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Polk MagniFi Mini AX soundbar review: Serious power in a small package

Android Police 12/7/2022 Will Sattelberg
© Provided by Android Police

TVs are bigger than ever. These days, you can score a great low-end 75-inch panel for below $600 if you wait for the right sale. While that should translate to larger entertainment stands than ever before, in actuality, finding space for a big piece of furniture is often difficult — not to mention costly.

Whether you're choosing to hang that beautiful OLED TV on your wall or opting for a third-party VESA mount, squeezing a large panel into a smaller space is easy. Unfortunately, finding a soundbar that fits into a compact home theater setup can seem impossible.

That's where Polk's MagniFi Mini AX comes in, promising to deliver killer sound in as small a package as possible. And while Polk does fall short on some of its loftiest goals, it'll be tough to find a more capable soundbar of this size — as long as you're willing to pay for it, of course.

The Polk MagniFi Mini AX is an impressive — and expensive — successor to Polk's first-gen compact soundbar. It delivers some truly great sound, but without upwards-firing speakers, its middling Dolby Atmos support leaves something to be desired.

Specifications
  • Brand: Polk
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi (802.11 a/n/ac), Google Chromecast for Audio, Apple AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth 5.0
  • Ports: HDMI out, optical, USB-A, 3.5mm
  • Dimensions: 14.4" × 4.1" × 3.1" (soundbar), 7.2" × 15.6 × 14.6" (subwoofer)
  • Colors: Black
  • Drivers: L/R Tweeter = (2) 0.75" (19mm), L/C/R Mid = (3) 2" (51mm), Woofer (1) 5" × 7" (127mm × 178mm)
Pros
  • Excellent sound in a compact package
  • Slick design not seen on most of the competition
  • Wide variety of sound modes, including vocal boost and night viewing
  • Chromecast and AirPlay support for casting media
Cons
  • Taller-than-normal size can block some IR receivers
  • No HDMI passthrough
  • Expensive, even compared to larger soundbars
  • Dolby Atmos support is lackluster
Buy This Product

Polk MagniFi Mini AX soundbar: Design, hardware, what's in the box

The Pixel 7, for a size comparison.

As expected and obvious as it may seem, the first thing you'll notice about the MagniFi Mini AX is its size. The box itself isn't any smaller than traditional soundbars — for reasons worth covering in a moment — but compared to the long plastic bars you'll find lining the shelves of Best Buy, the design here is much more compact and friendly.

The Mini AX is covered in fabric and rubber rather than standard black plastic. This is a small tweak, but I've noticed this covering does better at hiding dust and cat hair than my older speakers. It also keeps the unit from moving (as does its weight). For a soundbar this small, Polk has packed a ton of power into this unit, and you can tell from the moment you pick it up. It's not a gadget you'll be holding in your hand often, but it's worth noting.

As a speaker comparable in width to any modern 15-inch laptop, this is the perfect option for a smaller TV stand, something you'll often spot in bedrooms or guest rooms. That said, it's not exactly priced like something you'll want to buy for every random 32-inch set throughout your home. Instead, it's handy for combining large TVs with VESA mounts for a smaller overall footprint, preventing you from having to deal with a soundbar awkwardly jutting off the side of an entertainment stand.

Unfortunately, its size and shape could be one of the Mini AX's biggest issues depending on the TV you're using. For example, if your set happens to keep its IR receiver off to the left or right side of the screen, this issue won't affect you. But if the TV's receiver is centered below the screen — as it is on the TCL TV I've paired this soundbar with — you might need to troubleshoot before your setup starts working properly.

Most standard soundbars keep a low vertical profile, but because the Mini AX is so compact, it's taller than usual. It didn't block the screen on any of the three TVs I placed it in front of, but on this particular TCL set and an older Toshiba budget model from a few years ago, it was just tall enough to block any commands sent from the remote.

There's an obvious fix here: slide the soundbar to the left or right of the TV, and command blocking becomes a non-issue. But if you're buying the Polk MagniFi Mini AX to use on a smaller stand — one where moving it out of the way may not be possible — you could be out of luck. Likewise, if you're bothered by asymmetrical placements for your gadgets, keeping the soundbar along your TV's left or right side could be annoying. It didn't bother me; crucially, I didn't notice any imbalance with the sound, but be aware that your mileage may vary.

