Polk Audio SurroundBar SDA Instant Home Theater

DarqueKnight
DarqueKnight Posts: 6,640
edited January 2010 in Speakers
Introduction

For my most recent home office computer system upgrade, the most difficult aspect was finding a set of computer speakers that fit my performance and aesthetic requirements. I wanted a 2.1 speaker system where the speakers and subwoofer were out of sight. The sub needed to be small enough to fit in the corner behind one of my home office chairs. The speakers needed to be small enough to fit in the 7-1/2" high by 33-1/2" wide space under the monitor stand. Of course, it had to sound good with no squeaks, rattles, thin/tinny sound, or boomy sound.

The SurroundBar SDA Instant Home Theater (SB-IHT) was a perfect fit for my performance and aesthetic requirements. Although not marketed as computer audio speakers, they work very well in this application.

Specifications:

Speaker Dimensions: 31-3/4" W x 5-3/8" H x 4-5/8" D
Wireless Subwoofer Dimensions: 10" H x 10-1/4" W x 10-1/4" D
Frequency Response (±3dB): 40 Hz - 22 kHz
Usable Low Freq Response: 30 Hz
Driver Complement: Four 2.5" composite cones
Tweeters: Two 1/2" Polycarbonate Dome
Bass Technology: Downward Firing Vented Enclosure with 6 1/2" Long-Throw Dynamic Balance Poly Composite Driver
Total Peak Power: 260 Watts Total, 70 Watts x 2 (SurroundBar), 120 Watts x 1 (Subwoofer)
MSRP: $550

sbiht-spk-sub-s.jpg
Figure 1. An elegant solution for my computer audio requirements. Good looks and Such Good Sound.

sbiht-nogrille-s.jpg
Figure 2. Nekkid SurroundBar.

sbiht-sub-pwr-cbl-s.jpg
Figure 3. I had a premonition that the sub's little spaghetti strand power cord wasn't going to last too long. I was right. It was
necessarily replaced with a Signal Cable MagicPower Cord.


sbiht-sub-fuse-s.jpg
Figure 4. One day, when I am more dedicated to computer audio than I am now, I'm going to replace the subwoofer's power line
fuse with an audio grade fuse.


sbiht-remote-s.jpg
Figure 5. Simple, uncluttered credit card sized remote control. In my application, the remote is largely redundant since muting and
volume control can be accomplished through the computer keyboard.


The remote must have been an afterthought since it is not listed in the "included in package" list online, nor is it shown in the equipment list on page 3 of the manual, nor is it listed in the equipment list on the box.

The remote was not pre-programmed to work with the SurroundBar and needed to be set up according to instructions on page 9 of the manual. However, the manual's remote set up intructions were for any programmable remote and not specific to the SurroundBar's remote.

Setup and Tweaking

The SB-IHT was ordered directly from Polk and was shipped the next day after order placement. It arrived three days after shipment (ordered on Monday, received on Friday). The SurroundBar and sub were packed in thick blocks of Styrofoam and corrugated cardboard. Unpacking actually took longer than setup, which was less than 10 minutes. The manual is well written and well illustrated. After the initial setup to verify proper functioning, I started my tweaking routine.

mad.gif Why, and how come, did you waste time tweaking a non-audiophile product?

Just because a product isn't aimed at the audiophile market it doesn't mean its performance can't be enhanced. I have lots of cables and power cords around. Why not use them?

sbiht-intconns-s.jpg
Figure 6. The SB-IHT's stock interconnects were left in the box. I tried a couple of Signal Cable models, along with a Blue Jeans
Cable 1/8" to stereo RCA adapter.


The SB-IHT comes with a generic 1/8" to stereo RCA adapter and a set of generic RCA interconnects. I opted for a better shielded and gold-plated 1/8" adapter. I also experimented with a couple of better interconnects: Signal Cable Analog 2 and Signal Cable Silver Resolution Reference. I expected that either of the Signal cables would outperform the generic stock interconnects, but I was surprised at the big difference in clarity and depth between the two Signal models in this PC rig application.

