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A Trip Down Memory Lane: Speakers That Rivaled the Greats

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I was introduced to the Polk Model 10 loudspeakers at a CES in Chicago many years ago. It was, for me, the first American speaker that rivaled the best from England. Up to that time most American box speakers lacked stereo imaging. The Model 10 did not! The imaging was there and so was the low coloration on voices. This was the American version of a Spendor BC1. I raved about the speakers but had very little circulation at the time. Fortunately for Polk, good word of mouth carried the day.

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Polk initially headquartered in a beautiful old house in a suburb of Baltimore. Here the principles of the company lived and worked. I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Polk compound. I had little circulation but Polk and company were very gracious to me. (I was traveling with my genius audio friend Murray Zeligman and that may have been the reason I got inside the compound.)

Matt Polk was listening to some Model 10’s that sounded even better than I remembered. On the floor behind the speakers were two banks of custom-built tube power amplifiers pumping out the sound. Yes, amplifiers do controll the sound of a loudspeaker! A good monitor speaker will reveal all that is in the audio chain ahead of it.

The Model 10’s were an amazing set of speakers. It is a classic that will hold its own even to this day. If you can find a pair in good condition, buy them!

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Sandy Gross, the marketing guru of Polk, graciously took me to one of his listening rooms. On the floor were a pair of the original Quad ESL’s – speakers that I greatly admired as well. Sandy eventually left Polk and started two high-end loudspeaker companies of his own, first Definitive Technology and then Golden Ear Audio – aptly named. Sandy has a golden ear indeed and his speakers sound great.

My hero is Matt Polk, however. He has designed and sold so many excellent products – from subwoofers to headphones. They are very competitive with high-end products but are offered at what must be considered budget prices by today’s standards. Matt has a been able to translate his technical training at John’s Hopkins into highly practical products. He is able to zero in on what contributes to excellent sound reproduction while eliminating the frills.

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Polk and Definitive Technology are now owned by the company that owns Denon, Marantz and Boston Acoustics. Yes, Saul Marantz products are still going strong and Polk is right up there with the best.

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