Polk’s latest Dolby Atmos soundbars make for compelling Sonos Arc alternatives

Polk Audio has two new Dolby Atmos soundbars models that are aimed squarely at folks who might be considering the excellent $899 Sonos Arc. The MagniFi Max AX ($799) and MagniFi Max AX SR ($899) are both equipped with wireless subwoofers and 11-speaker arrays, including dedicated up-firing drivers, but the MagniFi Max AX SR provides an extra level of surround sound immersion by including a set of wireless surround speakers. Both models can also work with DTS:X and will be available in October from polkaudio.com and select retailers.

Polk Audio MagniFi Max AX SR soundbar.Polk Audio

Polk Audio says that the key to the MagniFi Max AX’s performance, beyond all of those drivers, is the company’s Stereo Dimensional Array (SDA) technology. Now in its fourth generation, Polk claims that SDA delivers an ultra-wide soundstage by eliminating interaural crosstalk. My experience with Polk’s previous SDA-equipped models like the MagniFi Mini AX suggests that’s not just marketing-speak — they do provide a very convincing wide sound field.

Polk Audio MagniFi Max AX SR soundbar.The Audio MagniFi Max AX SR adds wireless surround speakers. Polk Audio

We’ll have to wait until we get a unit in for testing to see how well it performs, but in the meantime, the Max AX’s specs look very promising, especially its connections. Most soundbars suffer from a lack of HDMI inputs, but the MagniFi Max AX has three, plus the now-standard HDMI ARC/eARC output. Those inputs can passthrough 4K video and (along with the HDMI inputs on your TV) mean that the Max AX can effectively replace a home theater receiver, making it even more attractive to folks looking for a single speaker system to run all of their A/V needs. It’s worth noting that the Sonos Arc doesn’t have any HDMI inputs.

Polk Audio MagniFi Max AX soundbar.Polk Audio

Both models come with a 10-inch down-firing wireless subwoofer, another advantage that the Sonos Arc lacks. From a music-streaming point of view, the Max AX comes with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, with support for Apple AirPlay 2, Chromecast built-in, Spotify Connect, and is compatible with any Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant device. If you own other MagniFi AX products, they can be combined to form a multi-room sound system. If you have a Roku TV, the system can be controlled via your on-screen menus thanks to the Max AX’s Roku TV-ready certification.

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