The two Wi-Fi-enabled speakers work exclusively with Roku TV sets from partners including Best Buy’s Insignia brand, TCL, Sharp and Hitachi.
What’s the point? Roku says many modern flat-panel HDTVs scrimp on their speakers, to fit them into the thin form-factor and also reduce costs. And while there are dozens of soundbars and home-entertainment systems that provide rich audio for TVs, Roku claims its wireless speakers deliver high-quality audio that rivals products twice the price.
“The goal here isn’t to sell additional hardware,” Chas Smith, GM and SVP of Roku TV and Players, told Variety. “The goal is to increase engagement on the television. We believe that by offering better sound, people will watch more TV and stream more music.”
Moreover, because Roku controls the software in both the speakers and TV, Roku provides drop-dead-simple setup and connectivity as well as sound optimized for the TV picture and ensuring audio/video sync, according to Smith.
The speakers use technology from Dynastrom, the Danish multiroom-audio startup Roku acquired last fall for $3.5 million, as first reported by Variety.
The Roku TV Wireless Speakers work with any model of Roku-based television that has shipped since 2014, Smith said. According to Roku, its partners’ Roku TVs accounted for about one-fourth of all smart TVs sold in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2018. Note, however, the speakers don’t work with Roku Players or the HDMI-based Roku Streaming Stick dongles.
The speakers are scheduled to start shipping in late October. To jump-start sales, Roku is offering discounted pre-order promo pricing. Starting Monday (July 16), the wireless speaker bundle is available for $149.99 through July 23. Then, from July 24 through Oct. 15, the Roku TV Wireless Speakers will be available for $179.99. As of Oct. 16, they’ll cost $199.99.
The wireless speaker bundle includes a new Roku TV Voice Remote, which controls both the Roku TV and the speakers via Wi-Fi. They also come with the new Roku Touch: a battery-powered voice remote control intended to sit on tabletops that features a press-and-hold design for voice commands, playback control buttons and programmable preset buttons. Again: Roku’s goal is to provide tools to encourage customers to stream more video and audio than they do today.
The speakers are about the size of square upright tissue boxes. All setup and features are controlled through the Roku TV interface. “What’s very important is these speakers connect to the television through Wi-Fi,” said Smith. “You plug the speakers in and there’s no other connection required. It really makes it foolproof.”
The Roku TV Wireless Speaker bundle — initially to be available to order only via roku.com — includes two speakers, a new Roku TV Voice Remote, the Roku Touch tabletop remote, two power cables, and four AAA batteries.
Working with the Dynastrom team, Roku’s engineering group did all the internal design for the wireless speakers. The company was able to keep costs down with techniques including optimizing digital signal processing (DSP) algorithms, according to Smith: “We pack a lot into a small package.”