Polk Legend Series Speakers - A Polkie's Review

scubalab
scubalab Posts: 3,030
I had some stars align this week and was able to attend a 'listening event'. Some work travel had me passing through Harrisburg, PA late in the afternoon this past Tuesday (9/17). I knew they had an event scheduled at HiDef Lifestyle in Harrisburg from 6-9 PM that day, so I figured I'd stop in.

First, a plug for the venue. Very nice place, and the staff (whom I'd talked to prior to the event) couldn't have been friendlier. Although, I'm not sure I actually met any staff from HiDef Tuesday night. There were around 100-200 people there, if I had to guess, but with the layout of the store, it was definitely not overloaded. They had a fine selection of top shelf drinks and hors d'oeuvres as well.

Now to the good stuff. I stopped specifically to see and hear the new Legend Series speakers. My first stop was in the demo room with the L800s, but I'll get to my impressions on those later.

The second stop was in the adjacent listening room to see and hear the L100s. My impressions were all great. I met Bronson Gannon from Polk and he did a great job demoing these speakers. For a $1200 pair of speakers, you'd be hard pressed to better these, even on the used market. The cabinets are simple, yet elegant. The walnut veneer was beautiful, and the matte black front baffle mated perfectly with the walnut. Listening impressions were phenomenal. These sounded like full range tower speakers. The bass extension was incredible. I'm not a 'bass-head', but do like a little punch with my music. These little guys were tight, accurate, and full range. I honestly did not hear anything that was off with them, bass through mids through highs - just very well rounded. Now, Bronson did play a track (at the request of a listener) that was a great song, but a bad recording or source. And, these speakers brought out all the flaws in that recording. So, if I had one negative, it'd be that poorly recorded tracks will sound bad on these.

On to the big boys... The L800s were jaw-dropping. I'll start with my only negative, and it's purely a matter of personal opinion and taste. The aesthetics of these speakers leave a lot to be desired. The finish on the pair they demoed was black ash cabinets with the high gloss black front baffle. This did not do much for me in terms of looks. The high gloss front looks cheap and plastic-y. I'm also not a fan of the cantilevered look of the cabinets over the power port.

What the L800s lack in aesthetics, they more than make up for in sound presentation. I was floored. I have never heard such accurate imaging from a 2-channel setup as I heard from these. If you watch the video here, at the 7:20 mark, Gene has the exact same reaction as I had. Scott Orth from Polk gave a nice, quick, simplified overview of the SDA technology and how it worked. He followed with a 4 track demo. First up was "Time" (Pink Floyd). This is a great track to show off stereo imaging, however, with the SDAs, you'd swear you were in an old clock shop with clocks chiming from ALL over the room (both side to side, and front to back). Simply amazing. The second track was "The Smartest Monkeys" (XTC), and was my favorite track for showing off sound placement the L800s are capable of. I literally first turned to my immediate left to look for the speaker where the first guitar note sounded like it was coming from. Then I jarred my head backwards and to the right to find the hidden speaker the second guitar note sounded like it was coming from. The best way I can explain it is comparing it to a 7-channel surround setup. I heard some sounds distinctly coming from where a left surround would be and others from where a right rear channel would be. It was THAT accurate! The third track was a live recording of a church with a female lead vocalist, pipe organ, orchestra, and congregation backup vocals. Even on the live recording, you could precisely place every part of the music. The female vocalist was front and center, the organ farther back, the orchestra slightly in front, and the congregation surrounded you. Simply amazing. I can't remember the last track at this time, but it was another live recording that did not disappoint.

Now, I've heard some very nice systems with some tricked out gear, but I can honestly say that I've never heard anything as impressive as these. I'm sure the gear and demo room setup had a lot to do with that as they had a rectangular, fully enclosed room with bass traps in every corner, and acoustic panels placed throughout. Additionally, to get the most out of the L800s, listening position was critical. They had four chairs set up (in bobsled fashion, which was a little awkward) to highlight the listening experience.

I rounded out the evening browsing the various showrooms at HiDef Lifestyle, and ended the night falling one number short of winning the raffle for the L800s! Yes, they raffled off the pair of L800s as well as another raffle for an LG short throw projector.