Buried beneath the fabric cover are enough LEDs to spell out simple letters and numbers, including the current volume settings, selected inputs, modes, and more. Although it's not quite as legible as a dedicated display, it's better than simple status lights.

Let's touch on the other size issue facing the Mini AX: the subwoofer. While the soundbar might pack a punch, there's a reason the box it ships in is so big. When it comes to the subwoofer, there's nothing "mini" about it — in fact, it's bigger than the unit it replaced. It's nearly 16 inches tall, 15 inches long, and more than 7 inches wide. It also has a completely unique look compared to the speaker, dropping the rubber-and-fabric mix for a basic matte plastic look.

Honestly, size and design are my two biggest issues with this speaker. Considering the size of the subwoofer, it's hard to fit it in tighter spaces. If there's nothing around your TV, I don't think you'll have an issue finding space for it, but if your room is arranged in a specific way to make the most of a relatively small space — as my living room is — you're in for some trouble. I had to slide my TV stand down to fit the subwoofer so it wouldn't awkwardly stick out.

Meanwhile, the sub's design also doesn't do it for me. As I mentioned, it looks completely unique from the soundbar, save for the general color. Instead of looking like a pair, the subwoofer looks like a third-party accessory ordered from Amazon rather than a device included in the box. It's an odd decision, but not one that impacts the actual use of the device. If you're looking for your home entertainment system to keep a certain aesthetic, it might bother you, but it remains a minor gripe.

Speaking of the box, aside from the soundbar and the subwoofer, you'll find a remote, power cords and power supplies, an HDMI cable, two AAA batteries, and the usual documentation.

Polk MagniFi Mini AX soundbar: Port selection

When it comes to home audio equipment, a varied port selection is essential to ensuring your new speaker fits into your existing setup. I can't speak for every reader, but my HDMI ports have been fully reserved for the last decade, often leaving me forced to pick up a splitter for more flexibility. Adding a soundbar through eARC is usually pretty painless — most modern speakers include HDMI passthrough — but unfortunately, that's not true here.

Polk has packed the Mini AX with as much I/O as possible, but it's missing an HDMI input. So, unfortunately, you have to give up an entire HDMI port to use this soundbar. On most modern TVs, eARC is usually limited to one or two inputs, often paired with gaming-friendly HDMI 2.1 ports. In my case, I had to give up one of the two ports capable of 120Hz gaming to use this speaker over eARC without getting anything back in return.

Thankfully, the rest of the port selection is solid. There is an optical jack, in case you'd rather avoid using eARC altogether. This choice would solve your HDMI issue, but it also means you may need to rely on the bundled remote for adjusting the volume rather than using your TV's controls. Polk does include instructions for programming your TV remote, but there's no guarantee this will work.

There's also an aux port and a USB jack designed specifically for MP3 playback. A Wi-Fi indicator light, the power jack, and a button for connecting wirelessly to the sub or (optional) surround sound speakers make up the rest of the I/O on the speaker's back.

Polk MagniFi Mini AX soundbar: Remote and controls

Polk's remote for the MagniFi Mini AX uses a similar rubber finish as the top of its matching speaker paired with a matte plastic back. It's nothing special, but it's comfortable in hand and gets the job done. Buttons are a little mushy, but outside of the volume button, you're unlikely to fiddle with your settings too often. If you're using your TV's remote, you might go for weeks without picking up the Mini AX's remote. My biggest complaint is probably its shape and size; in the dark, it's far too easy to mix up with similar remotes for Roku or Amazon's Fire TV.

Those mushy buttons are plentiful here, with controls for swapping inputs to aux or Bluetooth, adjusting bass and voice output, and controlling those satellite speakers if you have them. There's also a sound button, which allows you to cycle between Polk's five various listening modes. The top of the soundbar also has some basic controls, including volume settings, an input switcher, and a Bluetooth pairing button. They're good in a pinch, although I'd be lying if I said I ever needed to use them.

Polk MagniFi Mini AX soundbar: Audio and features

If the only thing you want to know about the MagniFi Mini AX is whether it sounds good, let me cut to the chase. Ignoring all its modes, features, and specs, I enjoy listening to everything from movies and TV shows to games and music on Polk's miniature soundbar. The speakers do a great job filling the room, and the subwoofer is every bit as punchy and hard-hitting as you'd expect it to be, and it does all that in a tiny package. (Apartment dwellers, warn your downstairs neighbors.)

