At last I can say that I've heard Polk's cult classic SDA speaker, the SRS-1.2. Up to this point my only other experience with SDA has been with the SRT system.
The speakers were in a pretty large room, probably 17' x 24' with part of the back wall missing to open into another room. The speakers were positioned 3' off the back wall (not ideal, I know), 7' apart, and 3' from the right side wall and 5' from the left side wall. The speakers were facing straight ahead (no toe-in). The room had a sloped ceiling and lots of "stuff" which should be good for acoustics.
The system was driven by a pair of Carver M-1.5T amps in a horizontal bi-amp configuration with a Carver C-1 preamp (Sonic Holography disabled). The source was a Sony CA80ES changer. The CD player interconnect was an MIT MI-330, the one Carver amp had an MIT Terminator 3 interconnect, and the other amp had a generic patch cable. The speaker wire was MIT Terminator 3 and Monster Cable XP. Again, not ideal, but it was the best that I could rig up in a short time.
When I first started listening to them I immediately noticed that they sounded different. Different how? Well, I wasn't sure. I wasn't very impressed with the SDA, but I suspect this was largely due to the placement. There was one section on one of my demo CD's where I was really impressed by the separation and placement of the sound. The speakers did convey some depth of soundstage, but I've heard better.
Even though the speakers weren't very close to the wall they still produced very nice bass. It was very tight, powerful, and deep. I can only imagine what it would be like with the speakers placed close to the wall. I really have no complaints in this area. The midrange was OK, but this is where I was hearing that "different" sound. The tweeter was perhaps the biggest weakness. It was fairly bright and definitely harsh. I found these speakers lacking in their resolving ability; they weren't very detailed. They did do the "big speaker thing" pretty well; they could convey a large sound effortlessly. However, the SRT's outshine these speakers in that regard probably due to their subwoofers. The SRT's are a significantly better speaker in all areas, but they should be for what they cost.
I left my demo fairly unimpressed. The speakers performed about as I expected. Still, that "different" sound was bugging me. After thinking about it for a bit I realized what it was. It was the same kind of sound that I observed with the RTA-11T's, the "hollowness" in the midrange as I called it before. The SDA's were certainly a better speaker in every regard, but they still had that similar flavor of sound, a flavor that I do not care for. So, it looks like my long-held driver theory holds true after all.
The SRS-1.2 is a fun speaker, no doubt. It just can't compare to today's speakers in the same price range in terms of detail and clarity. Sure, you trade off presence and power, but what good is that if it doesn't sound good?