The Silver Resolution cables ($149 for 4 ft. pair) were clearly superior in every respect to the Analog II's ($67 for a 6 ft. pair).

mad.gif Why, why, why...are you talking about "depth" with a speaker system that is sitting on top of your computer desk?

While listening to music through the SurroundBar, I hear a small sound stage that is projected a foot in front of the SurroundBar and about 6 inches behind it. Instruments and vocals in the center seem to come from dead center, yet behind the speaker plane. Drums, guitars, synthesizers, pianos, etc. seem to come from areas projected in front of the center image. Were it not for the obstructions on either side of the SurroundBar, I expect that I would achieve a wider sound stage.

Replacing the subwoofer's itty bitty 18 AWG stock power cord with a better shielded, 10 AWG Signal Cable MagicPower cord resulted in smoother, faster, heavier, more detailed, and more articulate bass. The sub is tiny, but it adds nice, clean weight, growl, and rumble to music and movie sound tracks.

I initially placed the subwoofer under my computer desk. That resulted in boomy bass. Relocating the sub to a corner across the room resolved the problem.

Improved Picture And Sound With Regenerated AC

I borrowed the PS Audio Power Plant Premier AC regenerator from my master bedroom system to evaluate the effect of better AC in the PC rig. This was done strictly out of curiosity since I have no serious interest in investing in regenerated AC for my computer.

1. The mini-sound stage on my desk grew in width to extend 6 inches beyond the sides of the SurroundBar. This was surprising because I didn't expect to hear any imaging beyond the SurroundBar sides due to the monitor stand almost butting up against it.

2. The sound level was apparently louder due to the lowered noise floor.

3. The overall sound, particularly bass, was a little more clear and articulate.

4. There was more depth and clarity in Blu-ray movie scenes.

Aesthetic Appeal

As can be seen from figures 7 and 8, the SB-IHT speaker system is virtually invisible:

wkst-sbiht-s.jpg
Figure 7. The SurroundBar (behind the telephone) is virtually invisible except for the "Polk Audio" name badge.

sbiht-sub-placement-s.jpg
Figure 8. The wireless subwoofer is placed in the corner behind the chair on the right.

With all the numerical analysis, multi-tasking and video editing I am currently doing, my old PC just wasn't cutting it anymore. I selected a Dell XPS 9000 system to enhance my productivity.

i7 920 Quad-Core 64 bit processor @ 2.66 MHz,
8 GB DDR3 SDRAM @ 1066 MHz,
1 TB SATA Hard Drive @ 7200 RPM,
Nvidia GeForce GTX 260 video card,
SoundBlaster X-Fi Titanium sound card,
Windows XP Professional 64 Bit Operating System,
Dell U2410 24" High Definition Monitor,
CD/DVD/Blu-ray Drives and Writers,
xD/SM/SD/MS/CF Card Readers.
Logitech MX5500 Wireless Keyboard and Mouse

xps9000case-s.jpg
Figure 9. Dell's XPS 9000 exceeded my performance and aesthetic requirements.
"So hot it burns Mice!"~DK
"Polk SDA-SRSs are hopelessly out of date both sonically and technologically... I see no value whatsoever in older SDA speakers."~Audio Asylum Member
"Knowledge, without understanding, is a path to failure."~DK
"Those who irrationally rail against something or someone that is no threat to them, actually desire (or desire to be like) the thing or person they are railing against."~DK
Post edited by DarqueKnight on

Comments

  • janmike
    janmike Posts: 6,146
    edited October 2009
    Thanks for the review DK. Just the unit I am looking at for my son's gaming needs.
    Michael ;)
    In the beginning, all knowledge was new!

    NORTH of 60°
  • TECHNOKID
    TECHNOKID Posts: 4,300
    edited October 2009
    Great review (as usual) DK!

    Cheers!
    TK
    DARE TO SOAR:
    “Your attitude, almost always determine your altitude in life” ;)
  • Topper
    Topper Posts: 403
    edited October 2009
    where'd you get the remote? thought the SDA IHT didnt come with remote?
  • DarqueKnight
    DarqueKnight Posts: 6,640
    edited October 2009
    The remote was included in the box.