I'm not approaching this from an audiophile point of view, as those buyers will want to look at higher-end speakers, if not ignore soundbars altogether. Instead, I'm purely judging my experience based on how, for example, Andor's booming bass and longing synths sounded during each new episode. Despite having other soundbars in other parts of the house, Polk's unit was the one I wanted to use.

I also found the MagniFi Mini AX easy to use. eARC worked without fault — that's not always the case with some soundbars — automatically syncing to my television and starting whenever the screen turned on. Controls were quick and accurate, and Cast and AirPlay support both worked without any issues for streaming music and podcasts to the speaker. If you're streaming plenty of Netflix originals, you should probably leave the speaker in movie mode. I found it best for emphasizing vocals and music without losing anything in the mix. Music mode is also suitable here, and when streaming from Spotify, I didn't notice a huge difference between the two presets. Pick whichever sounds best to you and forget about it.

Night mode was pretty impressive, although you'll only want to use it in specific cases. It can minimize your selected show's score and sound effects while leaving vocals untouched. It's useful, but if you're looking to watch some classic cinema, Night mode isn't the mode for you.

If one feature on the MagniFi Mini AX is likely to grab your attention, it's Dolby Atmos support. However, before you get too excited, allow me to rain on your parade a bit. As much as I've enjoyed listening to its output, I'm not sure this soundbar is a great choice for Atmos. Without any upwards-firing speakers, this soundbar doesn't sound anywhere close to a true Atmos setup. While I admit it does a pretty solid job filling a room — even without those satellite speakers — I never felt truly surrounded from all angles.

To get the best Atmos experience, I turned the speaker to 3D mode and selected A New Hope on Disney+, one of the supported films on the platform. The 3D mode was a step back from the dedicated movie mode in every way.

Polk MagniFi Mini AX soundbar: Should you buy it?

Polk's pricing for the MagniFi Mini AX makes it difficult to recommend to everyone. At $500, the market for soundbars is your oyster — you have plenty of full-size choices to pick from in the mid-range market. While you're unlikely to find more impressive Dolby Atmos support in this range, it's also not really a reason to pick up the Mini AX over other choices.

Truly, picking this soundbar over other speakers on the market comes down to one question: are you prioritizing size above all else? There's no doubt that Polk has brought some impressive audio quality with this speaker, but the competition is likely to support HDMI passthrough, additional sound modes, and more.

The Mini AX has become my daily driver over the last couple of months, and I've had no complaints. Movies, TV shows, music, podcasts — throw anything at this speaker and it can handle it. I also love the smaller size, but the weak port selection is certainly frustrating. If you can accept some of these shortcomings in exchange for a smaller size, Polk's latest mini soundbar is worth a look.

Buy it if…

  • You're looking for a compact soundbar that doesn't look out of place in your living room.
  • You have a spare HDMI port on your television you won't mind losing.
  • You don't want to lose out on impressive, room-filling speakers in a smaller form factor.

Don't buy it if…

  • You can't afford to lose another HDMI port.
  • You don't have the space for a massive subwoofer — after all, compact size is why you'd buy this.
  • You're looking for a more budget-friendly soundbar.

FAQ

Q: How does the Polk MagniFi Mini AX compare to the Sonos Beam Gen 2?

If you're already invested in the Sonos ecosystem — or you're looking to jump in — the 2nd-gen Sonos Beam is a great choice. It remains a relatively small footprint, measuring eleven inches wider than the Mini AX. That's still relatively narrow compared to other competing soundbars, though, and packs the power of Sonos for a somewhat similar price. Just keep in mind you'll need to buy a separate subwoofer.

Q: How does the Polk MagniFi Mini AX compare to the Polk MagniFi Mini?

The original MagniFi Mini is still up for sale, and frankly, it might be a better buy. It's not quite a 1:1 comparison — the original Mini has smaller tweeters, but larger drivers — and the biggest difference between the two is the lack of Dolby Atmos support on the older model. Considering Atmos left me feeling cold on the AX, it might make sense to save a couple of hundred bucks by choosing the older model.

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