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  1. #1

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    Default Polk Mass Market

    O.K. I could be dogmeat for asking, but can someone enlighten me on Polk audio now vs. their heyday in the 80's. When I was a kid, I loved the Polk sound and remember being in awe of what turned out to be SDA-SRS's. I never dreamed I would come across a pair locally and likely would never have thought about them again.

    Now knowing how amazing they are and being "newly" acquainted with Polk again, I would appreciate some comments on the perception by some (if not many) that Polk has gone "mass market." Back in the day, Polk seemed to be very exclusive and the best hifi shop in town carried Polk. They eventually dropped Polk as Polk started showing up in Circuit City, etc. I know that my local Tweeter sells them. I haven't been in CC in quite some time, so I don't know if they still do. Anyhow, I just wondered, since I am not informed on modern day Polk products, if the regulars feel current products are as good as past Polk offerings. I personally discounted Polk as a top echelon product as I assumed, and was influenced by others, that their products must not be as good and were certainly not exclusive. If you wanted a top product, you had to go to a mom and pop or local spot that carried something most others hadn't heard of....

    I know technology and designs change and that it is a difficult comparison. However, my understanding and thinking about loudspeaker designs has always been that the 80's were truly the heyday of design. Regardless of speaker design heydays, do the current offerings match up in terms of build and design and when compared to the upper echelon, current model, reasonably priced speakers from other companies costing a few thousand dollars at most?

    I don't make any claims that my perceptions are accurate or the truth. They are just that-perceptions-and I would enjoy comments from those in the know.

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    I wish I knew, I have the older RT series and have not demoed any new polks in years.
    I hear the lsi line is real good but I have only heard them once.
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    The LSi line are some of the best speakers Polk has ever made. Surely folks would like them to revisit some of their older lines of speakers, but I think they're doing fine. I'm glad they've grown, and they've managed to keep a strong following. This board is a testament to that.

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    I think "nostalgia" about anything taints the mind against the "big picture" of almost any company that spans generations sucessfully. Look at how most guys felt about the demise of the muscle car era, compared to what followed for the next 20 years in the US automakers.

    Polk simply makes some of the best speaker values out there, in all of their lines. Yes, this allows for more people to experience the brand, and yes they are mass marketed, but the voicing of Polks line has always been consistent with Matt's original belief of what speakers should sound like.

    I think Polk, Klipsch and JBL have all suffered an unfair pounding from purists for providing their brands to a wider market, but anyone with the wider understanding of what todays world consists of, would applaud how Polk has evolved. Many audiophiles don't evolve they die trying to keep things "as they were" for the sake of nostalgia.

    If Bill Gates/Jobs/Wozniak had kept their little ventures in the garage, we wouldn't be discussing this worldwide today would we?
    Last edited by Dennis Gardner; 05-24-2006 at 05:16 PM.

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    Amen Dennis!

    I don't give a rat's behind what the "purists" have to say about Polk Speakers. They can take their vinyl & tubes & stick them where the sun don't shine!

    They make outstanding speakers that sound great, don't make my ears hurt, and most importantly I can afford them!

    Microsoft, Walmart, etc. are crying all the way to the mass market bank!!!
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  6. #6

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    IMO, The best speaker Polk has made since the SDA's are the LSi's and I'm keeping my SDA's. 'Nuff said.
    'Political Correctness'.........defined

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    perhaps you haven't had the chance to do a critical listening to "properly powered and sourced" LSis, Jesse...


    *flame suit on*
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    :)
    I am sorry, I have no opinion on the matter. I am sure you do. So, don't mind me, I just want to talk audio and pie.

  8. #8

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    Actually, I have and out of the lot I much prefer the 9's. I think they are a great speaker, but I'm still keeping my SDA's. :)
    'Political Correctness'.........defined

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    when you get out here , your gonna get an earfull of 9`s..

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    Great feedback. I must say that I understand the economics behind being able to offer products to a larger audience. The Microsoft analogy is a good one, but it isn't exactly apples to apples. Microsoft was and is the operating system for the world, with very little true competition. Polk was one of a few dozen (if that) very exclusive, upper echelon speaker companies if my analysis of the era is correct.

