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Polk Audio LSi9 Bookshelf Speakers Print E-mail
Tuesday, 01 June 2004
Article Index
Polk Audio LSi9 Bookshelf Speakers
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ImagePolk. It’s one of those brands that almost anyone who has ever stepped foot into an electronics store chain to shop for new speakers has heard of. Their product line is immense and they make everything from micro-satellite systems for your computer to equipment racks to Earth shaking subs, floor standing loudspeakers and car audio products. Their top of the line LSi series features two floor-standing models, the LSi15 and LSi25, the LSiC center channel, LSiFX bi-pole/di-pole surrounds, the LSi subwoofer and two bookshelf models, the LSi7 and LSi9.

Cracking open the box of a pair of LSi9 bookshelf speakers, the first thing that I noticed about the speakers was their distinctive smooth black high-gloss finish on the top and rich cherry wood sculpted side panels. I’ve seen Polk speakers countless times in retail mega-stores, but it was usually smaller satellites or computer speakers. When I learned that I was going to be reviewing a pair of Polk bookshelf speakers, I was not expecting to receive such a large box at my front doorstep. Normally when you think of bookshelf speakers, the image that comes to mind is that of plain, square small boxes with cheap woofers and tweeters. However, Polk’s Lsi9s are not your typical bookshelf speaker. Packing technology and slick design elements into a pair of bookshelves that are more reminiscent of high-end bookshelves like Wilson’s dramatically more expensive CUB IIs or Revel’s Gems than those from Bose or Klipsch, these Polks can actually be the foundation of a surround system or a two-channel set-up, rather than just speakers that sit unassumingly on a shelf in someone’s office.

These are not small bookshelves by any means, measuring in at 14.875 inches tall, 8.625 inches wide and 15.25 inches deep. You’ll want beefy stands for them, as they weigh just a shade over 32 pounds each and could easily maim a pet or small child should one of them be knocked over. The density of the speakers is obvious, based on the size-to-weight ratio. Much of the speaker’s weight comes from the 1.5-inch-thick solid wood side panels. This keeps the speaker cabinets from coloring the sound with unwanted overtones. According the Polk, the LSi9s have a frequency response rating of 38Hz to 27kHz, –3dB.

On the back of the speaker is a black plastic plate that is about an inch away from the cabinet that has a foam pad on it. At first glance, I thought the purpose of this plastic bracket was to act as an isolator, should the speakers be mounted against a wall or on a shelf. However, I noticed that this bracket covers a bass port. Knowing this, I made a mental note to do some listening sans the subwoofer to see what kind of bass the LSi9s could produce. High-quality dual (bi-ampable) gold-plated five-way binding post inputs allow for an array of wiring options and have a solid feel that lets you know you are getting a good solid connection.

The LSi9s are also available with ebony side panels, for those who prefer the all-black look, priced on the Polk website at $519.95 each. Why would the speakers be priced individually, rather than as a pair? In some applications, a single LSi9 could be used as a center channel or as a rear center. However, most users will be purchasing then in pairs to use as either mains or surrounds in a surround speaker system, so the retail for the set comes in at $1,039.90. On the surface, $1,039.90 sounds pricey for a pair of small speakers, but I must emphasize the fact that these are much more advanced than your typical pair of bookshelves.

Each LSi9 features a pair of 5.25 inch Dynamic Balance drivers with Aerated Polypropylene cones with Cast aluminum driver baskets and a single Ring Radiator tweeter. The tweeters are offset a few inches to the side of the two woofers, so you should pay particular attention to be sure you place them as “mirrored pairs.” I experimented with placing the tweeter on the outside then flipped them upside down so the tweeter was offset to the inside. There were benefits and drawbacks with each set-up. I found the imaging and soundstage to be widest with the tweeters on the outside edges. The front of each cabinet has two small ports and the back features Polk’s rear-firing Power Port venting system. These small front ports are part of Polk’s patented Acoustic Resonance Control system that is designed to suppress internal cabinet resonance and provide clear and natural-sounding midrange. An internal Cascade tapered crossover also improves imaging focus and depth, according to Polk. There is a second order low-pass crossover at 200Hz and 2.4kHz and a third-order high-pass crossover at 2.4kHz.

In my theater, the speakers need to be mounted close to the television set, so thankfully the LSi9s are magnetically shielded. For my audition, I focused primarily on the speakers as a stereo pair, but I did also give them a spin as the front right and front left speaker in a full Polk 5.1 system (similar to the system recently reviewed by Matt Evert). After setting up a pair of 27-inch-tall speaker stands about seven-and-a-half feet apart and three-and-a-half feet away from the back wall, connecting the speakers to my Adcom GFA-7505 and breaking in the LSi9s and the rest of the Polk speakers that came along with them for a few days, it was time to get to some listening to find out if a pair of bookshelves could hold their own as both a two-channel system and as the heart of a small home theater set-up.

Choose among a variety of front bookshelf speakers that can go along with your center channel  speaker and subwoofer.


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