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Polk Audio LSi9 Bookshelf Speakers  Print E-mail
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Written by Bryan Dailey   
Tuesday, 01 June 2004
Article Index
Polk Audio LSi9 Bookshelf Speakers 
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Music and Movies
Having just reviewed the DVD-Audio mix of Seal’s IV (Warner Music Group) using my Energy Connoisseur 5.1 system, I thought I’d give it a try on the Polks. There is almost always an adjustment period when trying a new pair of speakers, but the LSi9s, with their smooth, even sound, were a natural fit for my medium-sized living room. This recording is one of the better-sounding DVD-Audio discs that I have heard in recent memory. Cuing up the disc, some party sounds such as people mingling and drinking glasses clinking together precede the first track, “Let Me Roll,” and I was struck at the realism of the sound. This was a good sign. As the tightly mixed pop sounds poured from the speakers and the funky bass line of the opening track began, I was surprised to hear the clarity in the midrange and the detail in the high end, thanks to the Radiator Tweeter. Seal’s distinct raspy voice blended well with the Polks and although much of the vocal is handled by the center channel, the LSi9s, acting as the front left and right speakers, provided for a wide soundstage and the backing vocals had body and musical tone that I would have never expect from a pair of bookshelf speakers. As the speakers approached the bottom end of their frequency response, the detail was lost a little but with proper blending of the subwoofer, this problem was minimized. I asked a lot of a small speaker and was getting everything I could have wanted out of it.

Reprise records has begun releasing many of Neil Young’s albums as stereo DVD-Audio discs so I decided to listen to Hawks & Doves (Reprise/WMG), one of his more acoustically focused albums. Young may be worshipped by many as the Godfather of Grunge, but he also has a country side to him and it really shows on the organic sound on this 192kHz/24-bit stereo DVD-Audio disc. The track “Stayin’ Power” features a violin part and some honky-tonk piano that the Polk LSi9s were able to replicate with beautiful detail. The album is very organic and of course features some of Young’s signature harmonica work. The complex overtones of the harmonica were easily audible and sonically believable on the Lsi9s. Young’s voice still sounded like an alley cat in heat, but even the most expensive speakers in the world can’t change that.

Moving on to regular 16-bit stereo CD, I pulled the Madonna album The Immaculate Collection out of my dusty CD shelf. As I went through the tracks to find a good song to audition, it quickly became apparent to me where the Polk Lsi9s really shine. With the 5.25 inch drivers, they are not able to go earthshakingly low, so you’ll want a sub to round out the deep end, but on tight, well-produced pop songs that play well on car audio speakers, the LSi9s take the music to a new level with their quick drivers. It was as though every single song on the Madonna Greatest Hits collection just shone on the LSi9s. After listening to the first 20 seconds of each track, “La Isla Bonita” with its electronic synth in the intro really caught my ear as it sparkled through the tweeters as it panned back and forth, creating an ultra-wide soundstage. The sounds on the song are all very ‘80s and a little cheesy, but this hit came to life again with this set-up. Madonna’s voice on this song has a lot of reverb and the LSi9s had a little trouble keeping the image locked in the center, but the accompanying music was highly detailed and every instrument was easy to focus on, each providing a distinct timbre. Good pop songs tend to be heavy on the high-frequency detail, with cymbals and other percussion elements adding sonic accoutrements, along with a low, thumping bass line that moves the song along. Flicking the subwoofer off for a bit to see what the speakers could do on their own as far as bass response, the rear ports do a respectable job of helping the speakers “create” low end that a speaker with drivers this size has no business being able to reproduce. Ultimately, you will want a sub with them to round out the sound, but in a pinch, just a pair of LSi9s will surprise you with their ability to get down and dirty with the low end.

No speaker review, even for a pair of bookshelf speakers, is complete without a movie evaluation or two, so I decided to watch a modern horror film with killer sound effects and a dialogue-driven goofball comedy. “Freddy Vs. Jason” (New Line Home Entertainment) may be dreadfully cheesy as a movie, but provides a superb workout for your home theater system both visually and aurally. The sound effect of Freddy’s patented razor-knife fingers as he sharpens them during the movie’s intro is spine-tingling. The low thud of Jason’s machete sticking into a table at the mental institution later in the film is absolutely earthshaking. The explosion of the compressed air tanks on the dock at Camp Crystal Lake was so loud it made my dogs go into a barking frenzy. Through all of this mayhem, the Lsi9s were able to handle it with ease and the LSiW Sub went down and rumbled in all the right places where the bookshelves couldn’t go.

The Farrelly Brothers latest film, “Stuck On You” (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) features some of the most unexpected casting for a goofball comedy with Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear starring as Siamese twins who appear more attached at the shirt than the hip. As the brothers go through their routines, some pretty hilarious comedy ensues, as the duo tell each other about things they have each done, and girls they have each dates, as if the other wasn’t there to see it for themselves. Although the movie fires on all cylinders the whole time, the soundtrack and dialogue are accurately reproduced by the Polk system. The drivers in the LSi9s and the accompanying LSiC are very responsive and don’t have the lag that I often hear in speakers with larger drivers when playing dialogue through them. Their immediacy is evident as the rapid-fire insults, one-liners and jokes fly during the film.


 

 
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