Why I Bought Another Pair of Speakers
There are four pairs of bookshelf speakers sitting in my garage: Polk RT 35, Polk RT55i, Fanfare Acoustics Prelude, and Polk SDA CRS+. Unfortunately, none of them coordinate as well as I would like with the cherry furniture in my new office at work. Hence, a pair of LSi9’s, in cherry, was purchased.
My original intent was to do an RT55i vs. SDA CRS+ vs. Lsi9 comparison. I expected the LSi9’s to only be an enhanced version of the RT55i’s. However, immediately after hooking up the LSi9’s, I realized their sonic signature was more a lineal descendant of the SDA sound than the RT line. I did hook up my RT55i’s for a quick comparison, but I quickly put them back in the garage. The RT55i was outclassed in every respect by the LSi9.
Listening Session Notes
I own three pairs of 1989 vintage CRS+ speakers. The first pair has modified crossover components and upgraded binding posts and is used as the center channel speaker in my home theater. The second pair is unmodified internally but was modified externally by being re-veneered in teak. The second pair is not currently in use. The third pair is used in my home office system and also has cabinets that were re-veneered in teak. Additionally, the crossovers of the third pair were modified with upgraded wire-wound resistors and polypropylene capacitors. The stock binding posts were replaced with Cardas tellurium copper posts. These modifications provide some improvements in imaging focus, midrange definition, and bass definition. The listening notes below are from a comparison of the LSi9 to the second pair of SDA CRS+’s with unmodified crossovers.
The speakers were spaced 10 feet apart and I was seated 10 feet from the center point between the speakers. The LSi9’s were toed in slightly, which improved the imaging focus a little. The LSi9’s tended to get a little boomy in the bass when placed close to the rear wall, therefore they were brought out into the room one and a half feet. The CRS+’s on the other hand, sounded best (in the bass region) when placed only five inches from the rear wall. The listening room was 17.5 feet by 20 feet with a 10 foot ceiling and hardwood floor. Speakers were placed along the long wall.
The gold plated binding straps of the LSi9 were replaced with 8 gauge stranded speaker wire. There is a small, but noticeable loss of high frequency information with the straps. I verified this by switching my preamp to mono mode, setting both speakers a couple of feet from each other, and playing some material with a lot of high frequency content (soprano saxophone, ride cymbals, etc.). The left speaker used the stock binding post straps. The right speaker's binding post straps were replaced with high quality stranded wire. While sitting in front of the speakers, I used the preamp remote control to shift the balance control back and forth between left and right. I do not understand why Polk continues to use these straps. They used to use stranded wire connecting straps on the SDA SRS series. I wish they would go back to those, at least for the LSi line. I will concede however, that most recordings (and a lot of electronic gear) are so rolled-off in the upper and lower registers that a difference may not be heard by some listeners.
Adcom GFP-750 Preamp
Adcom GFA-5802 Power Amp
Denon DCD AR1650 CD Player
Yamaha PF-800 Turntable w/ Yamaha MC-705 moving coil cartridge
Monster Z2 Reference speaker cable
Monster Z100i interconnects for CD and turntable
Monster Z200i XLR interconnects for preamp and amp.
O'Sullivan Model 56011 28" Speaker Stands
The LSi9 sounded so much like the SDA CRS+ that I wondered if the sonic characteristics of the LSi9 were modeled after the CRS+ , or if it was just a (fortunate) coincidence. The LSi9 does not have the holographic imaging properties of the SDA CRS+, but it has excellent imaging properties and it is very close in timbre to the CRS+. So close, in fact, that it was difficult to tell them apart from the midrange up through the treble when I replaced one of the LSi9’s with a CRS+. Due to the LSi9's smaller, lighter drivers, I expect that their transient response and midrange detail will become noticeably better than the CRS+ as the drivers get more broken-in. Although, the LSi9's sounded so good right out of the box, I am wondering if Polk does any pre-conditioning (break-in) of the drivers prior to the speakers being packaged and shipped.
The bass of the CRS+ is more accurate, punchy, articulate and defined. The LSi9 has more impact (kick) and volume in the bass region. Much more than I expected, considering its size. I did not experience any imaging outside of the outer speaker sides with the LSi9. Depending on source recording, I was able to place instruments about one foot out from the front plane of the speakers. Depth was limited to about 4 feet behind the front plane of the speakers. In contrast, the CRS+ floated a soundstage that extended (depending on source recordings) up to 3 feet beyond the outer side edges of the speakers, 2 feet out from the front plane of the speakers, and 4 to 6 feet behind the front plane of the speakers.
There was no image height restriction with either the LSi9 or the CRS+. In other words, some sounds, particularly those mixed to be in the center, could be heard to apparently come from a well-defined point above the top plane of the speakers. For example, vocals seemed to come from where a person’s head would have been had they been standing in front of me. When standing in front of the LSi9’s and listening to Paul Desmond’s alto saxophone solo on “Take Five” (Dave Brubeck Quartet-“Time Out” CD), it sounded like Paul was standing in front of me playing his horn.
Some of the source material included in my listening session were (1) The Dave Brubeck Quartet, “Time Out”, track #3-Take Five, (2) Herbie Hancock, “Headhunters”, track #1-Chaeleon, (3) Miles Davis, “Kind of Blue”, track #1-So What, and (4) Sonny Rollins, “Saxophone Colossus”, track #2-You Don’t Know What Love Is.
The fit and finish of my pair was excellent. The gloss black piano finish on the top and bottom was smooth, deep, and without blemish. Same for the beveled wood side panels. I understand that Polk is discontinuing the beveled side panels for the LSi9. It’s a shame, I think the beveled panels have a more “high end” and contemporary look. Binding posts were the heaviest I’ve ever seen on a Polk speaker. The grille cloth was a very thin lightweight fabric, which saved me the time and cost of replacing it. I did remove the chintzy looking plastic “polkaudio” label from the bottom of the grille. It easily peeled off the dark gray oval disk it was attatched to. I thought that little plastic sticker was totally out of place on a speaker of this quality. ;)
It's a vicious cycle. Now I have to upgrade the electronics in my system at work.