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TEST: Polk's audiophile loudspeakers


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#1 of 119 Alex F.

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Posted January 15 2002 - 07:32 AM

As you may be aware, Polk (polkaudio.com) has released a new line of loudspeakers, the LSi series, aimed at audiophiles. The company will not distribute these products through their usual chain superstore vendors. Polk apparently desires to sell the new line via selected shops that can properly demonstrate the new speakers (at present there are about 30 such dealers in the United States; I found it necessary to contact Polk to find one in my area).

Last week I had an opportunity to audition the LSi-9, a stand-mounted speaker that retails for $1,040/pair. (There are four different front speakers in the LSi series, ranging from $810/pair for a stand-mounted unit to $3,000/pair for a large tower speaker; a center and a dipole/bipole surround are also offered.)

The LSi-9s were about 8 feet apart, mounted on 24-inch stands, and angled inward toward the listening position about 9 feet away. Using three reference CDs, my wife and I listened for about 40 minutes.

Our reaction? We were, quite frankly, astonished at the sheer musicality of these new speakers. A Polk representative told me over the telephone that the new LSi's are aimed to compete with top European brands, among others, but at a much lower cost. They hit their mark on the bulls-eye. The LSi-9 reminded me of products offered by Sonus-Faber and Vienna Acoustics. The Polks had the same slightly laid-back quality, with buttery smoothness, exceptional inner detail, complete driver-to-driver coherency, and superb soundstaging. They never shout at you like so many of today's speakers, yet manage to provide micro-details. They were never fatiguing throughout the audition. The two 5.25" bass/midrange drivers provided fast, clean, well-defined and surprisingly deep bass performance (a subwoofer was not used during the audition). Also, they played very loud in a large room, so they are certainly suitable for home-theater use.

All the models in the series share the same tweeter (a ring radiator, no less!) and bass/midrange driver. They differ only in the number of bass/mid drivers for the stand-mounted units and the addition of an 8" or 10" woofer for the two tower models. Polk told me that the tweeter is obtained from Vifa, and that it is the same driver Krell uses in their new $37,500 LAT loudspeaker.

We had decided to obtain Sonus-Faber Concerto Homes ($1,900/pair, plus stands) for our upcoming new "den" (a 13' x 12' A-V room in which to relax, read, and listen to music). But now we're pretty sure we'll buy one of the new Polk models instead--we were that impressed.

I wish the dealer had the LSi-25 floorstanders to audition, but alas it may be awhile before he has them available. They will receive serious consideration for our new theater room (in our new house presently under construction). The Vandersteen 3A Signature is our present top choice, but, thanks to the new Polks, it is now hanging onto that spot by its fingernails.

For anyone considering the purchase of a refined, musical, high-resolution loudspeaker, try to audition one of the new LSi models. It is worth the effort.

#2 of 119 Jonathan_M

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Posted January 15 2002 - 08:42 AM

Thanks for posting that review Alex! There's not a dealer anywhere near me yet, so I'll have to wait to audition the LSi's at a later date. Your review has definitely got me interested.
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#3 of 119 Troy LaMont

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Posted January 16 2002 - 07:41 AM

Alex,

OOOHHH, I don't like you, I don't like you!

Just kidding! Posted Image

I've been posting periodically about these speakers for some time now.(here, here and here). I definitely have my mind set on getting the LSi15s (with center and surrounds to boot) for my HT.

That's just the kind of review I wanted to hear to calm my high hopes for these speakers. So far, there aren't any dealers in my area that carry the LSis. I may have to take a little road trip just to audition and/or purchase them.

Thanks.

Question: What type of amp was being used to run them?
Another question: Did the speakers you auditioned have the cherry or or ebony finish? How'd they look, feel?


Troy
Eagerly awaiting the LSis in my HT!
:My teacher tells me beauty is on the inside.
:That's just something ugly people say.

#4 of 119 joe logston

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Posted January 16 2002 - 12:27 PM

i like to get the ls-9 all around (6) got 2 psw-650 subs need to get 2 more that (4) set 4 ls-9 on top of the psw-650 with pedestals, use i ls-9 for front center standing vertical,use one for rear center, setting veritcalon back wall. set all to small, exceptthe rear center, set that to large. all the subs run to the receiver lfe out puts with splitters
Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

#5 of 119 Alex F.

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Posted January 16 2002 - 04:17 PM

Hello, Troy:

The dealer was using a Yamaha receiver. He said it was an RX-V1. I have very little experience with Yamaha receivers, but the Yamaha certainly sounded exceptionally fine.

Not yet having had an opportunity to drive them with high-end gear, the salesman wondered how much better the Polks would sound. I wonder, too.

One more item: According to the Polk rep, the only driver they don't manufacture in-house for the LSi line is the tweeter, which, as you already know, is sourced from Vifa. They must have ordered a huge number of drivers at a deep per-item discount in order to utilize such a superb tweeter in products that are so affordable.

#6 of 119 Jack Gilvey

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Posted January 17 2002 - 03:48 AM

This appears to be the Vifa that Polk's using, although with a proprietary faceplate. I'm also impressed, Alex, that such a tweeter would be used in something as inexpensive as the LSi7.