So, I highly encourage anyone interested in hearing what the new SDAs can do to get yourself to a listening event near you! It will be well worth the time and travel.

L100s:
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L800s:
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Comments

  • Thanks for your listening impressions on the L800s. This looks like an exciting offering from Polk. It appears the setup is similar to that at RMAF in that the speakers are definitely closer together than they are the listener. I'm interested in seeing the owners manual when made available to see if this narrow placement is required for optimal sound. I have a long wall configuration and I feel I may need to spread these too wide in my room.
  • Clipdat
    Clipdat Posts: 10,274
    Great review and photos, thanks for sharing.
  • pglbook
    pglbook Posts: 1,997
    edited September 2019
    Very nice review. I think you are the first person on here (other than Jesse who said he got to hear a brief demo of the L800s) to hear the new speakers in person. I am most interested in the new L800 SDA's but it looks like Polk has a winner with the L100 bookies as well. I cannot wait to hear the L800's myself, especially after your rave review. I know my bank account will be in trouble if the L800s seriously outperform my current SDA 2B TL's. Can you describe how the new SDA's compare to some of the older SDA models? I also agree with you somewhat regarding the aesthetics of the L800s but I have seen pics with the grills on them and, imho, they look great with the grills on. Thanks again for the review. I am very excited for Polk and for all of us Polkies.
  • yakbob
    yakbob Posts: 2
    edited September 2019
    I appreciate the photos as well. The certainly look narrower than the nearly 18" width listed on the site. My 15" sealed subs are 18" wide, and I have a hard time picturing those drivers fitting in that width cabinet. Wonder if the shipping container dimensions are listed on the web site. (?)
    Never mind, I didn't consider the width of the outriggers. Make sense now.
  • vmaxer
    vmaxer Posts: 4,898
    Thanks for the review.
    Pio Elete Pro 520
    Panamax 5400-EX
    Sunfire TGP 5
    Micro Seiki DD-40 - Lyra-Dorian and Denon DL-160
    PS Audio GCPH phono pre
    Sunfire CG 200 X 5
    Sunfire CG Sig 405 X 5
    OPPO BDP-83 SE
    SDA SRS 1.2TL Sonicaps and Mills
    Ctr CS1000p
    Sur - FX1000 x 4
    SUB - SVS PB2-Plus

    Workkout room:
    Sony Bravia XBR- 32-Inch 1080p
    Onkyo TX-DS898
    GFA 555
    Yamaha DVD-S1800BL/SACD
    Ft - SDA 1C

    Not being used:
    RTi 38's -4
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    RT25i's -2, using other 2 in shop
    LSI 15's
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    PSW 404
  • Emlyn
    Emlyn Posts: 3,298
    edited September 2019
    One especially notable thing to me with the L800s is the space they leave around them to demonstrate. Especially the distance from the front wall. The Jamaican Bobsled Team seating arrangement strikes me as pretty cool really.

    Thanks for taking the time to post your thoughts, and the photos.
  • Nice, I see a pair of L200's in my future.

    Thanks for the review.
    2 channel: Anthem 225 Integrated amp; Parasound Ztuner; TechnicsTT SL1350; Vincent PHO-8 phono pre; Marantz CD6005 spinner; Polk SDA2BTL's; LAT International speaker cables, ZU Mission IC's and power cables all into a PS Audio Dectet Power center.

    Other; M10 series II, M7C's, Hafler XL600 amp, RB-980BX, Parasound HCA-1500 amp , P5 preamp, all in storage. All vintage Polk have had crossover rebuilds and tweeter upgrades.

    The best way to predict the future is to invent it.

    It is imperative that we recognize that an opinion is not a fact.

    Imagine making politics your entire personality.
  • dromunds
    dromunds Posts: 9,427
    Thanks for the review.
  • Clipdat
    Clipdat Posts: 10,274
    yakbob wrote: »
    I appreciate the photos as well. The certainly look narrower than the nearly 18" width listed on the site. My 15" sealed subs are 18" wide, and I have a hard time picturing those drivers fitting in that width cabinet. Wonder if the shipping container dimensions are listed on the web site. (?)
    Never mind, I didn't consider the width of the outriggers. Make sense now.

