In The Box
HDMI Cable Length
2.0 m (6.6 ft)
Digital Optical Cable Length
1.5 m (4.9 ft)

  • Manuals
  • Mounting templates
  • Mounting brackets
  • 4x power cables
  • Power brick for bar
  • Remote with 2xAA batteries
  • HDMI cable
  • AUX cable
  • Optical cable

Sound
8.4
Sound
Stereo Frequency Response
Tested Preset
Music
Slope
-0.28
Std. Err.
2.69 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
27.5 Hz
High-Frequency Extension
17.5 kHz

The Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR scores well on our stereo frequency response tests, conducted using a sine wave tone. However, when we listened to the bar with real-life content, we noticed that it doesn't perform as well as the score suggests. With some audio, it had a pretty neutral sound profile on its 'Music' preset, suitable for listening to most types of audio content.

With other content, we noticed a U-shaped sound that adds extra emphasis in the bass and treble ranges. As a result, audio has extra thump and punch, and vocals and lead instruments are bright. Audio could also seem a bit diffused and unnatural, and there are noticeable port noises when listening to bass-heavy content.

8.4
Sound
Stereo Frequency Response With Preliminary Calibration
Suggested Preset
Music
Suggested Bass Setting
-1
Suggested Treble Setting
N/A
Slope
-0.01
Std. Err.
2.44 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
28.3 Hz
High-Frequency Extension
18.0 kHz

The Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR has a great stereo frequency response with calibration. With its bass set to '-1', it has a very neutral, balanced sound profile suitable for listening to many different types of audio content. We conduct this test using a sine wave tone, and we noticed some inconsistencies in the bar's performance when listening to real-life content like music and movies.

7.0
Sound
Stereo Soundstage
Crosstalk Error
3.23 dB

The Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR has a decent stereo soundstage. The soundstage is perceived to be wider than the bar itself, which is good. However, we noticed that the bar tries to push the sound, which can sound diffused and processed, especially around the far edge of the soundstage.

7.9
Sound
Stereo Dynamics
SPL @ Max Volume
97.6 dB SPL
DRC @ Max Volume
2.34 dB

The Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR gets pretty loud. When you push the bar to max volume, sound seems like it's forced and lacking control, resulting in an unnatural sound. There's quite a bit of compression in the bass range, which is very noticeable with real-life content. As a result, it probably isn't suitable for cranking up the volume to fill up large rooms and crowded parties.

8.0
Sound
Stereo Total Harmonic Distortion
Weighted THD @ 80dB
0.27
Weighted THD @ Max Volume
2.19

The Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR scored well on our THD tests, conducted using a sine wave tone. However, when listening to the bar with real-life content, we noticed a lot of distortion in the bass range. Also, whenever the bar hands off content to the subwoofer, there's a hole in the stereo image.

8.5
Sound
Center
Localization
Discrete
Slope
0.00
Std. Err.
2.90 dB
SPL @ Max Volume
94.5 dB SPL
Weighted THD @ 80dB
0.35
Weighted THD @ Max Volume
1.22

The Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR comes with a discrete center channel, which helps to more accurately localize voices within the stereo image. Its frequency response is quite balanced, so voices reproduce clearly and accurately. However, the bar is lacking bass on its center channel. It may not be too noticeable with real-life content, though, since there typically isn't much bass reproduced on this channel.

5.3
Sound
Surround 5.1
Localization
Discrete
Slope
-4.25
Std. Err.
12.78 dB
SPL @ Max Volume
93.0 dB SPL
Weighted THD @ 80dB
0.73
Weighted THD @ Max Volume
4.07
7.1 Rears
No

The Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR comes with two discrete surround speakers, which help to more accurately localize sound objects like voices and footsteps within the sound image. When conducting our surround channel tests using the sine wave tone, we noticed a lot of bass, and the subwoofer overpowered the satellites. It wasn't very noticeable when listening to real-life content, however.

0
Sound
Height (Atmos)
Localization
Not Supported
Slope
N/A
Std. Err.
N/A
SPL @ Max Volume
N/A
Weighted THD @ 80dB
N/A
Weighted THD @ Max Volume
N/A
4.3
Sound
Sound Enhancement Features
Room Correction
No
Dialogue Enhancement
Yes
Auto-Volume/Night Mode
Yes
Subwoofer Level Adjustment
No
Bass Adjustment
Yes
Treble Adjustment
No
EQ
Presets
Surround Level Adjustment
Yes
Rear Level Adjustment
No
Height Level Adjustment
No
Virtual Surround
No

The Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR has a poor selection of sound enhancement features. It has a Voice Adjust feature that enhances dialogue by making it more clear and crisp, and you can even adjust the volume level for this feature using the controls on the bar. There are a few EQ presets to help you customize its sound, including 'Music', 'Stereo Dimensional Array', 'Movie', and 'Sports'. The 'Stereo Dimensional Array' preset is advertised to help create a wider soundstage. This soundbar lacks some more premium sound enhancement features like room correction, so it may sound a bit different depending on the room you're listening in.