    I did not notice this until you mentioned it, but the remote is not listed in the "included in package" list online, nor is it shown in the equipment list on page 3 of the manual, nor is it listed in the equipment list on the box.

    The remote was not pre-programmed to work with the SurroundBar and needed to be set up according to instructions on page 9 of the manual. However, the manual's remote set up intructions were for any programmable remote and not specific to the SurroundBar's remote.
    "So hot it burns Mice!"~DK
    "Polk SDA-SRSs are hopelessly out of date both sonically and technologically... I see no value whatsoever in older SDA speakers."~Audio Asylum Member
    "Knowledge, without understanding, is a path to failure."~DK
    "Those who irrationally rail against something or someone that is no threat to them, actually desire (or desire to be like) the thing or person they are railing against."~DK
  • bigaudiofanatic
    bigaudiofanatic Posts: 4,415
    edited October 2009
    Should of just got the Klipsch 2.1 setup for computers and been done with it. Would of been cheaper as well.
    HT setup
    Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ80U
    Denon DBP-1610
    Monster HTS 1650
    Carver A400X :cool:
    MIT Exp 3 Speaker Wire
    Kef 104/2
    URC MX-780 Remote
    Sonos Play 1

    Living Room
    63 inch Samsung PN63C800YF
    Polk Surroundbar 3000
    Samsung BD-C7900
  • LandShark
    LandShark Posts: 130
    edited October 2009
    DarqueKnight, I want to be you when I grow up :-)

    TV: Samsung LN40A550
    Mains: Polk Monitor 70's
    Center: Polk CS2
    Surrounds: Polk OWM3's
    Receiver: Onkyo TX sr705
    BDP: Sony S350
    Subs: Velodyne VRP1200 and VRP1000
    Monster Power Conditioner EP IR 2450
  • TECHNOKID
    TECHNOKID Posts: 4,300
    edited October 2009
    Should of just got the Klipsch 2.1 setup for computers and been done with it. Would of been cheaper as well.
    Some people prefer/chose quality over cheaper even when it comes to computer rig. Personally, every set-up that are actually made for computers I found really cheap and not worth while getting. I chose monitor speakers instead (M-AUDIO) and if it wasn't the fact that I want mobility for my computer rig (laptop) I think the SDA IHT could have been a great idea. personally, I think this set-up is very clever if you want quality sound for your computer. If your home rig are of good SQ, it just seem logical you wouldn't want to jeopardize this by getting cheapo speakers for your more modest rig. just my .02 cent...
    DARE TO SOAR:
    “Your attitude, almost always determine your altitude in life” ;)
  • bigaudiofanatic
    bigaudiofanatic Posts: 4,415
    edited October 2009
    Well I have to say that the klipsch setup I do not consider cheap probably one of the best ones you can get. But that is just my 2 cents
    HT setup
    Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ80U
    Denon DBP-1610
    Monster HTS 1650
    Carver A400X :cool:
    MIT Exp 3 Speaker Wire
    Kef 104/2
    URC MX-780 Remote
    Sonos Play 1

    Living Room
    63 inch Samsung PN63C800YF
    Polk Surroundbar 3000
    Samsung BD-C7900
  • DarqueKnight
    DarqueKnight Posts: 6,640
    edited October 2009
    For my home office PC, I don't expect that I will ever go back to regular computer speakers.

    For PC audio in the home office of my next house, I expect that I will upgrade to a nice pair of monitors and a small sub driven by an integrated amp.
    "So hot it burns Mice!"~DK
    "Polk SDA-SRSs are hopelessly out of date both sonically and technologically... I see no value whatsoever in older SDA speakers."~Audio Asylum Member
    "Knowledge, without understanding, is a path to failure."~DK
    "Those who irrationally rail against something or someone that is no threat to them, actually desire (or desire to be like) the thing or person they are railing against."~DK
  • lanion
    lanion Posts: 843
    edited October 2009
    My Iron Man training/charity blog.

