The Polk Audio Buckle features several positive attributes, including a standout aesthetic, sturdy construction, a snug fit, and excellent audio quality. However, this does not exclude the existence of some drawbacks. Unfortunately, given their high cost, the headphones in our lab test significantly underemphasized bass distortion and melodic elements.
The Polk Audio Buckle are well-built, strong headphones with a bit of a dark, bass-heavy sound. The majority of listeners will find them to be comfortable enough, and they appear to be high-end. Unfortunately, they don’t block much noise, have a hard form that makes them difficult to transport, and aren’t the best option for commuting. The good news is that, even at increased quantities, they hardly leak. The appearance alone is a pleasant break from the plethora of faceless all-black over-ears that dominate the market, regardless of cost or performance.
Features Polk Audio Buckle
Despite being robust, this design is surprisingly comfy. Even if you’re not a fan of the “belt buckle” style, it’s undeniably distinctive. The boxy silver buckles are made of excellent, matte-finished metal, connecting the full brown band to the earcups. Elegant braiding down either side lines the band. The ear cups are encased in brown plastic before yielding to plush caramel pads. This headphone’s look is unlike any other on the market.
The Polk Audio Buckles’ durable construction and solid gripping force are clear indicators of their high quality. Although given all the gear they require, they do err on the heavier side. Nevertheless, they are comfortable, even after an hour of listening. However, when compared to the Sony MDR-7506, the weight disparity is apparent during protracted listening sessions or lengthy flights. In contrast to the lighter Sony cans, you will never forget to wear these.
The Buckle has a detachable brown cable with a durable rubber lining. The flex point at the jack is exceptionally well-protected and screams durability. Making it one of the toughest I’ve seen this year.
These headphones have a spherical, engraved selector on the back of the right ear cup instead of the three-button controller many modern headphones have along the wire. The selector is comparable to a regular control in that you can press it to accept or end calls, roll it up or down to change the volume, and skip between songs on a playlist. It is a novel tactic, but it also requires some time and is a little difficult.
The Polk Audio Buckles have an excellent sound, but they could be more flawless. The song is given a slight makeover while the bass and treble tones are subtly emphasized. High, mid, and low frequencies are well-balanced and straightforward. But harder-to-hear parts in the upper-mid range need to be more emphasized and practically invisible to the ear. The only notable audio flaw is a loss of intensity, which won’t be easy to hear unless you try mixing in a studio like a pro.
In addition, there is very little audible distortion, even though the lowest bass components don’t always sound completely clear. We’d love for the Buckles to have unaltered notes and unclipped harmonics for the price, despite the fact that it’s a small complaint. In the Buckles, the loudness equilibrium between every speaker is out of balance. Some notes are louder in the left speaker than the right, and vice versa. Although they are minor flaws, many $200 headphones don’t need them.
The Buckles’ low sound leakage for over-ear headphones is impressive. While evaluating these cans, I’ve been blaring everything from Metallica to Daft Punk to Rush. None of my coworkers have asked me to turn it down or appear to be judging my musical tastes. Despite their absence of leakage, The Buckles don’t block noise as effectively as passive cancelers or in-ear headphones.
The Interiors That Matter
Although the Polk Audio Buckle (MSRP $250; online price $146) doesn’t quite equal their strength and style, they come close. While using these cans in the lab, it became clear that they had a very subtle, reserved presentation that favored the bass and mid-tones over the upper midrange and high trebles. The Buckles likewise provide a clean presentation with little clipping or harmonic interruption. This saves from a bit more sub-bass distortion than we’d prefer.
Response to Frequency
The frequency response of any speaker is a measurement of how strongly it accentuates each note, from the lowest bass to the highest treble. In our frequency response test, we send a frequency sweep at 78 dB into our Head-and-Torso simulator. This generates an instance of the carrier frequency of headphones.
One of the reasons I say The Buckles provide a delicate soundscape is because of their frequency response. By 400 Hz, The Buckles are already slightly inadequate those bottom tones at about 72 dB. The sub-bass gradually increases from a static 78 dB tone to roughly 82 dB. Emphasis drops to 59 dB by 4 kHz, which is approximately than 20 dB quieter than the post frequencies.
Despite lacking the high-pitched “punch” of more muscular mids and trebles, this bass-forward emphasis doesn’t have a horrible sound. The biggest drawback is that when music is played back through the Buckles. Some of its natural edges are lost since the upper mid-range frequencies are muffled, which can sometimes allow that rougher sound to come through to the foreground.
Harmonic Distortion in Full
Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) is the term used to describe the clipped harmonics and poor bass reproduction that can occasionally be heard in music due to the built-in mechanical limitations of a speaker or a pair of headphones. Although almost all speakers and headphones exhibit some degree of distortion, the optimal level is 3% THD or lower.
The Buckles, for the most part, are within the optimal range. We discovered that THD peaked beyond 3% between 35 and 70 Hz, a difficult-to-hear region in the sub-bass range. We’d want to see THD < 3% over the full frequency range for the price (about $200), but this is a good outcome too.
With a design that is a pleasant departure from the standard. Polk Audio has coupled its expertise in free-standing loudspeakers with a keen eye for aesthetics and detail in the Buckles.
The sound quality is hardly audiophile-grade, but that is hardly caused for complaint. A good balance between musical layers is achieved through delicate bass representation and flat mid-tone emphasis. If not for the inadequate semi-range notes, this would be a blue-ribbon sound.
On the design front, everything works out well. Compared to the normal over-ears, the Buckles are heavier. Still, they compensate for it with exceptionally durable materials of the highest quality and have an odd appearance in the industry. Just be conscious that the art came at a modest cost and that a number of over-ear headphones that are less expensive and perform better than the Buckles are available.
In the end, if you enjoy the look, don’t mind spending a little bit more than what is essential, and aren’t fixated on excellent audio fidelity. These are good options. It could seem a little unusual at first to wear a belt on your head. But don’t rule it out before giving it a try.