    The woofers in the L800 are 10".
  • JayCee
    JayCee Posts: 1,283
    Lucky you!...would've been sweet if one of our own had won the 800's. Nice review and appreciate your time to do so.

    I've always said the only thing that would make me consider getting rid of my SDA's...is a better SDA. Really look forward to my first listen and the demo round Jesse's heading up w/the bookies.
    Speakers: Polk1.2tl's (Uber Mods) Pre/Amp/DAC: PS Audio BHK Signature & 250, DirectStream Cables/IC's: MIT S1Bi-Wire/S1 Balanced +Avel Lindberg 1000VA "Dreadnought" Power Conditioner: PS Audio P15 Power Plant Power Cords: Core Power Technologies Gold, DH Labs Power Plus DIY w/Neotech NC-P301 & P311ends Streamer: Roon ROCK on wifi'd NUC & Uptone EtherREGEN, AfterDark, Emperor Double Crown Clock, Black Modernize LPS⟿Ω☯☥☮⟿🔊♩♪♫♬♩♪♫♬♩♪♫♬
  • rooftop59
    rooftop59 Posts: 7,319
    Great review Al! I am very excited to demo the L200s and compare them to my current bookies!
    Living Room 2.1: Usher BE-718 "tiny dancers"; Dual DIY Dayton audio RSS210HF-4 Subs with Dayton SPA-250 amps; Musical Fidelity A308; NAD M51 DAC; Sony UBP-x1000es; Squeezebox Touch with Bolder Power Supply
    Game Room HT: Denon AVR-X4200w; Sony UBP-x700; Definitive Technology Power Monitor 700 x3; Definitive Technology StudioMonitor 350; Definitive Technology ProMonitor 800; Sub - HSU VTF-2 MK5
    Master Bedroom
    Cambridge Azur 551r; Polk RT25i; ACI Titan Subwoofer
  • scubalab
    scubalab Posts: 3,030
    pglbook wrote: »
    Can you describe how the new SDA's compare to some of the older SDA models?

    I don't have much experience with a lot of the older SDA models. However, I have met some members here and had the privilege of hearing their systems in the past. These were some pretty high end setups with significantly modded speakers (1.2TLs and 2.3TLs) being driven by some end game gear and cables. Each sounded about as good as I have ever heard in their respective rooms. I was in awe each time I heard these setups. Now, I strongly believe the 'ideal' demo room setup as well as the selected tracks played a major role in how good the L800s sounded, but to me, the imaging on the L800s was the best. So, it's hard to say whether these sounded better per se, but they were certainly more precise than others I've heard in the past. Would they sound as good in a 'non-ideal' room? Maybe not. So, would I be running out to replace highly modded vintage SDAs with these? It's hard to tell. How well they compare in-home would be the deciding factor.
  • scubalab
    scubalab Posts: 3,030
    JayCee wrote: »
    ...would've been sweet if one of our own had won the 800's.

    I know, right?!?

    I even wore an old Polk Fest shirt I had from a charity sale (for a member) I think Jesse had several years ago... thought it might buy me some brownie points! ;) It didn't, but it was a nice conversation starter!
  • scubalab
    scubalab Posts: 3,030
    Emlyn wrote: »
    One especially notable thing to me with the L800s is the space they leave around them to demonstrate. Especially the distance from the front wall. The Jamaican Bobsled Team seating arrangement strikes me as pretty cool really.

    Thanks for taking the time to post your thoughts, and the photos.

    I did ask Scott if they needed to be that far from the front wall. He said no. They had them pulled out because he felt the bass was slightly overpowering with them closer to the front wall in that room.
  • nooshinjohn
    nooshinjohn Posts: 23,211
    That’s going to be a deciding factor for me. There is an enormous amount of satisfaction that comes from restoring a set of these speakers and surpassing their original capabilities. It’s almost as if you had a hand in building and designing them yourself.

    The new ones have a tall order to fill, but if they can do it, I’m game. It just means finding a new home for a pair of 1.2TL’s with a fellow Polkie that will appreciate the work.

    The Gear... Carver "Statement" Mono-blocks, Arcam AVR30, Oppo UDP-205 4K Blu-ray player, Sony XBR70x850B 4k, Polk Audio Legend L800 with height modules Polk audio AB800 "in-wall" surrounds.

