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Speed

Polk SR6500 component speakers

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When I started writing about the Polks, I began list their physical attributes, their jewel-like construction, the massive crossovers stuffed with audiophile-grade parts and quickly realized that none of it was important. As I wanted to create an audio environment in the car that most closely resembled the resolution of a good home system, their performance was the only thing that mattered.

The tweeters were installed low in the A-pillars and the mids low in the doors. I found that wiring the tweeters out of (acoustical) phase with the mids - as per Polk's recommendation - greatly improved the integration between the drivers. My first attempt to work with the SRs utilized their (included) crossovers and an ARC Mini amplifier driving the system passively.

Upon loading the first CD, the tweeters' excess of energy was immediately apparent. They were piercing. I mean, tear your head off, stuff cotton balls in the ears overly bright. Configuring the tweeter level on the crossovers helped to a small degree, but they were still too loud relative to the mids. This surprised me, as every review that I'd read spoke of the SR's somewhat laid back, "smooth," presentation. As one who prefers an upfront, direct, very fast, if you will, sonic perspective this posed some concern before I bought the speakers. I've often found that speakers that excelled at a non-offensive presentation dulled the leading edges of transients. I'm sure that everyone has heard a system that never felt like it had real impact, regardless of its amplitude. That's what I'm talking about.

Thankfully, the Polks sounded nothing like that. They came across as quick and immediate. Every change made to the system, no matter how small,was reflected by the speakers. This was a very good sign, and I decided to reconfigure the system for an active setup. This allowed me to turn down the tweeters, which was the main objective, as well as expand the system's tuning options.

After installing a Zapco AG350 to drive the mids, with an ARC Mini on the tweeters, I started tuning the system. First thing, pad down the tweeters. I can't say by how much, exactly, as I lacked a reference signal that could be equally applied to both drivers, but best I can gather it was ~-7dB. As the stock crossovers only allowed for a -3dB adjustment, you can see just how loud the tweeters were relative to the mids. Now the sound began to make sense.

IIRC, the stock crossovers run the mids at ~3100Hz @ 12dB and the tweeters at ~3500Hz @ 18dB - I may be off by 100Hz. My final setting weren't all that different- 3200Hz at 12 dB for the mids and 4K @ 12dB for the tweeters. After configuring the time alignment for the best possible compromise between stage stability and instrumental placement, relative to the placement of the tweeters, I started to listen critically.

Right off the bat, the system's mid-bass response stood out. As the saying goes, there was bass, bass, bass, bass all over the place. I listened for a few days and never felt the need to turn on the sub. Everything was there - articulation, clarity, definition - albeit with ultimately limited extension. The bass dynamics were unprecedented IME with car speakers, helped in no small part by the Zapco pushing the drivers. Of course, adding the sub increased the system's sense of realism, but I can easily see how one could live without it.

I made no adjustments to the EQ at this point, choosing to get used to the sound of the system and then selecting the problem areas as needed. As of today, I've only had to implement 3 bands on 9887's PEQ to make small cuts in the mids. Honestly, if there was no EQ, it wouldn't have mattered. With the crossover frequencies in place and the tweeters playing at an appropriate level, the speakers did sound smooth. By smooth, I mean that no particular frequency band stood out. I don't mean that the SRs sounded soft, rolled-off, or forgiving.

I should mention that the tweeters do sound different due to their respective locations. One is more on-axis than the other, and these drivers reflect the change. The impact on their tonal balance becomes especially noticeable during the T/A phase of tuning. If achieving staging perfection drives one's tuning needs, I'd strongly suggest using a HU with separate L/R EQs.

These speakers are easily able to reproduce the differences between recordings. Unlike transducers that masque a recording's inherent aural qualities by introducing a series of severe colorations designed to sound good to some listeners, the Polks leave that option up to the production team. Brash records sound brash, dull records sound dull, and small-scale audiophile pressings sound frightfully real, especially for a system in a car. The individual tracks are presented as clearly defined entities, instead of a smeared blob sitting on the dash. If one wants all of his tracks to sound to his taste - meaning, laden with similar sonic virtues - these are not the speakers to choose. While their resolution is not on par with better home speakers, they are the most articulate car speakers I've heard to date. The sound of the system, as it sits right now, is on par with an entry level home High-End rig, and that's as high of a compliment as I can give.

