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Polk: SurroundBar Delivers HTiB Promises

Polk is positioning its $1,199-suggested SurroundBar 360 DVD Theater as delivering unmet claims of the simplicity promised by home theater in a box (HTiB) systems but never provided.

SurroundBar 360 deliveries begin in September to national chains, regional specialists, and installers, who have shown interest in the system because they can attach it to a flat-panel TV installed on a wall, said co-founder Matthew Polk. The company is working with dealers to develop in-store displays to demonstrate the two-piece surround-sound system.

The gloss-black system consists of a 4.1-inch by 44.5-inch by 4.88-inch speaker, which is placed above or below a flat-panel TV, and a 3.2- by 16.5- by 11.5-inch console, which is equipped with embedded DVD/CD player, AM/FM tuner, amplification, surround processor and an active version of Polk’s proprietary SDA (Stereo Dimensional Array) Surround technology to deliver surround sound through the speaker’s eight drivers.

HTiBs, said Polk, “promised simplicity to the customer, but they were really just component audio systems with the quality dumbed down.” HTiBs, he continued, “still had the same setup and hookup issues, but they were just easier to buy because they were in one box.”

The SurroundBar, on the other hand, brings buying and setup simplicity to a “technology-transparent” surround system that’s ideal for secondary rooms such as bedrooms or home offices, he said. The system is easy to set up because it consists of only two pieces connected by a single cable. Because all speakers are up front in one enclosure, he continued, consumers don’t have to set the levels or delay times of individual speakers as they do in a traditional 5.1-channel system. And unlike some other virtual-surround systems, this one doesn’t force consumers to precisely position separate left and right speakers to bounce surround signals off side walls to create surround effects.

Consumers also don’t need a powered subwoofer because the system delivers “useful response to the low-40Hz region,” Polk said.

The SurroundBar launch marks only the second time that Polk has offered a surround-sound system complete with speakers and electronics. In 1996 or 1997, the company launched a $2,500 system consisting of a Marantz-sourced preamp/processor, speakers and a subwoofer incorporating all of the system’s amplification.