For soundbars and other speakers, small size usually means small sound. Looking at the Polk Audio MagniFi Mini AX ($499), which measures just over a foot across, it’s understandable to expect relatively meager output. Thanks in part to its included wireless subwoofer, however, this little soundbar can put out some thundering audio that easily complements a big-screen TV. There are limits to its acoustic design, which simply can't generate immersive surround sound in such a compact form factor, but even so, this reasonably priced, powerful sound system is worth your attention if space is at a premium.
A Space-Saving Design
The MagniFi Mini AX soundbar itself is a downright puny black trapezoid measuring 3.1 by 14.4 by 4.1 inches (HWD) with grille cloth covering its front, back, and sides. A white alphanumeric LED display sits behind the front grille on the left side and shows the current input, volume level, and other settings. The top panel is rubberized and features Bluetooth, input, mute, power, and volume up and down buttons. All the connections face rearward on the back panel and include HDMI, optical audio, 3.5mm aux, and power adapter ports, along with a USB-A port for service, a connect button, and LED indicators for subwoofer, surround, and Wi-Fi connections.
The subwoofer is a fairly narrow and trapezoidal black plastic box that measures 15.6 inches tall, 14.6 inches deep, and 7.2 inches wide. The 5-by-7-inch downward-firing driver is paired with a bass port on the rear. The back panel also holds a port for the power cable, an indicator LED, and a connection button.
The included remote is a chunky but light black plastic wand with a rubberized top panel covered in membrane buttons. The standard power, volume, and input buttons are here, with rockers for bass and voice, two smaller rockers for surround volume and balance (if you add surround satellites), and sound mode and delay buttons.
The MagniFi Mini AX is designed to be used with a TV through an eARC connection over HDMI, though optical and 3.5mm ports are available. For wireless streaming, the soundbar supports Apple AirPlay 2, Google Cast, and Spotify Connect over Wi-Fi, as well as Bluetooth 5.0. The system is compatible with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
Big Sound From a Small Package
While the soundbar supports spatial audio, it’s ultimately a 3.1-channel speaker, with left/right/center channels driven by three 2.0-inch midrange drivers and two 0.75-inch tweeters. It doesn’t have upward-firing drivers like the $499 Bose Smart Soundbar 600 or the $699.99 Philips Fidelio FB1. What it does have that those soundbars lack, however, is a subwoofer, and that goes a long way in producing big sound for content with lots of bass.
The MagniFi Mini AX handles our bass test track, The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” with aplomb. The crossover is set properly, so the subwoofer handles most of the bass synth notes and kick drum hits and the soundbar doesn’t distort even at high volumes, for a properly wall-thumping sound.
For tracks with less deep bass, like Yes’ “Roundabout,” the soundbar does most of the heavy lifting, but it still performs impressively for its size. The opening acoustic guitar plucks don’t reach quite low enough to set off the subwoofer unless at high volume levels, but they still manage to sound full. A good amount of string texture also comes through, though it’s not quite as crisp as it could be. When the track properly kicks in, all of the parts of the busy mix get plenty of attention, from the poppy, subwoofer-enhanced bassline to the prominent drums and vocals. It’s a balanced sound, especially for the system’s size.
With three horizontal channels, the MagniFi Mini AX doesn't quite manage to create accurate imaging for Dolby Atmos, though it can still generate a large sound field and provide an immersive effect. In the opening scene of Doctor Strange: In the Multiverse of Madness, the sound of rubble exploding is thunderous thanks to the subwoofer, and the soundbar puts out enough stereo audio to give a sense of space around the viewer on a couch. Dialogue sits slightly in the back under default settings, but increasing the VoiceAdjust setting, which pulls out voices, fixes that. Speech and some of the more subtle sound effects come across a bit less clearly than we’ve heard on larger soundbars.
The 5.1-channel sound of Glass Onion shows similar power and presence—and a similar lack of directional imaging. Voices are loud and clear, coming front and center of the soundbar’s position. Ambient sound and music come through more in the stereo channels for a sound field that's surprisingly large given the speaker's diminutive measurements. It’s a balanced sound that provides solid detail and a sense of space, but it doesn't quite cross the spatial audio finishing line.
A Powerful Little Sound System
The MagniFi Mini AX pushes the boundaries of what a small soundbar can do, partly thanks to the included subwoofer. It isn’t for anyone looking for accurate directional imaging despite its Dolby Atmos support, but it can produce big sound for its size, with plenty of wireless streaming options for music and other music. If you want more discernible spatial imaging, the Philips Fidelio FB1 delivers with 7.1.2 channels, including upward-firing drivers, but it's a lot pricier at $699.99. The Vizio M-Series 5.1 Sound Bar (M51ax-J6) ($329.99), meanwhile, offers horizontal surround imaging with rear surrounds and a subwoofer, but is significantly larger than the Polk.
The Polk Audio MagniFi Mini AX offers powerful home theater audio with just a small soundbar and a subwoofer, though it can't fully produce accurate spatial audio imaging.
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