Review: Polk Omni SB1+ offers voice volume adjust

Design The Polk Omni SB1+ is made up of two key devices, the soundbar and the subwoofer. Both support a luxurious curves that give an elegance not always found...

Design

The Polk Omni SB1+ is made up of two key devices, the soundbar and the subwoofer. Both support a luxurious curves that give an elegance not always found in our modern black electronics. The soundbar has a slim profile which allows the sleek design to blend in, rather than make a statement, exactly what you want as the biggest display in your house, the TV should be where your focus is drawn to.

If you’re after that clean wall-mounted look, the built-in keyhole slots for wall-mounting ensure you have that option, which is an important checkbox to tick given this requirement is a deal breaker for some.

SURROUNDBAR
Polk call the sound bar a Surround bar as it inlcudes 3x tweeters that are each an efficient 1.27cm in diameter. There’s another 3 speakers to tackle the mid range of the audio spectrum and these are a little larger at 3″ x 1″. In terms of size, it’s efficient and may allow for a more diverse range of applications than some larger bars. It measures 5.5cm high x 109.2cm wide and 9.2cm deep.

SUBWOOFER
The sub is 8 inches in diameter and projects the low-end audio to the floor to flood your room with the deep bass. As long as you have a powerpoint nearby, the sub can be placed anywhere in your room thanks to the wireless connection with the soundbar. If you’d prefer, there is also a 3.5mm cabled option (cable not included), but I found the wireless works just fine.

To add the sub it couldn’t be easier, just turn on the power to the sound bar and then turn on the power to the sub. A green LED at the back of the sub will flash for a while, which indicates the magic is happening, then once connected, it’ll turn a solid green.

From that point you’re just left adjusting the level of bass required using the mini remote. Your needs here may vary based on your proximity to neighbours and the content you’re watching. For the 6pm news, its not so important, but for the latest action movie on Netflix, you’ll definitely want to turn up the bass.

It is substantial in size, but certainly not the largest we’ve seen at 36.62cm high x 34.79cm wide and 29.48cm deep.

Features

Probably the biggest selling point of this system is its ability to linearly adjust the voice levels coming from the source. While this may not sound like a big deal, but when you understand the possibilities afforded by that, it is. Increasingly we live in denser real estate and with that comes an association with your neighbours. Too often good relationships with those next door, above or below are ruined (or at least strained) by the noise emitted while you enjoy a movie.

What you can do with the SB1+ is have the volume up but adjust the bass and voice accordingly. Its almost always the bass that travels far enough to annoy. By being able to cusotmise this you can find a happy medium that keeps the neighbours happy and you being able to hear the actors deliver their lines clearly.

Listening Modes
The control offers two EQ modes, Movie and Music that tailors the bar’s sound to the task at hand. While it makes a noticeable difference, I’d love to see the mobile app give access to a range of EQ settings to suit personal preference. Having these hard codes seems pretty arbritary.

Surround sound
The SB1 Soundbar and sub deliver 3.1 audio, but its easy to expand that to a 5.1 home theater system with support for two Polk Omni S2s, S2Rs or S6s as discrete rear left and right channel wireless surround speakers.

Bluetooth
The SB1 Plus comes with a separate Bluetooth adapter so you can switch between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in seconds—play audio from even more online sources from your phone, tablet or computer and re-stream it to any Play-Fi speaker on your network.

Its kind of amazing that the engineers couldn’t find a way to fit in a bluetooth module into the casing, as having to ask the consumer to connect a dongle after unboxing, takes away from the simplicity of the setup proposal.

When you do send Bluetooth audio to the SB1+ it doesn’t take over the current audio input option automatically. Other systems will prompt you in the mobile app to let you know you’re going to switch what is probably audio heard by others in your family and a simple taps makes the audio happen.

Software

The Polk SB1+ supports a pretty decent offering of music services, however it does seem fairly US-focused at this point. While there’s Amazon Music, Deezer, iHeartRadio, Pandora, Tidal and others, I did miss Spotify and TuneIn Radio. Of course if you’re someone who still stores music locally, there’s the ability to stream from a media server as well.

The mobile application is essentially a reskin of the Play-Fi app which if you’re unfamiliar with, is a home wireless ecosystem designed to compete with SONOS and is supported by the SB1+.

If you add additional speakers in different rooms, its easy to control what’s playing where. One big omission is the ability to switch audio input sources from the app, this leaves you searching for the physical remote to change from Optical in, to an online music service which felt a little clunky.

 

Sound Quality

There’s certainly no substitute for hearing the audio yourself, however given not all of you have access to the SB1+ here’s a clip that shows the voice adjustment in action. Of course you shouldn’t take this as an accurate demonstration of the explicit audio quality given it relies on the microphone of the Canon DSLR used to record it and the compression done on YouTube’s side.

 

Gallery

There’s only really one way to appreciate the work of the Polk designers and that’s with a photo gallery from every angle, so for your viewing pleasure, here it is.

 

Price and Availability

Polk’s Omni Soundbar SB1 retails for a pretty steep A$1,299.00. Compared to most other sound bars on the market, it’s in the premium end of the market and based on the audio quality and functionality, that’s probably a little steep.

The biggest question for those considering upgrading from TV audio to a soundbar or home theatre in a box solution is how much better will the audio be and with the SB1+ you won’t be disappointed. If you’re living room or theater room supports rear speakers, you’ll definitely want to account for another few hundred dollars being spent there for real 5.1.

If you’re keen, head over to JB Hi-Fi who are selling the Polk Omni SB1+ for the RRP of A$1,299 and will deliver from $18.

Included Accessories in the box are: remote control (battery included), subwoofer power cord, 24V power supply, 6′ analogue cable & 6′ optical cable.

Overall

The Polk Omni SB1+ offers a serious upgrade from that rubbish speaker included in your TV. If you’re looking for an upgrade then you have to consider how much you want to spend. Investing in a premium product like this will mean you make the investment once, rather than buy a few hundred dollar solution and then have to upgrade in the short to mid term.

What’s on offer here from Polk is solid and comes in a well designed package. The software side still feels very confused with a massive omission of support for Apple’s AirPlay and the inability to switch inputs through the app is super clunky.

While Polk tries to offer a feature set similar to the more expensive SONOS, make sure you understand you’re not buying a SONOS here. The Playbar and Sub from SONOS offers a far deeper soundscape and the software side is incredibly simple, grown up and incredibly capable with constant updates. The SB1+ has the ability to get there, but only if they focus heavily on the software experience and let users control absolutely everything digitally, rather than reaching for the remote.

If this falls in your budget and then it should absolutely be on your short list.

8.7
Polk Omni SB1+
The Good
  • Wireless connectivity
  • Linear control over voice and bass
  • Design asthetic
The Bad
  • Mobile app
  • Design
    9.0
  • Features
    8.5
  • Value
    8.5
Categories
AudioReviews