Polk S15s sound better than S50s - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 197 Old 08-02-2019, 08:13 AM - Thread Starter
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Polk S15s sound better than S50s

I am using a Sony STR-DN1080 to power a pair of Polk S50s in 2.0 mode. Music (blues) lacks bass, presence, and body. Can't hear bass guitar. When I connect a pair of Polk S15s instead, the sound dramatically improves: more bass and presence.

The speakers are sensitive, so I can turn the volume knob only 33% of the way up on my AVR. The AVR is rated 100 wpc so I guess, it's putting out 33 wpc at 33% volume?

The S50s have max rated 150W while S15s have max rated 100W. I wonder if this is the reason S15s sound better?

For S50s, ratio of [input power from AVR] to [speaker rating] is 33W/150W = 18%.
For S15s, ratio of [input power from AVR] to [speaker rating] is 33W/100W = 33%.

I wonder if the S50s will sound better if I turned the volume way up? But I'll go deaf.
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post #2 of 197 Old 08-02-2019, 09:28 AM
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The only thing I can think of is breakin time. S50 uses an additional 5” driver which you’d think makes the speaker dig deeper/louder. How much is the play time on those speakers?



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post #3 of 197 Old 08-02-2019, 09:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vikram Iyengar View Post
I am using a Sony STR-DN1080 to power a pair of Polk S50s in 2.0 mode. Music (blues) lacks bass, presence, and body. Can't hear bass guitar. When I connect a pair of Polk S15s instead, the sound dramatically improves: more bass and presence.

The speakers are sensitive, so I can turn the volume knob only 33% of the way up on my AVR. The AVR is rated 100 wpc so I guess, it's putting out 33 wpc at 33% volume?

The S50s have max rated 150W while S15s have max rated 100W. I wonder if this is the reason S15s sound better?

For S50s, ratio of [input power from AVR] to [speaker rating] is 33W/150W = 18%.
For S15s, ratio of [input power from AVR] to [speaker rating] is 33W/100W = 33%.

I wonder if the S50s will sound better if I turned the volume way up? But I'll go deaf.
Something isn't right. The S15's should not have more depth a better dynamics. Try different positioning either further apart or further out from the back wall. Then again you can just keep the S15's and spend the money on good sub instead.
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post #4 of 197 Old 08-02-2019, 09:50 AM
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Are the towers missing the bridging plates that go between the upper and lower inputs? If so, and you connected your wire to the upper inputs, that would explain it.
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post #5 of 197 Old 08-02-2019, 10:21 AM - Thread Starter
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>>The only thing I can think of is breakin time. S50 uses an additional 5” driver which you’d think makes the speaker dig deeper/louder. How much is the play time on those speakers?

I have played the S50s for about 10 hours and the S15s for 1 hour. I wonder if it is because of that second 5" driver that the S50s need more power than the S15 to sound as good?

>>Something isn't right. The S15's should not have more depth a better dynamics. Try different positioning either further apart or further out from the back wall.

Thanks, it's driving me nuts. I tried many many tweaks to the S50 positioning including what you suggested as well as putting foam under them, raising them, tilting them, etc. The S15s just sound better and I wonder if it is the power ratio. I'm trying to avoid a sub since I don't like LFE or tinkering with settings, and only listen to Blues. My S10s when connected in 2.0 also sound very good and have tighter bass than the S50s.

>>Are the towers missing the bridging plates that go between the upper and lower inputs?
Very good point. The bridge plates are there and I connected to bottom inputs.

I have not bi-amped yet. Maybe that'll make the S50s sound as good as the S15s? But I read that bi-amping from surround-back outputs of an AVR does not make a difference. My test playlist is Texas Flood, The Sky is Cryin, Five Long Years, Turn Your Lamp Down Low (Bob Marley).
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post #6 of 197 Old 08-02-2019, 11:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vikram Iyengar View Post
I am using a Sony STR-DN1080 to power a pair of Polk S50s in 2.0 mode. Music (blues) lacks bass, presence, and body. Can't hear bass guitar. When I connect a pair of Polk S15s instead, the sound dramatically improves: more bass and presence.
That is just plain weird but let your ears decide.
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post #7 of 197 Old 08-02-2019, 12:21 PM - Thread Starter
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That is just plain weird but let your ears decide.
I agree, thanks. Tonight, I'll compare the S15s, S50s, bi-amped S50s, and S10s and take some notes. The S50s and S10s are scratch n dent from Crutchfield. The S15s are new from Crutchfield. I will not be unhappy keeping the S15s (cheaper than S50s) and maybe later trying a sub. It must be I'm somehow providing too little power to the S50s. I have 16 gauge oxy-free wire. I don't seem to need a sub with the S15s for my preference. Watched an action movie and it sounded great (for me) on the S15s.
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post #8 of 197 Old 08-02-2019, 12:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vikram Iyengar View Post
I agree, thanks. Tonight, I'll compare the S15s, S50s, bi-amped S50s, and S10s and take some notes. The S50s and S10s are scratch n dent from Crutchfield. The S15s are new from Crutchfield. I will not be unhappy keeping the S15s (cheaper than S50s) and maybe later trying a sub. It must be I'm somehow providing too little power to the S50s. I have 16 gauge oxy-free wire. I don't seem to need a sub with the S15s for my preference. Watched an action movie and it sounded great (for me) on the S15s.
Consider yourself lucky that the S15 ticks all your boxes!
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post #9 of 197 Old 08-02-2019, 01:28 PM
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Polk S15s sound better than S50s

