Featured Review: Polk Omni S6 Wi-Fi & Play-Fi Speaker

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If you are interested in home audio then Polk is likely to be a name that you are already familiar with. The company already has a number of higher-end products available to buy and ones which place a clear focus on being attractive, but also highly functional products. A combination that is not always on offer with many other manufacturers. Back towards the end of September, Polk announced the launching of their latest home audio speaker and this was the Polk Omni S6. As well as being one of their newest products for the home market, this is also one of the bigger speakers in their range and one which comes with a $349.99 retail price tag.

Specs

In terms of the specs, the Omni S6 comes equipped with two 4-inch drivers which look to provide the majority of the frequency range. Accompanying the two drivers are two 0.75-inch tweeters for a more pronounced top-end. In terms of the frequency range, the Omni S6 is listed to offer 70 Hz through to 18 kHz. While in terms of connectivity, there is no Bluetooth features on offer with the Omni S6 and instead the system connects over Wi-Fi with both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies available. Moving to the more physical aspects and the Omni S6 measures 8.74-inches in height, 12.46-inches in width and 5.88-inches in depth.

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Design & Hardware

POLK Omni S6 Bluetooth Speaker AH-12

In terms of the design and in many respects, the Omni S6 does seem to take many of its design cues from the rest of the Polk range of products. In short, it is a very familiar Polk looking speaker, albeit on a much larger scale. And this is a large speaker, at least coming from the more modern home audio speaker offerings that have come through of late. As such, one way to look at the design of the Polk Omni S6 is that this is more of a centerpiece speaker, one which can act on its own merit and as a standalone speaker, while also being one which can act as the driving force behind a more cohesive and varied setup.

In fact, this is the exact angle Polk seem to be taking with the Omni S6. This is a speaker which can easily be connected to others and actually does come with the ability to provide the input for additional speakers. For instance, moving to the back of the device and in terms of the connections, the Omni S6 comes equipped with a 3.5 mm input. If you are to connect an input device directly to the speaker and have other Polk speakers connected, the Omni S6 will drive the other speakers too. Something which cannot really be done the other way round.

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POLK Omni S6 Bluetooth Speaker AH-26

Coming back to the general design and the there is a real minimalist approach to the Polk Omni S6 that many will instantly find welcoming. This is a speaker which can quite easily be placed anywhere in the home without looking too out of place. This is a curved speaker which does slope on both sides and the entire front facing aspect is covered with a speaker cloth.

POLK Omni S6 Bluetooth Speaker AH-16

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The Omni S6 is available in both a black and white color, so depending on your general decor, you can buy to match. Otherwise the front of the speaker adopts a very unassuming look. The Polk logo is displayed on the front as well as three buttons which are centrally and vertically located. The buttons simply control the volume up, down and power.

Software & Play-Fi

Polk Omni S6 Play-Fi Software

One of the big selling points of the Omni S6 (and Polk speakers in general) is that you are not limited to the speaker purchased. Yes, we would all like a speaker, which as a standalone product offers all the sound, quality and sound distribution possible, but that is more often than not, not a realistic option. While the quality of speakers is vastly improving, they still are small and limited in terms of power, performance and distribution. Where the Polk speakers differ, is that they do offer the option to connect more to each other using their Play-Fi service.

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As this is a WiFi connected speaker, the connecting of multiple speakers is rather simple. The Play-Fi app acts as the go-between and brains behind the system and as such, if the speakers are connected to the same WiFi network, the app can pick them up and add them to the connection. The app itself is the Polk Omni app and is available to download for free from the Play Store. When the app is initially opened, you will be presented with the option to connect the speaker(s).

Play-Fi Polk 01

Once a connection is established you will then begin to see the options available through the app. The most obvious of which is that you do not have to play the music that is on your device's local storage. Instead you can make use of the built-in internet radio feature.

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Polk Play-Fi 05

Alternatively, you can also add a number of direct third-party music sources within the Play-Fi app. These include the likes of Pandora, Rdio, Spotify, Deezer and others. As well as the ability to connect to any other local storage options that you might have connected to your home network. It is worth pointing out that while many offer direct streaming of the music directly through the app, some, like Spotify, do not and instead redirect you to use the Spotify native app. Although, they do at least provide detailed instructions on how to make sure the music is played through the speakers.

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Likewise, the app is also the main focal point for controlling the speakers. If you have a more-than-one-speaker setup, the app will allow you an easy way to designate which speaker does what. Whether this is ensuring one speaker is 'responsible' for one room or whether speakers are designated to 'left' or 'right' channels, the app is able to assist and does so extremely well. As a result you can assign a left or right channel and you can assign by room. Once again, you can turn off certain speakers, play all and even adjust the volume on a per-speaker basis.

Play-Fi Polk 02The app also comes with a number of other customization or 'settings' options within the setting menu too, although these are fairly generic settings like 'keep phone on', 'pause during call' and so forth.

Polk Play-Fi 07

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Overall, the functionality of the software on offer through the Polk app is extremely useful. This is a great addition for owners of Polk speakers (works with a number of other manufacturers too) and especially for those who are thinking about picking up more than one speaker. The ability to connect and control all of your speakers from the one centralized point does make the overall experience a much more refined and intelligent one. In fact, the more speakers you have connected to the same network, the more the use of the app becomes essential and useful. This will be a great setup for anyone who plans on adopting multiple speakers in multiple rooms.