The bad: unbearably bright installed as first described.

The good: setup with care, capable of reference grade automotive sound.

Update:

I decided to retune the system. Sometimes taking a completely fresh approach can yield unexpected results. I started with a clean slate and my usual array of test records, music I've played on almost every system I've auditioned through the years, and after a while arrived at a different crossover point and slope for the tweeter. Where as it was previously configured at 4000Hz @ 18dB, now it stands at 5000Hz at 12dB. The mids remain as they were at 3200Hz by now rolling off at a mellow 6dB/octave. This noticeably elevated the speakers' clarity, sense of presence and their immediacy. The system has moved past a comparison to an entry-level home High-End system. Interestingly, the change in the crossover allowed me to tune the tweeters' T/A with greater latitude, without coming across as many tonal anomalies as before.

I wish you guys could hear this system. I played The Persuasions' (a capella) rendition of Kurt Weil's O Heavenly Salvation. The individual voices stood as whole bodies, each as an easily identifiable being, with soaring vocals full of emotion and belief. I've never heard anything like this in a car. Hell, I haven't heard a lot of systems that could do this, period, at least with this much dynamic drive. I attribute much of the dynamic contrast to the synergistic relationship between the SR mids and the AG350 driving them.

I just played the system for my wife. Keeping in mind that in the course of the last 20 years she's heard and lived with some of the best audio gear ever created by man, this woman isn't impressed very easily. I mean, once you're used to stacks of Krell and Ayre electronics driving 330lb, 6'4" Dunlavy monitors, exactly like the ones ones used by Bob Ludwig, Sony Classical, and many other top houses in the final mastering stages, there isn't much to be blown away by. Well, she was blown away. Like me, she's never heard this kind of audio quality in a car. I certainly can't claim to have the same level of listening experience with car audio as I have with home High-End gear. Compared to my ultimate reference, this system works.

Even though I'm infinitely impressed with the performance of these speakers, the same level of transparency that allows them to present a recording so successfully can just as easily swing in the other direction. Unlike speakers whose coloration flavor the sound, the SRs will reflect what's fed into them. As such, tuning them isn't an exercise for the uninitiated. One better do his homework and know what he's doing - and why he's doing it - before taking on the SR6500s. I wish I could say that the factory crossovers provide a more linear path to success.

Edited by Speed

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awesome read those are one of my first choices in speakers. glad you did a good review on them. thanks for reviewing them this good. now i just got to get my hands on a set.

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Very ncie review. Glad you took the direction you did in describing the sonic traits. :)

Thanks, Aaron. I'm happy with the sound of the rig. I'll probably make a few, small, periodic tweaks over the upcoming months, but I think the system has pretty much jelled together.

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awesome read those are one of my first choices in speakers. glad you did a good review on them. thanks for reviewing them this good. now i just got to get my hands on a set.

Thanks, S_C. I've seen used sets go for ~$300. Another option is to call Polk service and ask to purchase the drivers separately. I know they only charge ~$60 for each tweeter. What a bargain!

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Thanks, S_C. I've seen used sets go for ~$300. Another option is to call Polk service and ask to purchase the drivers separately. I know they only charge ~$60 for each tweeter. What a bargain!

thanks for the tip about polk i tried flee bay the cheapest set i seen lately was about $450. if i wait i mite find them for 300 like you say any ways thanks.

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Nice review. Just wish I knew the differences when you compare it to a high end home system as I haven't really be able to hear one.

I used to go and audition systems fairly frequently, when I was in school. I recall being taken to a salon by a friend in his home town. The sales guy sat us down and talked about audio and listening expectations for a few hours before playing a sound. I was always grateful to him for taking the time.

I was in my early-20s when I got my first High-End system. In home audio High-End doesn't refer to the cost of the gear, though much of it is very expensive. High-End means that a component was designed for sound quality vs. being stamped to spec and sold at the local electronics whorehouse.

