Polk Audio SurroundBar 360: Single-speaker virtual surround home theater

Polk's revamped SurroundBar is now packaged with a dedicated DVD player/amplifier module.

Polk Audio SurroundBar 360
Polk Audio's SurroundBar 360 Polk Audio

Polk Audio has officially unveiled its first single-speaker all-in-one home theater system, the SurroundBar 360. The system is comprised of just two components--a single elongated speaker (44 inches wide) designed to sit beneath your flat-panel TV, and a DVD player/amplifier head unit that houses the electronics. While the SurroundBar concept isn't new for Polk (the speaker-only 2005 version was designed to be paired with an AV receiver), the latest iteration utilizes a new active (powered) design that's said to maximize the speaker's eight drivers. In addition to the disc player and AM/FM radio, the head unit offers all of the standard DVD player outputs (including HDMI). Input capabilities fall short of HD switching, but the 360's analog composite and S-Video inputs will be upconverted via the HDMI output. A USB input is also available for digital photo playback and music players.

Watch the Polk Audio Surround Bar 360 video on CNET TV.

We had the opportunity to hear an early version of the SurroundBar 360 put through its paces by company founder Matthew Polk himself. While it wasn't an ideal listening environment--a tiny, prefab, soundproofed room within Polk's CES booth--the system impressed us with its virtual surround acumen and its bass response. While a dedicated subwoofer can be attached to the unit, the palpable low frequencies it exhibited seemed to confirm that most listeners will do fine without it.

The SurroundBar 360 package will include four cradles for mounting the speaker on a stand (two low, two high) and a wall-mounting option. As far as setup, Mr. Polk is pledging ultrasimplicity, suggesting that the instructions will be short enough to be printed on the side of the box. Indeed, only three cables--the power cord, a 15-foot console-to-speaker umbilical, and the video output to a TV--will be needed to get the 360 up and running. Look for the Polk Audio SurroundBar 360 to debut in April for $1,200.

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