    Polk doesn't have the luxury of being the only real game in town. They are a player in a world of many choices. I guess at some point a company must decide whether to try and stay on the upper end of an exclusive "club," or step down a bit and be able to offer their product to the masses. Stepping down might mean less research, cheaper materials, or taking shortcuts. The basic core of the product is still there, but maybe the bells and whistles aren't. It is no different than Lexus offering a $20 something thousand car that more people can grab hold. Nostalgia aside, the bottom line is, does the company make a product that is on par from a quality and sound standpoint that is comparable with previous offerings?

    I am getting the impression that quality of sound, at the very least, isn't on par with that of Polk of yesteryear. Whether that means the company doesn't invest as much in R&D or that they use inferior materials or take shortcuts is something I don't know enough about. Could it mean that the "thinkers" at Polk came up with their best designs in the 80's and will never be able to reach that level of thinking again? Kind of like Pearl Jam never being able to produce an album as strong as their initial offering or Boston never producing another album that could touch their initial self titled album made in their garage with homemade electronics?

    With all due respect, my main question is whether Polk is on par with the top designs as they were in the 80's. The initial response seems to be "no," but that they make very good speakers that are affordable to the masses or average person, and that the Polk "sound" is still true to its essence. Being that I haven't compared the old and new, I can't make an evaluation.

    Depending on how one looks at it, this is either a plus or minus. Mass production with a focus on making very good products obviously makes the product available to more people and consequently assures the company's existence.

    On the flip side, for those that want the ultimate in sound or something a cut above, they may not look to Polk for purchase. My main interest was whether Polks of today were on par with the vintage models and particuarly if the Polks of today were cutting edge designs that could hang with the higher end of mid-priced speakers. I do feel it is important to note that simple economics drive the production of any modern day product. The cost of making a quality speaker design today vs. that of the 80's is surely more than it was in the past. I am sure many would agree that many of the amps of yesteryear surpass the quality of many higher priced offerings of today. It seems at times the current model that replaces the previous model isn't as good as the one on its way out....

    In many ways, I don't believe that it is nostalgia for the sake of nostalgia. The idea that one doesn't want to see something new or a changing of the guard. If the guard changes for the better, than the nostalgia isn't necessary. Rather, nostalgia in this instance occurs because one longs for the day when they simply got more bang for their buck....A day when company "X" was associated with the best of the best. I would bet that if Polk was getting ready to rollout a model that could compare with the SRS models, F1 and the rest would be eagerly awaiting.....
    Last edited by univera; 05-24-2006 at 11:00 PM.

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    I think you have a scewed view of Polk from the '80s. They were still value line speakers, not world class audiophile favorites. In fact, SDA itself as loved as it is here on this forum was considered speaker trickery and not a high end offering to be seriously considered.

    As far as R&D and product quality, I think you should search here for a thread on the Polk home office tour from Polkfest. They possess some real world class equipment to test and develop their lines.

    Current speaker lines compared to vintage lines? The LSi for music is really as good as anything Polk has ever offered. Some (Jesse) will say the SDA line is better, but take away the SDA soundstage and I prefer the LSi for a conventional speaker, and their is no comparing parts quality from vintage to todays lineup. The fit and finish of most of Polks new lines are better than all the vintage lines.The chinese know how to do factory work.:D

    Oh, yeah...........have you ever heard the Polk SRT?
    Last edited by Dennis Gardner; 05-24-2006 at 11:09 PM.

  12. #12

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    Robert, the demo of your 9's is one of the reasons I said they are great speakers. :)

    Dennis, there's nothing wrong with the parts quality of SDA's and their fit and finish is top notch. As for not being world class audiophile speakers....I quess rave reviews from Stereo Review and High Fidelity Magazine (the premier audio rags of the day) and numerous awards don't count. The comments about the "trickery" come from the early SDA's with the SDA tweeter as they do sound a little phasey.

    "....as good as the SDA feature is we were even more impressed by the overall quality of the SDA-SRS as a speaker system. The sound is superbly balanced and totally effortless....unusually open and integrated...the composite frequency response was exceptional no matter how you look at it."

    "Vastly superior to the competition."

    "They have the ability to make your previous favorite speaker sound almost second rate."

