These speakers aren't really about analog audio, however; their hook is streaming music over an IP network. By keeping the full-bandwidth signal digital all the way up to the onboard power amplifiers, you have purer fidelity, with no signal loss or any chance of picking up line noise.
Streaming music using the NetStreams DigiLinX system meant installing another accessory - a NetStreams StreamNet card ($500). This requires removing the heat sinks and amplifier, then plugging the card into its slot and screwing it down (only one card is required per pair of speakers). Cat-5 cabling runs from the network router (a NetStreams SwitchLinX in my case) and connects to the StreamNet card; the speakers are linked and powered in the same manner as an analog setup.
Following the initial setup, I ran the Performance Optimization Wizard (POW) software on my PC. This leads you through a simple interview to tweak the speakers' DSP for best sound in your room, correcting for anomalies such as boomy or muddy bass caused by less-than-ideal placement.
Another killer benefit to the Polk Audio LC265i-IPs when used in an IP system is that each speaker or pair becomes an independent controllable zone. So you can actually log in to the speakers with a Web browser to select sources, change volume, and make bass/midrange/treble adjustments.
PERFORMANCE I sat back to finally see what these babies could do (quickly, before my wife got home and forced me to explain the sudden appearance of freestanding 7-foot walls in our living room).
Funny thing: At first, I got audio from only half of the connected sources. A call to NetStreams' tech support suggested I try upgrading the firmware in the speakers. Of course! Update the firmware in my speakers, just like I always do! Then, a loose connection on the cable linking the two speakers suddenly caused the left channel to play at only two volume levels - off, and balls-to-the-walls wide open. Yeow!
Once order was restored, they sounded pretty remarkable - up there with the best in-walls that I've heard. In-wall speakers struggle with bass: Either they can't reproduce any, or they turn it into a booming mush. But the Polks kept it tight, punchy, and deep; they can definitely stand on their own for music listening. (Of course, you'll need a subwoofer for movies, but that's true for nearly any speaker.)
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