Getting the full SDA Effect from Polk L800 Speakers

gene

gene

Audioholics Master Chief
Administrator
At long last, we finally bring you our review of the Polk L800 floorstanding speakers. The L800 is a unique and relatively complex design for a loudspeaker, but what it delivers is one of the best soundstages that you could ever hope to hear from stereo sound from any speaker set at any price. Its advantage is the SDA technology, updated and improved from its former incarnations, now dubbed the ‘SDA PRO.’ The SDA technology does have some catches though, such as some rather particular placement requirements, a strong preference for single-ended amplifiers, the need for an extra cable that joins the speakers, and a bit more treble than the highly neutral response that the L800s produce with the SDA disengaged. However, what we get for these trade-offs is a speaker that images like none other, regardless of price.

polk.jpg


Read: Polk L800 Speaker Review
 
ryanosaur

ryanosaur

Audioholic Spartan
@Matthew J Poes
Nice write up!
Thank you guys.

Out of curiosity, what's the electrical behavior look like for these puppies? Any surprises lurking with a low impedance and challenging phase?
 
G

Golfx

Audioholic Intern
I have these speakers along with the Legend L400 center (I’m the only owner review currently on Crutchfield for the L800). Obviously, I have an owner’s bias, but over the year I’ve owned them I can confirm the SDA is real. I have a 7.2.4 home theater system using a denon a110 as a prepro and driving the LCR with the Anthem MCA 325 and the surrounds and heights with an Anthem PVA8. According to Anthem the MCA yields 400w into 4 ohms. As with the reviewer above I found the L800’s needed that extra power. My room is one of those large vaulted two floor open rooms. My listening position is 12 ft away and the L800s are 7 ft apart. The L400 is placed high above my 77in tv. My surrounds and heights are all wall mounted SVS prime elevations (heights at 12 ft & surrounds at 7 ft canted toward listener) necessitated by visiting roaming grandchildren (much worse than pets)
So now to the SDA confirmation. I previously liked to listen to music via amazon music hd via HEOS using Auro 3D. Using Auro 3D I can confirm how absolutely wonderful the L400 is. It sits slightly above the front heights and just sounds superb, like the previous audioholics reviewer said, one of the best center channel speakers tested. Music via Auro 3D gives you a complete wall of music-very impressive. But when I first switched the Denon to stereo and then turned up the L 800s, I was shocked! I got the same complete wall of immersion (if not more) that I got from using them as part of Auro 3D. Blind luck got my listening dimensions correct from the beginning. I now switch back and forth just to reinforce my satisfaction at being an early adopter of the L800s. Oh, and I can’t say enough about the L400. Movies are quite a treat. The bass from the L800s is very pure and tight. I now can’t wait to try the above reviewer suggested albums.
 
Irvrobinson

Irvrobinson

Audioholic Spartan
"Most amplifiers in general are single-ended output so finding a good amplifier that works is not a big problem."

Other than some weirdo Nelson Pass things, which solid state amplifiers do not have differential output stages? I don't think I've ever seen one, save some guitar amplifiers.
 
j_garcia

j_garcia

Audioholic Jedi
Would love to hear these. I had a friend who was a huge fan of the originals and he sought them out. I wasn't sure how that would work because it seems like an odd way to "expand" the sound, but hearing them was definitely an experience. I really liked the sound from the SDAs and I was happy to see Polk bring them back.
 
G

Golfx

Audioholic Intern
Would love to hear these. I had a friend who was a huge fan of the originals and he sought them out. I wasn't sure how that would work because it seems like an odd way to "expand" the sound, but hearing them was definitely an experience. I really liked the sound from the SDAs and I was happy to see Polk bring them back.
I just listened to the reviewer recommended “wandering” album on my l800s. it was really like listening to full atmos instead of stereo from two speakers. Like he said it was like headphones were placed on the room.
 
Irvrobinson

Irvrobinson

Audioholic Spartan
One other comment, is it just me, or has AH become a home for some reviewers with weird listening room set-ups? As with the Legacy Focus SE review, where the reviewer was also very positive about the speaker, the pictured in-room set-up is rather weird. Matthew's listening room is 25x11, the L800s are placed up against the front wall next to a projector screen, nearly in the corners, but on each side, very near the speaker, there's a thick room treatment panel that will have some unknown effects on how the speakers sound in the room.
 
G

Golfx

Audioholic Intern
One other comment, is it just me, or has AH become a home for some reviewers with weird listening room set-ups? As with the Legacy Focus SE review, where the reviewer was also very positive about the speaker, the pictured in-room set-up is rather weird. Matthew's listening room is 25x11, the L800s are placed up against the front wall next to a projector screen, nearly in the corners, but on each side, very near the speaker, there's a thick room treatment panel that will have some unknown effects on how the speakers sound in the room.
Those specifics were covered in the review details.
 
