HOME THEATER & SOUND -- www.hometheatersound.com



June
2002

Reviewed by
John Potis

 


Polk Audio
DS7200
Home-Theater System

Features SnapShot!

Description

Model: DS7200 digital preamp/processor
Dimensions: 17.5"W x 4.5"H x 14"D
Weight: 10 pounds

Model: RM7200 speakers (front and surround)
Dimensions: 8"H x 6.75"W x 4"D
Weight: 4.6 pounds each

Model: RM7200 center-channel speaker
Dimensions: 5.75"H x 14"W x 4.69"D
Weight: 7.7 pounds

Model: RM7200 subwoofer
Dimensions: 16.5"H x 13.5"W x 16.25"D
Weight: 39 pounds

System Price: $2299 USD (without optional DVD player)

Warranty: Five years parts and labor (three years on preamp/processor and amplification)

Features

  • "Plug’n’play" compact design
  • 1" metallized polymer-dome tweeter with self-shielded neodymium magnet (speakers)

Features (cont'd)
  • 3.5" Dynamic Balance, polymer-composite woofers with rubber surrounds (speakers)
  • 8" long-throw polymer-composite woofer with rubber surround (subwoofer)
  • Single-cable hook-up (via 21-pin connector between amplifier and processor)
  • Dolby Digital and DTS processing
  • Pre-set/optimized bass management
  • 3 digital inputs (2 coaxial, 1 TosLink)
  • Composite video inputs (6)
  • S-video inputs (6)
  • Stereo analog inputs (7)
  • DB-25 preamp output
  • Six-channel analog input
  • 350W total system power (500W dynamic power)
  • Speaker wire included (oxygen-free copper)
  • Patented Power Port ™ subwoofer venting
  • Remote control
  • Synchronized audio/ video switching
  • Dual-zone operation
  • High-gloss black finish (speakers)
  • Optional speaker mounting brackets
  • AM/FM tuner
  • Matching DVD player (optional)

Several years ago, Polk Audio introduced the RM Digital Solution-1 (RMDS-1), their answer to the complexity of matching components, lugging them home, and completing a bewildering array of connections. It was intended for consumers who didn't revel in their equipment, but simply wanted to take home a reasonably priced system with which to enjoy their movies. The RMDS-1 was almost a complete home-theater-in-a-box system: just add source (DVD, laserdisc, satellite receiver, or VCR) and TV. The system even came with all system adjustments predetermined and set at the factory. The settings that remained at the discretion of the user were easily available via an easy-to-use remote control -- no need to dig through layers of onscreen menus.

In short, the RMDS-1 was a plug-'n-play proposition -- one I found successful in terms of ergonomics and cinematic enjoyment. The RMDS-1 was not, however, completely free of sonic shortfalls. Polk has addressed these shortcomings, and the addition of some important features, in the new $2299 DS7200.

And if that weren’t enough, the DS7200 costs $400 less than its predecessor.

The system

The DS7200 is the easiest road I know to cinematic enjoyment. Everything you need comes in two boxes, and the directions come in full color on a large pictogram, as well as in a comprehensive manual. You connect your source component(s) to the Polk processor’s non-assignable and clearly marked input(s) then connect it to the subwoofer via a 2m 21-pin connector, just as you would your printer to your computer. All speaker connections are then made at the easily accessible rear panel of the subwoofer via substantial five-way binding posts. All the speaker wire (pre-stripped and color-coded oxygen-free copper!) that one would reasonably require is included.

The attractive remote-controlled receiver is well built, yet relatively lightweight, since all system amplification is found within the subwoofer, as it was in the original RMDS-1. However, Polk found that the RMDS-1 subwoofer was overbuilt and outmatched the rest of the system. It had too much dynamic potential for the rest of the system, and the very first thing that owners did was turn down its volume. It was also one backbreakingly heavy unit; its replacement is much easier to manage. The new subwoofer’s gain is better matched to the system, and while it’s lighter, it seems in no way less able to provide satisfying bass for the DS7200 system.

The DS7200's satellites use completely new tweeters and their 3.5" mid-woofer is said to have longer excursion capability. This, in conjunction with the newly ported cabinet (Polk’s patented Power Ports are used all around), gives the satellites better bass response, ensuring better blending with the subwoofer. As a matter of fact, the speaker enclosures are completely changed, too: they utilize wider baffles, shallower cabinets, and a new high-gloss black finish that will probably make them more domestically acceptable. They all utilize keyhole-type mounting slots on the rear, should you need to mount them on the wall, which I didn’t try. Kudos to Polk -- all the speakers in the system use sturdy five-way binding posts rather than cheap spring-loaded clips.

The next change to the system is invisible to the eye -- yet it is, by far, the most important, according to the company. Polk has employed an all-new digital chip set in the DS7200.

That increased computing power allows the DS7200 to do things the RMDS-1 couldn't. For instance, Polk now includes a dedicated music surround mode. The DS7200's music surround mode is based on a Dolby Pro Logic configuration, but drops the center speaker’s level a notch or two in order to avoid collapsing the soundstage into the center channel. It works. The new surround mode is much more natural and enjoyable with CD-based music.