Power should have almost no effect on how they sound. Unless you are at 11/10 on the volume at which the amp will be clipping and distorting.

I doubt you are using more than 10 watts on the bookshelf and less for the towers.

I think your S50’s may be defective.
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Leave it at 8 ohms and call it a day :)
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post #10 of 197 Old 08-02-2019, 01:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vikram Iyengar View Post
I agree, thanks. Tonight, I'll compare the S15s, S50s, bi-amped S50s, and S10s and take some notes. The S50s and S10s are scratch n dent from Crutchfield. The S15s are new from Crutchfield. I will not be unhappy keeping the S15s (cheaper than S50s) and maybe later trying a sub. It must be I'm somehow providing too little power to the S50s. I have 16 gauge oxy-free wire. I don't seem to need a sub with the S15s for my preference. Watched an action movie and it sounded great (for me) on the S15s.
Bi-amping does little to nothing, mostly nothing. The S50s should have quite a bit more bass due to the extra driver and much larger cabinet. Maybe somethings wrong with them since they're scratch and dent.

The "volume" on your AVR is not linear so you can't go by how far you turn the "dial".

You always need a sub.
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post #11 of 197 Old 08-02-2019, 03:24 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by gajCA View Post
Consider yourself lucky that the S15 ticks all your boxes!
Thanks, the S15s imaging and soundstage is very good after just 1 hr of play. I can't imagine how good the Signature towers must be when performing well as all the reviews say. Highs on the S15s are too bright though. Also, there is some high-frequency background noise when watching TV using the S30 in 5.0 mode. I'm hoping this goes away after break-in as a poster above helpfully alluded to.
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post #12 of 197 Old 08-02-2019, 03:35 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Russdawg1 View Post
Power should have almost no effect on how they sound. Unless you are at 11/10 on the volume at which the amp will be clipping and distorting. I doubt you are using more than 10 watts on the bookshelf and less for the towers. I think your S50’s may be defective.
I agree on the defective. Can't understand. Regarding power, many articles tout the fact that Polks sing when given more power? Hence I thought power was the reason the S50s are not singing. Gotta wait for when wife is out of the house and give the S50s more volume and check. So, one-third of the max volume on the AVR knob is just 10W? Wow.
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post #13 of 197 Old 08-02-2019, 03:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vikram Iyengar View Post
I agree on the defective. Can't understand. Regarding power, many articles tout the fact that Polks sing when given more power? Hence I thought power was the reason the S50s are not singing. Gotta wait for when wife is out of the house and give the S50s more volume and check. So, one-third of the max volume on the AVR knob is just 10W? Wow.

Without a microphone or dB meter, we can’t really be sure how loud or how many watts are coming through.

Every volume knob is different but almost all of them are on a logarithmic scale meaning turning the knob “a notch” should increase by a multiplier not by a certain amount (linear scale).

So for example, on a knob that has 4 notches, with the 4th notch being max output (we’ll say it’s 100), the 3rd notch could be 10 watts, the 2nd 1 watt, and 1st a measly 0.1 watts.

The difference between 1 watt and 10 watts is just twice as loud. 10 to 100 is also twice as loud. (Every time you multiply wattage by 10 it is heard as twice as loud)

Just some cool info.

