Polk Audio's Outdoor Speaker Torture Tests
If it can't make the grade, Polk won't make the speaker
During his tenure as a Crutchfield staff writer, Marshall Chase wrote about home theater receivers, sound bars, and in-wall and in-ceiling speakers.
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Why Polk Audio is so hard on their outdoor speakers
It's a tough world out there for an outdoor speaker. While we all know enough to get out of the rain, speakers can't, which is why their intelligence has to be built and designed in for them. This is where Polk Audio's Quality Assurance process comes into play.
|An Atrium outdoor speaker after the salt/fog test.|
Tough testing from start to finish
Polk tests their speakers to make sure they stand up to the elements and still wind up looking and sounding great. Polk attempts to recreate harsh conditions with a variety of tests. Materials and components begin the drill with six weeks of exposure to UV light, simulating the damaging rays of the sun. They are given heat and cold stress tests, enduring temperatures as high as 185° F and as low as -40° F. Surviving all of this, Polk throws in a salt/fog test, where components are steamed at 95% salt-infused relative humidity. Throughout, materials are evaluated, connections are checked, drivers are tested, and everything is inspected to see how it looks. Prototype outdoor speakers are given an immersion test to determine if they're water-tight — not necessarily to see if they're waterproof, but just to see if there are any pathways for rain and moisture to enter and damage the speaker.
Polk even designs special tests for some of their speakers. Craig, Polk Audio's Director of Quality Assurance, told us that they realized, for instance, that ground placement of the Atrium Sat30 speaker would make it vulnerable to blows from customers' lawn mowers and garden trimmers. Now, we all know how unlikely that would be. Nevertheless, Polk devised a test for the speaker and its ground mounting bracket. The "Whack-A-Sat" looked a like a trebuchet designed to kick instead of throw (I suspect the test crew at Polk has a lot of fun doing their job.) They kept testing until they came up with a bracket that could handle such mishaps.
As a final test, Polk checks to make sure their speakers will make it to your door undamaged. Their speakers are snugly packed into their shipping box and summarily dropped like a hot potato. Dings to the speaker are unacceptable. Plus, they're tested to see if they still work after gravity has done its worst.
To see more on Polk Audio speaker testing program, check out our video.
|Polk gives speakers and their packaging the drop test.|
Meeting and exceeding expectations
Visiting Polk Audio was like a trip home. We were witness to the processes and philosophy of a speaker manufacturer who shares Crutchfield's core values. Ultimately, we want to please our customers. The people at Polk Audio keep that idea up front in many ways, including a commitment to making certain that when you buy their outdoor speakers, a little rain, heat, cold, fog, salt, sunlight, assault from garden tools or a nose dive from a shipping pallet won't spoil your fun.