    With all that said, again I will say that the 9's are damn good speakers, but I'M STILL KEEPING MY SDA's. :D
    'Political Correctness'.........defined

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  13. #13

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    I second all F1's thoughts on the SDA's. Not that I believe he needs help with his defense. I own the LSI-9's and have powered them off a quality B&K amp that happily fed them around 300 watts at their load. They are great speakers, but I prefer the warmth, balance, fullness, soundstage, and imaging of the SDA's across the board. As always audio is personal preference.
    As to Polk breaking into the mass market it is pure business. Do you want to make $1000 profit on 10,000 units sold, or a $200 profit on 500,000 units sold? The only disappointing thing for me is that Polk did not maintain an elite line while they dipped into the mass markets. The RTi line is some very good stuff, and the LSi's were another step up for sure. For many Polk fans these lines were a welcome emergence from some very solid, yet mediocre speakers.
    Last edited by Zen Dragon; 05-25-2006 at 02:21 AM.
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  14. #14

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    I'm well aware of SDA recognition in the audio rags, and I choose to run SDAs in my main rig, precisely for the reason that univera stated in his original post. I loved them the first time I heard them in the late '80s in a audio shop. Still do.

    On the topic of whether Polk has kept pace with boutique brands. The fact that Polks top priced speaker of 20 years (SRS) ago retails for roughly the same $3k as their top priced speaker today(Lsi25) is the measurement that Polk hasn't kept pace with other brands that have the over $10k offering.

    I don't question and fault Polk for their pricing strategy, but I see where some are coming from. Selling very few $10k+ speakers doesn't really make you a great company, it just makes you expensive/exclusive, and that is what many audiophiles want....the exclusivity.

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    Univera,

    Polk has always been a great sounding speaker at a great price, still is. The problem with your question is that market influences have changed and Polk has responded accordingly. I will say as a very general statement there are some Polk models that are built and priced to be of lesser quality compared to the Polks of yesteryear. It's what the markket calls for at this time. In the past (80-90's) almost every Polk was a great performer in it's particuliar market segment. They also cost more, were less accessible to the masses and we had fewer configurations to choose from.

    To me most of the vintage stuff is better sounding than most of what is offered today. The Lsi's being a huge exception (they are awesome) and several RTi's being an exception. But again, the market was different, the target audience was different and the competition was different back then.

    Vintage Polk is just like anything else vintage in nature. There is a good measure of nostalgia involved, but for the most part the sound that made Polk what it is today is still in the vintage models. They are different for sure compared to today. And for what you can get (non-SDA) vintage Polks for nowadays it's a true bargain.

    That doesn't mean in any way the current generation of Polks are lesser speakers, just different in how they apporach a different market place. The newer technology is simply incredible for making mass market speakers.

    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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    ummm, just to set the record straight, Polk's heyday was the 1970's :-)
    all the best,
    mrh

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    In my post I was thinking 1979-1992.
    "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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    I bet from Polk Audio's perspective, their "heyday" is right now. They probably have more revenue now then ever.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PolkThug
    I bet from Polk Audio's perspective, their "heyday" is right now. They probably have more revenue now then ever.
    Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

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    I find my mood to change too much to say I have a definitive favorite. I obtain whatever moves me, as long as it is in my means. I had SDA's (the 1b's, while big, not the big boy SDA SRS 1.2 TL and what not) I loved the SDA's, not to mention they were crowd favorites. I went LSi because I wanted to try them out, and liked both the 9's and 15's. giving the edge to the 15 probably because they had an easier time filling out my odd shaped and large basement.

    If I had to pidgeonhole myself, I give a slight edge to the LSi's. I just like them, but SDA's will allways have a place of respect in my head.

    Polk is doing fine just as is :)
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  21. #21

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    This discussion comes up every now and then. The real answer is always the same: Times change and Polk has adapted to the times, in order to remain successful and continue offering great-sounding speakers that are good values. And they market those speakers, so as to get them in front of as many people as possible, including those people who may have never heard speakers of comparable quality.

    I was in high school in the '80's and I remember drooling over the SRS's in the audio magazines that I used to sit in the library and read during study hall. They seemed so out-of-reach at the time, though, that they didn't really make a big impression on me. I couldn't hear them, and they didn't sell them at Radio Shack. I really became a Polk fan when I bought a set of RT3's back in about '95. When I hooked those RT3's up for the first time, my first impression was "Wow! Those are great-sounding little speakers!" And they didn't cost much- I was amazed that I could get that sound for the money.

