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  1. #1

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    Default RTi-A9 First Impressions + Break-in Question

    Hi Everyone,

    I wrote a long and descriptive review about my new RTi-A9 speakers, but the forum decided to log me out and I lost all of my post. In any case, here is a shortened version....

    I am new to the Polk community, both as a forum member and as a customer of Polk products. I took advantage of a great holiday sale in Canada (from Future Shop) and purchased a pair of RTi-A9 towers ($800 for the pair). I am very hopeful that these Polk speakers can be split into a separate 2-channel stereo one day (as I accumulate all the necessary components for a second stereo setup).

    My Current 2-Channel Setup
    Cambridge Audio Azur 840E Preamp
    Carver M-1.5t Amp (completely refurbed and upgraded by Rolland @ Hi-Tech Audio)
    Cambridge Audio DAC Magic
    Marantz DV8400 Transport + SACD
    Tannoy DMT 12 Studio Monitor (Monitor Gold dual concentric drivers)
    2 x Velodyne EQ-Max 15 (stereo subwoofers)
    Homemade CAT6 speaker cables (bi-wire setup; 4 interwoven CAT6 cables / channel)

    First Impressions
    After hooking up the Polks and removing the Tannoy speakers, I was shocked at how poorly the Polks reproduce midrage / vocal sounds. The jazz SACD content playing sax and clarinet sounds good, but it's not as real and "believable" as the Tannoy speakers. The Polk's sound-stage and imaging are quite impressive though, even when I'm 20-30 degrees off axis.

    Overall, I've put only 10 - 15 hours of "break-in" time on these speakers and I'm curious to know if properly breaking in these speakers will make such a large difference in the quality of the midrange / vocal sound. I'm very perplexed by the large gap I've noticed between other user reviews of these speakers and my own experience.

    I've also read that the factory built crossovers in these speakers are made with cheap components, so this may have a large impact on the quality of the sound.

    I'd love to hear from other Polk customers, especially those that own the RTi-A9 speakers, because I'm quite disappointed with their performance (especially for an MSRP of $2,000).

    Thanks,
    Arthur

  2. #2

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    Did you check your speaker connections ? Play around with the settings in the pre ? Try a different speaker cable ? It's a synergy thing sometimes when a new piece gets tossed into the mix. You may have to change up a few things. They will break in over time but not to the extent your describeing. Also keep in mind that the 9's are a HT first speaker, so I wouldn't expect them to be balls out perfect on music. Experiment alittle, give them alittle time to loosen up, before comming to any conclusions. In the end they still may not be right for you, what speaker is for everyone anyway ?

    As a small experiment, change out the speaker cable to any run of the mill 12 ga and put the jumper plates back on the posts in the back of the 9'S and see how it sounds. I assume you removed the plates when you bi-wired with your cat 5 cables. What kind of interconnects are you using from the pre to the amp ? Did you change any crossover settings in the pre when you changed speakers ?

    I'm more apt to believe it's a cable issue seeing that it's only the top half of the speaker thats seems to be muffled some. Make sure no coating from the cables are stuck inside the posts of the speakers. Just some things to consider.
    Last edited by tonyb; 01-06-2012 at 07:59 AM.

  3. #3

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    Arthur: FWIW - My RTiA7 exhibited the same midrange deficiency as you experienced, although to a lesser extent than what you report. Classical is my primary listening material, which is more midrange-dependant like jazz. I corrected the problem by adding a pair of Snell J7s adjacent to the Polks and the sound is delicious. The Polks replaced a pair of Boston Acoustics T1000 which did a better job in the mid department but the Polk's real forte is their ability to reproduce the bottom end- especially without woofer distortion the B-As exhibited in some material.

    P.S: A prominent loudspeaker engineer defines "break in period" as the amount of time manufacturers/dealers say it takes to get accustomed to bad sound
    Last edited by 62caddy; 01-06-2012 at 10:51 AM.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by tonyb View Post
    Did you check your speaker connections ? Play around with the settings in the pre ? Try a different speaker cable ? It's a synergy thing sometimes when a new piece gets tossed into the mix. You may have to change up a few things. They will break in over time but not to the extent your describeing. Also keep in mind that the 9's are a HT first speaker, so I wouldn't expect them to be balls out perfect on music. Experiment alittle, give them alittle time to loosen up, before comming to any conclusions. In the end they still may not be right for you, what speaker is for everyone anyway ?

    As a small experiment, change out the speaker cable to any run of the mill 12 ga and put the jumper plates back on the posts in the back of the 9'S and see how it sounds. I assume you removed the plates when you bi-wired with your cat 5 cables. What kind of interconnects are you using from the pre to the amp ? Did you change any crossover settings in the pre when you changed speakers ?