Posted Image
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#7 of 119 RichardH

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Posted January 17 2002 - 10:58 AM

I'm also impressed that the Vifa XT is going to be in Polks of that price range. But shouldn't it be that way?? Why should we have to pay something like $10k or more to get a speaker with a state of the art tweeter, right?

Kudos to Polk. Let's hope the LSi line does well....

#8 of 119 Alex F.

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Posted January 17 2002 - 01:28 PM

Troy:

I didn't realize until earlier today that I failed to answer two of your questions (chalk it up to staying "awake" waaay past bedtime!):

(1) The LSi-9s were in ebony and the design was quite attractive. (2) Unfortunately, neither my wife nor I paid close attention to fit and finish.

One more item worth mentioning: At my request, to check for any magnetic-field interference, the dealer placed one LSi-9 directly against the right side of a Sony 40" Wega TV. As best we could tell with normal programming (instead of using a test disc with a white background), there was no visible CRT discoloration.

#9 of 119 Troy LaMont

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Posted January 18 2002 - 07:48 AM

Alex,

Thanks for the info. I've finally managed to find two dealers, one is about 30 mins away, the other is about an hour and a half. I have an appointment with both next week. Posted Image I'll be giving my listening observations, of course.

Quote:
One more item worth mentioning: At my request, to check for any magnetic-field interference, the dealer placed one LSi-9 directly against the right side of a Sony 40" Wega TV. As best we could tell with normal programming (instead of using a test disc with a white background), there was no visible CRT discoloration.

All of the drivers for the LSi series are magnetically shielded to prevent interference with TVs.

So, have you guys decided to take the plunge yet? What brand of speaker stands will you get with the LSi9s? Polk recommends these by Sanus Systems. They are very attractive and match the Polks nicely and they have a nice little cable management system built in.

Well, I'm all amped up about my auditions next week. Until then.

Jack....

Troy
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:That's just something ugly people say.

#10 of 119 Danny Spencer

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Posted January 18 2002 - 08:01 AM

Troy,
I also live in the Cincinnati area. I would like some information on the LSi dealers if you don't mind.
Thanks in advance,
Danny

#11 of 119 Shawn C

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Posted January 18 2002 - 09:03 AM

"Side panels are 1-1/2" thick for a totally inert enclosure - you hear all the music and only the music.
"

49-3/4" H x 8-5/8" W x 17" D

How much do these things weigh?

#12 of 119 Alex F.

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Posted January 18 2002 - 11:16 AM

Troy:

Yes, I already knew they were shielded. Unfortunately, our Sony 36" Wega, which is sensitive to even minimal magnetic fields, has had problems with some shielded speakers in the past. That's why I tested the Polks with the presumably even more more sensitive 40" Wega, which we are considering purchasing.

Enjoy your auditions!

Alex

PS: I bought a pair of LSi-25s this afternoon. After the Polks have had some time to run-in, I will post my observations.

#13 of 119 Troy LaMont

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Posted January 18 2002 - 03:21 PM

Danny,

These are the two closest to us;

Quote:
Sound Waves Centerville
8600 Springboro Pike
Lyons Crossing
Dayton, OH 45342
Phone: 937-438-9283
Fax: 937-436-2794
about: 25 miles

Midwest Total Systems
6287 Busch Blvd.
Columbus, OH 43229
Phone: 614-846-4424
Fax: 614-846-3315
about: 96 miles

I spoke with a Tim @ Soundwaves. He informed me that they were probably going to be the only Soundwaves in the area to get the LSi line (which I can 75% verify after calling/stopping by the others).

I have an appointment with Richard @ Midwest Total Systems next Friday. He informed they have the whole HT setup, towers (not sure which model), center channel and surrounds.

Shawn,

According to Polk;

Total Shipping Weight - 91.00 lbs. So I would imagine that the speakers themselves are around 85 lbs or so.

Alex,

Pardon my questions, but you're the only one who has had direct contact with the beast. Posted Image

Questions:
    [*]Are you still going to get the LSi9s for the den?[*]What about a center and/or surrounds with the 25s?[*]What finish did you get?[*]What type of amplifier will you be using?[*]Do you have a digital camera? Posted Image

Can you tell I'm excited? I've put off getting the RT2000is for the longest not knowing 100% if they would be suitable. Now with the introduction of the LSi line, I am 100%, I just have to hear them and finalize the details in my mind. (rambling)

Thanks.

Troy
:My teacher tells me beauty is on the inside.
:That's just something ugly people say.

#14 of 119 Alex F.

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Posted January 19 2002 - 06:51 AM

Good afternoon, Troy:

The dealer doesn't have stock yet on the center or surrounds. He's expecting them to arrive in about a week.

I obtained a set in ebony. I'll certainly be purchasing the surrounds, as I am a major proponent of dipoles for movies and classical music, and bipoles for other music. Since the FX surrounds are switchable bipoles/dipoles, they provide the best of both worlds.

