Roku makes it simpler to build wireless soundbars for Roku TVs

Brands can just use Roku's new reference speaker design.

Valentina Palladino/Engadget

Last year at CES, Roku unveiled Roku TV Ready, an initiative that made it easier to connect soundbars and receivers to its TVs. It included partners like TCL, which just introduced a slew of soundbars, and Sound United, the parent company of Polk and Denon. Now, the company is taking things a step further. Roku has announced a wireless soundbar reference design, which other brands can use to build their own Roku TV Ready hardware.

Sure, it’s not that tough to connect a soundbar to a TV with a cable, but wireless soundbars have some advantages too. If you’re going for a minimalist setup, it’s nice not to have yet another wire to hide. Roku says the reference design uses the company’s proprietary Wi-Fi based wireless audio technology, which it’s already using with the Roku TV wireless speakers. Since it’s using the TV Ready platform, soundbars built using the reference design should easily connect to Roku sets.

Representatives tell us that the reference design is relying on a high-quality audio codec, so you should still expect solid sound. (Update: They previously told us it was a lossless codec, but that was an error.) It offers solid audio/video synchronization, which is a potential concern with all wireless hardware. Naturally, you can also add those Roku TV speakers as rear channels with one of the wireless soundbars.

While Roku could easily build its own wireless soundbar at this point — it’s now become the top smart TV OS in the US — the reference design helps the company offload the burden of building and distributing more audio hardware. Roku just released the Streambar, a $130 wired soundbar, and last year unveiled the $180 Smart Soundbar, both of which include streaming player capabilities. TCL plans to announce its own wireless soundbar using the reference design at CES on January 12th, Roku says.

The company also announced that Element will soon be launching 2.0 and 2.1 Roku TV Ready soundbars (the latter includes a subwoofer). Roku also plans to bring the TV Ready initiative international later this year, though it isn’t announcing partners or hardware just yet.