Low in height and depth, a Surround Bar is designed to project surround sound from the front of your room. US loudspeaker maker Polk Audio has been in the surround bar game for a few years now and has it nailed down pretty well with the Surround Bar 6000. A sub-$900 model, it makes a very easy upgrade to the sound of any TV, delivering surprising performance.
This is a two part system (plus a credit-card sized remote). There is the Surround Bar itself, with is about 890mm wide, but only 95mm tall and 57mm deep, and there’s also a compact subwoofer. That deals with one problem with many such devices: very limited bass.
It also deals with another problem: wiring. This subwoofer connects wirelessly to the surround bar.
The subwoofer packs a 178mm downwards firing driver in a compact bass reflex enclosure. It has no controls nor inputs, aside from the hardwired power switch. Its internal amplifier is rated at 120 watts.
You can control its level, though, using the subwoofer trim control on the remote. You’ll only use that to balance it up.
The surround bar itself packs four quite small drivers: 2.5 inches in the old language. These do the midrange and treble and between them score 160 watts of power. It has a number of touch controls across the top which largely replicate those on the remote. For convenience you can also easily program it to respond to the volume, power, source and mute controls on your TV’s remote.
There are three inputs: two 3.5mm analogue ones and an optical digital audio one. The latter suits most modern TVs which have outputs of this kind.
It has a couple of barely noticeable integrated feet, and also keyhole slots on the back for affixing to a wall. The connections are still readily accessible in this position.
There is always a moment of worry when using a wireless system. Will it connect? What if it doesn’t? This system’s manual said that the subwoofer was pre-paired with the bar, so it was just a matter of plugging it in. And that proved to be the case. There was no fiddling around at all. But a procedure is provided just in case synch between the two is lost for some reason.
And that set the tone for the use of this system. It worked easily and well.
Furthermore, it sounded remarkably good. Polk Audio has managed to extract quite a bit of sound out of those four little drivers. In my test room, which is fairly large, the system produced plenty of clean sound. The dialogue was easy to understand. The music was punchy and precise. The bass was strong and reasonably well extended.
The subwoofer didn’t rumble the room, but it did the job down to that 40-50 hertz region which allows music and movie sound to feel complete.
The optical digital audio input decodes standard two channel PCM sound (ie. like the CD format, or that format to which most DVD and Blu-ray players can convert other audio formats). It also supports Dolby Digital 5.1.
Well actually, it supports Dolby Digital 5.0. It ignores the LFE track.
The surround effect was about as good as you generally get from these kinds of sound bars. Its strength was with widening the sound stage, making it seem as through the speakers were actually out to the sides of the bar.
It also generated a credible surround effect, but an inconsistent one. It was quite effective with ambient sound, with making you seem immersed in a crowd scene for example. But for precise location of the directions of different sounds it was very inconsistent.
One track I use for testing is duplicated on the test disc in 5.1 and 2.0 – Dolby Surround encoded. The precision was far better with the latter than the former.
Since DTS isn’t supported, nor indeed Dolby TrueHD nor other high resolution formats, you should set your DVD or Blu-ray player to PCM output for those.
If you are after a quick and very easy way to get good quality sound from a basic TV and DVD/Blu-ray player setup, the Polk Audio Surround Bar 6000 is one good way to get it.