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Polk Audio, the American speaker company known for making hi-fi speakers at non-absurd prices, announced the Reserve series back in March. Shortly thereafter reviews flooded the web singing the speakers’ praises, particularly their bang for your buck.

Naturally, I had to get my hands on a pair myself to see what all the hype was about — and put the speaker through the test bench. I chose the Reserve R200, the $700/pair bookshelf model with a 6.5-inch woofer. While $700 may not sound all that cheap to people who aren’t into speakers, it’s basically a budget speaker when you consider most of the really good options retail for closer to $2000.

As TNW’s resident audio nerd, I need to see the data behind a speaker before I’m confident making a recommendation. If you’ve read my post on why speaker measurements matter, then you know that listening impressions can be fickle things, easily affected by biases and expectations. Having been an audiophile for a decade or so now, I know that reviews tend to become more positive in proportion to a speaker’s price. Unfortunately, sound quality and price barely have any correlation.

That’s why I’m always excited to see a speaker that punches well above its price class, and the R200 does just that. The R200’s measured performance shows excellent performance by almost any standard, easily going head-to-head with speakers two or three times its price.

It isn’t flawless — few speakers are — but the R200 is a prime example of sensible design decisions to maximize sound quality at a reasonable price. You won’t find crazy newfangled technology or materials here, just carefully thought out engineering.

This isn’t going to be your typical speaker review. Rather than spending 10,000 words describing different facets of the sound — there are plenty of reviewers more eloquent than me out there — I’m going to mainly focus on the data. Still, I should give you a summary of my thoughts before we jump in.

What does it sound like?

I spent about a week listening to the Reserve R200 before I measured them, and my overwhelming impression was that they pretty much disappeared — that they were nearly transparent. It may be the most neutral 6.5-inch bookshelf speaker I’ve heard under $1,000.

They also have a solid bass extension for their size, and their soundstage is pretty great too. It’s not too narrow, not too wide— vocals snap to the center but the speaker throws out a sizeable soundstage without sounding too diffuse. Dynamics are excellent for a bookshelf speaker too, and the R200 can handle volumes louder than I’m comfortable with without a hitch.

It’s just a really good speaker. The R200 isn’t just competing against other sub-$1000 bookshelf speakers; I think its performance is fully comparable to top-of-the-line $2,000-ish speakers like the KEF R3 and JBL HDI-1600 — and it’s certainly the better value. My benchmark for performance-per-dollar has long been the $1000/€700 Focal Chora 806, but the R200 gives that a run for its money too.

Sound aside, I also appreciate the understated, fairly minimalistic design. The matte black review unit I received is perhaps a little plain, but the white and wood finishes look classy and a bit more modern. Keep in mind the speaker is quite deeper than it looks in photos, about 14 inches.

What, that’s it?

Yep, that’s pretty much all you need to know. Although we reviewers often like to shower compliments on speakers we like, I’ve increasingly found the best speakers aren’t the ones worth the most praise, but rather the ones that have the fewest flaws.

The R200 has very few flaws that I could hear in my setup. But sure, I can nitpick a bit.

The R200 might sound a little bright if you aim it right at your ears, especially if you’re young and still have all your hearing left. It also can be slightly more finicky about positioning than some of the very best speakers I’ve tested, as the sound can change fairly noticeably depending on how the speaker is angled. But aim the tweeter at ear height and slightly away from your listening position — about 10-20 degrees off-axis, perhaps pointing straight forward — and you’re good to go.

The speaker might also sound ever so slightly forward with some vocals, but I personally like the effect on most tracks. And though it has a bit more bass extension than average, it’s nothing like you might find on a DSP-enabled speaker like the (much more expensive but similarly sized) Buchardt A500. As always, you might have to experiment with positioning to find the best bass balance in your room, or better yet, use a subwoofer and Room EQ.

But again, that’s all quite nitpicky.

Alright, get to the graphs already. I know you want to.

If you want to make a speaker that will sound great to most people, there are two things you really need to optimize: frequency response and directivity. The frequency response tells us the basic tonal balance of a speaker before the influence of reflections, and it should be mostly flat. The directivity tells us how that frequency response changes in different directions; the speaker should change smoothly as you move off-axis.

