The Average Gamer

Polk n1 Surround Bar Review

n1 Surround Bar Black Front
Sound bars have become A Thing in over the past decade – single, centred speaker bars that aim to fill your room with sound. Very handy if you don’t have the space for multiple speakers, or the inclination to trail wires around your gaming room. Polk Audio lent me their n1 surroundbar™ to try out.

Much like their 4Shot gaming headset, the surroundbar was built in consultation with Microsoft’s Xbox division to optimise things for gaming. The infra-red remote control has preset buttons marked for Halo and Forza (i.e. shooting and driving games) as well as options for movie and music. Each provides brilliantly clear sound with a nice balance of bass. Game and film dialogue is crisp and rarely overshadowed by the ambient noise or soundtrack. The remote itself feels rather cheap though, and I’d worry about about it lasting more than a year or two. See a picture of it here.

There’s an optical input on the rear for connecting to your console and the n1 does come with its own cable. Rather awkwardly, the socket points down and has very little clearance from whatever surface your stand the bar on. The cable provided does fit fine but the connectors on all my other optical cables are ~2 inches long, lifting the rear of the bar and putting pressure on the cable. There are keyholes on the rear for wall-mounting if that’s an option for you.

You can also connect devices through a coaxial connector, a standard 3.5mm jack or use Bluetooth with aptX to stream music directly from your phone or other device. While the bass is fine on its own, there is also a jack to connect your own subwoofer if you want a bit more boom.

n1 Surround Bar White Living RoomYou couldn’t ask for an easier installation. The bar is fully assembled: simply plug in the source cable and power cables. In your console settings, switch over to Dolby Digital (it won’t take DTS Digital Surround) and you’re set.

While a sound bar will never match a multi-speaker set-up, some cunning engineering does mimic the effect very well. Walking through the fields of Ferelden in Dragon Age: Inquisition, I could hear mosquitoes buzzing around my head and pick out distant battles to my left and right. On the driving preset, screaming around corners in Forza 5 is particularly impressive. However, most of the surround sound effect seems simply come from filling the room with volume.

The volume bar uses a row of approximately eight lights to indicate the current setting. When plugged into the Xbox One, I found that anything below three was too quiet and anything above that suddenly jumped into overwhelming territory. It was nice to be bathed in sound but also impossible to hold a conversation. Yet when I plugged in my phone through the 3.5mm connector, setting my phone’ media volume to maximum still required me to turn up the n1’s volume quite high and didn’t have the huge jump between settings three and four.

Polk’s n1 surroundbar is a great for a compact gaming set-up. It comes with everything you need and the bluetooth connectivity is a nice touch. The optical volume issue is a little odd but fine to work around. If you’re looking for a sound bar, I’d happily recommend this one to any gamer.

Learn more about the n1 Surround Bar on the Polk website. It’s available in the UK for £199.

On the n1’s Polk website page, it says the following:

Includes Home Audio Receiver Adaptor, Airplane Adaptor with specially designed attenuator to optimize airline system performance. Convenient carrying case included.

Do you often play Forza and Halo on your own private jet? This is the sound bar for you!

2 Comments

  1. Cristiano

    23rd Jan, 2015 at 11:57 pm

    How well does this work if you also want to use it as a sound bar for your TV? Is this easy to set up? How does it switch?

    • Debbie Timmins (Weefz)

      24th Jan, 2015 at 12:45 am

      As long as your TV has optical, coaxial, 3.5mm analog or Bluetooth with aptX connectivity output then you’re sorted. The remote has a button for each input source.