    In retirement...TriangleArt Reference SE with Pass Labs Xono Phono Preamp, Walker Precision Motor Drive, ClearAudio Goldfinger Statement V2 cartridge and Origin Conqueror Mk3c tonearm, Pass Labs X0.2 three chassis preamp, PS Audio PerfectWave DAC MkII,

    “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered…History has stopped. Nothing exists except the endless present in which the party is always right” — George Orwell

    “If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”
  • scubalab
    scubalab Posts: 3,030
    Dammit John... you're too far away for me to consider your 1.2TL's! Although, I certainly don't have the gear to even come close to what you're driving them with! Yours was one of the best systems I'd ever heard. My daughter and I enjoyed hanging with you for the unfortunately short time we had when we stopped by this summer! Hope you all are doing well.

    Hopefully they have a listening event or a dealer close to you so you can get your ears on these soon.
  • verb
    verb Posts: 10,002
    scubalab wrote: »
    Dammit John... you're too far away for me to consider your 1.2TL's! Although, I certainly don't have the gear to even come close to what you're driving them with! Yours was one of the best systems I'd ever heard. My daughter and I enjoyed hanging with you for the unfortunately short time we had when we stopped by this summer! Hope you all are doing well.

    Hopefully they have a listening event or a dealer close to you so you can get your ears on these soon.

    I've been struggling with that as well! :)

    BTW great review! Thank you!
    Basement: Polk SDA SRS 1.2tl's, Cary SLP-05 Pre with ultimate upgrade,McIntosh MCD301 CD/SACD player, Northstar Designs Excelsio DAC, Cambridge 851N streamer, McIntosh MC300 Amp, Silnote Morpheus Ref2, Series2 Digital Cables, Silnote Morpheus Ref2 Series2 XLR's, Furman 15PFi Power Conditioner, Pangea Power Cables, MIT Shotgun S3 IC's, MIT Shotgun S1 Bi-Wire speaker cables
    Office: PC, EAR Acute CD Player, EAR 834L Pre, Northstar Designs Intenso DAC, Antique Sound Labs AV8 Monoblocks, Denon UDR-F10 Cassette, Acoustic Technologies Classic FR Speakers, SVS SB12 Plus sub, MIT AVt2 speaker cables, IFI Purifier2, AQ Cinnamon USB cable, Groneberg Quatro Reference IC's
    Spare Room: Dayens Ampino Integrated Amp, Tjoeb 99 tube CD player (modified Marantz CD-38), Analysis Plus Oval 9's, Zu Jumpers, AudioEngine B1 Streamer, Klipsch RB-61 v2, SVS PB1000 sub, Blue Jeans RCA IC's, Shunyata Hydra 8 Power Conditioner
    Living Room: Peachtree Nova Integrated, Cambridge CXN v2 Streamer, Rotel RCD-1072 CD player, Furman 15PFi Power Conditioner, Polk RT265 In Wall Speakers, Polk DSW Pro 660wi sub
    Garage #1: Cambridge Audio 640A Integrated Amp, Project Box-E BT Streamer, Polk Tsi200 Bookies, Douglas Speaker Cables, Shunyata Power Conditioner
    Garage #2: Cambridge Audio EVO150 Integrated Amplifier, Polk L200's, Analysis Plus Silver Oval 2 Speaker Cables, IC's TBD.
  • nooshinjohn
    nooshinjohn Posts: 23,211
    scubalab wrote: »
    Dammit John... you're too far away for me to consider your 1.2TL's! Although, I certainly don't have the gear to even come close to what you're driving them with! Yours was one of the best systems I'd ever heard. My daughter and I enjoyed hanging with you for the unfortunately short time we had when we stopped by this summer! Hope you all are doing well.

    Hopefully they have a listening event or a dealer close to you so you can get your ears on these soon.
    Mine are worth the drive, and the crossover covers are priceless...
    The Gear... Carver "Statement" Mono-blocks, Arcam AVR30, Oppo UDP-205 4K Blu-ray player, Sony XBR70x850B 4k, Polk Audio Legend L800 with height modules Polk audio AB800 "in-wall" surrounds.