The directivity is important because the reflections off your walls, floor, and ceiling all contribute to the final sound you hear in your room. If you want a speaker to sound really good — to create that realistic soundstage that makes it feel like you’re watching a live performance — then the reflections off your wall should be similar to the direct sound.

We can figure all that stuff out by creating a graph called a spinorama. I capture the speaker’s response at 70 (not a typo) horizontal and vertical angles and combine all that information into one graph. Behold:

I explain what all of this means in the spinorama section of my measurements guide, but we can focus on a few key things here.

See the white and green lines above? Those represent the frequency response of the ‘direct’ sound — before reflections — with the green line being the ‘on-axis’ response and the white being the ‘listening window.’

The on-axis line shows off what the speaker sounds like when the speaker is aimed exactly at you (in this case, at tweeter height). The listening window gives us a small average of a few horizontal and vertical angles to account for the fact that people don’t sit perfectly centered in front of a speaker all the time, and that you might not aim the speakers directly at your listening position. It is usually the more representative curve for what you hear in a living room setup, so that’s what I tend to focus on.

Here the R200 shines: it is ridiculously flat. The listening window is one of the flattest I’ve measured, especially for a speaker without any kind of DSP processing to help it out.

It’s the type of performance you’d expect from a high-end studio monitor, not a $700 pair of speakers from a fairly mainstream audio company. The rise in the last bit of the on-axis does tell us that the R200 may sound a little bright when listened to head-on, but you can simply point the speakers slightly away from you — about 10-20 degrees seems optimal — to balance out the sound.

Next, we can look at the purple line. This is the ‘predicted in-room response.’ It applies different weights to each of the 70 angles measured to estimate what the speaker’s response will be like in a typical living room (yes, living rooms vary a lot, but it’s still a surprisingly good metric).

We want this line to be flattish too, except with a downward tilt:

Here the R200 also shows very good performance. There’s a bit of a dip around the 3 kHz crossover —where the woofer hands off the sound to the tweeter — but this is common among speakers with separate woofers and tweeters. The R200 performs almost as good as any speaker I’ve measured on this metric as well.

With just these two lines, we know the R200 is very likely going to have a neutral, largely balanced tonality in most rooms. It’s good stuff.

The bottom red (directivity index or DI) and blue (early reflections directivity index or ERDI) curves summarize the speaker’s directivity. These would ideally be a smooth rising line, so they are not exactly great on the R200.

However, they consider both a speaker’s vertical and horizontal response. While the R200 has a flawed vertical response (again, like most speakers), it has a good horizontal response, which is far more important for creating a good soundstage. The yellow line above isolates just the horizontal portion of the ERDI, and we can see this line is much smoother. That tells us that the speaker will likely have a good soundstage even though its vertical response may be finicky.

This spinorama also tells us that the R200 appears to be mostly free of major resonances that color the sound; this would show up as a bump that stands out in each of the top curves, and can contribute to a speaker sounding boomy or having a grating sound at specific frequencies. Knowing for sure would require an anechoic chamber or advanced tools I don’t have access to, but within the resolution of my system, the R200 performs admirably.

For comparison, here’s how the $1,800 JBL HDI-1600 performs:

While the JBL has a bit better overall directivity, its response is also less linear than the R200’s.

The spinorama gives us the big picture, but we can get a bit more granular using. For example, we can further break down the horizontal response by checking out what the reflections off the walls in front, to the sides, and behind the speaker might look like:

There’s a little bunching around 3-5kHz for the sidewall reflections, which may be why I found vocals to sound a tad forward, but you can see the total horizontal reflections balance out nicely to a linear response in the dotted yellow line.

Breaking things down further, we can see how the R200’s response changes in 10-degree increments horizontally:

In this graph, you can see how by 10-20 degrees off-axis, that little bit of brightness at the top of the speaker’s response has largely flatted out; if you want the flattest response, you should probably listen about 15 degrees off-axis. You can also see that above 6kHz, the tweeter’s response drops off steeply, which may be why the speaker can be a bit sensitive about positioning. On the other hand, it also means you can ‘tune’ the speaker’s brightness to your taste with positioning.