And regarding amplifiers making certain speakers sing, most of it is confirmation bias. Meaning fabricated in their mind. They should sound the same at 1 watt as they would at 100 watts, albeit 100 watts should be 4 times as loud.
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Leave it at 8 ohms and call it a day :)
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post #14 of 197 Old 08-02-2019, 04:43 PM - Thread Starter
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The difference between 1 watt and 10 watts is just twice as loud. And regarding amplifiers making certain speakers sing, most of it is confirmation bias.
This is really helpful, thanks! I just re-tested the S15s again and they are good after just 2 hours of playing - I can live with them. I tried the S10s in front 2.0 mode and they are slightly better than the S15s but much better than the S50s. I think the S50s are defective. Unlike the S15s, the S10s are not too bright and have slightly better bass. I bought the S10s open-box from Crutchfield so maybe they've been broken in already by a previous owner who had them for 60 days. I'll keep testing and maybe just use four S10s and a sub.
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post #15 of 197 Old 08-02-2019, 05:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Vikram Iyengar View Post
This is really helpful, thanks! I just re-tested the S15s again and they are good after just 2 hours of playing - I can live with them. I tried the S10s in front 2.0 mode and they are slightly better than the S15s but much better than the S50s. I think the S50s are defective. Unlike the S15s, the S10s are not too bright and have slightly better bass. I bought the S10s open-box from Crutchfield so maybe they've been broken in already by a previous owner who had them for 60 days. I'll keep testing and maybe just use four S10s and a sub.

Something wonky going on if the smaller the speaker you go in the line the better they sound and perform.
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Something wonky going on if the smaller the speaker you go in the line the better they sound and perform.
Agree. I can't explain. My room is small 10X12 feet. The speakers are 7 ft apart along the shorter 10 ft wall. Maybe the room is too small or reflections from walls, furniture are causing the problem. But the S10 is only slightly better than S15 so I think the used S10s must be broken in. I'll keep the S10s for rear and S15s for front. I'm sure the S15s will become better with breakin unless that is a myth.
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Bi-amping does little to nothing, mostly nothing. You always need a sub.
Thanks, earlier I was gung ho about no sub. Now I'm convinced the way most AVSForumers go: 4 speakers and a sub! I wonder if "standing waves" from larger woofers in my particular room are the problem. But 5" is not a large woofer.
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post #18 of 197 Old 08-02-2019, 08:50 PM
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Replace the S50s with S55s. Word on the street is that the 55 is a much better speaker.
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post #19 of 197 Old 08-02-2019, 09:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Vikram Iyengar View Post
>>

>>Are the towers missing the bridging plates that go between the upper and lower inputs?
Very good point. The bridge plates are there and I connected to bottom inputs.
I would double check to make sure they are really screwed in tight as we've seen some with loose connections that seemed ok just looking.
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post #20 of 197 Old 08-03-2019, 01:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Vikram Iyengar View Post
I agree, thanks. Tonight, I'll compare the S15s, S50s, bi-amped S50s, and S10s and take some notes. The S50s and S10s are scratch n dent from Crutchfield. The S15s are new from Crutchfield. I will not be unhappy keeping the S15s (cheaper than S50s) and maybe later trying a sub. It must be I'm somehow providing too little power to the S50s. I have 16 gauge oxy-free wire. I don't seem to need a sub with the S15s for my preference. Watched an action movie and it sounded great (for me) on the S15s.
Are you running room correction every time you switch from one to the other?

The speaker wire has absolutely nothing to do with it. A better AVR/amp could helpful for 2 channel playback.

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post #21 of 197 Old 08-03-2019, 07:10 AM - Thread Starter
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Replace the S50s with S55s. Word on the street is that the 55 is a much better speaker.
Thank you. You know I agonized over that a lot even before purchasing the S50s, and even talked about it with Crutchfield. The issue is I'm worried (from my own experience) that at lower volumes such as the 10W stated above can provide, the S50s are too big to power already. I understand the points you're making but my experience worries me. Also, I'm afraid S55 will be too large for my 12X10 ft room. And if I finally get a sub, then the S15 or S10 should be enough for highs and midrange, right? After my extensive tests on the S15/S10 last night, I finally understand why folks on this forum are so insistent on a sub. Music was great for me, but the action movie was meh. It felt like a drama movie. But today, I'll test the S50 with and without bi-amping by playing the same music/movie/FM as yesterday.
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I would double check to make sure they are really screwed in tight as we've seen some with loose connections that seemed ok just looking.
Excellent point, I will check right now since I'm just about to start my listening test again on the S50.
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Are you running room correction every time you switch from one to the other? A better AVR/amp could helpful for 2 channel playback.
I've run room correction a few times, not every time. It doesn't seem to do anything. It sets distance from each front L/R to the same 10.2 ft and sets center to -6.5 dB (which makes dialogue very soft). I then make the center 0dB manually. Correction doesn't do anything to the EQ so I set treble to -5 dB since the S50 is so bright.

I thought correction would detect that the room has a wall on the left but open floorplan on the right of the room. But correction doesn't do anything to the level in response. The left front thus plays louder. So I manually change level on left front to -2.5dB.