Connectivity
Connectivity
Physical Inputs - Bar
Optical Audio In
1
HDMI ARC
1 (shared)
HDMI Out
1 (shared)
Full HDMI In
3
Analog Audio In 3.5mm (Aux)
1
RCA In
No
USB for Files
No
Ethernet
1

The Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR has several physical inputs. There are three Full HDMI In ports, meaning that you can use the bar as a hub between different devices like your PC and your TV. There's also an AUX port, so you can use the included AUX cable to wire older devices to the bar for audio playback.

7.1
Connectivity
Audio Format Support - ARC
eARC
No
Dolby Atmos
No
Dolby Digital
Yes
Dolby Digital Plus
No
DTS
Yes
DTS:X (eARC only)
No
Dolby TrueHD (eARC only)
No
DTS-HD MA (eARC only)
No
5.1 PCM (eARC only)
No

Over its ARC port, the Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR supports both Dolby Digital and DTS content. These surround sound formats are commonly found on Blu-ray discs and streaming platforms.

6.4
Connectivity
Audio Format Support - Full HDMI In
Dolby Atmos
No
DTS:X
No
Dolby Digital
Yes
Dolby Digital Plus
No
DTS
No
Dolby TrueHD
No
DTS-HD MA
No
5.1 PCM
No

The Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR only supports Dolby Digital via Full HDMI In. Dolby Digital is the most common surround sound format, so this should be suitable for most users who like to watch Blu-ray discs. That said, it's disappointing for users who want to watch lossless and object-based formats like Dolby Atmos.

10
Connectivity
Audio Format Support - Optical
Dolby Digital
Yes
DTS
Yes

The Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR supports Dolby Digital and DTS content via Optical, commonly found on Blu-ray discs and streaming platforms.

7.6
Connectivity
Latency
ARC
99 ms
Optical
92 ms
Full HDMI In
-11 ms

The Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR has a good latency performance. It has low latency with its Full HDMI In port, but you may notice a bit of a delay between the audio you hear and the video you see when watching content over its ARC and Optical ports. As a result, it's better suited for watching videos via Full HDMI In. That said, some apps and TVs can compensate for latency differently, so your real-world experience can vary.

Note: We performed our latency test twice after noticing some issues with the video while filming our first test. When testing the Full HDMI In port, we measured latency of 0ms for the first pass and -21ms for the second pass. The video posted here represents the second pass, and our results show the average of these two tests.

9.0
Connectivity
Wireless Playback
Bluetooth
Yes
Wi-Fi
Yes
Chromecast built-in
Yes
Apple AirPlay
No

The Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR has incredible wireless playback support. You can wirelessly stream audio from your mobile device to the bar over Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Chromecast built-in. However, some Apple users may be disappointed by the lack of AirPlay support.

Connectivity
Other Input Specifications
4k @ 60 Hz Passthrough
Yes
4k @ 60 Hz @ 10 bit Passthrough
Yes
4k @ 60 Hz @ 4:4:4 Passthrough
Yes
HDR10 Passthrough
Yes

The Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR can passthrough the highest bandwidth signals, including Dolby Vision. When connected between your PC and your TV, text on the screen appears crisp and clear.

Connectivity
Connectivity - Subwoofer
Sub Wireless
Yes

The Polk Audio MagniFi MAX's sub connects to the bar wirelessly, giving you some flexibility when placing it in your setup. You only need to plug it into a power outlet.

Connectivity
Connectivity - Satellites
Sat Wireless
Yes

The satellites connect to the bar wirelessly, so you just need to plug them into a power outlet to get them to work.

Additional Features
Additional Features
Interface
Display
No

The Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR doesn't have a display. Instead, lights flash different patterns when you change the input and adjust the volume. They turn green when you're listening to Dolby Digital content and yellow when listening to DTS content.

Additional Features
Bar Controls

On top of the Polk Audio MagniFi MAX, there are some physical controls you can use to power the bar on/off, change the input, mute the bar, and adjust the volume for Voice Adjust as well as your main audio.

Additional Features
Remote
Universal Remote
No

The remote lets you control all of the bar's features. However, it isn't a universal remote, so you can't control other devices like your TV with it.

Additional Features
Voice Assistants Support
Amazon Alexa
No
Google Assistant
No
Apple Siri
No
Additional Features
App
App Name No App
iOS No
Android No
Acts As A Remote
No
Controls Soundbar's Settings
No
Casts Device Files
No

To set up this soundbar's Wi-Fi and update its firmware, you need to connect it to the Google Home app. We don't consider this to be a proprietary app since it's issued by a third party. However, during our testing, we attempted to use the app to update the bar's firmware, given the issues we were experiencing. We couldn't get the bar to connect to the app on our Android phone even after multiple attempts. We had to use an iPhone 11 to connect the bar to the app. It seems that other users have reported similar issues.

Additional Features
Other Features
Power Saving
Auto-off
HDMI CEC (TV Remote Control)
Yes

The Polk Audio MagniFi MAX has an auto-off timer that shuts the bar down after a period of inactivity. It also supports HDMI CEC, so you can use your TV remote to control some of its basic functions.