Even though I originally planned to use the LSi-9s for our upcoming den, I decided to buy the LSi-25s instead. After we listen to the them for awhile we'll decide whether to buy the Vandersteens for the theater room or obtain another pair of LSi-25s. We haven't even heard the '25s yet (we bought the dealer's first and only pair). They're still sealed in their boxes, but we expect to set them up later today.

I don't know yet if I want a center channel. Since only my wife and I will use the den, and I prefer the superior imaging of a system without a center channel when seated in the "sweet spot," I will decide after we try the Polks.

We're on the verge of disassembling our current theater room (we will soon need the space for storing packed boxes before our move; in fact we recently sold our Pioneer projection TV--tears slowly forming--which will be replaced later by an HDTV unit). I'll hook up the Polks in that room for a week or so, then put them back in their boxes.

The theater-room system uses a Denon AVP-8000 preamp, Adcom 5503 amp (a sweet-sounding MOSFET unit with 350 watts/channel at the Polk's 4-ohm rating), and a Sony 7000 DVD player. I use the Sony as a CD transport when we listen to music in that room. A Velodyne FSR-18 subwoofer completes the system. I won't be using the sub when evaluating the Polks.

Sorry, no digital camera. I am strictly an SLR guy.

Until later...

#15 of 119 Troy LaMont

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Posted January 21 2002 - 03:57 AM

Alex,

You're the best. Keep me posted.

Thanks.

Troy
:My teacher tells me beauty is on the inside.
:That's just something ugly people say.

#16 of 119 Danny Spencer

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Posted January 21 2002 - 04:58 AM

Troy,
Thanks again for the info on thr LSi dealers in the Cincinnati area. I think I will check out the Sound Waves location in the near future. What part of town do you live in? I am in Fairfield Township. Later,
Danny

#17 of 119 MatthewJ S

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Posted January 21 2002 - 04:03 PM

where are they manufactured?
that receiver sounds great demo'd through my computer speakers!

I bought the best ones, my buddy would never steer me wrong .He's not trying to make a commission off me and Cambridge Sound's factory direct pricing means that I got a great deal!

It must be a good deal all the people on the net...

#18 of 119 Troy LaMont

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Posted January 23 2002 - 03:50 AM

Matthew,

Polk is headquartered in Baltimore and they manufacture all of their components in house except the new Vifa tweeter in the LSi line.

Troy
:My teacher tells me beauty is on the inside.
:That's just something ugly people say.

#19 of 119 Alex F.

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Posted January 23 2002 - 04:57 AM

This is an update on the LSi-25s we installed in our system on Saturday.

These speakers, like so many others, require an extended break-in period. Early on, they exhibited a typical degree of roughness and congestion, particularly in the upper midrange through the treble. The treble also lacked air and "sparkle." I listened to them briefly every 12 hours or so, and noticed significant improvement at about the 40-hour period. Now, after about 60 hours of use, the rate of improvement has slowed. They sound excellent at present, and I do not know if more improvement is yet to come. I am listening to them critically now, and my comments follow.

My impression of an in-store demo of the LSi-9s (see my initial post) applies to the 25s as well. They are very much similar to Vienna Acoustics and some Sonus-Faber loudspeakers (the somewhat bright S-F Grand Piano Home excepted). The overall tonality is polite, very smooth, and refined, yet with exceptional detail. The speakers are very revealing of upstream components and source material, but thankfully do not add any upper midrange or treble brightness to achieve this.

No driver calls attention to itself--all the drivers combine to speak with one coherent voice. I hear no boxiness or obvious enclosure resonance.

The LSi's present a very wide, deep, and tall soundstage. Individual instruments and vocalists can be precisely pinpointed and focused upon. The speakers themselves manage to sonically disappear.

The dynamic range is all one could ask for. They also play very loud (I gave up long before any compression was heard).

The LSi's have enjoyed playing everything tossed their way so far, from Beethoven to Sinatra to Ronstadt to jazz.

I haven't experimented much with the available adjustments for the built-in subwoofer. But it is obvious that the bass is very potent and blends seamlessly with the other drivers. I was particularly impressed with the realistic reproduction of the piano in Beethoven's "Emperor" concerto (Ashkenazy, London). The lower registers of the piano were all there, and with impressive impact and detail. Clearly, if one uses a separate subwoofer with the 25s, all it would need do is add the bottom octave (below about 25-30 Hz).

Visually, the 25s are beautiful, with superb fit and finish. The enclosure has a glossy piano-black "glass" finish, with polished wood side panels. My wife repeatedly comments on how she loves the appearance.

Overall, I am pleased with the LSi-25s. We intend to keep them.

#20 of 119 Troy LaMont

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Posted January 24 2002 - 03:32 AM

Alex,

Thanks for the updates! I drove to one of the dealers that is to carry the LSi line close to me, but the speakers weren't in stock yet so I didn't get a chance to listen. Posted Image

I still have my appointment tomorrow (1 1/2 hours away) to listen to the entire setup.

I'll post my comments as well probably on Saturday.

Are you at all interested in higher resolution digital formats (SACD, DVD-Audio)?

Till then.

Troy
:My teacher tells me beauty is on the inside.
:That's just something ugly people say.





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