The new receiver even allows you to bypass it entirely when you use its six-channel direct analog input with multichannel SACD or DVD-A. (The DS7200 can be purchased with an integral DVD player, but my sample was sans source.)

Let the good times roll

Setting up the Polk system was extremely easy and took only a few minutes. It just doesn’t get any easier -- everything is clearly marked and accessible.

Once it was hooked up, I let the system play for two or three days while I was at work before I listened to it. When I finally sat down, I was very pleasantly surprised. While the RMDS-1 suffered from a boxy opacity when played in two-channel mode, the DS7200 does not. That boxy coloration served to detract from the system’s natural timbre and transparency, but the DS7200 sounds much cleaner and more natural by comparison. The DS7200 was better balanced right out of the box and its top-to-bottom coherency was improved over that of the RMDS-1. I always felt the RMDS-1's movie performance was very good and, while I can’t say I noticed a great improvement in this area, the addition of DTS to the DS7200 is a real plus.

I did, however, miss the inner detail of the much more expensive Magnepan system that had just vacated the room. Still, I was very impressed with the Polk system's low levels of coloration and its even tonal balance. Some systems obscure inner detail with high levels of noise or colorations such as too much mid-to-upper-bass bloom, but the DS7200 didn’t. It was very clean. Though it didn’t project sonic details as the Maggie system did, neither did it hint that there was more detail underlying a veil of opacity. On the contrary, after a short period of adjustment I became quite comfortable with this system.

Center-channel intelligibility proved excellent. In Toy Story II as Al is talking to his Japanese buyer over the phone, you can clearly hear every word of acceptance as the asking price for the toys increases ten-fold, "Yes! Yes! I pay anything you want!" is clearly audible. As the system's point man (point speaker?), the center-channel speaker demonstrated a surprising level of dynamics. I was surprised more than once at the system’s generous dynamic capability. This system can explode to life when called upon to do so. I never once suspected that the system was compressing dynamics.

While the DS7200's bass capabilities were very good (as expected), it should be noted that deep bass (the kind usually lacking from movie soundtracks anyway) was missing in action. But down to the system’s limits of 35Hz or so (which is still pretty deep bass), the system was very robust. While Polk suggests that the subwoofer may be placed anywhere within the room, I would strongly suggest that it be kept at the front as the relatively high crossover point may otherwise make it localizable as a source of sound. That said, located in my room at the front right corner, it never once drew attention to itself through localizable contributions, nor through misbehavior of any kind. Its contributions were as tight, as powerful, and as musical as one can expect at this price point -- or even somewhat beyond. It’s quite a capable little subwoofer.

The system’s high frequencies didn’t fail to please, either, and though the system is improved in other areas, the newly extended and surprisingly smooth top end really caught my attention. In the opening scene of the DVD Hook, there is some prominent cymbal work in the musical score, which was rendered with surprising aplomb. The sound was simply more delicately reproduced than I would have expected. Some time later, I realized that the Polk DS7200 system’s highs were actually balanced somewhat on the polite side, as sibilant problems almost never were in evidence. One other thing that struck me while watching Hook was the number of times Robin Williams falls. Whether he was falling out of windows or trying to remember how to fly, he took a lot of spills and the DS7200 did a superb job of reproducing the multiple thuds. That may not sound significant, but it revealed how truly balanced the Polk system is. At no time did any of his falls sound overly dramatic or entail too much bass energy, and neither were they without the appropriate amount of sonic drama. And while they didn’t exactly require the lowest of bass frequencies, they did involve the reproduction of multiple overtones, which demonstrated just how well the subwoofer integrates with the satellites. It is often this kind of natural realism that strongly contributes to a system’s believability.

The Polk system made its largest gain in two-channel music reproduction. I felt that the original RMDS-1's two-channel mode suffered from midrange colorations that made stereo less successful than surround. This problem has vanished with the DS7200. Two-channel listening is now every bit as successful as multichannel and is much more transparent and artifact free. While the sound may still not quite measure up to what Polk has achieved with its more expensive separates, it was quite satisfying and enjoyable. In fact, I judge the system’s performance as better than any other system of this type that I’ve ever heard by a wide measure.

Conclusion

The DS7200 almost defies the laws of physics. It sweetens the deal over its predecessor with vastly better sonics and cosmetics, the addition of DTS, a dedicated music surround mode and new six-channel analog inputs for DVD-A or multichannel SACD playback, and a lower price.

If an easy-to-buy, easy-to-assemble, easy-to-listen-to, and even easier-to-live-with, all-in-one home theater is on your wish list, it’s time to stop wishing. Get on down to your Polk Audio dealer and do some listening! 

Review System
Speakers - Magnepan Magneplanar MGMC1 (mains and surrounds), MGCC2 (center), ACI Titan (subwoofer)
Processor - Yamaha DSP-A1
Amplifier - Adcom GFA 7000
Source - Pioneer DV525 DVD player
Cables - DH Labs, Monster Cable
Monitor - Proscan PS36700 direct-view monitor
 

Manufacturer contact information:

Polk Audio
5601 Metro Drive
Baltimore, MD 21215
Phone: (800) 377-7655

E-mail: polkcs@polkaudio.com
Website: www.polkaudio.com 

 


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