Most sound bars we test is primarily designed to sound good when watching a movie. Polk Audio has gone in a different direction and developed a sound bar with gamers in mind, and in the N1, the speaker specialists ganged up with Microsoft to create a sound bar that works perfectly with a game console, specifically the Xbox One.
But let´s begin with the design. We can not help but feel disappointed when we lift the bar out of the box - neither design or finish keeps what the pictures we have seen on the internet promises.
The N1 feels plasticky and cheap, which is probably due to the fact that Polk has chosen plastic and cheap materials. The speaker drivers are covered by a thick white plastic grille (it is also available in black), while the top goes in a matte brown shade that is not particularly appealing. Nor does the remote control give any stylish impression – it is of the credit card type and feels just as plasticky as the speaker.
Polk Audio N1 can of course also be hung on the wall under the TV, with the inputs on the back easily accessible. The inputs that are available is a standard 3.5-millimeter analog input and digital inputs in both coaxial and optical form. There is also an output for those who wish to connect a separate subwoofer to get some extra punch and depth in the bass, something we absolutely recommend doing.
One of the features Polk highlights on the N1 is the four different ‘Immersion Modes’ available, or preset equalizer modes. No direct novelty in itself, apart from two of these modes that are supposed to be especially suited for gaming. One mode is for racing (Forza Racer) while the mode called “Halo FPS” should work best with first person shooters like, well… Halo.
There is also a mode each for music and movies (Music and Cinema) for those who wish to use the N1 for more than just playing video games. For some reason you can not select these sound modes using the buttons on the speaker's top surface, this is only possible with the remote.
We started by hooking up the N1 to a Xbox 360 via optical cable, then tried it with a Playstation 3. You can select source with either the buttons on the speaker's top or the remote control, and a number of LEDs in various colors indicates which source has been selected and what format the audio is in.
We tested the N1 with a wide variety of games, ranging from simple platformers to all-out action FPS, on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. We had unfortunately no access to any Xbox One during the test, which is a shame since N1 is adapted specifically for this console.
The sound is actually really good in the game sequences we've tested. The soundstage is wide and full-bodied and sound as clean and clear as we could wish for in this price range. The bass feels quick and present, but was perhaps a bit too thin to give us a proper sense of power in the sound. This is however easily remedied by adding a subwoofer of your choice using the 'sub out' on the back.
The Equalizer modes does its job in a way so that, for example, the dialogue in FPS mode is clearer than otherwise, but it´s really not that big of a difference. When we change to a racing game with the 'Forza Racer' mode enabled, we get the impression that the speaker enhances the engine sound, which becomes more intense and present.
Bluetooth with aptX
The speaker works just as well when watching movies or playing music, and the latter is clearly the easiest to connect via bluetooth. N1 supports aptX over Bluetooth, a technology that provides higher audio quality when streaming wirelessly provided that support for this is also available in the audio source.
The equalizer modes did not work when we used a bluetooth connection, which feels strange, but on the remote control there´s at least a couple of buttons to adjust the bass. We couldn´t find any other setting possibilities, which feels a bit poor.
Polk Audio N1 costs about 250 dollars, and while it provides a plasticky and a bit dull first impression, and there are plenty of sound bars to buy that is both cheaper and better looking, we can´t find anything seriously wrong with the sound quality, it actually sounds really good. We are not very impressed by the different equalizer modes, as the difference is really only marginal, and the otherwise rather limited adjustment possibilities, but it sounds good when playing both games and movies.
- The first-ever sound bar collaboration of game designers and audio engineers.
- Connects directly to your console and unleash an immersive gaming experience with onboard Dolby® Digital and Polk's patented SDA® Surround Sound Technology.
- Customized, optimized audio built in: Tailor your audio experience with four Immersion Modes (Forza Racer, Halo FPS, Music and Cinema).
- Feel the impact of deep bass with Polk's exclusive built-in Full Complement Sub Bass Drive technology - no subwoofer required!
- We highly recommend our PSW10 or PSW108 subwoofers if you're looking to pump up the bass, and it's easy because the N1 has a sub jack.
- Bluetooth connectivity with aptX lets you stream CD-quality digital audio from any Bluetooth device.
- Works with your current remote thanks to SmartBar ™ programming, or use the included N1 remote.
- Easy shelf mounting, with built-in keyhole slots for wall-mounting.
- EnergyStar® Certified.
- Easy connections: optical, coaxial, 3.5mm analog, Bluetooth with aptX.
- Comes with remote controller, 6' digital (optical) cable, 24V power supply.
- Compact dimensions: 4" H x 39 1/4" W x 4 1/2" D (10.16 cm x 99.7 cm x 11.43 cm)
- The N1 delivers the best single-speaker gaming experience possible, thanks to Polk's 40 years of innovative high performance experience.
- Gold-plated 3.5mm connector is designed to fit through the opening on all i-gadget cases.
- Extended battery life with normal use.
- Includes Home Audio Receiver Adaptor, Airplane Adaptor with specially designed attenuator to optimize airline system performance. Convenient carrying case included.
- Engineered for durability, performance & comfort, the UltraFocus Series is made with the most advanced materials and state-of-the-art headphone micro-technology. They will be the last pair of headphones you'll ever need.
- Dual binding posts allow bi-amp or bi-wire connections, for the ultimate in customized high performance audio.
- Innovative no-tip hex-head floor spikes make speaker-leveling easy on any flooring.
Dimensions 4" H x 39 1/4" W x 4 1/2" D (10.2 cm x 99.7 cm x 11.4 cm)
Weight 9 lbs 10 oz (4.35 kg)
Power Requirements 20 V, 3 A
Model N1 SurroundBar
Remote Battery CR2025