    In retirement...TriangleArt Reference SE with Pass Labs Xono Phono Preamp, Walker Precision Motor Drive, ClearAudio Goldfinger Statement V2 cartridge and Origin Conqueror Mk3c tonearm, Pass Labs X0.2 three chassis preamp, PS Audio PerfectWave DAC MkII,

    “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered…History has stopped. Nothing exists except the endless present in which the party is always right” — George Orwell

    “If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”
  • pglbook
    pglbook Posts: 1,997
    scubalab wrote: »
    pglbook wrote: »
    Can you describe how the new SDA's compare to some of the older SDA models?

    I don't have much experience with a lot of the older SDA models. However, I have met some members here and had the privilege of hearing their systems in the past. These were some pretty high end setups with significantly modded speakers (1.2TLs and 2.3TLs) being driven by some end game gear and cables. Each sounded about as good as I have ever heard in their respective rooms. I was in awe each time I heard these setups. Now, I strongly believe the 'ideal' demo room setup as well as the selected tracks played a major role in how good the L800s sounded, but to me, the imaging on the L800s was the best. So, it's hard to say whether these sounded better per se, but they were certainly more precise than others I've heard in the past. Would they sound as good in a 'non-ideal' room? Maybe not. So, would I be running out to replace highly modded vintage SDAs with these? It's hard to tell. How well they compare in-home would be the deciding factor.

    Well said. Thanks. I appreciate it.
  • Emlyn
    Emlyn Posts: 3,298
    scubalab wrote: »
    Emlyn wrote: »
    One especially notable thing to me with the L800s is the space they leave around them to demonstrate. Especially the distance from the front wall. The Jamaican Bobsled Team seating arrangement strikes me as pretty cool really.

    Thanks for taking the time to post your thoughts, and the photos.

    I did ask Scott if they needed to be that far from the front wall. He said no. They had them pulled out because he felt the bass was slightly overpowering with them closer to the front wall in that room.

    Thanks. That's really good information to know if someone was thinking about having a direct replacement for a pair of vintage SDAs. They may or may not sound best close to a wall. In my case, my two channel system has a pair of front ported speakers that don't have much of a problem with only being a couple feet off the front wall. A pair of L800s may fit better in my home theater system because of the room shapes.

  • aprazer402
    aprazer402 Posts: 2,469
    Nice review, great photos, thank you! Impressed with the raffle of the L800's, classy. I would like to listen to all of them too. Hope NFM in Omaha decides to have an event. I was probably the only one that used a scanner on a cell. phone to check the bar code on the wall behind the speakers in the photo. :/
  • VR3
    VR3 Posts: 25,105
    Any word on Amp limitations
    - Not Tom

    "No, that's silly talk. Dude, you can't possibly be this audio dumb so quit the act." - Doro
  • wonderful review. Can't wait to hear them myself.
  • vcwatkins
    vcwatkins Posts: 1,988
    Excellent review Scuba. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

    This is fantastic. So glad the bookies’ sound is worth the price and that Polk may open some minds on SDA and get recognition for some very cool engineering. But I hate that I’ve got to get rid of so much gear to get the L800’s, hehe.
    Beach Study: Roon * ProJect Stream Box Ultra & Pre Box S2 * Pass ACA * DH Labs SS Q10 * Brines Folded ML-TQWT RS 40-1354
    Town Study: ElekitTU-8600S * Zu Omen DW * MIT S3
    Audio: Schiit Yggy * Belles 20a * Pass Aleph 30 * Polk SRS 2.3tl * PSAudio PP3 * MIT S3
    Beach Den: Dayens Menuetto * KEF LS50/Dynaudio Audience 30/Usher V-601
    Town Den: PS Audio DirectStream Jr. * Joule-Electra LA-100mkiii * Schiit Aegir/Pass F5 Clone * Polk SRS 1.2 * PSA Dectet * MIT S3
  • scubalab
    scubalab Posts: 3,030
    Trey - I did ask both Bronson and Scott if the new SDAs needed a common growing amp like the old SDAs or if they could be driven by monoblocks or non-common ground amps. Bronson wasn’t sure, but Scott did say they could be used with monoblocks. I think some others here also confirmed that when they got the advanced preview too.
  • verb
    verb Posts: 10,002
    scubalab wrote: »
    Trey - I did ask both Bronson and Scott if the new SDAs needed a common growing amp like the old SDAs or if they could be driven by monoblocks or non-common ground amps. Bronson wasn’t sure, but Scott did say they could be used with monoblocks. I think some others here also confirmed that when they got the advanced preview too.