This isn’t the cleanest horizontal directivity I’ve ever seen, but the vast majority of the speakers that perform better have a narrower soundstage. There’s usually a trade-off between soundstage width and precision, and the R200 toes the line expertly. Among wider directivity speakers I’ve tested, only the Focal Chora 806 performs better.

Now we turn to the biggest flaw on the R200 (and most other speakers): its vertical response. First, we can see that the speaker is quite sensitive to being at the perfect ear height.

Ideally, the tweeter should be at just about ear height, within ±5 degrees. Being 10 degrees above or below the tweeter may noticeably alter the sound. That shouldn’t be an issue for most setups, but it’s worth noting if you can’t set your speakers up at ear height or if you listen to the speakers from less than 2m or 6 feet.

Next we can look at the estimated vertical reflections.

We can see some vertical dips, as is typical for speakers with separate tweeters and woofers. This is the portion that messes up the speaker’s response the most. Luckily, the vertical response doesn’t have a major effect on the soundstage, and despite these results, the end result is still very balanced, as shown with the predicted in-room response, so I wouldn’t worry about these anomalies too much.

That said, it does mean that the R200’s sound might vary a little more from room to room than speakers with better-controlled verticals. Whhile hear the presence bump as forward vocals, you might hear a recession where the response dips. Polk might’ve been able to improve the vertical response by using a larger waveguide that would allow for a smoother transition between the woofer and tweeter, but that might’ve had the sometimes negative effect of narrowing the soundstage too. While the vertical response is a notable flaw, it’s unlikely to be a major issue in most setups.

All these words are just to reiterate the headline; the Polk Reserve R200 is not just a fantastic deal — it’s a really solid speaker at almost any price. Though no one can guarantee you’ll like a speaker, I can at least tell you that you’re getting more than your money’s worth with the R200. Its refreshing to see such thoughtful engineering on a speaker in this price range.

And yes, I’d bet that you probably will like it. A lot. It has my fullest recommendation — especially considering it probably won’t burn a hole in your wallet.

Did you know we have a newsletter all about consumer tech? It’s called Plugged In – and you can subscribe to it right here.

Naabiae Nenu-B is a Medical Health Student and an SEO Specialist dedicated to flushing the web off fake news and scam scandals. He aims at being "Africa's Best Leak and Review Blogger" and that's the unwavering stand of Xycinews Media.

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Marvel confirms ‘Hawkeye’ and ‘Ms. Marvel’ are coming to Disney+ in 2021

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Halfway through July, this has already been one of the busiest years in the history of Marvel Studios. That makes it all the more incredible that we have seen less than half of the content that the studio has planned for 2021. In addition to the three new movies Marvel is releasing in the second half of the year, we also have confirmation that at least three new shows are coming to Disney+. After What If…? drops in August, Ms. Marvel and Hawkeye are still to come.

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Speaking with Variety earlier this week, Marvel Studios EVP of film production Victoria Alonso revealed that “a few other shows” are on track for 2021, including Ms. Marvel and Hawkeye.

It’s worth noting that both Ms. Marvel and Hawkeye had already been slated for late 2021. Both the Ms. Marvel page and the Hawkeye page on Marvel’s official website state as much. That aside, Marvel has had very little to say about either show since announcing them in 2019.

What are Ms. Marvel and Hawkeye about?

While WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and especially Loki helped to set up the stakes of the MCU’s Phase 4, Ms. Marvel and Hawkeye should be even more purposeful. Ms. Marvel will introduce us to Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) ahead of 2022’s The Marvels. In Marvel comics, Kamala is a Pakistani-American and Carol Danvers fangirl that ends up getting powers of her own. She also takes her name from the powerful Avenger. Vellani will reprise her role in the sequel to Captain Marvel.

As for Hawkeye, we know that the show will bring Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) into the fold. She may very well take over for Jeremy Renner as an Avenger at some point in Phase 4. We also know from the Black Widow post-credits scene that Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) will be involved.

Predictions for Marvel’s 2021 release dates

Here’s what we know about Marvel’s plans for its movies and shows for the rest of 2021: What If…? is coming to Disney+ on August 11th, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings arrives on September 3rd, Eternals follows on November 5th, and Spider-Man: No Way Home drops on December 17th.

