TCL unveils its voice-enabled, Roku-connected Smart Soundbar

Last week, streaming media company Roku announced its plans to enter the voice-controlled device market through a new program that would allow other manufacturers to integrate with Roku’s voice platform in their own smart speakers, soundbars, surround sound systems and more. At the time, Roku TV maker TCL was the first to commit to using Roku Connect, as the integration technology is called. Today at CES, TCL unveiled which new Roku devices it has in store: the Alto family of audio products, starting with the TCL Roku Smart Soundbar.

This soundbar is the first device to take advantage of Roku Connect’s technology. The device can be used with any TV to offer a premium sound experience, as soundbars do, but consumers are meant to buy it for the Roku Connect features.

When set up with one of the existing Roku TVs (like TCL’s own, of course), the soundbar adds hands-free voice and audio capabilities to the TV.

Below, what the soundbar may look like, not necessarily what it will:

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For example, you could tell your TV to tune to a particular Roku channel, play or pause the programming, turn on or off, set a sleep timer, play music and much more.

The soundbar also will be able to work with any other Roku Connect-enabled devices in the home, including smart speakers.

The product will arrive sometime in late 2018, TCL says.

“Our TCL Roku TVs are amazingly popular among consumers, making the TCL brand the third most popular smart TV in the U.S. in 2017,” said Chris Larson, senior vice president, TCL.

(Roku had noted last week that when Roku started working with TCL, the TV manufacturer was No. 19 in market share in the U.S. As of year-end 2017, they’re No. 3.)

“We’re doubling down on our partnership with Roku to offer our customers an easy way to add premium sound and enhanced functionality to a TCL Roku TV,” Larson added. “TCL is dedicated to integrating leading technologies into our entertainment product portfolio and by partnering with Roku we’re bringing a better home theater experience to our consumers.”

In addition to the soundbar’s launch, TCL said it also will update its Roku TVs in 2018 to include Roku’s new voice assistant, the Roku Entertainment Assistant. This is the more powerful version of Roku’s existing voice platform that’s designed to work with the new range of Roku Connect products from OEMs.

It’s also launching two new Roku TVs this spring, the TCL Roku 6-Series 4K HDR TV, available in 55″ and 65″ models, and the TCL Roku 5-Series 4K HDR TV, available in 43″ to 65” models.

TCL Roku TV 6-Series:

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The 6-Series comes with the Roku TV Voice Remote as well, and supports TCL’s Performance Package Pro, which includes Contrast Control Zone Technology, which identifies bright and dark areas in each frame of content and controls each zone within the frame to create the contrast between light and dark areas. It also includes a new iPQ Engine and a versatile HDR Pro Gamma control.

TCL Roku TV 5-Series:

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The  5-Series includes the HDR Performance Package, which uses information embedded in Dolby Vision content for the HDR solution, as well as the iPQ Engine for color replication and HDR Pro Gamma to improve HDR performance.

Pricing and availability information is not yet available for the new devices — it will be revealed closer to the commercial launch, says HDR.