    HT:
    32" Sharp LCD. H/K dpr 1001 to Outlaw Audio 7900 to Polk LSi + Paradigm Studio center. Hsu DualDrive ULS-15. PS3/Wii. Outlaw 7900.
  • bigaudiofanatic
    bigaudiofanatic Posts: 4,415
    edited October 2009
    I just see it as, if you are that obsessed with your sound than you should of just put a receiver and a set of speakers to begin with.
    HT setup
    Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ80U
    Denon DBP-1610
    Monster HTS 1650
    Carver A400X :cool:
    MIT Exp 3 Speaker Wire
    Kef 104/2
    URC MX-780 Remote
    Sonos Play 1

    Living Room
    63 inch Samsung PN63C800YF
    Polk Surroundbar 3000
    Samsung BD-C7900
  • janmike
    janmike Posts: 6,146
    edited October 2009
    Mine is in transit.
    Michael ;)
    In the beginning, all knowledge was new!

    NORTH of 60°
  • TECHNOKID
    TECHNOKID Posts: 4,300
    edited October 2009
    Well I have to say that the klipsch setup I do not consider cheap probably one of the best ones you can get. But that is just my 2 cents
    Sorry, not pointing at klipsch when talking about cheap, what I personnaly found out (and this is only a personal opinion) is that most computer speaker set-ups aren't worth considering even with the pricy ones. I guess this is personal/subjective since the use is different for each and everyone. As I metioned, in my situation this is a portable rig and I expect to be able to play music and movies with some decent quality. Why would I waste time and effort playing an HD movie with a PJ on a video screen if I am to boshed the audio? I realize this is quite different for someone that simply wants the convenience to play their music while working or doing other tasks in their office. Some like DK might expect their PC rig to perform as close as possible to their usual set-up and are not willing to sacrifice the SQ. In my situation I chose powered monitors to avoid any external amp since the rig is mainly portable (consider weight and damage). I wanted the portability but didn't want to sacrifice too much of either audio and video SQ. Basically, I mainly use this rig for projecting HD movies during family events (either in or outdoor) and computer speakers simply don't fit the SQ I am seeking for such!

    AUDIO/VIDEO PORTABLE RIG:

    * Toshiba duocore laptop...
    * Toshiba A3 HDDVD and upscaler player...
    * M-AUDIO full range powered MONITORS...
    * Polk RM-10 rear speakers...
    * RocketFish amplified wireless sender (for the RM10)
    * I was considering a small pinnacle powered subwoofer for this portable rig but it has been put on hold at this time; http://www.audioholics.com/news/press-releases/pinnacle-loudspeakers-unveils-subcompact-6-the-worlds-smallest-powered-subwoofer

    If DK's review had came earlier before I comitted to this specific rig I would have definitely considered such an option.

    Cheers!
    TK
    DARE TO SOAR:
    “Your attitude, almost always determine your altitude in life” ;)
  • TECHNOKID
    TECHNOKID Posts: 4,300
    edited October 2009
    janmike wrote: »
    Mine is in transit.
    What will be the main purpose/duty for it?

    Cheers!
    TK
    DARE TO SOAR:
    “Your attitude, almost always determine your altitude in life” ;)
  • TECHNOKID
    TECHNOKID Posts: 4,300
    edited October 2009
    lanion wrote: »
    This was basically my belief and idea but...
    Thankfully, for those of us with an interest in desktop hi-fi, they, along with their Finnish competitors across the Baltic, Genelec, have been producing some of the world’s best powered monitors for the pro market for many years and have recently brought that knowledge and experience to bear on more consumer oriented products.
    I did consider both the dynaudio and genelec but the price tag being somewhat efty for my humble budget I then opted for the M-AUDIO which are priced much more friendly while leaving behind any/most typical computer speakers/monitors. For someone with a more generous budget, I would highly recommend the genelec as I was really impress by the professiona and tank like built.

    Cheers!
    TK
    DARE TO SOAR:
    “Your attitude, almost always determine your altitude in life” ;)
  • janmike
    janmike Posts: 6,146
    edited October 2009
    TECHNOKID wrote: »
    What will be the main purpose/duty for it?

    Cheers!
    TK

    This will be used for the game room system only.
    Michael ;)
    In the beginning, all knowledge was new!

