Polk Audio DS7200 HTIB Page 2

My listening session began in two channels, and I could tell very quickly that the RMDS-1's pedigree has been maintained in this system. The DS7200's two-channel sound is clean, balanced, and far more accurate than a sub/sat system—even a more-expensive one—should produce. The transition between the sub and sats is about as smooth and natural as it gets in this category. If you close your eyes, it's fairly easy to imagine that you're listening to the tonal balance of well-designed towers. The diminutive satellites are solid performers, each using a 3.25-inch polypropylene midrange (the center channel uses two) and a 0.75-inch silk-dome tweeter. The system's overall sonic success could even be attributed more to the excellent little subwoofer, given that a bad sub (which is standard fare for most sub/sat and HTIB packages) can sink a system faster than a German torpedo. This little guy is quick, punchy, and surprisingly musical. The quick attack of the various percussion elements in Pink Floyd's "The Happiest Days of Our Lives" (from the second Burmester collection) was excellently rendered, and I never detected any boominess or sloppiness at rational listening levels.

Next up was some DVD-Audio material off the midlevel Integra DPS-7.2, which offered a soundstage presentation that I didn't think speakers this size and a smaller amplifier could achieve. Expectedly, the stage was accurate and cohesive with two-channel material, but it wasn't any deeper or more spacious than I imagined it would be on a quality small system. With some extra help in the form of a high-resolution, multichannel DVD-Audio mix, those little speakers and that small amplifier got big in a hurry, without sacrificing any of the solidarity or accurate perspective that they had displayed all along. The Grateful Dead's American Beauty was wide open and dynamic with space to spare, and the texture of Mozart's more-densely packed Symphony KV 504 was almost tangible.

Soundtrack material was no less impressive. Naturally, you're always better off employing a smaller system in a smaller room, but the DS7200 gave our larger listening room a pretty good ride without losing its cool in the process. The big blasts of U-571 (hence the German-torpedo reference) may not have rattled the walls like a giant speaker/amp combo would, but the sub's 8-inch woofer will get in your face some, and it'll do so with complete composure. It always made its presence known but resisted the temptation to overpower the satellites and drag the sound down into a muddy, incoherent mush. While the system's tonal balance wasn't as easy to pinpoint with soundtrack material as it was with music, it remained accurate and cohesive. It was hard to find holes anywhere in the system's output, whether from the top to the bottom of the frequency response or from the front to the back of the soundstage. Obviously, having identical front and surround speakers goes a long way in maintaining the sound's timbral accuracy as it moves around the room. I've never been shy about my dissatisfaction with small center channels, but I can say that this one is better than most its size. Voices were about as natural as they could be under the circumstances. While (like most) the DS7200's center speaker sounded a bit crowded when I asked it to reproduce dialogue, music, and surround effects simultaneously, it far outperformed my expectations.

The DP-1's video quality is right on par. Obviously, you can't expect anything spectacular from what is essentially a $300-to-$400 DVD player, but you won't be disappointed, either. The DP-1 will give most players in the $500 range (and maybe even higher) a good run for their money. With less focus on internal decoders, lots of outputs, and other peripherals, the DP-1 concentrates on its primary function of reproducing quality video, and it does that well. As with any player in this price range, you'll notice the occasional motion anomalies, border jaggies, and other common flaws; however, for the money (especially if you buy it and the DR-3 with the DS7200 for $299, rather than separately for $449), the DR-1 is a good, solid deal.

As you'd expect, the DS7200's peripherals are first-rate. Setup couldn't be much easier, and everything you need is provided. The menus are intuitive and well done, and the manual—should you need it—will likely get you through any gray areas. Both the standard remote and the optional DR-3 remote are laid out well, with a nice diversity of button size and shape. Naturally, the DR-3 is far more advanced, with options I have no hope of fully getting into here. You'll recognize the DR-3 as the same Home Theater Master unit that comes with a lot of high-end preamps and receivers.

The DS7200's aesthetics do nothing to detract from the package. The pre/pro and DVD player come in a darker shade of gray, and the speakers offer a high-gloss black finish that adds a touch of class to the system's appearance. Dimensions and weights for all of the components are expectedly hernia-friendly. The pre/pro measures 4.5 inches high by 17.25 wide by 14 deep, while the satellites come in at 8 inches high by 6.75 wide by 4 deep and weigh 4.6 pounds each. The center channel is 5.4 inches high by 14 wide by 4.65 deep and weighs 7.7 pounds, and the sub is 16.5 inches high by 13.5 wide by 16.25 deep and weighs 39 pounds.

You can pigeonhole the DS7200 into whatever category you want, but you can't change the bottom line. This is a system that's incredibly easy to use but performs at a level that will probably surprise you greatly if you make a habit of judging books by their covers. Considering that the full system I reviewed costs around $2,600, it's clear that you can find HTIB convenience and user-friendliness for less money elsewhere—but then all you're getting is convenience and user-friendliness. If you're looking for the full package of performance, ergonomics, features, and even aesthetics at a price that is a solid value in the final analysis, you're going to want the DS7200 on your short list.

• A rare combination of performance and convenience
• Add-on DVD player and remote at a good value
• Bass management for the 5.1-channel analog inputs

Polk Audio
Dealer Locator Code POL
(800) 377-7655