The quests for sound quality in car audio and home audio are based on diametrically opposed philosophies. In home audio, we try to preserve the purity of the signal from input to output. There are no tone controls, no equalizers, nothing to smear the original signal. OTOH, in car audio, the signal is first disassembled and then reassembled by the user into his idea of personal goodness.

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Thanks, Aaron. I'm happy with the sound of the rig. I'll probably make a few, small, periodic tweaks over the upcoming months, but I think the system has pretty much jelled together.

How is the low end roll off on the mids when you have the sub backed down? I know you mentioned about almost not needing a sub woofer, but was just curious where they are comfortable down to. :)

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thanks for the tip about polk i tried flee bay the cheapest set i seen lately was about $450. if i wait i mite find them for 300 like you say any ways thanks.

I should take some time and see if I can swing by the HQ. :)

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How is the low end roll off on the mids when you have the sub backed down? I know you mentioned about almost not needing a sub woofer, but was just curious where they are comfortable down to. :)

They'll play comfortably with a HPF at ~60Hz @ 24dB. When the HPF was set at ~80Hz at 12dB/octave, they had noticeably less distortion at very high volumes and their reach didn't seem to suffer, subjectively speaking. I think that cabin gain was mostly responsible for this. While I'd love to run them at 80Hz, I set the x-over higher due to the door cards rattling. The Pro60s, which had a very nice low end response, hardly made the door cards vibrate. Not so with the Polks. Ironically, I deadened the door cards when the SRs were installed. I'm thinking of maybe trying some of Don's deadener in that application.

The result of the SRs prodigious low end dynamics is much improved integration between the mids and the sub. Now, it's truly difficult to locate the sub as being in the trunk. The speakers dominate the listener's perception.

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i wish i had the money right now to do it any ways maybe later lol's

I hear you. The SRs come up for sale fairly often; I'm sure there will be a lot more chances to grab a pair at a good price.

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I decided to retune the system. Sometimes taking a completely fresh approach can yield unexpected results. I started with a clean slate and my usual array of test records, music I've played on almost every system I've auditioned through the years, and after a while arrived at a different crossover point and slope for the tweeter. Where as it was previously configured at 4000Hz @ 18dB, now it stands at 5000Hz at 12dB. The mids remain as they were at 3200Hz by now rolling off at a mellow 6dB/octave. This noticeably elevated the speakers' clarity, sense of presence and their immediacy. The system has moved past a comparison to an entry-level home High-End system. Interestingly, the change in the crossover allowed me to tune the tweeters' T/A with greater latitude, without coming across as many tonal anomalies as before.

I wish you guys could hear this system. I played The Persuasions' (a capella) rendition of Kurt Weil's O Heavenly Salvation. The individual voices stood as whole bodies, each as an easily identifiable being, with soaring vocals full of emotion and belief. I've never heard anything like this in a car. Hell, I haven't heard a lot of systems that could do this, period, at least with this much dynamic drive. I attribute much of the dynamic contrast to the synergistic relationship between the SR mids and the AG350 driving them.

Edit: I just played the system for my wife. Keeping in mind that in the course of the last 20 years she's heard and lived with some of the best audio gear ever created by man, this woman isn't impressed very easily. I mean, once you're used to stacks of Krell and Ayre electronics driving 330lb, 6'4" Dunlavy monitors, exactly like the ones ones used by Bob Ludwig, Sony Classical, and many other top houses in the final mastering stages, there isn't much to be blown away by. Well, she was blown away. Like me, she's never heard this kind of audio quality in a car. I certainly can't claim to have the same level of listening experience with car audio as I have with home High-End gear. Compared to my ultimate reference, this system works.

Even though I'm infinitely impressed with the performance of these speakers, the same level of transparency that allows them to present a recording so successfully can just as easily swing in the other direction. Unlike speakers who coloration flavor the sound, the SRs will reflect what's fed into them. As such, tuning them isn't an exercise for the uninitiated. One better do his homework and know what he's doing - and why he's doing it - before taking on the SR6500s. I wish I could say that the factory crossovers provide a more linear path to success.

(I'll add this post to the review.)

Edited by Speed

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