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  1. #1
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    Default Why were SDA's discontinued? by Matthew Polk

    Here is the answer to that burning question written by Matthew Polk.

    This is a surprisingly difficult question to answer mainly because there is no simple answer. We began selling the SDA products in 1982 and stopped making them around 1990 except for a brief revival with the SRT system made in 1995 and 1996. From the first SDA-1 shown at CES in June 1982 customers loved them. However, this was not necessarily true of the retailers. SDA was a radical departure from the traditional audiophile concept of how audio should be reproduced and many of the salespeople in stores at that time were audiophiles. As a result, many of them hated SDA and steered customers away from them. In addition, because of the way SDA speakers work many retailers did not get them set up properly for demonstration which didn't help either. In spite of this SDA products sold amazingly well particularly when you consider how expensive they were relative to most everything else on the market. As I recall the original SDA-1 started out at $1,600 per pair retail at a time when most stores had nothing over $1,000 per pair. But, anyone who actually got to hear them was absolutely blown away and we were able to get a few good reviews particularly from Michael Riggs at High-Fidelity who described SDA as "Mind-boggling, astounding!". By 1986 we had a full line of SDA products from the SDA CRS+ at under $1,000 to the SRS-1.2 at $3,500.

    But, the industry was changing rapidly. First, the era of big speakers was coming to an end and non-hobbyist customers were starting to prefer the then new sub-sat systems and the then brand-new concept of in-wall speakers. SDA speakers were big. The classic side-by-side driver arrangement meant a wide front baffle for any SDA product just as the trend was going to narrow towers and smaller speakers in general. Second, the small independent retailers were gradually turning into large regional chains with huge open format stores and non-hobbyist salespeople. The result of this was that retailers began to lose the ability to really demonstrate the performance of audio products. It's really impossible to describe the experience of SDA to someone. It really has to be demonstrated. So, as the stores became less and less able to demonstrate high performance products customers didn't have an opportunity to experience what SDA could deliver. Third, the development of digital electronics and surround sound drove the cost of high quality audio components rapidly upward but drove the cost of low quality surround sound receivers rapidly downward with a commensurate reduction in performance. Because of the channel cross coupling in SDA it is always a difficult load for an amp to drive. Many of the new multi-channel receivers just couldn't do it. So, with fewer and more expensive high performance amps the options for good SDA electronics became very slim.

    So, a combination of changes in what non-hobbyist customers wanted and what the retailers were capable of selling plus changing technology made the SDA products much more difficult to sell. Of course it had nothing to do with the performance of the SDA systems which continues astonish people even today.

    -msp
    Last edited by Kim; 10-27-2006 at 05:14 PM.

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    Awesome information, straight from the guy who knows!

    Has Polk ever considered opening up their own limited retail outlets? That way they could control what equipment the speakers are running on, and how they're set up. I hate seeing Polk speakers jammed in and stacked on top of each other in a Circuit City....
    Ludicrous gibs!

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    To do that would put them in competition with their distributors. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to piss of the people who are moving all of my product by maybe selling a few specialty items...
    I smell ass, burning ass, glowing cherry red spanked ass.

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  4. #4

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    Default SDA Revival

    Quote Originally Posted by Kim
    Here is the answer to that burning question written by Matthew Polk.
    When I saw the thread title I thought we were in for another round of amusement as this question is frequently asked by forum newbies. I was surprised to find that the question was being addressed by a Polk employee.

    So...I have to ask, has Polk you been getting a lot of SDA inquiries lately? Are you giving some serious thought to an SDA revival?
    Last edited by DarqueKnight; 10-27-2006 at 06:08 PM.

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    Thanks for the explanation. Definitely something I have wondered about.


    I need to get another pair of SDA's some day. I miss my CRS.
    Signature goes here

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    I wouldn't mind another pair of SDA's either.;) Maybe a nice pair of 3.1TL's will show up someday.

