CES 2014: Polk Audio

by: Dan -
More On: CES 2014 Melee N1 Surroundbar Hampden

On Tuesday, we were able to stop by the Polk Audio booth to take a look at their Xbox co-branded products as well as chat with some of the executives with the company.  The Xbox products, which were originally announced at the 2013 E3 include the Melee gaming headset as well as the N1 Speaker bar.  Although they were announced last year, they did not debut at retail until late in 2013 and this was our first chance to get some hands on time with them.  

The N1 Surroundbar is as sleek as it is powerful and features Bluetooth connectivity (although it will not connect with any other Polk wireless subs) and comes in either traditional black, or the Heritage collection cream and wood grain finish.  The folks at Polk had it paired in the booth with a wired sub (which it does not come with) and it created a magnificent sound field for the montage that Pol put together as a demo for the speaker bar at the show.  However, this bar is co-branded for a reason, with the Xbox 360 branding adorning the box to the remote, which has dedicated Forza and Halo logo buttons on them to set the N1 to the proper mode for either racing or FPS games.  Although it is co-branded as a gaming audio product, it still delivers on its core audio performance, including movies and music.  The demo I mentioned created a nice cross-section of audio that showed off the range of the N1 across all types of audio. 

The Melee is a very comfortable and innovative gaming headset.  It is also Microsoft Xbox 360 co-branded, and features several design elements that should make it attractive to consumers.  In addition to coming in multiple colors (Blue, Black, White, etc.), it features a retractable microphone, and super comfy ear pieces.  We actually have the Melee in house for review right now with Sean working on the review, so I won’ get any more in-depth to allow for him to provide his impression here in the near future.

The other new product that Polk released that caught my attention (in addition to the Camden Square) was the Hampden, which is a pair of Bluetooth connected and powered loudspeaker designed to sit on your desktop.  They are part of the Heritage collection, which also includes last year’s beautiful Woodbourne.  Each speakers is finished in the same light wood grain and silver design as the Woodbourne and feature 1” soft-dome silk/polymer tweeters, 4 ½” mid-range drivers all powered by dedicated 4-channel amp in each speaker.  We hope to take a look at these when they become available.

After looking going over the N1 and Melee, the majority of our meeting was spent chatting with Mark Suskind (VP of Product Line Marketing) and Stu Lumsden (VP of Engineering) about the process that went into Polk Audio getting involved with Microsoft in creating the partnership that we have today.  It was a fascinating listen, and provided great insight into how two companies came together to create a partnership that no other au.  I can’t provide significant details, but essentially the Polk engineers and product development teams were given access to the developers of Forza and Halo to help understand how the audio coding for gaming is done.  This allowed the Polk and development teams to design the N1 and Melee products to be able to accurately reproduce the gaming audio in a real world setting as the game developers envisioned it.  In the end, the partnership has been wildly successful (starting with last year’s co-branded IHT5000 SurroundBar and culminating with the Melee and N1.

We had a great visit with the folks at Polk and we will be bringing you several reviews of the audio systems we saw at the show throughout the year.