    I'm more apt to believe it's a cable issue seeing that it's only the top half of the speaker thats seems to be muffled some. Make sure no coating from the cables are stuck inside the posts of the speakers. Just some things to consider.

    Thanks for the feedback Tony. My entire setup, including all cables, is the same during my testing, except for swapping out the Tannoy speakers for the Polks. Also, I keep my entire signal path as flat as possible and use "direct mode" in my preamp because I don't want to EQ the sound. I will experiment and change the cables up and reinsert the crossover bridges on the rear - perhaps the crossover works better without a bi-wire setup (which seems odd to me, but anything is possible).

    Finally, I want to clarify that the midrange / vocals aren't muddy. They are clear and accurate, but they can't touch the "believability" of the Tannoy speakers. Perhaps that's my issue. My reference sound is better than the Polks and the expectations I placed on the Polks just aren't realistic.

    Arthur

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by 62caddy View Post
    Arthur: FWIW - My RTiA7 exhibited the same midrange deficiency as you experienced, although to a lesser extent than what you report. Classical is my primary listening material, which is more midrange-dependant like jazz. I corrected the problem by adding a pair of Snell J7s adjacent to the Polks and the sound is delicious. The Polks replaced a pair of Boston Acoustics T1000 which did a better job in the mid department but the Polk's real forte is their ability to reproduce the bottom end- especially without woofer distortion the B-As exhibited in some material.

    P.S: A prominent loudspeaker engineer defines "break in period" as the amount of time manufacturers/dealers say it takes to get accustomed to bad sound

    Thanks for the feedback Caddy and I love the line about breaking in speakers! I can understand how mechanical movements can experience a break-in adjustment (like woofers), but when people try and tell that their speaker cables need to break in, I just laugh.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by ArthurM View Post
    but when people try and tell that their speaker cables need to break in, I just laugh.
    And I get chuckle when people like you don't think cables and other non-mechanical parts don't go through break in. I have heard it enough times in cables, caps, resistors, etc over the past 25 years in this hobby.

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

    Pass Aleph 30; Eastern Electric Mini Max; Adcom GDA600; MIT S3/Z Pc; SDA 1C; Squeezebox; Tubes add soul!

  7. #7

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    I know of someone who believes who believes house wiring affects SQ. I suppose that means electric utility lines affect it too. To each his own I guess.

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    Things that also affect SQ solar flares, pixie dust & unicorn farts
    Living Room
    Fronts: RTi A7's
    Center: Csi A6 VR3 "Fortress Plus"
    Front Heights: Rti A1
    Surrounds: Rti A3
    Sub: HSU VTF-2 MK4 Damn this is a good SUB
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    TV: Lg LW6500 55" Passive 3D
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    XboX 360 Slim/Kinect

    Acoustimac red suede panels

  9. #9

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    Arthur- Like I said, play around with them alittle, give them some time, in the end they may just not be the speaker for you, who knows. Nothing wrong with that. Good luck to you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by heiney9 View Post
    And I get chuckle when people like you don't think cables and other non-mechanical parts don't go through break in. I have heard it enough times in cables, caps, resistors, etc over the past 25 years in this hobby.

    H9
    I think "break in", at least in the electrical sense, is being confused with deterioration of electrical parts as they are subjected to heat. Not sure I understand what type of cable would present this problem in an audio setting.

  11. #11

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    I am not familiar with your preamp, but are you using any room correction? If yes, you may need to recalibrate it. If no, it may help.

    It may also be that the synergy among your new setup is not as good as your old equipment. My RTi12s and Onkyo RC 180 together sounded like I had a wet blanket over the speakers until I swapped out the Onkyo for a receiver with better room correction (Anthem + ARC). Now the RTis do a very good job with music.

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by clarence carter View Post
    I think "break in", at least in the electrical sense, is being confused with deterioration of electrical parts as they are subjected to heat. Not sure I understand what type of cable would present this problem in an audio setting.
    No confusion here
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

    Pass Aleph 30; Eastern Electric Mini Max; Adcom GDA600; MIT S3/Z Pc; SDA 1C; Squeezebox; Tubes add soul!

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by m34est View Post
    I am not familiar with your preamp, but are you using any room correction? If yes, you may need to recalibrate it. If no, it may help.

    It may also be that the synergy among your new setup is not as good as your old equipment. My RTi12s and Onkyo RC 180 together sounded like I had a wet blanket over the speakers until I swapped out the Onkyo for a receiver with better room correction (Anthem + ARC). Now the RTis do a very good job with music.

    Thanks very much for the information. I am not using any room calibration. I now understand these speakers need extensive break in so I will continue to work them in and see if it helps. I also have another amp coming in 2 months from now and will experiment with it.

