Polk Audio Legend L800 Loudspeaker Review Page 2

Rugged metal-and-rubber support feet on the bottom of L800 towers can be individually adjusted to level the speaker on uneven floor surfaces. Metal spikes are located inside the feet and can be swapped out for carpet installations by pulling off the feet. For my setup, the front surface of the towers was angled slightly downward at the listening position to bring the tweeters more in-line with my ears. In my room, there was no choice other than to have the SDA-Pro interconnect cable stretched on the floor between the towers, and although it wasn't the tidiest-looking option, I soon forgot the cable was there at all.

Sources that I used for my listening included a Panasonic DMP-UB900 Ultra HD Blu-ray player for CD playback and a MacBook Pro running Roon to stream music from Tidal and Qobuz. I also used a Hegel Music Systems H390, a stereo integrated amplifier that's spec'd at 2 x 250 watts into 8 ohms, but compatible with speakers down to 2 ohms. While Polk Audio states the L800 towers can be paired with amplifiers rated for anywhere from 25-300 watts per channel, the speaker's 4 ohm nominal impedance indicated to me that opting for more power would be a good idea, and the Hegel H390 proved to be a more than suitable match.


Since SDA-Pro is a key feature of the L800 towers, I first listened to a few tracks Polk Audio has used for its SDA-Pro demos, and also went searching through my own collection for content that would allow the tech to work its magic. The first cut I played was an audiophile classic, "Time," from Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon (CD layer of a multichannel hybrid SACD). A collage of clock chimes the song kicks off with literally exploded, the sound freed from the speakers and wrapping well to the left and right boundaries of my room and seemingly around my head. The effect was surround sound-like, but also free of front-to-rear continuity gaps that can accompany listening to multichannel music on a 5.1 system.

As the chimes in "Time" transitioned to a constant ticking, the sound emanated from a precise location directly between the speakers. This was followed by a huge wash of bass that the dual 10-inch woofers on the L800s delivered with impressive extension and power. The tom-tom flourishes contributed by drummer Nick Mason, meanwhile, floated down from impossibly high- and deep-seeming points in my listening room. While the effect of all this 1970s recording studio wizardry was dazzling, the L800's presentation was in no way artificial or enhanced; I experienced the same "Time" I'm used hearing, but the sonic image now came across as wider, bigger, more 3D.

To confirm the naturalness of the L800's SDA-Pro-enabled sound, I played Ray LaMontagne's "Three More Days" from Till the Sun Turns Black, a CD I'm very familiar with that has a consistently expansive stereo mix, though not one that extends into Pink Floyd territory. The tightly centered placement of vocals, rhythm guitar, and electric bass in the mix as usual provided a firm foundation for the track. But the guitar leads extended out much further than I'm used to hearing with my regular speakers, and the horns in particular came across as notably tall and wide, with a sense of dynamic ease that I found very appealing. Same as with the Floyd track, I experienced a "wraparound" effect, though there was nothing gimmicky or unnatural about the presentation.

Leaving the natural world completely behind, I next played an electronic music track, Squarepusher's "The Exploding Psychology," from his Go Plastic CD. I've always been impressed by the ability of this cut, which is packed with a dense expanse of bloops and blips, to push the sound- staging limits of any speakers I happen to be listening with. The L800s painted the track's electronic landscape in a strikingly vivid manner, with sound reverberating not just beyond the physical confines of the speakers but also seeming to erase the boundaries of the room's ceiling and walls. A battery of synthesized beats in the song's mid-section came across as highly dynamic, with deep-reaching bass that could be felt as well as heard.


While SDA-Pro sure can make listening fun, it's also true that not all recordings contain the spatial cues necessary to make them a showcase for the technology. Fortunately, the L800s have a neutral sonic balance that makes them a good match for most music. Listening to "For My Crimes," (16-bit/44.1kHz Qobuz stream) a folky acoustic track by Boston-based singer-song- writer Marissa Nadler from her album of the same name, the vocals were presented cleanly and with excellent focus and good texture. The swells of cellos and wispy background vocals in the song's chorus were impressively full-sounding, and I experienced the same sense of dynamic ease that I heard on the Ray LaMontagne track. On this and some other music I listened to, I felt the sound could be borderline bright, but that judgement was highly dependent on the content. If anything, I found the L800s to have a revealing presentation that exposed harsher-sounding tracks for what they are rather than glossing them over with overly smooth treble response.

Polk Audio's flagship towers continued to impress when I used them for classical music listening. When I next streamed Estonian composer Arvo Pärt's De Profundis as performed by the Hilliard Ensemble, (Qobuz, 16/44.1), the choral parts were rendered with excellent clarity and I heard a good sense of layering between the massed voices, organ, and percussion. The ambience of the space (captured beautifully on this ECM release) came through in a realistic manner that allowed me to appreciate the not just the music, but the setting where the recording was made.