Based on the fact that we saw some footage of Ms. Marvel last December, my guess is that it will start streaming on Disney+ in October. That leaves November as the only month left in the year without a Marvel Studios release. Therefore, I’m betting Hawkeye lands then.

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Netflix is releasing 56 original movies and shows in August – here’s the full list

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Boy oh boy, has Netflix stepped it up recently or what? The streamer’s subscriber numbers from the last quarter weren’t very impressive. We have a feeling that’s due in no small part to the lack of compelling Netflix originals earlier this year. Long story short, Netflix’s movies and shows were beyond weak for the first few months of 2021. Now, however, things are really starting to pick up again. This past month alone, there were so many high-profile Netflix releases. You can see the full Netflix July releases list here. Highlights include Gunpowder Milkshake with Karen Gillan, the fantastic final season of Atypical, Virgin River season 3, and the Fear Street trilogy that horror fans loved. Now, however, it’s time to turn our attention to all the Netflix original releases in August 2021.

Wondering what Netflix subscribers have to look forward to next month? We’ll run down the full slate of new original releases right here.

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Netflix original releases: August 2021

Netflix just announced all of its upcoming movie and series releases for August 2021. There are plenty of gems in there from third-party studios, but people are far more interested in original content. Netflix has been steadily raising its subscription fees every month, after all. Each time, it says the increase will help pay for new original content. With that in mind, subscribers want to know that they’re getting their money’s worth.

In August, Netflix has 56 new original movies, shows, and specials on tap. That’s down sharply from the 69 new originals spread out over July. Of course, quality is far more important than quantity. With that in mind, it’s time to see what kind of quality Netflix has in store.

Scroll down to check out the entire release calendar of Netflix originals in August. We’ve also included links to the relevant Netflix pages wherever possible. This way, you can set a reminder to be alerted when a title is released next month.

Streaming August 3rd

Streaming August 4th

Streaming August 6th

Streaming August 9th

Streaming August 10th

Streaming August 11th

Streaming August 12th

Streaming August 13th

Streaming August 17th

Streaming August 18th

Streaming August 20th

Streaming August 23rd

Streaming August 24th

Streaming August 25th

Streaming August 26th

Streaming August 27th

Streaming August 28th

Streaming August 31st

Release Date TBD

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This free iPhone app is so incredible, it’s hard to believe it’s real

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If you need to order new contact lenses or a pair of glasses, many places won’t let you do so unless you take an eye test first. And seeing as how a trip to the optometrist can set you back as much as $200, many people put off getting their vision checked even when they should.

There is, however, an interesting alternative to popping into stores LensCrafters. Warby Parker recently issued an update to their Virtual Vision Test app for the iPhone. Now, users can take an eye test from the comfort of their own homes at a fraction of the cost of a traditional eye exam.

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How the mobile eye test works

With the new app, which was previously called Prescription Check, it’s now easier than ever for individuals to check their eyes and renew their glasses or contacts prescription.

Once you download the app, you can take a traditional eye exam. Open the app and you’ll be able to read letters off the iPhone from a distance of about 10 feet. Naturally, you’ll want to do this in a quiet and well-lit room.

If the app determines that your vision is good, which is to say that your prescription hasn’t changed, you’ll be charged $15 for a brand new prescription. And as mentioned above, this is vastly cheaper than the $200 you might otherwise be charged by taking a trip to the doctor or eyeglass store.

Don’t worry, a doctor is involved in the process

If you’re wary about leaving your eye test to a mysterious algorithm, you have nothing to worry about. Once your eye test is completed, an eye doctor will take a look and assess each individual’s results. In other words, the test itself is mobile, but the analysis is still handled by a professional.

App requirements

The app itself requires iOS 14.1 or later in order to run. And seeing as how iOS 15 is right around the corner, that shouldn’t be an issue for most users.

Additionally, the app is only available for the iPhone for the time being. At this point, there’s no indication in either direction if an Android app will be coming anytime soon.

Further, only individuals between the ages of 18 and 65 should use the app. Users experiencing problems with their current prescription shouldn’t use it either. You’ll also need a copy of your existing prescription on hand. The app notes that even an expired prescription will do.

If you’re curious about checking the app out, you can download it here from the App Store.

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