    Yeah! :)
    Basement: Polk SDA SRS 1.2tl's, Cary SLP-05 Pre with ultimate upgrade,McIntosh MCD301 CD/SACD player, Northstar Designs Excelsio DAC, Cambridge 851N streamer, McIntosh MC300 Amp, Silnote Morpheus Ref2, Series2 Digital Cables, Silnote Morpheus Ref2 Series2 XLR's, Furman 15PFi Power Conditioner, Pangea Power Cables, MIT Shotgun S3 IC's, MIT Shotgun S1 Bi-Wire speaker cables
    Office: PC, EAR Acute CD Player, EAR 834L Pre, Northstar Designs Intenso DAC, Antique Sound Labs AV8 Monoblocks, Denon UDR-F10 Cassette, Acoustic Technologies Classic FR Speakers, SVS SB12 Plus sub, MIT AVt2 speaker cables, IFI Purifier2, AQ Cinnamon USB cable, Groneberg Quatro Reference IC's
    Spare Room: Dayens Ampino Integrated Amp, Tjoeb 99 tube CD player (modified Marantz CD-38), Analysis Plus Oval 9's, Zu Jumpers, AudioEngine B1 Streamer, Klipsch RB-61 v2, SVS PB1000 sub, Blue Jeans RCA IC's, Shunyata Hydra 8 Power Conditioner
    Living Room: Peachtree Nova Integrated, Cambridge CXN v2 Streamer, Rotel RCD-1072 CD player, Furman 15PFi Power Conditioner, Polk RT265 In Wall Speakers, Polk DSW Pro 660wi sub
    Garage #1: Cambridge Audio 640A Integrated Amp, Project Box-E BT Streamer, Polk Tsi200 Bookies, Douglas Speaker Cables, Shunyata Power Conditioner
    Garage #2: Cambridge Audio EVO150 Integrated Amplifier, Polk L200's, Analysis Plus Silver Oval 2 Speaker Cables, IC's TBD.
  • Thanks again for sharing your thoughts about the new L800's, especially when comparing them to your experiences with the Originals.

    One of the aspects of the L800 that has me very interested, is they don't have to be in close proximity to the front wall. Being able to pull them out into the room should deepen the Sound Stage significantly, compared to the Original.

    SDA SRS 2.3TL's/SDA SRS 3.1TL's/SDA CRS+4.1TL's and some other stuff
  • gce
    gce Posts: 2,158
    Great review! I wonder what a head to head with a LSiM703 and L200 would sound like.
    Anaheim Hills CA,
    HT 5.1: Anthem MRX 720 / BDP-Denon DBT1713UD / Polkaudio LSiM703 / W4S mAmp's / Polkaudio LSiM706c / Polkaudio LSiM702F/X's / SVS PC12-NSD / Panasonic TC P55VT30

    2 Channel: Rogue RP-5 / WireWorld Electra power cord / Marantz TT-15S1/ Ortofon - Quintet Black MC / Marantz NA8005 DAC / W4S mAmp's / Synology DS 216+ll-4TB / Polkaudio LSiM703
  • I am really excited about the L200's. These will be my Christmas present to myself.
    2 channel: Anthem 225 Integrated amp; Parasound Ztuner; TechnicsTT SL1350; Vincent PHO-8 phono pre; Marantz CD6005 spinner; Polk SDA2BTL's; LAT International speaker cables, ZU Mission IC's and power cables all into a PS Audio Dectet Power center.

    Other; M10 series II, M7C's, Hafler XL600 amp, RB-980BX, Parasound HCA-1500 amp , P5 preamp, all in storage. All vintage Polk have had crossover rebuilds and tweeter upgrades.

    The best way to predict the future is to invent it.

    It is imperative that we recognize that an opinion is not a fact.

    Imagine making politics your entire personality.