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    I was also wondering if the SDA's had a future. It's interesting to note this thread appeared after the old "Bring back the SDA" thread was posted again. Coincidence?

    In reality, how many people would spend big money on new SDA's? This would not be a mass market product, more of a boutique item. The majority of people on this Forum who love SDA's, would probably not drop $5,000 or more on a set of speakers. I just don't see it as feasible. But what do I know. Actually, I'm hoping that Mr. Polk will surprise me.
    Carl

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    Five grand or more is about right for a new pair of big SDA's. The MSRP of the SDA SRS 1.2TL was $3,400 in 1991. Adjusted for inflation, $3,400 in 1991 dollars equates to $5,088 in 2006 dollars, and that is just to replicate the same level of quality and performance from 15 years ago. If you are talking about making significant performance and parts improvements (drivers, crossover components, cabinet construction and materials, etc.) and the cost of research for those improvements, we could conceivably be in the $7,000 to $10,000 price range. In that price range "snob appeal" becomes a big factor and Polk would have a lot of work to do to gain acceptance from that buyers in that market segment and from associated dealers.

    I'd replace the 1.2TL's in my two channel rig, but not my other SDA-based rigs.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by DarqueKnight
    Five grand or more is about right for a new pair of big SDA's. The MSRP of the SDA SRS 1.2TL was $3,400 in 1991. Adjusted for inflation, $3,400 in 1991 dollars equates to $5,088 in 2006 dollars, and that is just to replicate the same level of quality and performance from 15 years ago. If you are talking about making significant performance and parts improvements (drivers, crossover components, cabinet construction and materials, etc.) and the cost of research for those improvements, we could conceivably be in the $7,000 to $10,000 price range. In that price range "snob appeal" becomes a big factor and Polk would have a lot of work to do to gain acceptance from that buyers in that market segment and from associated dealers.

    I'd replace the 1.2TL's in my two channel rig, but not my other SDA-based rigs.
    As I stated in the other SDA thread. Polk R & D has kept up with the technology; the work they have done with driver analysis at Johns Hopkins essentially has already been paid for by use in current Polk products. Remember Polk has been moving forward as a company as well, so the whole argument that it would cost $10,000 to make a profit is bit over inflated in my opinion. Would they have to do a little R & D? Sure. Would they have to make improvements? Sure. But it's not as much of a leap product wise as many may think. However, the days of large speakers are mainly over as is the ability to demonstrate. When I sold SDA's, my main line was "sit down and take a listen to this, I mean close your eyes and really listen". Sold a lot of SDA's in the day with very few words spoken.

    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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    You all missed the point of Matt's post. The vast majority of today's market (including me) WILL NOT BUY THEM! Too big, too heavy, too much money!

    If they can squeeze the SDA affect in to a slim tower speaker that weighs about 40lbs I'll consider it.

    Hell if they make a pair of LSI towers in a 40lbs enclosure I WILL BUY THEM!!!
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  11. #11

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    SDA IS alive, albeit not if formats that WE would like to see.

    Keep your eyes peeled though, you never know.

    BDT
    I plan for the future. - F1Nut

  12. #12

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    Interesting that he brings up the fact that the SDA's were a difficult load for many amps. My first set of polk speakers were SDA1-b's (still in the basement) and I came back to audio with with WAF friendly RM-6600's. I moved from there to the LSi line.

    I just always thought the top of the line Polk speakers were a bitch to drive and required good electronics. I must have stepped out during the "speakers any amp can drive" era. Anyway - it was my early experience with the SDA's that made Polk the number one brand for me to listen to when I was getting back into audio.

    It was more than the SDA effect - it was the fact that a speaker company would bring to market something that was truely original and changed the way you experienced music in your home. That they used a speaker line to define their marketing rather than every other company (both then and now) that seemed to do it the other way around.

