It's been a long while since there has been a head to head Budget Battle. My previous Budget Champion, the Infinity Primus line, is now discontinued and some very worthy contenders have come vying for position.
Over the last few years the entry level speaker market has become one of the most competitive and quickly improving segments there is in home audio. Be it because of trickle down technologies from higher end siblings or fantastic offerings from internet direct brands, it doesn't matter. In the long run we all end up winners here.
We won't be crowning on overall champion, at this price point there are multiple great options that anyone would enjoy. This time we are going to take a detailed look at two major mass market and easily found products from Klipsch and Polk.
Enter Player One: The Klipsch Reference 15m. Released in late 2014 with a MSRP of $249.99. They are the improved successor to the Klipsch Icon line of speakers.
Enter Player Two: The Polk Signature Series s15. New for 2017 with a MSRP of $229.99. They appear to be the successor to the Polk TSi line and now appears to sit between the T series and the RTiA series.
Both of these speaker are easily found at Amazon, Best Buy and Fry's; which will make in-store and in-home additions all the more easier.
While the Reference line is a replacement for the Icon line; according the the Klipsch forums, there has been some actual updates to the drivers, going well beyond just the color of the cone.
- All new Reference Linear Travel Suspension tweeter design for smoother, more powerful high frequencies.
- All new mechanical woofer design with seamless dustcap for minimized mid frequency diffraction and distortion.
- All new Spun Copper IMG woofer cone is incredibly rigid, with new design adding structural integrity for minimal cone break up at high excursion levels. This makes for even cleaner, more accurate low frequency reproduction.
- All new Brushed Polymer Veneer finish is exceptionally durable with a much more contemporary aesthetic over the previous wood grain vinyl of the Icon series.
Reports are that this midrange update has resulted in better performing speaker, so it appears that these updates may have brought performance up a notch and are not purely cosmetic.
If someone with an Icon KB-15 would like to let me borrow a pair, we can do some indepth tests to see for ourselves.
I didn't want to try and pry the faceplates off, so we won't get as detailed of a view of the drivers, though removing tjr terminal cup shows the crossover, which proves that it's also the same crossover used in the Icon KB-15.
The inside of the box is about par for the course for many speakers at this price point. No center bracing, some corner braces, and a marginal amount of stuffing taken out for the photo.
While I didn't experience it, there are reports of the lower part of the baffle vibrating a little bit, so watch out for that. Good news is that they are removeable so if you do encounter anything, the fix is an easy dab or two of glue away.
Album for some additional breakdown and driver photos
Easy access to the crossover. Couple caps, couple resistors and a couple coils. Don't know much about crossover design. But it looks like there is a cap, inductor and resistor combo for each driver.
Corner braces and the top and bottom, and CENTER BRACING!!!! Something not seen on a many products in that price point. Looking at you ELAC.
The crossover claims seem to be pretty spot on at 1800hz, and rolls off impressively steep with little cone break up
Klipsch r-15m Grill vs No grill.
The grills to have an measurable effect on the output. Further accentuating the bump at 2k and adding a null at 6k. I would leave the grills off if possible.
The Klipsch horn does a great job here. Even very far off axis the output remains smooth, though becomes shoved down as you angle away from the horn. Sitting a little bit off axis shouldn't be too much of a problem in home theater use. The midrange humps remain. I think some minor EQing in the 500-1000hz range could really assist with their performance.
Klipsch r-15m: - Vertical off axis response.
Polk Signature Series S15 - and honest +/- 3db speaker for 70hz to 19khz.
The Polks have now become a legitimate go to choice and contender for anyone looking to spend in the $250 range for a set of speakers. Not only do they offer something new in looks, but construction is top notch and performance is very good. And in my opinion are better than the beloved ELAC's.
The Polk S15 had a sound stage far greater than the size of the speakers. Overall a much more neutral and natural presentation but still with a rising rate at the end of the tweeters range. Sometimes the midrange could seem slightly veiled, but always smooth.
Marked difference in vocal staging. With the Klipsch being forward and Warren Haynes voice little rough. The Polks smoother more natural sounding and were lacking the same strong center image.