Polk Audio’s Signa S3 is a 2.1 soundbar system that aims to bring theater-style rumble into your home for a very affordable $249. That’s a low enough price that it’s fair to wonder just how much thunder the wireless subwoofer can muster when the entire system is less expensive than plenty of soundbar-only models we test. Surprisingly, the Signa S3 delivers some serious power—there’s real bass depth here, as well as balanced mids with crisp, clear highs. Multiple listening modes add some versatility, and though not without some minor flaws, the system is a bargain.
Signa S3 Design
The soundbar measures roughly 2.0 by 35.0 by 3.2 inches (HWD), and can either rest atop a flat surface, or be mounted on the wall; a wall-mounting guide is included, as well as wall mount spacers. The front panel is all gray cloth grille, while internally the bar features dual front-firing 1.25-by-4.40-inch midrange drivers, and dual front-firing tweeters that are 1-inch in diameter. The system delivers a frequency range of 45Hz to 20kHz.
Along the top panel, there are controls for power, sound source, Bluetooth, and volume. The back panel houses angled, recessed connections for HDMI ARC and Optical, as well as the included power cable, There’s also a reset button on the back, as well as an LED that glows white when connected to Wi-Fi. The front has multiple status indicators as well, in the form of an LED that glows green when Dolby Audio decoding is in use, blue for Bluetooth, white for Chromecast audio, and yellow for USB playback. (There’s a USB port on the bottom panel for playing audio from thumb drives.)
The 40-watt subwoofer measures roughly 13.0 by 6.8 by 12.2 inches, with an upright rectangular build. Behind the grille, a 5.25-inch driver delivers the audio. It’s wireless, so once you plug it into power it should connect with the soundbar. If the two don’t pair for some reason, there are buttons for manual pairing on the back of each, and simple instructions in the included manual. Polk recommends placing the sub along the same wall (with a little space between it and the wall) where your soundbar and TV are positioned.
Built-in Chromecast audio and Google Assistant support mean you can issue voice commands and stream audio from apps like Amazon Music, YouTube, and more via Wi-Fi. The system also supports Bluetooth 4.0 and AAC, AptX, and SBC Bluetooth codecs.
The included remote control runs on a single AAA battery (included) and offers controls for power, mute, sound sources (including aux, Bluetooth, and TV, which is really the HDMI ARC input), volume and bass levels (there are eight bass levels, displayed by LEDs on the front panel when they’re adjusted), and listening modes (including Movie, Music, and Night, which we’ll discuss in the next section). There are also buttons for Voice Adjust, which isolates the dialogue frequency range for movies and allows you to raise or lower the dialogue in relation to the rest of the mix (labeled 1, 2, and 3, with 3 being the highest level).
Switching between sound modes is made confusing by Polk assigning a single LED indicator to blink for every new mode. It’s the same color—pink—for all of them, so you never have a visual confirmation of what mode you’re in, only that you have pressed a new mode button. Obviously, if you know you’ve pressed the Movie mode button, it’s not a big deal, but this system could be much more obvious and clear. There’s no quick way to tell what mode you’re currently in, for instance.
The Signa S3 is compatible with HDMI CEC control devices, and also ships with preloaded IR codes, and the ability to learn IR codes for compatible devices. This means you can use most remotes for connected devices to control basic functions on the soundbar.
What’s missing? For this price, not much, but some adjustable EQ beyond the subwoofer volume buttons would be nice. And while we’re thrilled that the system ships with both HDMI and Optical cables, the power cables for both the sub and soundbar feel a bit short. But we’re nitpicking here—for $250, the Signa S3 delivers plenty of features and comes with all the necessary cables.
Signa S3 Movie and Music Performance
We did the majority of our testing with the subwoofer set to the middle (4 out of 8). In Movie mode, Blade Runner 2049’s crash scene, in which Ryan Gosling falls from the sky in something that looks like a military-grade flying Lamborghini, features multiple explosions. We get plenty of thunder from the subwoofer, as well as some deep pulses from the film score. The soundbar delivers high-mids and highs ideal for dialogue and effects, even without the Voice Adjust feature in play. For those who really want thunder, the sub doesn’t disappoint when boosted, but there’s plenty of low-end to be had at medium sub levels as well.
When the Death Star explodes in Stars Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, the Signa S3 delivers powerful low-end rumble accompanied by well-defined highs. Dialogue even in these fight scenes is clear and crisp. The Voice Assist button also brings out the high-mids to a degree, but we found it sounded best when set to the middle mode (2 on the remote).
In Music mode, on tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the system delivers powerful low-frequency depth. At top volumes and full bass levels, it doesn’t distort, though the sub is liable to cause some rattling in your room at these levels—this is an impressively loud system for the price. At more moderate levels, the bass sounds perhaps a bit dialed back, but this is where the Bass Volume on the remote comes in handy—you can adjust it to boost lows when listening at medium volume levels.
Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the Signa S3’s general sound signature. The drums on this track can sound thunderous on bass-forward systems, but the Signa S3 allows you to determine the level of rumble. There’s plenty of treble edge to Callahan’s vocals and brightness to the acoustic strums, and you can dial up the subwoofer dramatically, but doing so seems to boost Callahan’s baritone vocals far more than the drums. The overall audio performance seems most balanced and dynamic with bass levels at the halfway point, or just slightly above.
Recordings with natural-sounding acoustics tend to fare well here. The new album Three, by the jazz trio The Necks, and the track “Murder Most Foul,” by Bob Dylan, sound full, rich, and natural, with plenty of room to dial up the bass depth (but no need to).
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop gets plenty of added thump, especially if the bass is boosted, while the sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with less intense subwoofer thunder than you might expect. As with the previous track, dialing up the bass levels means boosting elements in the lows and low-mids—in this case, the drum loop—and less so the sub-bass elements. This tells us the subwoofer is actually more of a powerful woofer than a sub capable of reaching truly deep lows. The system doesn’t sound thin as a result, but if you’re wanting subwoofer thunder on musical tracks, you might want to spend a little more. The vocals here are delivered with excellent clarity and no real added sibilance. Still, having a real EQ option rather than just eight selectable bass levels would be useful.
Plenty of Power for the Price
For $249, the Polk Audio Signa S3 is a solid 2.1 system. What it lacks in user-adjustable EQ bands, it makes up for in specific listening modes, as well as subwoofer volume control. The sub itself doesn’t quite get down to the really low, ominous rumble that some can manage, but it delivers a palpable bass presence that anyone seeking extra thunder for movies will be pleased with. In this price range, we’re also fans of the $280 Sony HT-S350, while for even less, the $180 TCL Alto 7+ is a solid bargain—each has their strengths, so you should check out our individual reviews. If you really want powerful sub-bass, meanwhile, you might want to invest in a more powerful system, like the $500 Klipsch Cinema 600, which can often be found for closer to $300, and which can be expanded to a full 5.1 system.
The Bottom Line
Polk Audio’s Sigma S3 soundbar and subwoofer combo deliver a relatively powerful 2.1 audio experience for the price.
Polk Audio Signa S3 Specs
|Physical Connections||HDMI, Optical|
|Voice Assistant||Google Assistant|