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Polk Audio Surroundbar 9000 Review

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
I just got this bar on a great sale for $399 and wanted to share my thoughts. Here is the review I posted on Amazon:

I recently had a child and his constant tinkering with the AVR, wires, and speaker grills led me to wanting a simpler solution. So, I sold my gear and put that money toward a soundbar. After reading reviews I was really only interested in 2 bars: the Polk Surroundbar 9000 IHT and the Klipsch SB3. However, I was able to find a knockout deal on the Polk 9000 so I could not justify the extra expense for the SB3.

Just a little background on my previous home theater setups over the years:

* Onkyo AVR with JBL bookself speakers and sub
* Yamaha AVR with Paradigm bookshelf speakers and sub
* Yamaha YSP-3000 soundbar and Paradigm sub
* Denon AVR with PSB towers, center, and sub

Now, on to the review of the soundbar.

Known Issues: I have had none of the issues mentioned in other reviews here. There were no issues with controls being locked and there is no white noise/buzzing sound at all coming from the bar. I am not dismissing these issues as non-factors, but know they are not supposed to be there and probably won't be. The issue with the shallow input cavity on the bottom of the unit can be remedied by buying a right-angle toslink adapter such as this: C2G / Cables to Go 40016 Velocity Right Angle Toslink Adapter. There is no degradation in quality by using an adapter like this because it is digital to digital...no loss.

Inputs: The Polk 9000 has a key feature the SB3 does not: 2 optical inputs. The usual recommended setup for these bars is to plug all your sources into your TV then use the TV's optical output to the bar. The problem is that if you are using HDMI sources your TV will probably not pass the full 5.1 signal through that optical output...you will get a 2.1 channel digital output instead. Only a few displays out there currently pass the 5.1 signal through. With the 9000 IHT you have 2 optical inputs so you can route the optical outs from 2 sources directly to the bar to get the full DD/DTS 5.1 soundtrack. You just need to switch sources using the included remote, or use a learning remote or harmony which works great.

Optimized Center Array (OCA): This is the feature they used to anchor dialogue to the bar by sending the center channel dialogue to all channels in a cascading array. I can tell you that this is probably the most impressive feature of the bar. Dialogue is crystal clear with every source I have tried. Even when the volume is reduced to its lowest levels, the dialogue is still present which is great for listening at low volumes. If you value voice clarity in your soundbar search, you should strongly consider this product.

Full Compliment Bass (FCB): This feature claims to improve mid-bass response by using the 5 midrange drivers in tandem to create an equivalent surface of a 5.25" driver. Mid-bass response is good for a soundbar, but don't expect the impossible. Human voices sound better than many other soundbars, and music actually sounds better than I expected. Certain sound effects will sound thin since their sound doesn't have much room to resonate in that slim cabinet.

SDA Surround/Polk Digital Logic: The surround features of this bar are what attracted me to it, and for the most part it delivers. The soundstage is impressive, with the ability to extend effects far out to the sides of the room. Don't expect to hear a lot of sound coming from behind you. I have found, on occasion, that it can give a 360 effect, but not like rear speakers would. Sporting events sound great, with crowd noise filling the room while the announcers voices are anchored to the middle. Another plus is that there are no phasey side-effects with this surround technology. Most other bar's surround or 3D modes adjust phase to widen the soundfield, but sound quality suffers in the process and thins out. Polk and Yamaha have the best surround technology IMO.

Random Thoughts on Sound Quality: This system does not sound as warm as bookshelf speakers or towers which have larger cabinet volume to resonate. I expected this. Depending on the source material, the bar can sound surprisingly full at times, but constrained during others. One particular thing this bar struggles with are certain atmospheric sounds such as wind or a burbling stream. These sounds are reduced to sounding a little more white noisy than they should due to the small driver size. On the plus side, highs adequately sparkle without sounding overdone. Overall the system delivers a powerful sound at high volume without distortion, and that is quite a feat for such small drivers.

The subwoofer here is where a lot of your money is going. This is a very nice 8" sub with a proper long-throw woofer. This woofer cone is NOT made of treated paper like a lot of these systems have (including all of the lesser siblings of this bar). It is a premium quality material, though some exposed glue around the edges of the housing looked sloppy. I guess since it is on the bottom of the sub they did not put a priority on this. Either way, it has some serious bass that will fill a large room to most peoples taste. I found the best placement still to be in the front of the room, as is the case for any sub. The sub is crossed over at 80 Hz. Even though this is very low for a soundbar setup, it is high enough to pick up deeper voices and give away its position in the room if it is to the side or behind you.

Value: $799 is a lot for any soundbar, however given a Beats Audio Pill costs $199 I shouldn't be surprised by anything these days. Don't pay full price for it as you can find it on sale. I have been able to find better deals on this bar than the competing Klipsch SB3 (though not on Amazon). BTW, the box this thing comes in is so large it looks like you could furnish it at IKEA and rent it out...maybe a nice option to recoup some of the cost of the bar.

If anyone has any specific questions about this bar, please feel free to ask!
Edited by Pete C - 8/27/13 at 6:15am
post #2 of 5
Thanks for your input. After reading about this polk soundbar and thinking about my Boston acoustics tvee 30 I wonder how people rave about the $300-$400 lower end sound bars?
post #3 of 5
Do you mind sharing where you found this deal? Thanks.
post #4 of 5
Thread Starter 
The deal was on a Polk friends and family temporary site, which was available for a promotional period then removed.

However, if you go over to the product page on Amazon, over to the right you will see 14 new & used link. A seller called Blinq has it for $479, but I don't really know much about this seller. Here is a direct link, in case I can post it:

post #5 of 5
Nice review Pete C. You sold me and I bought one yesterday at H.H.gregg. I've got it in a 20' by 25' room and it's not disappointing anyone in my house. I've got the optical cable going from the cable box directly to the sound bar. It sounds fantastic. Not tested a blue-ray yet but have that hooked up via optical also. This sound bar is easy on the ears compared to some of the others I auditioned, it's not as loud as some but without the extreme shrillness that I felt some of the more popular brands had. Oh, and the bass is "thumping good". I've got the sub turned up to the 11 click. It goes up to 20, I counted. For now I have it behind the TV which sits in the corner of the room.

I was going to go the Yamaha 3300 route but felt I just couldn't go that high just before Christmas. I have absolutely no regrets at this point.

Oh...did I mention the sub is thumping good.smile.gif
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