Polk Audio's flagship Legend series L800 tower is an exceptionally well-built speaker that offers appealingly neutral sound and full-range performance. And at $6,000, it's priced at a level that lets it compete with high-performance towers from other, similarly value-oriented audio companies. While the L800's somewhat bulky design bucks the current trend toward slim speakers, I thought that it looked great in my listening room, where the real wood veneer cabinet blended perfectly with the surrounding environment.

Of course, the speaker's somewhat wide cabinet is necessary for the SDA-Pro to do its work, and SDA-Pro is what provides much of the fun when listening with the L800s. During my time with them, I eagerly scoured my CD and streaming libraries for music that would lend itself well to the stereo image-expanding technology. In many cases I was enthralled by what I heard, and I can say with confidence that anyone else who experiences the L800s will have a great time listening to their collection with fresh ears and a fresh sense of purpose. Polk Audio clearly packed a lot of history, effort, and love into its new statement speaker, and that high level of enthusiasm is reflected in the sound.

Polk Audio
(800) 377-POLK

Mako2019's picture

From the Article: "Scott painstakingly tweaked positioning, with the final result finding the towers approximately 6 feet from each other, five feet in from either side wall, and about 1 foot out from the back wall. The listening seat on my sofa, meanwhile, was located about 8 feet away from the speakers"

My own listening environment dictates the speakers must be about 11 feet apart and 13 feet in front of the primary listening position. I wonder if these speakers so position sensitive that I would loose much in terms of SDA-Pro benefits and sound stage.

greck's picture

These look like nice speakers but the BACCH4mac is a much more flexible and more advanced version of crosstalk cancelation. I have the BACCH4mac and cannot day enough good things about it.

brenro's picture

At the same price as Sandy's Goldenear Triton One R.

drny's picture

The room must be enclosed on both sides adjacent to the speakers, and they indeed need to be located substantially away from the side walls and relatively close to each other. Otherwise you will not have the desire differential affect.
I'm sure they will delivered, under the right conditions.

wgapel's picture

Is the sweet spot larger or smaller than speakers without this tech? In other words is this a one person speaker or can multiple people sit side by side and still hear the benefits of SDA-PRO?

sahmen's picture

Is it known whether these speakers are timbre matched with other series of speakers in the Polk lines? I have a large variety of LSIM series speakers, and I am wondering whether I can match a pair of L800s with some of those. That would save me some money, of course,

hk2000's picture

This is a flawed concept because if you were listening to the sound of a band on a stage, both of your ears will hear the sounds emanating from anywhere on the stage. To say you have to eliminate the sound of the right speaker from the left ear and vice-versa is ridiculous, and unnecessary. In fact our ability to perceive three dimensional sound is predicated on the both ears hearing all sounds around us, then our brains extrapolate the precise location from where the sound is coming.
I for one wouldn't buy them even if I could afford them.

ChrisTexan's picture

It's to eliminate the crosstalk that can distort the sound. You will still hear sound from both right and left speakers, but the SDA is to reduce/eliminate the lobing/interference/reinforcement (incoherency) affect of an artificial point source projected from 2 speakers. (And other such auditory problems).
In real life, if a piano is 30-degrees (30*) to your right, all the sound (other than ambient reflections) is coming from 30* to the right. If a singer is front-center, all the sound is coming from front-center.
In speaker terms, a portion of the sound for either case, is coming from both speakers angles (say 10* right/left position to your listening position). The mix determines how it "sounds" to be coming to you. With headphones on, the mix is perfect, because there is no reinforcement or cancellation from source (ear speakers) to your listening position. As a mix engineer, they can swing the positioning at will from each track source. When translated to open-air speakers, listener and speaker positioning, distance from them, toe-in, everything alters the signal from output to listening position. The SDA is designed to remove some of the incoherency of the waves mixing prior to reaching your position, resulting in more pure (more "headphone like") sourcing to each of your ears, NOT to cancel out the right/left balances from the mix. Quite the opposite, it's intended to deliver a purer sound to each of your ears from right and left sources. Whether it works or not, or is needed or not, that's up for debate I suppose, but ultimately it's just to reduce unintended incoherence, so that purer left/right signals, as mixed, reach your listening position. (All my opinion, but hopefully the headphone comparison helps with the conceptual goal).

hk2000's picture

Well I was responding to the statement made by the writer. you're explanation is no more than a fancy way of saying just about the same thing. I for one consider listening via 'phones an inferior option and takes away a lot from the live experience most audiophiles endeavor to achieve with their setups. My objections apply equally to listening through headphones.