Sound Quality & Performance

Polk Omni S6 AH 56

When it comes to the sound quality on offer with the Omni S6, this is one of the biggest selling points with this speaker. The Omni S6 does offer a very nice and polished sound and as a result, there is little to complain about in terms of the actual sound quality. Due to its size and the employment of dual 4-inches drivers, the Omni S6 is more than capable at delivering a decent level of bass (for its size). Likewise, the use of the dedicated dual tweeters also provides a decent level of treble as well. Resulting in a rather all round and much more balanced output. Similarly, the volume provided by the Omni S6 is also pretty good. A lot of Bluetooth speakers top out the volume at a lower level to either protect battery life, minimize distortion or just to avoid any complications. This is not really the case with the Omni S6 and during testing, the Omni S6 was able to deliver extremely high levels of volume compared to other like-minded speakers.

Moving on to the general performance of the Omni S6 and this is a little more complicated. Overall, the S6 is a great speaker which does deliver a very rich and balanced sound. The performance on offer was generally pretty good with few major complaints to note. However, the connectivity (talked more about in the next section) was a slight issue personally. One which did dampen the experience somewhat.

However, what did become clear when testing the Omni S6 is its use with the Play-Fi app. We have already seen how the app looks with the software, although in terms of the performance, this is a great feature to have. Once you do have more than one speaker connected and working in a stable manner, the use of the app to jump from one speaker to the other, or to use in a more stereo configuration was excellent. The software works nice and offers a really decent level of control over the system. This is a great way to add real depth to the level of sound on offer. We tested the use of the Play-Fi system along with the Omni S2 and the overall use of the Play-Fi aspects is a great addition. Once connected, the speakers do fill up the space much better and when used in the same room. Alternatively, the use of the Play-Fi aspect means they can just as easily be used in different rooms and offering a more engaging listening experience throughout the home. Likewise, continuing your party or evening in another room is just as easy as clicking on one speaker and clicking off the other. This really was a very intuitive and well-executed use of a connected setup.

That said, compared to some of the other Polk and Play-Fi speakers on offer, the Omni S6 is a little more special. While this is a more powerful speaker than some of the others on offer like the S2 (shown above), the Omni S6 also has the ability to act as a main control board for other speakers. In much the same way as the Play-Fi app does. As such, if you connect a music source directly to the Omni S6 (via the 3.5 mm port), you can then essentially steam that music directly over to the other speakers as well.

Battery Life & Connectivity

POLK Omni S6 Bluetooth Speaker AH-36

Straight off the bat, it does need to be made clear that the Omni S6 is not designed to be a portable speaker and instead is much more of a fixed unit. As a result, this is not a speaker which comes with any form of independent power or battery capacity. This is a speaker which requires to be continuously plugged in when in use.

Likewise, and in stark contrast to the clear majority of speakers which have been hitting the market of late, this is not a Bluetooth-focused device. In fact, there is no Bluetooth technology inside at all and therefore, you cannot connect to any Bluetooth-enabled device like you would with much of the rest of the offerings currently available. Instead, the Omni S6 makes use of Wi-Fi as a means of connection to target streaming devices. The benefit here is that you only need a Wi-Fi connection to connect to any device in your home and do not have to worry about a device being Bluetooth-enabled or buying an additional Bluetooth adapter. The downside however, is that your audio connection will be largely determined by your internet connection. Not to mention, a device has to be connected to your home network for the Omni S6 to register the device as nearby.

In terms of that connection, it does need to be said that Wi-Fi can be a lot more problematic in maintaining a connection than Bluetooth. And this was largely the case with the Omni S6. On the whole the connection was a positive experience, although, occasionally the signal would drop off or get lost a bit more often than would have been liked. It is also worth mentioning that although the paperwork does detail that the system can be used on both 2.4 and 5 GHz networks, when tested it was found that the 5 GHz was extremely temperamental. It was very difficult to sustain a 5GHz connection for any meaningful amount of time. It is certainly recommended based on the time spent testing the unit, that it is best to be used on the 2.4 GHz network.

Wrap up

Overall, the Omni S6 is a great speaker to pick up. The sound output and general quality is excellent. As is the build quality overall. From the moment of taking this out of the packaging, you do feel like you are getting a premium speaker and you are. There were some issues noted with the connectivity and especially during setup which was a little more frustrating than expected, however, this will of course be highly dependent on your Wi-Fi signal to begin with. That said, if you do plan on kitting out your home with more than one speaker, then the Polk Omni range and with the use of the Play-Fi service is going to make the general running of that set up real easy.

Should you buy the Polk Omni S6?

As long as you have a decent Wi-Fi connection then this is a speaker worth checking out. This is a premium speaker and does offer a great sound quality over a reliable network. For those interested, the Polk Omni S6 is currently available to buy for $299.95. If you are after a smaller and more affordable option to test out, then the Polk Omni S2 is also currently available for only $99. Together, they do make for an awesome setup.

Buy the Polk Omni S6 Wi-Fi Speaker Buy the Polk Omni S2 Wi-Fi Speaker

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Editor-in-Chief

John has been writing about and reviewing tech products since 2014 after making the transition from writing about and reviewing airlines. With a background in Psychology, John has a particular interest in the science and future of the industry. Besides adopting the Managing Editor role at AH John also covers much of the news surrounding audio and visual tech, including cord-cutting, the state of Pay-TV, and Android TV. Contact him at [email protected]

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