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Polk Audio SurroundBar 9000 & 5000 Preview

post #1 of 2
Thread Starter 
Check out a preview for Polk Audio's latest SurroundBar 9000 & 5000 Instant Home Theater....

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.

What about some features:
The SurroundBar 9000 IHT 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.

The specs:
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)

What do you think?

post #2 of 2
What do I think? The short version is this: all of the models, except the 9000 will not handle DTS (even the core version) - only Dolby Digital (i.e. AC3) which means that you can't really connect the digital out from a Blu-ray player to it. Of course, if all you are connecting to it is a TV and/or an Apple TV, you won't have any problems.

So, if I want to support my Apple TV and a Blu-ray player, I need to purchase the 9000 model. At roughly $800.00, I could purchase any number of AVRs and a basic 5.1 speaker package - maybe not of great quality, but probably better sounding than any soundbar.

If the 5000 supported DTS decoding, I would be really tempted - without DTS, however, I can't plug in a disc spinner and for me it's a non-starter.

FWIW, I listened to the 4000 model at local Best Buy and thought the sound was pretty decent - especially compared to other models on the shelf - and I would expect the newer generation models to be an improvement.
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