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Polk Audio: HitMaster Interview

Posted by: Dan at 1/13/2010 7:50 PM
Last week, we ran the review of Polk Audio’s new HitMaster Gaming Stage Monitor. We rated it as a great add-on not only for playing band games on consoles, but for general gaming and everyday uses. As a follow-up to the review (and prior to my CES meeting with Polk) I was able to get some further questions about the HitMaster from Polk Audio VP of Product Line Management Mark Suskind.

The first question we have is why go after the gaming market when you have been so successful in the home audio and home theatre markets?


It's no secret that the gaming market represents a tremendous opportunity for audio companies. Just look at the number of games -- action as well as music -- that are mixed with true surround and attention to detail that is often better than a typical CD. We see it as a natural extension of our product line and one of the best ways to reach a new and committed market.



 
For the full interview, click through


When developing products geared toward gamers, what are some key factors that are different from a typical home audio product?

For one thing, prices must be lower than typical home theater and two-channel products. You'll notice that our current top-of-the-line gaming speaker -- the SurroundBar SDA Instant Home Theater -- is available for $499. That's a real investment for a gamer, but only a mid-range price for a good home theater in a box.

The challenge in designing products like HitMaster and the IHT is how to develop a fully powered product that creates an exciting, high quality audio experience that is clearly light years ahead of a standard TV's speakers, yet is not beyond the reach of the market. This is why we take our time in developing these products, making sure they offer a real value in terms of both performance and price.
 

The HitMaster announcement back in October was a pleasant surprise, so can you tell us what was the impetuous for deciding to create a gaming studio monitor?

The impetus came from the engineers themselves. Our company is packed with gamers who are also audiophiles and musicians who are completely addicted to Rock Band and Guitar Hero, and several of them commented on how a great sounding stage monitor would complete the rock star experience. Additional market research outside the building was met with similar enthusiasm.


Has there been any consideration to creating a HitMaster “family” of products, possibly including a control module and wireless subwoofer to create a full-range audio experience?


Of course, though in true Polk fashion we want to make sure every upgrade and variation brings a unique benefit to the experience. For now we're focused on rolling out HitMaster with the fanfare a product like this deserves.


With the price point at $99 for a single HitMaster monitor, could we see a bundle appear at retailers to accommodate those buying multiple HitMasters for their entire band?

We're all ears. Should our distribution or retail partners make such a request we'll be happy to accommodate them. Don't forget that HitMaster is designed to be daisy-chained, and we expect many consumers to buy multiple pieces at once or over time.


Can you explain the decision to break from traditional Polk design on the HitMaster and go with horn tweeters instead of the usual dome tweeters? Was it a space-saving feature to keep the design into a smaller cabinet, or more due to the sound reproduction that the engineers were trying to achieve?

The decision was based strictly on performance. After modeling early versions both with and without horn loading, we concluded that a shallow horn design provided better output with more detail, especially when it comes to rock music.


One thing that came up during testing is that the HitMaster seems to be geared more toward the instrument players than the singers in band games. It appeared that I was getting some feedback and delay while singing near the HitMaster, was that something that came up during testing?

Feedback can occur if the proximity of the microphone is close to any speaker. But as far as delay goes, there is literally none in the system itself. On the contrary, we found delay is eliminated when compared to playing games through a TV's speakers.


I wasn’t able to experience it with a single review unit, but can you describe what type of sound field and acoustical environment will be created when daisy chaining two or more HitMasters together? Also, when daisy chaining multiple HitMasters, is there any recommendations for placement and volume settings?

Daisy-chaining two or more speakers increases image height and depth, along with bolstering the dynamic range. Our CES display features a six-monitor rig and it sounds amazing. [Editor's note - Their CES rig actually doubled that with 12 monitors!]


Some of your competitors have also announced a similar product, what will set the HitMaster apart from the others?

To date, I've seen only one other product with a similar design. At the risk of sounding prejudiced, it appears to be nothing more than a glorified toy with poor audio performance. The HitMaster plays louder -- over 9dB louder, and has real bass, which the competitive model does not. We're an audio company with a 37-year history of designing of high performance speakers that sound better that competing products in their price class. HitMaster is part of this tradition.


Thank you for your time, is there anything else you would like to share with our readers about the HitMaster or Polk’s future in developing products geared toward gamers?


Just that we are as committed to the gaming market as we are to home, car and custom installation. We take the "Speaker Specialists" description very seriously, and as the gaming market continues to evolve, we'll be keeping up with products that enhance the experience with the best audio in the business. It's what we do.


I would like to thanks Mark for taking the time to answer our questions about the HitMaster and share with us some of Polk Audio's future as it pertains to gaming audio