Polk Audio Surroundbar IHT 6000
I’ll always be the first guy to suggest a full proper 5.1 or 7.1 system to anyone who is interested and has time to listen to me geek out (Hint: Don’t use this conversation topic an that cute girl you just met or prepare for …. GLAZED OVER LOOK ). But at hifi reviews we appreciate that not everyone who wants their HDTV system to sound better has the need, space or cash for a full surround system. With that in mind the Polk Audio Surroundbar IHT 6000 is an excellent alternative that gives solid performace and decent bang for the buck, what’s more its incredibly easy to set up and use (with a couple of minor gotchas Ill point out at the end of this review).
The Polk Audio Surroundbar IHT 6000 system comes in 2 parts the rather nicely proportioned and attractive looking soundbar itself and the rather less impressive looking subwoofer thats design reminds me of some kind of miniature 1960s “pouf” seat. The soundbar is pretty obviously dedigned for wall mounting either above or below your tv but could be placed loose on your TV stand in a pinch. The sub is wireless and so doesn’t need to be kept near to the soundbar itself but obviously it requires a power outlet be nearby.
Installation is extremely easy and all the cables you will require are supplied right out of the box, the wireless setup between the surroundbar and the sub is extremly quick and painless. The one thing I will note though is that the sub will sound better on a hard surface due to the positioning of the bass reflex port. If you position this sub on a thick carpeted area you will loose a lot of performance and will end up with a slightly muffled low end. Workarounds include placing the sub on a side table or similar or alternately a thin piece of wood with a similar colour to your carpet. Not a major problem but perhaps an issue for some?
So once you have the Polk Audio Surroundbar IHT 6000 in place how does it sound. Well Im used to looking at 5.1 and 7.1 systems and while the Surroundbar IHT 6000 doesn’t truly compete with full surround systems it does in actuality do an extremely good job of rendering a very solid surround experience for the price. You perhaps wont be a fully immersed as you would be with a full system as the width as the width of the soundstage is noticeably curtailed as compared to what you would expect from a mid or upper range 7.1 system and you will definitely miss the “pings” you occasionally get from the rear in well mixed movies but all in all the Surroundbar IHT 6000 delivers a fairly hefty sound for the minimal space it takes up and the power the system outputs (rated at 160w) is very capable of filling small and medium sized rooms with rich and well balanced audio with the bass perhaps getting slightly boomy from the sub if you drive it extremely hard. Certainly if you are currently using your HDTVs built in speakers this will be a vast improvement.
One nice little feature I enjoyed is the Surroundbar IHT 6000s SmartBar programming. This allows the Surroundbar to learn to respond to your TVs remote control so you can use a single remote for all its functions, this is a rather useful function that didn’t take long to master. I really wish more manufacturers would give us great little features like this one. On the negative side (and this threw me slightly for a minute when I first encountered it) The Surroundbar cannot decode Dolby True HD or in fact any DTS sound this means that if you have your Blu Ray player plugged in to the Surroundbar via the optical input and put in a disc that defaults to either True HD or DTS you wont be able to hear anything until you go to the blu ray setup menu and select an alternative sound encoding algorithm to play back with. Alternately just connect your TV to the Surroundbar IHT 6000 using the old school analog connection instead. A bit of a shame this one really but in actual operation not a big problem as using the analog connection doesn’t actually impact the performance of the system in any meaningful way.
So would I recommend the Surroundbar IHT 6000? As I said, if you are looking for an alternative to a full surround system the IHT 6000 is a very solid performer in terms of audio quality. It makes a very good fist at simulating true surround sound and for the price I think you are getting pretty decent bang for the buck. As with all hifi & surround gear its almost always best to try before you buy but if you can’t for some reason I think that most day to day TV viewers are going to find the Polk Audio Surroundbar IHT 6000 greatly enhances their viewing pleasure. Who knows perhaps this is a gateway drug and next year you’ll splash out on a full 7.2 system!
Less Than 2″ Deep, the SurroundBar?s sleek design blends seamlessly with today?s contemporary TV designs
3D Audio-a combination of Polk Audio?s proprietary SDA and Polk Digital Logic technologies-creates a rich, enveloping listening experience
Dolby Digital Decoding for the kind of full, clear sound you want from all your digital sources
Powerful Wireless Subwoofer creates deep bass impact and can be placed anywhere in the room within 50′ of the SurroundBar 6000
RRP: $499.95 (Check Amazon For Current Pricing)