Kingnoob

Kingnoob

Audioholic Field Marshall
Too bad they cost more then I can probably ever afford but impressive regardless!!! Probably outshine more expensive speakers then they are , engineering marvels .
 
Irvrobinson

Irvrobinson

Audioholic Spartan
That's how the L800s work best. Matthew wouldn't normally place speakers there.
They work best in a weird set-up? Really? They wouldn't work for my room either, since the SDA cable is only 12 feet long, and my preferred speaker positions are a little more than 12 feet apart.

Caveats aside, this is the most positive review I've ever seen of a Polk speaker. If I get a chance I feel nearly compelled to listen to them.
 
Irvrobinson

Irvrobinson

Audioholic Spartan
More appropriate for cheap speaker reviews?
I didn't say that. It's just that if you're going to draw useful conclusions about the sound of large, expensive speakers, it would seem most appropriate to use them in rooms at least similar to what the purchasers of $6K/pair speakers are likely to use. The measurements were interesting though.

Is it better than Fremer's room?
I don't read Michael Fremer's material, so I have no idea what his room is like. I'll leave Analog Planet to you.
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Jedi
I didn't say that. It's just that if you're going to draw useful conclusions about the sound of large, expensive speakers, it would seem most appropriate to use them in rooms at least similar to what the purchasers of $6K/pair speakers are likely to use. The measurements were interesting though.



I don't read Michael Fremer's material, so I have no idea what his room is like. I'll leave Analog Planet to you.
LOL didn't know purchases of speakers at particular price point came with review room expectations at all....from what I've seen of many reviewer's home rooms, meh in any case (or their subjective reviews, too). Fremer's is simply a mess, let alone his doofus reviews....Stereophile, TAS and the Analog Planet fans can have him.
 
S

shadyJ

Speaker of the House
They work best in a weird set-up? Really? They wouldn't work for my room either, since the SDA cable is only 12 feet long, and my preferred speaker positions are a little more than 12 feet apart.

Caveats aside, this is the most positive review I've ever seen of a Polk speaker. If I get a chance I feel nearly compelled to listen to them.
These speakers don't behave like typical speakers and benefit from a closer positioning to each other than a normal speaker would. It's a bit counter-intuitive. They need a very particular setup to sound their best, but when they get that kind of setup, the soundstage they can produce is outstanding.
 
Matthew J Poes

Matthew J Poes

Senior Audioholic
@Matthew J Poes
Nice write up!
Thank you guys.

Out of curiosity, what's the electrical behavior look like for these puppies? Any surprises lurking with a low impedance and challenging phase?
I can’t for the life of me find the impedance plot I took. But I don’t recall them being difficult. I powered them with everything from a receiver to a big beefy amp. They were fine with whatever I used. They liked power but they are also large full range speakers that aren’t all that efficient.

I own these now so I will measure it and add it to the review once I unpack them. But I won’t be able to unpack them until I am moved.
 
Matthew J Poes

Matthew J Poes

Senior Audioholic
They work best in a weird set-up? Really? They wouldn't work for my room either, since the SDA cable is only 12 feet long, and my preferred speaker positions are a little more than 12 feet apart.

Caveats aside, this is the most positive review I've ever seen of a Polk speaker. If I get a chance I feel nearly compelled to listen to them.
You will have to be sure to leave your preferred speaker spacing at the door however. These aren’t typical speakers. The crosstalk cancelation is finicky and relies on the speakers being closer together. It won’t do what you think. You’re probably thinking that it’s going to collapse the soundstage. It doesn’t. The soundstage is immense but only if setup right.

the people that gave negative reviews to these speakers were often caught having them too far apart and powered by the wrong amp. Differential output amps causes a major loss of crosstalk cancelation in this circuit. Too far apart also compromises it. Especially when presented with strong sidewalk reflections.

one suggestion I would make to anyone demoing these is to get a binaural recording and become very familiar with it. Listen to it on headphones a lot. Then compare on the Polks. If it sounds dramatically different. Like object placement in space is in the wrong place, it has been setup wrong. James and I found that when doing our setup and listening tests. It was an accidental find. We threw on a Roger Waters binaural recording and James instantly knew it was wrong. We moved the speakers closer together. It fixed it slightly. We added absorption to the side wall first reflection. All was good in the world. It turns out my narrow room was causing overly strong sidewalk reflections when I had removed my absorbers.
 

newsletter
  • RBHsound.com
  • BlueJeansCable.com
  • SVS Sound Subwoofers
  • Experience the Martin Logan Montis
Top