Comparison Between Harley Factory Speakers and Polk Audio GXR5

I love music, and for years have always done my research with it comes to anything music. It was the love of music that convinced me that I didn't want a FatBoy. I really like the look of the FatBoy, but knew that I wanted a windshield and bags. I rented a Road King and knew that I was on the right track, but after I started to narrow down my search for a Harley, I began to check out the Electra Glides. They can be equipped with a stereo and that was it. The Electra Glide was the machine for me.

I love my Electra Glide and the bike that I bought (1 year old used) came with a factory radio and speakers. I was never that impressed with the speakers, even thought I found that in 2001, the high performance Harley speakers became standard. I found that the only way that I could listen to them with any level of clarity was to turn the bass down to about 20%. I then began to read that other riders were swapping out the factory speakers with other brands.

My research found that most any 5.25" round, water resistant / proof speakers would fill the bill. When it comes to speakers, I've always found that those companies that specialize in speakers are always a good bet, i.e. Polk, JBL, Infinity or Alpine. I've never fancied Japanese speakers, i.e. Sony and others. They have never been known for producing award winning speakers, Mini disks and cameras yes, but not speakers.

I also researched J&M, who target the motorcycle audio market. When I asked the for specs on their speakers, they (the president) noted that they did not have specs on their product line, which I thought was bull. I'm not sure how you sell a $99 - $159 speaker pair without providing any kind of useful information, so I ruled them out. I'm glad I did, but at least I wanted to compare them with the Polk product that I was looking at.

I personally have had good luck with Polk Audio. They have always been highly acclaimed. After searching Crutchfield.com for 5 1/4 round speakers, I found the GXR5 to be waterproof. I even read on the forum that another member had selected and installed tht GXR5 and had a very good experience with them. He noted that the sound quality was better than the Harley factory speaker, but I didn't know how much better. For some reason, I felt that for the money paid for the factory radio, they must use very high grade speakers, but this was far from the truth. They're basic speakers that can handle a damp environment, but they aren't high fidelity speakers.

I finally broke down and purchase the Polk's from Crutchfield.com. The GXR5 lists for $89.95. I believe replacement Harley speakers run about the same price. To my surprise, I found the GXR5's on sale at Crutchfield for only $39.95. The GXR5's are no longer being offered at Crutchfield and have been replaced with the GXR5a and available for $49.95. I believe that this is the same speaker, except for a different speaker grill, which we don't use. Compare this with the typical factory replacement cost of $79.95.

 

Below, I've tried to compare the Harley High Performance Speaker and the Polk GXR5, as well as any modification I had to made to make them fit properly.


Harley High Performance Speakers

The Harley speakers have a coated, heavy coated paper speaker cone, with a foam outer surround ring.

 

Polk Audio GXR5 Speakers

The Polk GXR5 speaker is built with their own exclusive Duralam Cone, a silicone treated lacquered fiber material that is almost plastic in appearance. Not only is the cone much stronger than the Harley speaker, it's very lightweight, which is important for good low frequency responses. It's also waterproof, a very important factor to consider for a motorcycle. I wouldn't even consider a speaker for this environment if it wasn't waterproof. The cone is supported by a Butyl Rubber (not foam) Surround Ring, which is said to provide a smoother response and improved long term durability under higher loads (crank up the volume).

 

Butyl Rubber Surround Ring vs. Foam Surround.

The above image shows the Polk speaker (left) surround along side a foam based surround ring found on the factory speaker. My existing speaker wasn't as bad as the image shown, but it did display obvious wear in the surround area, which experiences the most movement in a speaker.

 


Side by Side Front View

I'm sorry about the image quality, but my wife has my good digital camera. I was stuck using an antique digital camera which suffers in the image and color accuracy arena.

The factory speaker (left) had a much smaller tweeter. The Polk offered a 1-1/2" PEI Semi-dome Tweeter. PEI (Polyetherimide) is a polymer that offers high resistance against harsh environmental extremes, superior rigidity, and sonic purity.

