Polk is a leader in the sound bar category, for good reason. While some sound bars depend on your room acoustics and dimensions, Polk's Stereo Dimension Array (SDA) Surround Technology is based more on psychoacoustics, so if your room isn't ideal acoustically, you can still get a very decent approximation of simulated surround sound. The technology manipulates sound coming from the single speaker to control how the sound arrives at your ears, allowing the image to be precisely steered and projected into the room, and therefore causing Polk's sound bars to consistently produce an immersive surround-sound image from a single speaker.
The SuroundBar 50 is the longest sound bar in the Polk lineup at 51 inches, followed by the SurroundBar 360, the SurroundBar 40 and the SurroundBar SDA Instant Home Theater. The benefit of any sound bar is that you can mount it directly below your flat panel TV. Polk makes this easy, as the speaker weighs a mere 15 pounds and comes with an included wall mount. (Table stands are also included if you want to leave your walls unscathed.) This particular model is ideally suited for a 50-inch plasma or LCD set.
Hookup is a cinch. Just connect the supplied cable to your receiver, which combines all five channels into one wire, so you won't get confused. The speaker doesn't come with a subwoofer, so we recommend using one to boost the low-frequency energy. (Polk's SDA Instant Home Theater includes a wireless subwoofer, so check that unit out if you want one-stop shopping.)
From a performance perspective, the SurroundBar 50 pumps out five channels of audio via nine three-and-a-half-inch midrange drivers and three 0.75-inch tweeters, and does so with finesse. The 300 DVD has a nice, wide soundfield, reproducing intense sound effects with aplomb. Even with the volume up during some fight scenes, the sound bar performs like a hero. You really do feel like the surround effects are coming from speakers around the room. The audio is best when you sit directly in front of the speaker, rather than off to the side. While the virtual surround sound can't compare with the real deal, this Polk does an excellent job of trying.
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