Polk SurroundBar 6000 Soundbar Speaker System Page 2
In addition to the movie and music demos I’ll discuss below, I ran the channel-ID track from the Avia test disc—just as I did when I reviewed the SurroundBar 360. This track consists of a male voice combined with pink noise cycling throughout 5.1 channels. Voices remained bound to the soundbar, while the pink noise floated slightly farther away. When I switched the player to bitstream mode—taking advantage of the Polk’s onboard Dolby Digital decoding—the pink noise moved farther away from the soundbar, but not by much.
The Greatest Game Ever Played may be the most genteel sports dramatization ever made, with Shia LaBeouf as the working-class golfer who swims with the upper-crust sharks. I spent the first half-hour experimenting with the master volume and subwoofer output levels. They went up as time went on and I became comfortable with the Polk’s gentle midrange, the least etched I can recall in a soundbar. The manual—which seems to have been written to avoid spooking the consumer—offers only restrained advice about tuning the sub output, advising the user to “adjust the volume until what you hear sounds natural to you in your normal viewing location.” Using male voices as my canary in a coal mine, I turned down the sub until the voices were just faintly localizable. In this respect, the SurroundBar 6000 was better than the majority of soundbars I’ve tried.
12 Rounds: Extreme Cut is sterner stuff, a cavalcade of explosive violence. Cars and houses explode, a fire truck driven by a maniac (our hero John Cena, of course) sideswipes other vehicles. A vehicle trajectory provided the most memorable surround effect in the movie sessions, zooming from the front left channel toward the left surround. I didn’t so much hear it as sense it: My eyes actually darted from the screen to a point 2 feet forward of the soundbar’s left edge.
Please Give is a quintessentially bittersweet New York comedy about a couple who has bought the apartment next door and can’t wait till the grim old lady who lives there passes on so they can knock down the wall and take possession. This low-key material kept voices at an even level, and what little volume fidgeting I had been doing before ceased entirely.
As a 1963 stereo recording, Charles Mingus’ The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady is ideal soundbar material, with instruments vividly and precisely placed at the extreme edges of the soundbar. This took full advantage of the Polk’s modest width. The soundstage seemed to get even wider when I stood up, moving from on- to off-axis positioning—although I preferred the savage density of the on-axis presentation. I was grateful for the soundbar’s slightly rolled-off top end. Rather than harshly outline the music, the Polk let it swagger opulently across an epic canvas, crowded with virtuosity and grand gestures. I used the sub volume control to raise or lower the bandleader’s string bass so that it was either following the music or driving it. Needless to say, I adjusted it so that Mingus was driving the music, as he did when this suite was torrentially pouring into the microphones.
Bach and Scarlatti: Recordings by Mark Levinson, 1972–1978 features Eliot Fisk on classical guitar. Rather like the voices in the Avia test track, the guitar was well articulated and solid, not at all faint or ghostly. However, the spatial presentation seemed to change with the volume. Tracks performed at a lower volume level seemed (I did say seemed) farther from the microphone, while tracks performed at a higher volume level seemed more up close and personal.
Other People’s Lives is the solo album that Ray Davies, former Kinks helmsman, recorded after he’d been shot by a mugger during a sojourn in pre-Katrina New Orleans. Perhaps to underscore the album’s surprising intensity, Davies uses little reverb. As a result, the album sounds like slightly enhanced mono. The components most likely to escape from the physical confines of the soundbar (and not often) were the Kinks-like “ooh-ooh” backing vocals.
The Polk SurroundBar 6000 may appeal to home theater newbies who want to dip a toe—but not, perhaps, an entire foot—into surround sound. Its surround effects were minimal at best. But what it lacks there it counters with its ease of use, amiably mellow sound, decent integration of its sub with the soundbar, and wireless connection of the sub. Is it suitable for an enthusiast’s primary video display? No. But
if you’re looking to improve on your bedroom set’s built-in speakers, this product is an easy fix, looks great, and will do a fine job.