    I really enjoy my LSi speaker and think they sound great, but there are alot of speaker companies out there that make great speakers. I am waiting for Polk to offer the next true innovation that makes me get excited about music again. Maybe not SDA but that level of design and innovation that, in my opinion, put Polk on top in the 80's over so many other "me too" branded speakers.

    Michael
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  13. #13

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    You know what? On the one hand, it would be neat if Polk made some new SDAs, at least if they were even better than the originals. It would be very tempting indeed. On the other hand, I don't think I'll loose any sleep over it if they don't.
    I don't really "need" a brand new pair. There is a used market out there and if one wants a pair grab them. Even if it's not the biggest and baddest pair made. If you are a big fan and have them now, keep 'em and maybe even update 'em.

    Life has it's priorities and at this moment in time and space I know I'm much happier having old affordable SDAs and enjoying them than I would be just looking at a new $6,000 or more pair in a catalog because of the price.
    polkaudio speakers: SDA-SRS-2.3 (modified) SDA-2B SDA-CRS+ RT3000p CS400i LF-14 Monitor 7B

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    Quote Originally Posted by cfrizz
    You all missed the point of Matt's post. The vast majority of today's market (including me) WILL NOT BUY THEM! Too big, too heavy, too much money!

    If they can squeeze the SDA affect in to a slim tower speaker that weighs about 40lbs I'll consider it.

    Hell if they make a pair of LSI towers in a 40lbs enclosure I WILL BUY THEM!!!

    Hmmmm....I actually like BIG speakers and BIG power....could be "old school" thinking on my part, but we do see that a lot of the high-end ultra expensive speakers are HUGE.

    Joe
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    So, a combination of changes in what non-hobbyist customers wanted and what the retailers were capable of selling plus changing technology made the SDA products much more difficult to sell. Of course it had nothing to do with the performance of the SDA systems which continues astonish people even today.
    Key words, "non-hobbyist customers." I agree the those types aren't interested in quality 2 channel, but there are still a vast number of folks who are. Just look around the audio world, there are plenty of big, expensive speakers to be had. So, I say to you Mr. Polk, forget the mass market (in fact, screw the mass market yoyo's) for a change and make a statement product like you did years ago. I think we can all agree that if you wanted to make them, it wouldn't be a problem to do so.
    'Political Correctness'.........defined

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  16. #16

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    To own the vintage Polks is having a piece of history.

    In my Heston voice, " Out of my cold, dead hands."
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  17. #17

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    How many of you guys have seen Wilson Audio Alexandrias. They are as big as 1.2tl's but cost $20K. I am not under the dillusion that SDA's will be at CC, Tweeter and the like. If POlk brings back SDA it will have to be in a boutique setting. The question is, does Matt want to go there again and could he get back in? I know two boutique owners personallly who said they would never carry Polk equipment again after they started saling them through Crutchfield, they felt burned. So the point I am making is that selling SDA's to the highend market is going to be tough not only because of size but also dealer channel. I would love to see them come back. I just don't see it happening. Like I said before, Hey Matt I would looooovvvvvve for you to prove me wrong and make me have to buy a pair after I promised my wife and son that I will spend more time with them in their interests.

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    You must be smoking mega pot...

    The Alexandria is ONE HUNDRED TWENTY THOUSAND - not 20 thousand...

    HEHEHE

  19. #19

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    I can't imagine having this monstrosity in my living room even if they paid me $120,000.;)
    Attached Images  

  20. #20

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    Ha Ha Ha, sorry I missed he 1 on my keyboard.

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    I think youd be surprised actually...

    I wouldnt pay that for them...

    But the best looking speakers Ive seen to date is the Wilson X1 - pictures of that thing... are horrible... in store, in person - your jaw will absolutely drop... amazing finish, amazing look

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    PS...

    The ones I heard were High Gloss black

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    Has anyone attempted to make their own DIY SDA speaker with better drivers and crossover parts?