Differences Between Sizes And Variants

The Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR 5.1 is available in 'Black', and you can see the label for the model we tested here.

You can also find a version of this soundbar called the Polk Audio MagniFi MAX, but we haven't tested it, so we can't confirm its performance.

If you come across another version of this soundbar, let us know in the discussions, and we'll update our review.

Compared To Other Soundbars

The Polk Audio MagniFi MAX soundbar is a 5.1 setup that comes with a unique Voice Adjust feature that lets you control the clarity of voices in your audio content. While it performed well in our sound tests, we noticed some issues when using the bar to listen to real-life content like music and movies. Audio seems unnatural and diffused at times, and there was audible distortion and compression, especially in the bass range.

See our recommendations for the best 5.1 soundbars, the best soundbars with subwoofer, and the best soundbars.

Sonos Arc

The Sonos Arc is better than the Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR. The Sonos is better built, and it supports Dolby Atmos content. It also has better soundstage and surround performances. Unlike the Polk Audio, it comes with room correction and built-in voice assistant support. However, only the Polk Audio comes with a Full HDMI In port and EQ presets.

Samsung HW-Q800A

The Samsung HW-Q800A is better than the Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR. The Samsung is better built and supports Dolby Atmos content. It has a better soundstage and more sound enhancement features, such as a graphic EQ. Also, it has built-in voice assistant support. That said, the Polk Audio has a better surrounds performance.

JBL Bar 9.1

The JBL Bar 9.1 is better than the Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR. The JBL is better built, and it supports Dolby Atmos content. It also has better soundstage and surround performances, and it supports more wireless playback options. It even comes with a room correction feature. However, only the Polk Audio comes with a dialogue enhancement feature.

Samsung HW-Q950A

The Samsung HW-Q950A is better than the Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR. The Samsung is better built, and it gets louder with less compression at max volume. Unlike the Polk Audio, it supports Atmos content and has built-in voice assistant capabilities. It also has better soundstage and surround performances. There are even more sound enhancement features available, including room correction and a graphic EQ.

JBL Bar 5.1 Surround

Depending on your listening habits, you may prefer either the JBL Bar 5.1 Surround or the Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR. The JBL is better built, and it comes with a room correction feature and a better surrounds performance. It also supports more wireless playback options. That said, the Polk Audio has a better soundstage and a unique adjustable dialogue enhancement feature.

Yamaha YAS-209

The Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR is better than the Yamaha YAS-209 for most uses. The Polk Audio is a 5.1 setup with better center and surround performances. It gets louder, albeit with more compression at max volume. However, the 2.1 Yamaha has built-in voice assistant support. Also, we noticed some audio issues with our Polk Audio model, which may not be ideal for all users.

Klipsch Cinema 600

Depending on your listening habits, you may prefer either the Klipsch Cinema 600 or the Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR. The Klipsch is a 3.1 setup with a better soundstage. However, the Polk Audio is a 5.1 setup with discrete satellites that's better-built. It also has a better surrounds performance. 

Vizio M Series M512a-H6

The Vizio M Series M512a-H6 is better than the Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR. The Vizio is better built, and unlike the Polk Audio, it supports Dolby Atmos content. This 5.1.2 setup also has better soundstage and surround performances.

Samsung HW-Q700A

The Samsung HW-Q700A is better than the Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR. The Samsung is a 3.1.2 setup that's better built. Unlike the Polk Audio, it supports Dolby Atmos content. Also, it has some more sound enhancement features, like a graphic EQ. That said, the Polk Audio comes with dedicated satellites.

LG SP9YA

The LG SP9YA is better than the Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR. The LG is a better built 5.1.2 setup that supports Dolby Atmos content. It also has a better soundstage performance, and more sound enhancement features like room correction. That said, only the Polk Audio comes with discrete satellites included.

Sonos Beam

Depending on your listening habits, you may prefer either the Sonos Beam or the Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR. The Polk Audio is a 5.1 setup with a dedicated sub and discrete satellites. It reproduces more of the thump and rumble in your audio, and it has a better surrounds performance. However, there were some audio issues with the model we tested. Also, the 3.0 Sonos is better-built with built-in voice assistant support. It has a better soundstage, and some listeners may prefer its more compact design.

Samsung HW-Q800T

The Samsung HW-Q800T is better than the Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR. The Samsung is better built and comes with more sound enhancement features like a graphic EQ. Unlike the Polk Audio, it supports Atmos content and comes with built-in voice assistant capabilities. That said, the Polk Audio has a better surrounds performance.

Bose Smart Soundbar 700 with Speakers + Bass Module

The Bose Smart Soundbar 700 with Speakers + Bass Module is better than the Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR. The Bose is better built, and it has better soundstage and surround performances. It also comes with built-in voice assistant support and a room correction feature, unlike the Polk Audio.

Samsung HW-Q70T

Depending on your listening habits, you might prefer either the Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR or the Samsung HW-Q70T. The Polk Audio is a 5.1 setup with satellites that offers a better surrounds performance. However, we did experience some issues with the audio during our testing. Also, the 3.1.2 Samsung is better built, and unlike the Polk Audio, it supports Atmos content.

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