The Short Form
|$1,449 Each Plus Accessories / 20.7 X 8.5 X 3.3 IN / 8.7 LBS / polkaudio.com / 800-377-7655|
|•Excellent sound quality
•Ends performance-vs.-décor debate
•Software to tweak sound for your room
•Cutting-edge IP technology
•Requires DigiLinX for IP functions
|•3-way in-wall loudspeaker; 6.5-in aerated polypropylene-cone woofer, 6.5-in polypropylene midrange, 1-in ring-radiator tweeter
•200 watts total power: woofer 100 watts, midrange 75 watts, tweeter 25 watts
•Requires Polk Audio SPS-1 power supply ($700); Polk Audio Performance Enclosures ($250 each) recommended
•Tweeter adjustable up to 15 degrees
•Line-level analog audio input
•IP addressable with addition of NetStreams StreamNet card ($500)
•Includes Performance Optimization Wizard (POW) software to correct for placement and room acoustics and adjust bass, midrange, and treble levels
•Price $1,449 each ($4,600 as tested)
Full Lab Results
Speakers are often described as "laid-back" or "forward" in their character. The Polks fall into the latter group, bringing vocals and instruments out into the room. The tweeter is quick and lively, leaning towards bright, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, when listening to compressed MP3 and WMA files, the LC265i-IP's restored some richness and depth to the recordings. Still, some material that was already bright-sounding - such as the audience applause at the end of each track on Diana Krall's Live in Paris CD - could become shrill when played loud, forcing me to cut back on volume.
Lately I've been on a jazz binge, and these speakers loved everything I threw at them. They create a wide soundstage, able to fill a large space with music. Consistently, music seemed to reach far beyond the speaker locations, but at the expense of pinpoint imaging. The first track on Miles Davis's seminal Kind of Blue is "So What," and the Polks laid out the performers as clearly as if you were in the studio with them, with enough detail to let you follow any instrument.
Rebecca Pidgeon's The Raven is a wonderfully recorded CD, and I love her version of "Spanish Harlem." The Polks captured the right depth and texture of the subtle bass, while keeping Rebecca's voice in the center. The recording has tons of ambience, and the Polks conveyed the spaciousness of the venue.
The LC265i-IPs have a very warm, rich midrange, and made husky-voiced singers like Fiona Apple sound fuller than any in-walls have a right to - she sounded as if she were right in the room with me. I've heard Apple in concert, and the Polks portrayed all of the brooding and anger she poured into Tidal, giving her voice a breathy, velvety quality. Their ability to handle big bass was also evident; when "Sleep to Dream" came on, the song's drums poured out in a prodigious, couch-shaking rumble.
Genius Loves Company by Ray Charles features some terrific duets, including "Fever" with Natalie Cole. The Polks delivered the fleshy quality of the finger-snaps and responded quickly to Natalie's shouts of "fever!" and the band's accompanying musical attacks.
BOTTOM LINE Polk Audio did its homework, and these speakers are a technology statement. Their ability to stream audio over IP is unique, though maybe too much so - at least for the moment, you can use that function only with a NetStreams DigiLinX system. But, they sound great, and I say that without the backhanded disclaimer "for an in-wall." If I have one serious complaint, it's their cost: As tested, my pair of Polk Audio LC265i-IP in-wall speakers would run $4,600 including the speakers, acoustic enclosures, StreamNet card, and power supply. That's $1,600 more than Polk's flagship towers and enough to buy a serious pair of speakers and amplification. Still, if you demand high-performance audio from an in-wall installation, you owe it to yourself to audition this breakthrough speaker.
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