People with lots of speaker cabinets in their listening room can laugh all they want, but soundbars are still pretty cool. This newest kind of speaker fits neatly under your flat screen, and creates a good, if not great, soundfield. In some cases, the soundbar system contains all sorts of other electronics. Case in point is the new SoundBar 360 from Polk.
The SoundBar 360 contains a speaker system (eight drivers total), along with a DVD/CD player, AM/FM tuner, multichannel amplifier, and soundfield processor. The bar is sizable (44-1/2 inches wide) so make sure your screen is appropriately wide too. Note that the SoundBar does not contain a Blu-ray player. Interesting.
The SoundBar 360 comprises two units. The bar itself, and a console, connected via a single cable. Onboard are multiple inputs: RCA, optical digital, coaxial digital, S-Video, component video, HDMI, and USB. There is no external subwoofer, but there is a subwoofer output line. The bar is 44-1/2 (W) x 4-7/8 (D) x 4-1/8 (H) inches. The console is 16-1/2 (W) x 11-1/2 (D) x 3-3/16 (H) inches. The SurroundBar 360 will be available in September. Retail price is $1,199.
A larger question is whether soundbars represent a new direction in the audio market....
Traditional floor-standing speakers will always be favored for major installations, but many people have opted for the smaller and cheaper home-theater-in-a-box approach. Workable, but placing tiny speakers all around a room is less than satisfying. In fact, the HTiB category is losing steam in the sales department. Even though the sound-from-behind experience is diminished, soundbars are gaining steam. There is no real stigma to them, at least compared to most HTiBs. And the possibility of cramming DVD players and amplifiers into the soundbar system is appealing. It is highly possible that soundbars are the wave of the flat-TV future. —Ken C. Pohlmann
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