  14. #14

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    Sweet, I'll be breaking in a new pair of A9's here shortly next week (upon delivery). Do I dare say I'll be using an Emotiva amp to power them?
    Draggn' knee is exhilarating, 150mph wheel standers are pretty cool too


    Home Theater-7.2
    Display-SamsungPN64D8000 | Receiver-Onkyo TX-NR807 | Source-OPPOBDP-103 | Amplifiers-Emotiva; XPA-2 x2, XPA-3 | Speakers: PolkAudio; mains-RTiA9, rears-RTiA9, center-CSiA6, surrounds-FXiA6 | Sub-Epik Empire x 2 | Interconnects-Emotiva


    Cans
    Grado RS2i

    2 Ch Rig
    First purchase will be; a pair of ? but I'd love a pair of SDA SRS

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff4rfc View Post
    Sweet, I'll be breaking in a new pair of A9's here shortly next week (upon delivery). Do I dare say I'll be using an Emotiva amp to power them?
    It seems Emotiva is the amp of choice around here. Be prepared for a very lengthy break in with these speakers. What speakers are you using now?

  16. #16

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    I broke in a pair of 70's, didn't really take that long, I don't expect the 9's to be any different.
    Draggn' knee is exhilarating, 150mph wheel standers are pretty cool too


    Home Theater-7.2
    Display-SamsungPN64D8000 | Receiver-Onkyo TX-NR807 | Source-OPPOBDP-103 | Amplifiers-Emotiva; XPA-2 x2, XPA-3 | Speakers: PolkAudio; mains-RTiA9, rears-RTiA9, center-CSiA6, surrounds-FXiA6 | Sub-Epik Empire x 2 | Interconnects-Emotiva


    Cans
    Grado RS2i

    2 Ch Rig
    First purchase will be; a pair of ? but I'd love a pair of SDA SRS

  17. #17

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    ArthurM,

    Considering that your Tannoy's are known for their beautiful and liquid midrange, I'm not surprised that you find the Polk's lacking in that department. Even after they break in, I seriously doubt that the Polk's will ever be able to compete. The reality is that you are comparing apples to oranges.

    but when people try and tell that their speaker cables need to break in, I just laugh.
    Is that why you use Cat6? Have you ever tried actual speaker cable?

    It seems Emotiva is the amp of choice around here.
    Far, really far from it.
    'Political Correctness'.........defined

    "A doctrine fostered by a delusional, illogical minority and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end."

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by ArthurM View Post
    It seems Emotiva is the amp of choice around here.


    Quote Originally Posted by F1nut View Post
    Far, really far from it.
    I agree, far from it, there is a variety of amps that are amp of choice. I currently own an Emotiva and I'd like to be able listen to other amps when opportunity and finance becomes available. Personally, I'd love to to hear what tube amps do for music.
    Draggn' knee is exhilarating, 150mph wheel standers are pretty cool too


    Home Theater-7.2
    Display-SamsungPN64D8000 | Receiver-Onkyo TX-NR807 | Source-OPPOBDP-103 | Amplifiers-Emotiva; XPA-2 x2, XPA-3 | Speakers: PolkAudio; mains-RTiA9, rears-RTiA9, center-CSiA6, surrounds-FXiA6 | Sub-Epik Empire x 2 | Interconnects-Emotiva


    Cans
    Grado RS2i

    2 Ch Rig
    First purchase will be; a pair of ? but I'd love a pair of SDA SRS

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff4rfc View Post
    Personally, I'd love to to hear what tube amps do for music.
    Oh, don't do that. It's a rabbit hole from which there is no escape.

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    Quote Originally Posted by F1nut View Post
    Is that why you use Cat6? Have you ever tried actual speaker cable?
    Hi F1nut - I actually know you from the Carver forum and really respect your posts. I have never said that speaker cables are all built the same. I'm just saying that breaking in speaker cable is nonsense to me. If anyone can rationalize the difference in a quasi-scientific and meaningful manner, I'm all ears...or eyes in this case. I have 12 guage speaker wire in the basement and have used it extensively. But I'm using the CAT6 cables because the 4 twisted solid copper pairs of wire in each single cable helps to minimize inductance significantly. I need 4 cables/channel because one cable with 4 twisted pairs doesn't provide me with enough copper to push the required current.

    And you're probably right. I'll never get Tannoy-like midrange purity out of the Polks.

    Arthur

  21. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff4rfc View Post
    I broke in a pair of 70's, didn't really take that long, I don't expect the 9's to be any different.
    Well, I'm going to unleash the Carver amp on these speakers and break them in even quicker. Plus, I don't mind listening to music a little louder when draining a few pints :-).

  22. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by tonyb View Post
    Oh, don't do that. It's a rabbit hole from which there is no escape.
    Are you serious?????? I fell down this rabbit hole miles ago. There is no turning back, I just keep going toward the light.