 

Side by Side Rear Views

My factory speaker (left) had a surprising small magnet as compared to the Polk (right). This larger magnet results more sound and better bass and mid-range tones.

 


Modifications required to accommodate the Polk Speakers.

There was one minor modification that I needed to make. Initially, everything seemed to fit OK, but I had read from another forum member that he had to notch out something. I installed the one speaker and it seemed as if the screw wasn't going in straight and was giving me a little trouble. I did get it to install without any modification, but when I installed the second speaker, I finally noticed why the screw on the top didn't seem to align correctly.

The factory speaker fits within a flange on the perimeter of an angled speaker base plate (see image above). I noticed that the speaker screw tabs were not aligning property due to this flange. To make the adjustment, I notched back that flange on the top of the angled speaker base about 1/2". The base is made of plastic, so this is relatively easy and can be done with a dremel or a hacksaw. With this modification, the speaker fit perfectly.

IMPORTANT NOTE:

The screws on top are about 2" long and the bottom two screws are about 1 1/4" long. I cut lower screws down about 3/8", since they looked long and the Polk speaker drew a lower profile.

Electrical Connections

The positive connector need no changes and was a snap to put on. The negative speaker blade (tab) was much smaller and required a 1/8" female spade to be used. The Harley dealer had this, but you can get this at most any Radio Shack of electronic store.

Bass Blocker - To Use or Not To Use

At the same time that I purchased the speakers, I also purchase a pair of 150Hz Bass Blockers, which block all frequencies below 150 Hertz. This helps preserve the speaker at high volumes. I tested the speakers with and without the Bass Blocker installed. After trying each several times, I described to not use the Bass Blocker. I found that the overall tone quality was better with the Bass Blocker removed. With the Bass Blocker installed, I found myself turning up the Bass level to almost 100%. Without the Bass Blocker, I found that I got about the same tone quality with the Bass turned up to about the 60% level. I wasn't driving the speakers to hard and if I wanted to increase the bass levels, I could. I could hear that the Polk speakers could handle both the volume and bass if the bass was used in moderation. The net result is that I'm returning the Bass Blockers.

How Does the Polk Audio GXR5 Sound as Compared to the Harley Factory Speakers?

One sentence. They aren't even in the same ball park. The delta between the two models in amazing. It almost sounds that the Polk's are about 40% louder (if you want more volume). The tone is far superior and they don't cut out and distort at high volumes with increased bass. They are amazing and would recommend that everyone replace their speakers with a higher grade speaker. It just so happens that the Polk's are as I expected them to be - GREAT.

Will These Speakers Fit in the Rear of the Ultra Glides?

I'm told by other Electra Glide Garage forum members that the Polk GXR5 will fit in the rear speaker enclosure, and you can use the grills with a little work.

 

Specifications for the Polk Audio GXR5

Sensitivity: 91 dB
Frequency Response: 80 - 20k Hz
RMS Power Range (Watts): 2-45
Peak Power Handling (Watts): 115
Design: 2-way
Tweeter Design: 1-1/2" Semi-dome
Voice Coil Diameter: Tweeter 1/2" (1.27cm)

Power Handling (continuous): 45 w
Power Handling (peak): 115 w
Efficiency: 91 dB

Tweeter Composition: PEI
Woofer Composition: Treated-fiber
Woofer Surround: Butyl rubber
Impedance (Ohms): 4
Top-mount Depth (Inches): 2
Bottom-mount Depth (Inches): 2 1/4
Cutout Diameter or Length (inches): 4 11/16
Parts Warranty: 1 Year
Labor Warranty: 1 Year

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Install Dimensions

Full-range Mounting Depth
Top Mount 2" (5.08cm)
Bottom Mount 2-1/4" (5.71cm)
Grille
Height 3/4" (1.91cm)
Diameter 6-1/4" (15.88cm)
Cut-out
Driver Cut-out Diameter 4-9/16" (11.59cm)

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