    NORTH of 60°
  • cfrizz
    cfrizz Posts: 13,414
    edited November 2009
    Nice write up DK, and terrific setup! Maybe the remote is to the sub.
    Marantz AV-7705 PrePro, Classé 5 ch. 200wpc Amp, Oppo 103 BluRay, Rotel RCD-1072 CDP, Sony Bravia KDL-40R510C TV, Polk S60 Main Speakers, Boston VR-920 Center Channel, SVS NSD-12 SB12 Subwoofer, Polk DSW 400 Subwoofer, Polk FXi-3 Surround Speakers
  • jimbo1421
    jimbo1421 Posts: 772
    edited January 2010
    DK, I just received the demo unit IHT that has been going around. You have inspired me to give this a try on my office Power Mac G5. I am using the USB Griffin iMic for the DAC. My first impression is that I am getting about 120-150 degrees of soundstage and that the high frequencies are a bit muffled (although that is improving with time; maybe they needed to warm up after several days of cold FedEx travel). I have is set up just in front of my monitors, about 26" from my ears. Sound quality and imaging improve if I push my chair back to 40", but it is hard to type at arm's length range.

    Have you found an optimum ear to SB IHT distance? Have you tried any other DAC?

    iTunes and other music applications have their own volume control. Do you think it best to keep the computer volume all the way up and adjust on the SB?

    Jim
    5.1 System:
    TCL R613 55" 4K
    Front: SRS-3.1TL
    Center: CS400i
    Surround: Monitor 10B
    PSW10 subwoofer
    Onkyo PR-SC886P Pre/Pro
    NAD T955 5 channel power amplifier
    Technics SL-1710 MK2 turntable
    Audio-Technica AT14Sa cartridge
    Parasound P3 pre-amp
    Oppo BDP-103 Blu-Ray
    2014 MacBook Pro 2.8 GHz

    2.0 Office System:
    Monitor 10A (Peerless)
    Outlaw 1050 receiver
    Parasound HCA-1000A power amp
    MacPro
  • DarqueKnight
    DarqueKnight Posts: 6,640
    edited January 2010
    jimbo1421 wrote: »
    Have you found an optimum ear to SB IHT distance?

    I did not experiment with placement of the SurroundBar. I have mine at the rear edge of my computer desk, which is 31" deep. My keyboard tray extends another 10" from the desk's front edge. When I am sitting at the keyboard, my ears are 53" from the front of the SurroundBar. I have not experienced any muffling of high frequencies.
    jimbo1421 wrote: »
    Have you tried any other DAC?

    No. I only use the outputs from my PC's SoundBlaster X-Fi Titanium sound card.
    jimbo1421 wrote: »
    iTunes and other music applications have their own volume control. Do you think it best to keep the computer volume all the way up and adjust on the SB?

    That is what I do. I don't know if this is best for every situation.
    "So hot it burns Mice!"~DK
    "Polk SDA-SRSs are hopelessly out of date both sonically and technologically... I see no value whatsoever in older SDA speakers."~Audio Asylum Member
    "Knowledge, without understanding, is a path to failure."~DK
    "Those who irrationally rail against something or someone that is no threat to them, actually desire (or desire to be like) the thing or person they are railing against."~DK
  • jimbo1421
    jimbo1421 Posts: 772
    edited January 2010
    Thanks, DK. 53" is better, much broader soundstage. I am going to try mounting the IHT above the window across from my desk. That's about 7 feet.

    Jim
    5.1 System:
    TCL R613 55" 4K
    Front: SRS-3.1TL
    Center: CS400i
    Surround: Monitor 10B
    PSW10 subwoofer
    Onkyo PR-SC886P Pre/Pro
    NAD T955 5 channel power amplifier
    Technics SL-1710 MK2 turntable
    Audio-Technica AT14Sa cartridge
    Parasound P3 pre-amp
    Oppo BDP-103 Blu-Ray
    2014 MacBook Pro 2.8 GHz

    2.0 Office System:
    Monitor 10A (Peerless)
    Outlaw 1050 receiver
    Parasound HCA-1000A power amp
    MacPro