Polk LSiM707 Surround Speaker System Page 2
Finally, I did something I usually avoid in speaker reviews: I tried a variety of the manual and automated equalization options available on the Integra pre-pro. I settled on the simplest of tweaks: increasing the pre-pro’s treble control to +1 dB. This raised the measured output of the preamp by slightly less than 1 dB above about 6 kilohertz. Whether this will help achieve a desired result will depend on the liveliness of your room. I would normally agree with those who argue against the casual use of tone controls, but also counter that the amount of damping in a room, even from normal furnishings, can easily produce a difference of +/-1 dB—or more—in the treble. My room falls a bit on the dead side of neutral.
Volume Four: Two-Channel Music
The proof is in the listening, and the Polks were now singing. Apart from my continuing wish for just a bit more in the air department, there was never any doubt that everything was present in proper proportion. While slightly forgiving at the top, the Polks were nevertheless revealing and detailed without being at all clinical or analytic. The highs were just there, without emphasis.
The midrange was uncolored and open. The best midrange performance is distinguished by how little there is to say, and that’s true here. If I can say anything at all about the LSiM707’s character, it’s that it may be a bit less dynamic and snappy than some of the highest-end (and usually far more expensive) speakers I’ve heard. But the latter qualities can often wear out their welcome. The Polks don’t go there. They can be listened to for hours without fatigue. Their all-important vocal reproduction, in particular, is superb.
Most speakers in my room produce a clean, well-defined soundstage, with good depth; the Polks were no exception. With stereo sources, centered vocalists and instruments were simply there, so firmly fixed that the center speaker appeared engaged. It was not. Depth, when present, was convincing. There was perhaps a bit more forwardness than I’ve heard in some of the speakers I’ve reviewed, but many listeners will prefer it that way, and for others, it should be well within the range of acceptability.
The bass performance is a little more complicated, although no less impressive. Driven full range without a sub, the LSiM707s will likely more than satisfy most buyers on most music. But add in a good sub or two, such as the pair of DSWmicroPRO3000s used here, and something almost palpable happens. As good as the LSiM707s are alone on the bottom end, the addition of the subwoofers added a visceral feel in my room that the towers themselves couldn’t quite manage.
The 80Hz high-pass/low-pass crossover setting on my Integra pre-pro has usually worked well for both music and movies in my room. But with the Polk setup, it was a bit too lean in the midbass. I settled on a 40Hz high-pass, crossover setting for the bottom end of the towers and 80 Hz for the subs. In some situations, this overlap could well result in bloated, one-note bass. But here it was simply powerful and full-bodied. Pipe organ notes went satisfyingly deep, drums were crisp and punchy, and synthesizers rumbled and growled. Not all AVRs or preamp-processors offer the option of different crossover settings for the subwoofer and the full-range channels. But if yours does, don’t be reluctant to experiment. The option that best blends the subwoofer with the main speakers can sometimes be a surprising one.
Volume Five: Multichannel Movies
With the setup described previously, dialogue on some multichannel soundtracks sounded a little fat, particularly male voices. But this has often been true in my setup, where the center-channel speaker sits on a short stand below the screen, barely 18 inches from the floor. Dialing back the center-channel bass control by 3-4 dB (a feature that not all AVRs or pre-pros provide) helped significantly. Voices still sounded a little warm, but rarely harsh or sibilant—an overall balance that most listeners will find pleasing rather than objectionable.
Certainly the soundtrack from Captain America: The First Avenger left little to be desired. The quietly eerie ambience inside the plane buried in the ice in the first act, the electric discharges in Hydra’s evil lair and in the Brooklyn transformation chamber where Rogers gets…um...taller, and the nearly wall-to-wall action sequences that fill the second half of the movie were all never less than compelling.
But it’s three of my favorite movies from last year that largely tell the tale of the Polks’ surround-sound performance. John Williams’ sweet score for War Horse enveloped the room, but it was the throb of the cavalry charges and the pounding of the artillery in the starkly depicted (but still solidly PG-13) World War I battles that made the biggest impression. The huge dynamic range in Thor, from its explosive opening to the final act, seemed to threaten the structural integrity of my house long before it fazed the system. And the vividness with which the Polks brought Gnomeo and Juliet to life—the subtle clinking the garden gnomes make as they move, the beautifully recorded James Newton Howard score with more than a little assist from the Elton John songbook, and the cleanly recorded dialogue—reinforced my conviction that this underappreciated and original gem was the best animated film of 2011.
It must be said that the two DSWmicroPRO3000s did no better than the single large Hsu VTF-15H had during the interim in which I was waiting for replacements for the first batch of Polk subs. The Hsu also went marginally deeper. That’s a consideration when you compare the price of the two DSWs I used to that of the single Hsu—though to be fair, the Hsu has the advantage of direct-factory sales, bypassing the dealer in the middle. Nevertheless, the small Polks offer a compelling size advantage. And while I used the two Polk subs for all of the listening tests in my relatively large space (just over 3,200 cubic feet), a single DSW might be a practical and sensibly sized option in smaller rooms. Used in a corner placement to reinforce its output (assuming your room works reasonably well with a corner-loaded sub—not all rooms do), it could operate well with as little strain as two of them did in my home theater. On the other hand, having two of these little powerhouses in different locations might help smooth out the bass response in troublesome rooms.
Volume Six: Conclusions
The LSiMs took a little more tweaking than many other speakers have to deliver their best in my room, but it was worth it. hey’re capable of handling virtually any program material with ease, from the most delicate details to the most challenging soundtracks, played back at levels that could get you banned from the homeowners association. Of course, any speaker system can be pushed over the cliff, including these, but most listeners are unlikely to ever go that far.
Is it possible to spend more? Of course, although whether or not that will bring greater satisfaction is a highly personal matter. Can you spend less for similar performance? Again, that’s a judgment no one can make for anyone else. The most recent speaker system I reviewed prior to the Polks was the Aperion Verus Grand, and I still remember the pleasure it provided. In the interim, between the Aperions and the Polks, I reverted to my fallback system, anchored at the left and right front by the long-discontinued Energy Veritas v2.8s, combined with a Revel Concerta center and surrounds. This mix works sonically, but it is certainly less than ideal, particularly in appearance. And a pair of the v2.8s would likely sell for upwards of $9,000 if available today.
The Polk LSiMs produce a more unified whole than the Energy/Revel mix. They may lack the top-end sparkle of the Energys or Aperions, but they bring to the table a tangible rightness to nearly all program material. And they truly shine with the best. Consider them highly recommended.