Is there way to reduce high frequency hiss when using dolby surround upmix on a 2ch input signal from TV?
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post #24 of 197 Old 08-03-2019, 11:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Vikram Iyengar View Post
I've run room correction a few times, not every time. It doesn't seem to do anything. It sets distance from each front L/R to the same 10.2 ft and sets center to -6.5 dB (which makes dialogue very soft). I then make the center 0dB manually. Correction doesn't do anything to the EQ so I set treble to -5 dB since the S50 is so bright.

I thought correction would detect that the room has a wall on the left but open floorplan on the right of the room. But correction doesn't do anything to the level in response. The left front thus plays louder. So I manually change level on left front to -2.5dB.

Is there way to reduce high frequency hiss when using dolby surround upmix on a 2ch input signal from TV?
If you're setting the treble at -5, find them bright and don't seem impressed with them in general, do yourself a favor and return them ASAP. The Polks are not for you so you should move on to something else.
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post #25 of 197 Old 08-03-2019, 11:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Vikram Iyengar View Post
Is there way to reduce high frequency hiss when using dolby surround upmix on a 2ch input signal from TV?

that tells me there's something wrong... ? my cable provider has a whole bunch of music "channels", and if I go to any of them it switches to 2ch Audio. I have it set to Dolby Surround for that in my Listening Mode settings, and I get no high frequency hiss.
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post #26 of 197 Old 08-03-2019, 11:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Vikram Iyengar View Post
Thank you. You know I agonized over that a lot even before purchasing the S50s, and even talked about it with Crutchfield. The issue is I'm worried (from my own experience) that at lower volumes such as the 10W stated above can provide, the S50s are too big to power already. I understand the points you're making but my experience worries me. Also, I'm afraid S55 will be too large for my 12X10 ft room. And if I finally get a sub, then the S15 or S10 should be enough for highs and midrange, right? After my extensive tests on the S15/S10 last night, I finally understand why folks on this forum are so insistent on a sub. Music was great for me, but the action movie was meh. It felt like a drama movie. But today, I'll test the S50 with and without bi-amping by playing the same music/movie/FM as yesterday.
Then stick with bookshelf speakers and sub. No reason to keep the towers if they are not performing well. S15s should be satisfactory for fronts in that scenario, S10s for surround duty. However, there are lots of speakers at Crutchfield, and only $10 to return, so you might consider getting another pair or two in-house to compare. I know it seems to be money thrown in the dumpster, but it isn't. It gives you peace of mind that you did your homework and kept the right one.

If your room is stark (bare walls, hard floor, glass), that may be contributing to the brightness issue. Also, you say the room is 10x12, yet say there is space beside one of the speakers? Is this room open to another room or is one speaker in the corner and one not?

Often forgotten in setting up a new system is that positioning is your most powerful weapon in getting the best from your investment. Speakers evenly placed is a far better scenario than what you describe. Some distance from the wall behind is often helpful in curing boomy bass. Distance apart and toe-in matters greatly with imaging and soundstage. Even the seating position has a huge effect (especially if you are against a wall or sitting at the 1/2 or 3/4 point of the room).

The more you "fix" with positioning, the less your receiver has to cope with (and it is already very limited in what it can do).
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Last edited by RayGuy; 08-03-2019 at 12:26 PM.
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post #27 of 197 Old 08-03-2019, 12:17 PM
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Now I'm convinced the way most AVSForumers go: 4 speakers and a sub! I wonder if "standing waves" from larger woofers in my particular room are the problem. But 5" is not a large woofer.
It's more like subs(plural/multiple).

Standing waves come with the territory in rooms at low frequencies regardless of woofer size. It's more about proper integration so there's a smooth transition between the speakers and the subs, and multiple subs for efficiency gain and smoother frequency response.
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post #28 of 197 Old 08-03-2019, 01:17 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by cacophonix View Post
The only thing I can think of is breakin time.
I'm beginning to agree more and more. Today the S50 sounded slightly better than 2 days ago. It may be I'm just getting used to them?

Does breakin make a dramatic difference such that I should wait 3 months to behold a much improved S50?
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post #29 of 197 Old 08-03-2019, 01:22 PM
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No it doesn't make a dramatic difference. In 3 months you will be broken in to the S50s.
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post #30 of 197 Old 08-03-2019, 01:22 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Ryan Statz View Post
that tells me there's something wrong... ? my cable provider has a whole bunch of music "channels", and if I go to any of them it switches to 2ch Audio. I have it set to Dolby Surround for that in my Listening Mode settings, and I get no high frequency hiss.
I tried doing that: I played 2ch FM radio on Dolby Surround and got no hiss. The hiss we found was from playing a rerun of Friends using YoutubeTV. The hiss came only during periods of silence when no character was speaking. The hiss sounded like road traffic and got suppressed as soon as someone on the screen spoke. It may be older soundtracks like Friends that's the issue?
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