Soundbar articles like this Polk Signa S2 review are popular because the internal speakers of modern, super-sleek TV often fail to impress.
Underwhelming speakers leave you with three options: One: Put up with the tinny speakers of your ultra-modern TV. Two: Spring for a surround sound system. If you’re reading this, you’re considering option three: A soundbar.
The Polk Signa S2 is a soundbar that you can still afford even after forking over a chunk of change for your TV. Is the Signa S2 a worthwhile purchase, or are there better alternatives at its price point? Let’s find out, starting with unboxing and first looks.
Polk Signa S2 review: Unboxing
The soundbar ships with a subwoofer, a remote, a pair of batteries and some paperwork. It also comes with all the cables you need. In the box are an auxiliary cable, an optical cable, and two power cables. You’ll also find a user guide, a wall mount guide and other pieces of paperwork.
At 2.1 inches, the Signa S2 has a low profile that allows it to disappear into your TV stand. That seems to be the concept of the Polk Signa: A barely-there design, which also applies to the foot-high, ported subwoofer.
The most impressive aspect of the Signa S2 is its tapered side profile with metallic accents. Then there’s the front face, which is covered in sturdy mesh. So is the upper face; whose mesh surface transitions into a thin plastic strip that holds a set of basic controls.
There isn’t much in the way of a display and you have to settle for a row of LEDs at the center of the front face. The back surface of this soundbar has a pair of keyhole slots for a wall-mount and two insets that house the inputs.
Being a budget soundbar, the Polk Signa S2 only has three inputs. The leftmost inset holds a 3.5mm mini-port for your auxiliary cable, an optical port and an ARC-enabled HDMI port. The right inset holds a power port.
Bluetooth connectivity allows the soundbar to wirelessly connect to its subwoofer. It also allows you to send audio from your mobile device to the sound rig.
Polk Signa S2 review: Setup and ease of use
Setup only requires you to connect the soundbar and the TV using the HDMI, optical or auxiliary cable. Your TV will automatically detect the soundbar and channel sound to it. The HDMI-ARC port has CEC capability, a feature that allows you to control the soundbar through the TV itself. Because the soundbar lacks a digital display, this is the easiest way to operate the soundbar.
The remote that comes with the Polk Signa S2 has shortcut keys to different sound presets, which makes the soundbar that much easier to operate.
Before getting into the core of this Polk Signa S2 review, let’s see what kinds of drivers it has. Each end of the Signa S2 has a 1.25″ x 4.4″ oval, full-range driver. An oval-shaped driver is an oddity, but that’s how Polk manages to achieve a flat soundbar with fairly powerful drivers.
Next to each driver is a one-inch tweeter that helps to execute the higher treble frequencies. The subwoofer sports a front-firing 5.25” driver that takes care of the deeper bass frequencies.
It bears mentioning that the soundbar lacks a dedicated center channel, which leaves the full-range drivers to create a virtual center channel. This takes away from the overall sound quality, in some fashion.
This has to be the most important part of the Polk Signa S2 review. To measure the sound quality of any soundbar, we consider metrics like sound accuracy, loudness and harmonic distortion at peak volume. We also find out if the soundbar supports diverse audio formats and if it has equalizer functionality. We start with:
1. Frequency response
Polk advertises that its full range drivers perform accurate sound reproduction at a range of between 45Hz and 20KHz. The Signa S2 has an effective frequency range of 50Hz to 17KHz. This is a fairly wide ‘sound palette’ that should allow for good bass levels. So, does it?
2. Sound stage and stereo
The Signa S2 is 35 inches long, which gives an approximation of the length of soundstage. The drivers at the ends of the soundbar extend soundstage to approximately 40 inches.
Despite lacking a center driver, the Polk Signa S2 still manages to produce clear, distinct audio components from different pinpoints locations on the soundstage. The happy end result is detailed, defined sound whose individual objects stand out while blending perfectly.
The subwoofer adds an extra dimension to the sound stage; adding more of a surround feel and extending the 50Hz bass frequency ever so slightly.
3. Peak volume and distortion
The Signa S2 reaches peak volumes of 90dB. This is plenty loud if you need the amplitude in a noisy, crowded room. Still, you don’t want to turn up the volume that high. Past 80dB, the different sound artifacts meld into each other and lose definition. This happens with both bass and treble frequencies.
4. Equalizer and sound presets
You’ll find pre-calibrated audio presets, which you can activate with the remote. Select movie mode for effects, music mode for defined sound and dialog mode for podcasts and audiobooks. The people at Polk also include night mode, which tones down the bass components at night.
The buttons at the bottom of the remote allows you to choose one of three levels of ‘voice-adjust’ presets. Choose the medium setting, which pushes dialog to the foreground without distortion.
As equalizers go, a set of audio presets is all the Signa S2 has to offer. There is an allowance that lets you adjust the bass, but not the treble or the subwoofer.
- Solid build
- Easy to use
- Useful audio presets
- HDMI-CEC allows you to control the soundbar through the TV and by extension, the TV remote
- The display is limited to a row of LEDs that aren’t all that helpful
- Limited bass frequencies
- The Polk Signa S2 will down-mix most sound formats to stereo
Polk Signa S2 review verdict: An affordable soundbar that works well
What better way to conclude our Polk Signa S2 review than with a description of how it actually sounds. Your favorite action scene comes to life as you feel the full impact of a three-stage explosion. You’ll duck as the subsequent hail of debris crashes all around the protagonist. The subwoofer will roar to life just as a gas line catches fire.
For a budget soundbar with limited surround capability, that is impressive. Click here to learn more about this soundbar.