It’s hard to shake off bias when it comes to judging big American speakers. In the long-standing debate about the nature of the sound of hi-fi from different countries, stereotypes about the American style were born and survived. In the sense that in the USA they prefer powerful bass and have fairly free control over the reproduction of the rest of the range. Is it so?
The interest is further aggravated by the fact that the S60 floor-standing “towers” are the flagship acoustics of the Signature series, that is, the “signature”. And this very signature is put by Polk Audio, one of the best-selling audio brands in the United States.
High salability means, logically, mass production. It, in turn, provides for a design that can be made quickly and quite simply in modern factory conditions. That is, something technologically rectangular and simple. And this is sometimes the fault of acoustics of a similar price category from very serious brands, not without detriment to the sound.
Not so with the Polk Audio Signature. These speakers are distinguished by smooth rounding of the horizontal ribs of the rectangular body, and the entire design, even upon external inspection, turns out to be quite complex. The cabinets do not hide their vinyl covering, but it is made without the slightest flaws. The acoustics are available in three finishes: white, black and natural brown, with a walnut texture. The front panel is secured with several pairs of brutal hex head bolts that stand out on its perfect surface. Were you waiting for luxury? Get industrial!
Four speakers occupy the upper 2/3 of the height of the cabinet, and three identical low-mid-frequency drivers with their plastic diffusers with concave dust caps harmonize well with the coating of the front panel. If desired, all this can be covered with a magnetic fabric grill, which hides the entire front part of the speaker, from top to bottom, changing its appearance to a completely neutral one.
At the bottom, four supports extend beyond the dimensions of the “tower,” making it much more stable. At the same time, the design (if the grill is removed) seems to float in the air, relying on a modified version of the Polk Power Port Deep Bass.
All this together, as we see, outwardly distinguishes the S60 from the “floor mainstream”.
How it’s done
First of all, the design of the S60 is influenced by the patented Dynamic Balance technology used by Polk Audio in the development of its products. (Klippel Polk Audio also uses the system). The company’s engineers talk about analyzing the emitter as a set of electroacoustic and mechanical parameters. This is necessary to optimize the choice of materials for moving systems and their geometry. The technology allows you to identify and eliminate possible problems that can degrade the quality of reproduction, even at the drawing stage. Naturally, this reduces the time required to prepare for the release of a new model. However, there are not many speaker options here.
So, speakers. Moving from top to bottom, let’s start with the squeaker. This is a newly developed Terylene dome tweeter with ferromagnetic coolant in the magnetic gap. The tweeter is equipped with a curved waveguide that expands the radiation pattern. Externally, this is a horn with a very large opening, shaped like a body of rotation; it bears the name of the brand, the year of its foundation and the statement of what we talked about at the very beginning – “American HiFi”.
The dome, compared to most analogues, is somewhat flattened and is surrounded by a single-wave suspension made of the same material. Externally, it is a fabric, obviously impregnated and with a slightly rough silvery-yellowish coating. The declared parameters of the tweeter command respect. With an upper cut-off frequency that is twice the traditionally recorded audible threshold, the speaker is apparently capable of handling higher harmonics, making the sound natural and effortless. On the other hand, the frequency of its own resonance is reduced. This is logical and especially appropriate, given the design features of the mid/low range in the S60.
In this matter, the creators of the Polk Audio S60 went to certain tricks. Below the tweeter, three identical diffusers are lined up in a row, the “lunar shine” of which is ensured by the use of a polypropylene-mica composite, they are framed by black butyl rubber surrounds. The manufacturer talks about voice coils wound in four layers, ceramic elements in the design and dual magnets to equalize the field along the entire length of the voice coil stroke.
How many lanes are there?
At the same time, talking about how many bands the Polk Audio S60 has, by and large, makes no sense. On the one hand, the gold-plated speaker cable terminals on the rear panel of the cabinet allow you to connect both in the classic, two-wire version, and in two-way mode – if you remove the jumpers. The technical specifications even include the LF-HF bending frequency. That is, we are looking at two-way floorstanding speakers with one tweeter and three woofers? Not so!
In fact, the system contains a so-called cascade crossover with film capacitors and coreless inductors in the RF section. It, according to Polk Audio, “provides a seamless, lifelike soundstage across the entire audible range.” In more detail, the speaker next to the tweeter operates in the classic midrench mode of a two-way system, with a clearly cut-off range at the top, closing with the tweeter range at the bend frequency. The one indicated in the documentation. At the same time, the middle speaker also captures all low frequencies, falling slightly short of the range of the high-frequency speaker.