    Here's an idea -- let's lobby Polk to design and sanction the sale of DIY SDA kits.
    HT/2-channel Rig: Sony 50 LCD TV; Toshiba HD-A2 DVD player; Emotiva LMC-1 pre/pro; Rogue Audio M-120 monoblocks (modded); Placette RVC; Emotiva LPA-1 amp; Bada HD-22 tube CDP (modded); VMPS Tower II SE (fronts); DIY Clearwave Dynamic 4CC (center); Wharfedale Opus Tri-Surrounds (rear); and VMPS 215 sub

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    Quote Originally Posted by Early B.
    Has anyone attempted to make their own DIY SDA speaker with better drivers and crossover parts?

    Here's an idea -- let's lobby Polk to design and sanction the sale of DIY SDA kits.
    I have actually been thinking the same thing but never posted. I have never heard them and would like to hear what all the fuss is about. I don't know there would be enough interest though.

    Mike
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  25. #25

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    I've got a complete set of SDA 1B crossovers and wires. Anybody want to donate the drivers to me.:D
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    Quote Originally Posted by Midnite Mick
    I have actually been thinking the same thing but never posted. I have never heard them and would like to hear what all the fuss is about. I don't know there would be enough interest though.

    Mike

    I'll bet the interest in DIY SDA speakers would be far greater than anyone anticipated. Why? Well, I'm glad you asked. It's because:

    1. the SDA concept is already proven and tested;

    2. there's a big following of folks who still love the SDAs as evidenced by the ability to sell them quickly and at decent prices.

    3. SDA kits would be something "new" and innovative to most DIYers;

    4. the kits would not be terribly difficult to build;

    5. there's plenty of opportunity for DIYers to be creative and modify the kits (they're into that kinda stuff);

    6. the finished kits would have a high WOW! factor;

    7. the cost-to-benefit ratio would be good; and

    8. Polk would benefit due to minimal cost (mainly R&D and a few bucks for marketing) and no-cost/low cost positive PR. Many of us on this forum would build the hell out of 'em and would tell the whole world about it.

    9. Hell, Polk doesn't even have to invest in the R&D -- they could make a contest out of it. The winner gets money and Polk gets the rights to the design.

    10. Moreover, Polk doesn't even have to find retailers to distribute the kits. A website like Madisound would probably be happy to handle the sales.

    11. Polk establishes itself, once again, as a speaker innovator by offering kits. I'm not aware of any other major speaker company that is doing this.

    12. If Polk doesn't do it, someone else may steal this idea. Hmmm.
    Last edited by Early B.; 10-29-2006 at 01:28 AM.
    HT/2-channel Rig: Sony 50 LCD TV; Toshiba HD-A2 DVD player; Emotiva LMC-1 pre/pro; Rogue Audio M-120 monoblocks (modded); Placette RVC; Emotiva LPA-1 amp; Bada HD-22 tube CDP (modded); VMPS Tower II SE (fronts); DIY Clearwave Dynamic 4CC (center); Wharfedale Opus Tri-Surrounds (rear); and VMPS 215 sub

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    Quote Originally Posted by Early B.
    Here's an idea -- let's lobby Polk to design and sanction the sale of DIY SDA kits.
    + like 20
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    Quote Originally Posted by cfrizz
    You all missed the point of Matt's post. The vast majority of today's market (including me) WILL NOT BUY THEM! Too big, too heavy, too much money!
    As I sat at starbucks reading magazines off the rack for free I picked up octobers issue of stereophile which is a "recommended components" issue. It appears a LOT of audiophiles enjoy big heavy monster speakers. In the full range section every one I noticed said something like 165 pounds or something to signify their huge size. The price, well lets just say a new pair of SDA's would not catch anyones eye in comparison.

    madmax
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    Audiophiles with that kind of money are a relatively small niche of the buying public.
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    I wonder how you get in that niche... :)
    madmax
    Vinyl, the final frontier...

    Avantgarde horns, 300b tubes, thats the kinda crap I want... :D

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