    The fact is that most of us here on the Forum do not represent "the market". Even "enthusiast" falls short of describing most of us. I love big speakers, but most people don't. When I see speakers, I think 'Stereo', not 'Home Theater'. I am the type who's going to seek out the best value (I'm still a poor audiophile), and Polk has several products in their current line-up - including the LSi's -that appeal to me. But I'll keep my SDA's, too. :)

    If you ever get a chance to talk to some of the people from Polk, it will become apparent that those guys haven't lost their focus or enthusiasm. Yes, their speakers have evolved and the marketing strategy has changed, but they have retained the qualities that made Polk great.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jcaut
    If you ever get a chance to talk to some of the people from Polk, it will become apparent that those guys haven't lost their focus or enthusiasm. Yes, their speakers have evolved and the marketing strategy has changed, but they have retained the qualities that made Polk great.
    Amen!
    "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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    Quote Originally Posted by F1nut
    Robert, the demo of your 9's is one of the reasons I said they are great speakers. :)

    Dennis, there's nothing wrong with the parts quality of SDA's and their fit and finish is top notch. As for not being world class audiophile speakers....I quess rave reviews from Stereo Review and High Fidelity Magazine (the premier audio rags of the day) and numerous awards don't count. The comments about the "trickery" come from the early SDA's with the SDA tweeter as they do sound a little phasey.

    "....as good as the SDA feature is we were even more impressed by the overall quality of the SDA-SRS as a speaker system. The sound is superbly balanced and totally effortless....unusually open and integrated...the composite frequency response was exceptional no matter how you look at it."

    "Vastly superior to the competition."

    "They have the ability to make your previous favorite speaker sound almost second rate."

    With all that said, again I will say that the 9's are damn good speakers, but I'M STILL KEEPING MY SDA's. :D
    Nothing like radiating surface area and a man's amp, no?

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    I had a pair of LSi15's I used as surrounds and SDA 1.2TL's for mains. I never even tried using the LSi's as mains. I decided to sell the LSi's one day as I thought it was a waste to have them as surrounds. Before the guy picked them up, I hooked them up to listen to them as mains, and they were sweet! Better than the 1.2TL's? Not sure. Was clearer I though. Interesting thing was that I got more for the LSi's (a lot more) than what I paid for the 1.2TL's. So from a value for money point of view, I'd take the SDA's hands down.
    The other point of course (although I never tried it) is that the 1.2TL's would play a lot louder than the LSi 15's, which suits me just fine.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TroyD
    Nothing like radiating surface area and a man's amp, no?

    BDT
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    Quote Originally Posted by heiney9
    Amen!
    +1`'

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    To date I have not found anything I like as well as the SDA's. A few times I thought they might be holding my system back but they are still responding to every upgrade I make so I guess not. They just keep getting better and better.
    madmax
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    I have a question that I think may be on topic. If we stick with the basic idea of "which sounds better", LSi or SDA's. Some clearly like the SDA's better. Why would they abandon the technology if it is still so loved? It seems like the R&D has not produced better results.?.? Was it a lot of effort with little to no improvement? Or is it simply to meet a specific market criteria?

    The old saying: "if it ain't broke"

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    They didn't exactly abandon the technology: The Surround Bar makes use of the SDA effect, for HT applications.

    I think Polk is still enthusiastic about SDA. It's not really a matter of what sounds better, because they're really completely different. If you put the SDA effect - the crosstalk cancellation - aside, a lot of what makes the SDA's sound better is the fact that they're big speakers. Even though a good conventional speaker can project a wide soundstage, it's always going to be a little different than the SDA effect, and so makes comparisons difficult.

    IMO, the advent of home theater is one thing that made SDA less marketable. Suddenly, to be "up" with the technology, you needed 5 speakers instead of 2, and a processor to direct sound to each of the speakers. The other thing is that, to work properly, SDA's have to be rather wide. My "little" SRS2's are nearly 2 feet across, and they really dominate even a fairly large room. Not many people want that anymore. Instead they tend to prefer speakers that disappear into the room, or at least blend in with the decor.

    Another point I might make is that the SDA effect doesn't work on all types of music, and the "sweet spot" is rather small. I have found some types of music that I prefer to hear on a conventional speaker, rather than on the SDAs. There are pros and cons. What they do well, however, they do REALLY well.

    There's no doubt that 'new' SDA's built using the newer driver materials and construction methods could sound amazing. But even in the best scenario, the market for them would be tiny in comparison to the number of speakers Polk sells nowadays. That, combined with the price they'd have to sell them for, makes it unlikely to happen, IMO.

    Jason
    Last edited by jcaut; 05-26-2006 at 02:58 PM.

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    SDA required cabinets about 16 inches wide to get the best effect and the appeal of sub/sat in living room decor killed the desire for large speakers.

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