And finally, the lowest driver is set to normal bass emitter mode, as if it were installed in a three-way system. Moreover, each of the declines in the frequency response of the dynamics has its own steepness. As a result, in the lowest range all three drivers operate synchronously, providing a radiating area comparable to a classic ten-inch woofer. And with increasing frequency, this area, which is logical, decreases stepwise.
Here you might think that by installing three identical diffusers, the developers from Polk Audio went for savings that are logical in mass production. But no, in the Signature line, to which the S60 model belongs, there is, for example, the S10 bookshelf speaker with a mid-trench of a smaller caliber (4 inches), and it is installed only in it. Not so simple.
Now it’s worth bending down and carefully examining the base of the cabinet, assembled using the non-resonant design of MDD Meddite. This is a variant of Polk Audio’s proprietary technology – Power Port Deep Bass. Power Port – Patented bass reflex port design. It is directed downwards towards a coaxial cone with a concave curvilinear generatrix installed on the base plate. This geometry forms a circular counter-aperture (directed in all directions) channel, smoothly distributing the air flow almost evenly over 360 degrees in the horizontal plane.
The meaning of the design is to expand the outlet cross-section, which means creating a guaranteed laminar (without turbulent turbulence) flow, which forms the bass basis of the S60 sound. The four body supports in the corners and even the grill covering the front opening, you see, do not in any way disturb the circular radiation pattern. Essentially, this reduces the impact of speaker placement on the bass response. In addition, Polk Audio talks about increasing the system efficiency in the low-frequency range, according to various sources, by 3-6 dB.
How does this sound
By the way, Polk Audio positions the S60 as “a true American HiFi speaker for home theater.” But at the same time, both the size and the declared parameters allow you to use these speakers as a stereo pair – and without any discounts.
Sensitivity was obviously a major focus of the Polk Audio S60. Judging by the characteristics, this parameter is really not bad. The result is that the speakers are quite versatile in relation to the amplifier used. That is, these large floor-standing speakers are able to “open up” not only from powerful solid analog or digital amplifiers, but also from vintage systems, conveying their inherent soft and characteristic sound.
In our case, the first option was used. The listening setup involved the ORPO BDP-105D player, the Classe Sigma SSP mk II preamplifier-processor and Classe AMP 2 terminals, which are capable of loading the speakers under test to almost the maximum, which is what we decided to do to begin with.
The S60 speakers were able to provide almost even sound in a wide volume range. That is, in our listening room with an area of about 25 square meters, it would be quite possible, by inviting a dozen noisy guests, to organize a party not only for yourself, but also for all the neighbors. Daft Punk (Get Lucky), played for this version, pleased with serious club credibility, but without artifacts, and all this with elastic, deep, meaty lows, not only audible, but also felt.
Having reduced the volume to a civilized level, we went through a collection of test soundtracks. Naturally, we started with the classics. “In the Hall of the Mountain King” by Grieg (Peer Gynt, Suite No. 1, Op. 46: In the Hall of the Mountain King) leaves the impression of good microdynamics and, at the same time, sufficient intelligibility of moments when the general fortissimo in the finale does not stick together into a general “mess”, allowing you to still mentally isolate a part of almost any group of instruments in a symphony orchestra. And all this with a good, slightly overstated, but perfectly separated from the sources scene. Moreover, the listening “sweet spot” turned out to be quite wide, not to mention quite long.
Let’s listen some more. Female jazz vocals accompanied by an instrumental trio (Sinne Eeg, My Treasure) are bright, perhaps even too bright. The same can be said about violin and wind instruments in chamber music. The blind bass guitar (Band Waggon, Knock Out) could have been “drier”… There are a lot of emotions, and this is attractive, although it makes you forget once and for all about the version with a “monitor” sound. The S60s demonstrate their character in almost everything – assertive, emotional, truly American sound. This is clearly noted on the soundtracks of Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top (Billy Gibbons, Treat Her Right), recorded “all the way” – and the speakers handled them with ease and ease. AC/DC (Thunderstruck), as they should, sound full-range and cocky, without the slightest understatement.
Still, it’s impossible to define a genre range for the Polk Audio S60 – they are good in almost any style, from electropop to live organ, provided that you like good low-end and are not indifferent to the musical material. The speakers turned out to be universal: in musical applications they are capable of both impressive punch and the most delicate upper percussion. But we shouldn’t forget about the proprietary “home-cinema” purpose, when using the S60s as front speakers, in principle, even allows you to do without a subwoofer. Not to mention the fact that in this case it is convenient to use the speakers in two guises: as a stereo pair and as a component of a surround sound system.