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Polk Audio SurroundBar 9000 & 5000 Instant Home Theater Preview

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Polk Audio SurroundBar 9000 & 5000 Instant Home Theater

Polk Audio SurroundBar 9000 & 5000 Instant Home Theater

Summary

  • Product Name: SurroundBar 9000 & 5000 Instant Home Theater
  • Manufacturer: Polk Audio
  • Review Date: October 11, 2012 21:45
  • MSRP: $799 (9000); $399 (5000)
  • First Impression: Pretty Cool
  • Buy Now

SurroundBar 5000 IHT

  • Bluetooth connectivity to sources with apt-X codec for increased streaming quality
  • SmartBar programming for learning power on/off, volume up/down, and mute from existing TV remote
  • Wired connection to sources (unspecified)
  • Dimensions - 31" wide, 2¼" deep
  • Keyhole slots for wall mounting
  • Wireless sub with 6.5" driver

SurroundBar 9000 IHT

  • SmartBar programming for learning power on/off, volume up/down, and mute from existing TV remote
  • 45 watts of discrete power
  • Drivers - five 2" midrange, three .5" silk dome tweeters
  • OCA (Optimized Center Array) design for better vocals and intelligibility
  • SDA Surround technology for simulated surround sound
  • Dual tuned ports for additional bass
  • Inputs - 2 optical, 2 analogue
  • Dimensions - 3¾ by 44⅝ by 2¼ inches
  • Keyhole slots for wall mounting
  • 150 watt 8" wireless subwoofer (can be located up to 50 feet away)

Executive Overview

As many of you are probably aware, there are two flavors of "bar" speakers - Sound and Surround. Sound bars are designed simply to provide a better two (or sometimes three) channel experience. Think of them as upgrades to the speakers that came with your display. If you've ever really listened to the speakers in newer flat panel displays, you understand how much help they actually need. Terrible wouldn't be too harsh when describing the sound quality.

Surround bars, on the other hand, are a completely different animal. They not only seek to increase the sound quality over the stock, display speakers but also to provide a surround sound experience without the need for placing speakers all around the room. There are two ways of doing this. You can either bounce the sound off existing walls or you can shift the phase of the drivers so "trick" the listener's ear into thinking the sound is coming from somewhere other than directly in front of them. Polk has, traditionally, gone with the latter solution for their surround bars.

We listened to the 9000 IHT ("Instant Home Theater") Polk Surround Bar in Polk's demonstration room at CEDIA 2012. In fact, we got a chance to see two new audio sound bars, the Surround Bar 5000 IHT and 9000 IHT. But we listened to the 9000 IHT. What they queued up for us was James Taylor, a live concert. He started off playing the guitar. The first thing I noticed was that the guitar actually sounds like a guitar. It has that richness to it - you've got a huge improvement over your TV speakers. And that's one thing that surround bars are great for is that they are thin, you can install them easily and you immediately have that vast improvement. Of course, when the vocals kicked in there was great clarity. The bass was thumping. And all that was form an 8" down-firing wireless sub that comes with the surround bar. Inside, it's driven by 8 independent drivers - each with their own class-D amplifier channel: 5 mids and 3 tweeters. It does decide full 5.1 surround sound and it's going to give you that back presence that you're looking for  in a surround bar.

There is quite a bit of information on the 9000 but very little on the 5000. Right now, we know that the 5000 31" wide, 2¼" deep, and comes paired with a wireless subwoofer with a 6.5" driver. It is the first offering from Polk that includes Bluetooth for wirelessly streaming content from your portable device (though a wired connection is also available). The apt-X codec is used in conjunction with the Bluetooth streaming for increased sound quality. 

Polk-SB5000

The SurroundBar 9000 IHT (pictured at the top of this article) includes many more features which may or may not be included in the SurroundBar 5000. First, it is 3¾ by 44⅝ by 2¼ inches and includes a wireless sub with an 8" driver. The sub pairs automatically and can be placed up to 50 feet away. The sub sports an 150 watt amplifier while the SurroundBar 9000 has 45 watts of discrete power to each of its eight drivers (five 2" midranges and three 0.5" silk dome tweeters).

For surround sound simulation, Polk is using their patented SDA surround technology. To this, they've added their OCA design (Optimized Center Array) which aims to increase intelligibility of vocals, better midrange performance, more dynamic range, and superior off-axis response, in addition to increased sound output. The SurroundBar 9000 has dual tuned ports for increased bass (no word on location though we would be surprised if they were rear-facing) and keyhole mounts for wall mounting. There are two optical inputs for digital audio and two analogue audio inputs. No word if these are stereo RCA or (more likely) 3.5mm connections. Dolby digital and DTS processing are both on board. Both bars have dedicated remotes though each can learn the commands from your TV remote.

Conclusion

There isn't a ton of information about the Polk Audio SurroundBar 9000 and 5000 Instant Home Theater packages available at this time. They start shipping in September so look for more information as that date comes closer. At $849 for the SurroundBar 9000 and $399 for the SurroundBar 5000, the prices are certainly attractive. With a market as saturated as the Sound/Surround Bar is, price and a few key features may be all that is needed to separate you from the rest. Time will tell if Polk has hit on the right mix.

For more information, please visit www.polkaudio.com.

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About the author:

As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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