DB Dynamics Polaris 488F
You see, loudspeaker design is the art of compromise. No matter how much money a loudspeaker designer has to throw at a design, he or she is faced with a number of trade-offs and compromise.
Often, for a retail budget of $1100, a designer will produce a bookshelf, or stand-mounted speaker. These days such a speaker can be rather refined and articulate, but won’t have the sheer weight and power that many crave.
Or the designer could spend more on the cabinet, producing a larger speaker with more bass drivers, in order to get that power and authority missing from a smaller bookshelf speaker. The trade off is that bigger cabinets are expensive and leaves less money for other areas.
The Polaris designer has chosen the latter path. The 488F is a big speaker, some 1115mm high, wide enough (255mm) to incorporate twin 200mm (8”) woofers and 350mm deep. The 24kg weight is much heavier than any other floorstanding speaker around this price.
A true three-way speaker, the 488F includes two 200mm woofers, loaded by a port on the front and another on the rear of the speaker. A 130mm midrange and 25mm tweeter, the latter in a wave guide or short horn and protected by a mesh grille, completes the driver lineup.
The front baffle is a thick piece of milled mdf, finished in a grand piano finish black lacquer. The finish is said to be scratch resistant, although I didn’t put this to the test! A separate plinth sits between the speaker proper and the floor. Milled metal spikes attach to the underside of the plinth to aid stability and improve the sound when used on carpeted floors.
The spec sheet gives the frequency response of the 488F as 33Hz to 20kHz (no limits specified). Sensitivity is listed at a high 91dB, with power handling of 150 Watts.
It’s rare to find a speaker range today that doesn’t incorporate home theatre. To match the 488F (video shielded, by the way) the Polaris mk3 range includes a matching centre channel speaker, a dipole surround speaker, a forward firing surround speaker (only 160mm deep) and three subwoofers.
The first thing to keep in mind with these speakers is that they need a bit of space around them to work properly. Shove these speakers in a corner and you’ll hear a very bass heavy and thickened sound not pretty. So pull them out from the walls and corners.
On firing up the 488F’s the virtues of this speaker are immediately obvious. There’s a sense of scale to the sound that smaller speakers in this price range simply can’t match. Play rock music with a big sound (think Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin) and you’ll hear a big, powerful musical performance.
Hand in hand with the sense of scale is the extended bass response. There are many CDs with low bass available today, such as the track Broken Loves from the Blue Nile’s new album High. The synth bass on this track would simply vanish on many small speakers.
Of course, the extended bass response of the 488F is also a boon for many movie soundtracks on DVD – those movie sound engineers do like their bass!
Despite the 24kg weight of these speakers, I was surprised that some of that weight wasn’t because of extensive bracing of the speaker cabinet. Knocking on the side or top of the cabinet showed obvious cabinet resonances, which displayed themselves in a slight thickening on male voices.
This is a loudspeaker offering tremendous value. While giving up a little finesse to smaller speakers, the Polaris 488F offers up a large scale sound with bass weight and punch that is hard to match at the price. This is a big affordable loudspeaker that is well worth a look.
DB Dynamics Polaris 488F. $1099