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Polk Reserve R700 Floorstanding Loudspeaker Measurements & Conclusion

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 R700 outdoor testing.jpg

The Polk Reserve R700 Towers were measured in free-air at a height of 4 feet at a 2-meter distance from the microphone, with the microphone raised to a 7.5’ elevation that was level with and aimed at the tweeter center. The measurements were gated at 8-milliseconds. In this time window, some resolution is lost below 400 Hz and accuracy is completely lost below 200 Hz. Measurements have been smoothed at a 1/24 octave resolution.

R700 waterfall response 2D.jpg

R700 waterfall response 3D.jpg

The Polk R700 is a neutral loudspeaker.

The above graphs depict the Polk R700 Tower’s direct-axis and horizontal dispersion out to a 90-degree angle in five-degree increments. Information on how to interpret these graphs can be read in our article "Understanding Loudspeaker Review Measurements Part II". The first thing to observe is the very flat response at and near the on-axis angle. This is a neutral loudspeaker. The on-axis window would be characterized as +/-1.5dB from 200Hz to 20kHz by our measurements. This is exceptionally good, especially for this price range. We do see that the tweeter loses off-axis dispersion above 6kHz and beams in a fairly narrow pattern by 10kHz. At high treble frequencies, output is down considerably outside of a 25-degree angle. While listeners don’t need to be dead on-axis to hear the full range of treble from the R700s, they should be roughly around the on-axis angle, so these speakers might require a slight toe-in for an optimal listening experience.

R700 Polar Map.jpg 

The above polar map shows the same information in the preceding graphs but depicts it in a way that can offer new insight regarding these speakers’ behavior. Instead of using individual raised lines to illustrate amplitude, polar maps use color to portray amplitude, and this allows the use of a purely angle/frequency axis perspective. The advantage of these graphs is they can let us see broader trends of the speaker’s dispersion behavior more easily. More information about interpreting this graph can be read in "Understanding Loudspeaker Review Measurements Part II".

In the polar map of the R700, we can see that the directivity is pretty consistent out to 6-7kHz after which the beaming tweeter constricts dispersion. This general tweeter behavior was also seen in the ring radiators used in the Legend series. Listeners who are seated past a 30-degree angle off-axis might hear a softer presentation than those listening closer on-axis. However, most listening situations place most listeners within a 25-degree angle of the speaker’s ‘aim,’ so this isn’t likely to be a problem. And for those few who are extra-sensitive to high treble, simply adjusting the angle of these speakers can act as an automatic filter to soften the sound. All you have to do is have the speakers facing straight forward with no toe-in angling, and that should place the listening position at about a 30 to 35-degree angle which will shear off a lot of output above 10kHz.

R700 Vertical Responses.jpg 

with the Polk R700 linear response, listeners will be met with a beautifully neutral sound.

The above graph shows the response of the R700 at a sampling of some vertical angles. One interesting thing we can see in comparing these responses is that the -10-degree angle looks to be the most linear response. That is so linear that there are plenty of studio monitors that aren’t as accurate! The advantage there is that angle is more likely to be the vertical angle that most people listen to rather than the tweeter height which is a bit high (the tweeter sits at a 42” height). This has always been a problem with many larger tower speakers; the tweeter, which is normally the reference angle for listening, is always mounted too high. Polk has addressed this, and in normal use, listeners will be met with a beautifully neutral sound. 

R700 bass response.jpg 

Those looking for a speaker that can easily get by without a sub have a good choice in the R700s.

The above graph shows the R700’s low-frequency response captured using groundplane measurements (where the speaker and microphone are on the ground at a 2-meter distance in a wide-open area). As with upper frequencies, we see a very flat and accurate response. The port tuning frequency seems to be in the mid-30Hz range from looking at this response alone, although that does get confirmed in the impedance measurement below. Below that point, the roll-off slope looks to be a standard 24dB/octave decline that most traditional ported speakers will have. With room gain, users can expect strong bass down to 30Hz. It’s nice to see that Polk didn’t do anything unusual and just stuck with a hard target of a neutral response. This kind of low-frequency extension should be able to catch almost all bass in music recordings and much of the bass in movie sound mixes. For movies, the addition of a subwoofer would bring benefits to deep-digging science fiction, action, and horror movies, but they certainly aren’t absolutely necessary. Those looking for a speaker that can easily get by without a sub have a good choice in the R700s.

R700 Impedance.jpg 

The above graphs show the electrical behavior of the R700 Towers. These speakers are not the most benign electrical load nor are they particularly burdensome. It’s a very normal response, and I would have to say the nominal impedance is about 6 ohms. From this graph, we can tell that the port tuning frequency is about 35Hz. The mismatch of the peaks around port tuning indicates that the resonant frequency of the drivers is lower than that of the enclosure. The bottom line from the impedance and phase graph is that pretty much any normal amplifier will be able to handle these speakers with no problem.

I measured the sensitivity at 88.9dB at 1 meter for 2.83v. That is very close to what Polk reports. That is pretty typical for loudspeakers in this class. Users will not need a monster amp for these speakers to get loud. However, they should be able to take a good deal of power if a beefy amp is available.

Conclusion

R700 pair close2.jpg

As always, let’s briefly go over the strengths and weaknesses of the product, and let’s start with the weaknesses. Making a list of the weaknesses of the Polk Reserve R700 is tough, because, in my view, it doesn’t really have any, especially at its pricing. I might say that it looks a bit dull in the black finish- not bad but not at all interesting. The walnut finish is much nicer. Personally, I would like to have seen a satin white finish or something just a bit different. Polk is playing it very safe in the aesthetics department, and I can’t blame them for it since people mostly just buy black or wood finishes when given a choice between anything else.

