Polk Audio SurroundBar 6000

Review

posted 2/7/2011 by Dan Keener
other articles by Dan Keener
One Page Platforms: AV
Audio testing
One key aspect of any surround bar system is not how well it does with movie playback, but how well it performs from a variety of sources. Keeping this in mind, I tested the SurroundBar 6000 audio playback from real-world sources such as music through my iPod, time surfing the Last.fm stations on my Xbox 360 as well as just watching plain old TV shows in hi-definition with surround audio. I have to say, the SB 6000 exceeded my expectation at every turn, bringing great sound from every song, show or movie regardless of the source. What I like most is that the SB 6000 filled the entire room with audio and worked flawlessly with the subwoofer to create a nice blend of mid range, highs and bass.

While I spent a lot of time with the setup in my office just streaming music through Last.fm and video through Netflix on my Xbox 360, I wanted to focus on movie playback. This generation of consoles has become synonymous with Blu-Ray and streaming video, so this seems like the most logical approach to take.

The main movie I wanted to test it out on was the Blu-Ray version of Toy Story 3, which has many great scenes that give full audio a workout. However, there is about a minute and a half of absolute total chaos in the chapter called “Rough Play.” This is one of my favorite sequences in the movie which starts off with all of Andy’s toys (sans Woody) get their first meeting with the kids of the Caterpillar Room. The entire sequence starts when the recess bell rings and all hell breaks loose as the small children poor back into the room and grab whatever toys they can find and start playing extremely rough with them. The SB 600o filled my office with the squeaks, beeps and children’s laughter from onscreen and created a soundfield such that these sounds were floating all around the room.

Also during this scene, the musical score is highlighted by an orchestra going from the extreme high end (while the toys are lining up) all the way down to deep bass (when Buzz is being used as a hammer.) The SB 6000 handled these highs and lows, as well as the deafening noise transitioning to silence (when Buzz gets tossed on the window sill and looks across the courtyard at the Butterfly room) with ease. I did not experience any issues from one to the other, and the SB 6000 filled the entire room with all of the sounds the movies soundtrack had to offer. One other piece of Toy Story 3 really highlights how well the SurroundBar 6000 performs. As the toys are being carried into the dump, the dump truck enters from back to front on screen and the SB 6000 created a perfect soundfield, highlighting the sound moving from front to back. In the very next scene, the dump trick starts dumping its trash and the bar once again perfectly executed the sound of the trash sliding out of the truck on either side of the listening area.

I played these same sequences through surround headphones as well as my reference 7.1 Surround system prior to playing it through the SurroundBar 6000 to see if there were any noticeable differences. I was pleased to discover that other than some pinpointing of specific sounds (usually heard only with 5.1, 6.1 or 7.1 systems), the SurroundBar 6000 created an ample and detailed surround field that was apparent to me as performing better than last year’s IHT at the same price point. I think one reason for the improvement in sound is a direct result of changes between the speakers in the SB IHT from last year and the SB 6000. Gone are the four 2 ½ drivers in the bar, replaced by four 2 ¾ midrange drivers. Also, the sub has been upgraded both in power (100w to 120w) and size (6 ½ sub to a 7” sub) and the enclosure is now ported. The end result to me is a broader and cleaner sound regardless of the source. It also seems like the prominent “sweet spot” that I heard in the IHT from last year is no longer there.


Game Audio Testing
During the time frame I had to test the SurroundBar 6000, I decided my two best choices for test games also were two of the newest to hit the market. Call of Duty: Black Ops and Rock Band 3 were simply no-brainers as my primary test titles, as they both offered the full audio range I was looking for. In addition, they both are multiple titles deep into a series, so the developers have a very mature audio development cycle already in place to deliver as realistic sound as possible. These two reasons alone would justify these titles, but in both instances, I knew that the SB 6000 would be tested thoroughly and provide the most up-to-date game audio test environment.

In CoD Black Ops, it was quite clear that my audio wasn’t coming from your basic TV Speakers or some cheap home theater in a box. Whether it was online play or working my way through the campaign, the room was constantly filled with booming explosions, bullets whizzing by everywhere and battle cries resonating from all corners. The whole sequence where you are escaping across the Kowloon City rooftops with Dr Clarke was an amazing audio experience. Between the rain, environment (tin roofs) and Spetsnaz forces chasing you, the games soundtrack was always challenging the SurroundBar 6000 to produce some incredibly intense game audio. I was very impressed with how well the SurroundBar 6000 performed during all of my Call of Duty: Black Ops gameplay. The game audio is not easy to reproduce, yet the SB 6000 gave me excellent playback and better pinpoint accuracy (especially during multiplayer) than I was expecting.
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