    Quote Originally Posted by ArthurM View Post
    Well, I'm going to unleash the Carver amp on these speakers and break them in even quicker. Plus, I don't mind listening to music a little louder when draining a few pints :-).
    I do mostly movies, but I really enjoy popping in a CD from time to time. I love having a few cold ones as well and I totally love the sound of my 70's on roids. But as Tony pointed out, I'd just be swinging from one vine to another if I decided; "Hmmmm, I wonder what kind of music room I could put together?"
    Draggn' knee is exhilarating, 150mph wheel standers are pretty cool too


    Home Theater-7.2
    Display-SamsungPN64D8000 | Receiver-Onkyo TX-NR807 | Source-OPPOBDP-103 | Amplifiers-Emotiva; XPA-2 x2, XPA-3 | Speakers: PolkAudio; mains-RTiA9, rears-RTiA9, center-CSiA6, surrounds-FXiA6 | Sub-Epik Empire x 2 | Interconnects-Emotiva


    Cans
    Grado RS2i

    2 Ch Rig
    First purchase will be; a pair of ? but I'd love a pair of SDA SRS

  23. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff4rfc View Post
    I do mostly movies, but I really enjoy popping in a CD from time to time. I love having a few cold ones as well and I totally love the sound of my 70's on roids. But as Tony pointed out, I'd just be swinging from one vine to another if I decided; "Hmmmm, I wonder what kind of music room I could put together?"
    Having a dedicated audio room with a sizable bar is definitely a life goal for me. Nothing beats hanging out with a couple of buddies and listening to music at 200 wpc while pouring beer from a tap! BTW, how do you like the Epik subs? I was thinking about buying them instead of the Velodyne, but I couldn't get them shipped into Canada. Do they pound hard...and I mean hard?

  24. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by ArthurM View Post
    Having a dedicated audio room with a sizable bar is definitely a life goal for me. Do they pound hard...and I mean hard?
    I totally lucked out with my set up. The downstairs came with a wet-bar, you would love it. I'll show you a picture.

    The Epik Empire, oh my gosh! My H.T. area measures out to 15.5 X 26 ft. including and up to the wall behind the wet-bar, I have another 12ft to the right of the H.T. area where my movies are kept and now has a foosball table.

    On the sub, I have the volume knob set on 1/3. I bounce back and forth between 1/4 and 1/2. When it's on half volume, my wife gets so pissed off, she's ready to kill me, the whole upstairs shakes like an earthquake, I love it.

    I still need some room treatments like bass traps for sure, I move the sub around periodically to see what comes of it. I'm fixin to move it back behind the seating area to the wall next to the bar as soon as my 9's show up.

    I'm almost wishing I got a pair of Legends instead of the Empire......naw. One day I'll get a second Empire.

    Draggn' knee is exhilarating, 150mph wheel standers are pretty cool too


    Home Theater-7.2
    Display-SamsungPN64D8000 | Receiver-Onkyo TX-NR807 | Source-OPPOBDP-103 | Amplifiers-Emotiva; XPA-2 x2, XPA-3 | Speakers: PolkAudio; mains-RTiA9, rears-RTiA9, center-CSiA6, surrounds-FXiA6 | Sub-Epik Empire x 2 | Interconnects-Emotiva


    Cans
    Grado RS2i

    2 Ch Rig
    First purchase will be; a pair of ? but I'd love a pair of SDA SRS

  25. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff4rfc View Post
    I totally lucked out with my set up. The downstairs came with a wet-bar, you would love it. I'll show you a picture...
    That's an awesome setup! I'd be in that room right now draining some beer and watching sports.

    Also, I'd love to listen to the Epiks one day because I've heard nothing but good things from their series of subs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ArthurM View Post
    I have never said that speaker cables are all built the same. I'm just saying that breaking in speaker cable is nonsense to me. If anyone can rationalize the difference in a quasi-scientific and meaningful manner, I'm all ears...or eyes in this case.
    Hey Arthur,

    I'm far less concerned with the science, preferring instead to rely on what my ears tell me. I guess it boils down to it's one of those things that you have to experience for yourself.

    BTW, welcome to Club Polk.
    'Political Correctness'.........defined

    "A doctrine fostered by a delusional, illogical minority and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end."

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    Quote Originally Posted by ArthurM View Post
    It seems Emotiva is the amp of choice around here. Be prepared for a very lengthy break in with these speakers. What speakers are you using now?
    Emo is entry, nothing more, nothing less

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

    Pass Aleph 30; Eastern Electric Mini Max; Adcom GDA600; MIT S3/Z Pc; SDA 1C; Squeezebox; Tubes add soul!

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