R700 pair hero2.jpgSomething else I would like to have seen is a Reserve center speaker that is an analog to the Polk Legend L400 center. The Reserve series does not have a three-way center, yet there are some major advantages of three-way centers over the MTM center designs that are available in the Reserve series. In fact, the center speaker I would recommend to go with the R700s is the Legend L400 rather than any of the Reserve center speakers. I think the L400 would be a better match because of its overall performance, and a L400/R700 front stage setup would be a terrific sound system. However, the lack of a three-way center can’t really be held against the R700s themselves which are the subject of this review. 

The R700 is a very accurate speaker and is doubtlessly one of the most accurate in its product class.

With those nit-picks out of the way, let’s talk about the strengths of the R700s. First and foremost is performance. The R700 is a very accurate speaker and is doubtlessly one of the most accurate in its product class. It has a neutral response, and the response is the most neutral in the regions that people are most likely to listen at. They have a very good dynamic range, as one would expect from a loudspeaker of their specs, and, with a near 89dB sensitivity, they don’t need a monster amplifier to get loud. They have good low-frequency extension, which should reach down to 30Hz in most rooms, so they don’t need a subwoofer to give you powerful, authoritative bass.

polk insignia.jpg

R700 outdoors3.jpgGoing back to styling and appearance, the walnut finish model does look very nice, and the cabinet, drivers, and grille all have a reserved aesthetic that is unlikely to clash with any interior decor. The build quality is excellent, and these near 80lbs. speakers weigh more than pretty much anything else in their product class. But sheer weight doesn’t mean much unless the mass is intelligently applied, and the R700s make their pounds count with a heavy-duty cabinet with real bracing, a solid metal base that anchors the speaker to the floor with an extremely stable stance, and brawny drivers that can deliver some serious SPL without sacrificing linearity. In other words, they are a lot of speaker for the money.

I can’t help but compare the Reserve R700s to Polk’s Legend L600s. They both have a similar three-way design with very similar drivers. While I have not had experience with the Legend L600s, I have to wonder what they do that the R700s does not do. It brings to mind a car manufacturer that has a luxury brand that is basically the same vehicle mechanically as the regular line except with a nicer trim. If you can live with the knowledge that the wood veneer isn’t real (but looks very convincing), then I am willing to bet you get most of the sound of the Legend L600 for just over half of the cost in the Reserve R700. Plus, you get a more advanced port technology in the R700. Polk has told me that the Reserve series is not meant to be a bargain Legend series but rather a successor to the RtiA series, but when I compare the performance as well as the design, this does not seem to be the case. The Reserve R700s inherit an awful lot from the Legend series, and since the Legend series was so high-performing, that is a very good thing. There is some very stiff competition in tower speakers at this price point, but it’s hard not to give the Polk Reserve R700s the top nod here. Anyone fortunate enough to have a set of these will be met with an accurate and enjoyable sound for years to come.

Polk Audio
R700 Reserve
MSRP: $2,200/pair

 

Polk Reserve R700 Tower Speaker Review Discussion

The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor
MetricRating
Build QualityStarStarStarStar
AppearanceStarStarStarStar
Treble ExtensionStarStarStarStar
Treble SmoothnessStarStarStarStarStar
Midrange AccuracyStarStarStarStarStar
Bass ExtensionStarStarStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStarStarStar
ImagingStarStarStarStarStar
Dynamic RangeStarStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStarStarStar
PerformanceStarStarStarStarStar
ValueStarStarStarStarStar
About the author:

James Larson is Audioholics' primary loudspeaker and subwoofer reviewer on account of his deep knowledge of loudspeaker functioning and performance and also his overall enthusiasm toward moving the state of audio science forward.

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Recent Forum Posts:

Discrete Output posts on December 31, 2021 23:58
Was never a Polk fan, but kudos to them on this one.
Don'tBeJelousAtPete posts on December 31, 2021 20:58
It's a good one! If you missed sparkly high's in the RT7 or 9 for that matter (and I did), this is the Polk you, hence our ‘trebly’ kind was waiting for! But it is from that angle only, still no B&W, Monitor or Focal.
MalVeauX posts on December 23, 2021 07:48
Polk did release a good 3-way center to match them.

It's a 3rd R700. That's why they're sold as singles.

They look sharp. I have lots of Polks. Shame lots of people won't even consider them due to some past branding.

Very best,
Adam2434 posts on December 22, 2021 11:07
shadyJ, post: 1526554, member: 20472
No plans to review the R400. However, there is no way it will be immune to the typical MTM off-axis ‘squeeze.’ The L400 is the center speaker to get with the R700s.

Yeah, jumping up to the L400 center is an option, but a pricey one relative to the price-performance ratio of the R700 based on your measurements.

I think Polk could have designed a Reserve high performance 3-way center priced at around $700-800 to round out the Reserve Series excellent value proposition. Polk's engineering team wanted a 3-way center in the Reserve Series.

Heck, the Monolith THX center is only $350-400 depending on sale price, so seems like Polk could easily do a Reserve 3-way center for 2x that price, but what do I know…
Eppie posts on December 20, 2021 14:29
These look to employ some great technology at that price point. Visions in Canada currently has the R700 for $2600 a pair ($3000 retail). I would also like to see some nicer finish options but they appear to offer great value for the money.
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