SMR logoPolk Audio RT3000 Review

Polk Audio's RT3000 enters the market somewhere between the highly regarded RT2000 and the flagship SRT system. John R. Potis discovers that bridging the gap between powerful home theatre performance and startling yet clean music reproduction doesn't require a crack team of Royal Marines with a pontoon.

Many thanks go to Mr. Paul DiComo for his help and for providing the review sample.

Polk Audio RT3000P Specifications
Driver Complement:
2 - 8" (20cm) Dynamic Balance® sub-woofers;
2 - 6 ½"(16.5cm) Dynamic Balance mid/bass driver (shielded);
1 - 1"(2.5cm) Dynamic Balance tri-laminate dome tweeter (shielded);
Overall Frequency Response: 18Hz - 26kHz
-3dB Limits: 26Hz - 25kHz
Crossover Topology/Specifications:
Mid/high module: driver #1 (bottom) 2nd order LPF @ 1.2kHz;
driver #2 (upper, near tweeter) 2nd order LPF @ 2kHz
80Hz 2nd order electrical HPF on both drivers
STweeter HPF 2nd order @ 2kHz
Mylar film capacitors and air core inductors used throughout
Sub-woofer: 4th order Butterworth LPF, variable 60Hz - 120Hz
Impedance: compatible with 8 ohm outputs, 4 ohm minimum
Recommended Amplification: 20 - 500 watts/channel
Efficiency (1M, 1watt): 92dB
Sub-woofer Amplifier Power: 300 watts per channel
Available Finishes: black or rosewood finish wood veneer
Cabinet Dimensions: 50"H × 10"W × 17"D (127cm × 25.4cm × 43.2cm)
Base Dimensions: 11"W × 18 1/2"D (27.9cm × 47cm)
Satellite Weight: 26 lbs each (11.81kg)
Sub-woofer Weight: 50 lbs each (22.72kg)
MSRP: $3600
(All specifications as per manufacturer)

Polk Audio RT3000 Speaker System

 

Polk Audio RT3000P Loudspeaker Write enough words and I guess it's inevitable that one day you are going to have to eat some of them. That time has come for me. In my Polk RT2000 review I concluded: " On music I would rate it way above average and on video I would give it an A (I have to reserve the A+ for Polk's much more expensive SRT system!)" Clearly, I was impressed with the speaker, but I was also somewhat short-sighted. It never occurred to me that Polk would come out with something to bridge the gap between the SRT and the RT2000. Well, they did, and it's an excellent speaker. So, that crunching sound you hear in the background is the sound of me dining on my own verbiage.

In that review I also hinted that the RT2000 may signal a new direction for Polk speakers (I was at least smart enough to hedge that bet!) I do believe I got that one right, as the RT3000 is further evidence of a new line and a new age for Polk.

General Description

The RT3000 system is comprised of four pieces, two sub-woofers and two satellites. To my mind, this automatically gives them a leg up on the competition. Small speakers, with their compact and inherently sturdier enclosures, are usually more free from panel resonance and seem to be less colored than their larger brethren. Unless they are heavily braced or are built from VERY thick or acoustically dead materials, all of which dramatically increase cost of manufacture, the larger panels tend to flex and resonate. This is one of the reasons that, within budget, I've always seemed to lean toward sub/sat systems. Midrange coloration can be astonishingly low, even in budget- priced speakers. The Polks under review are no exception.

The other two pieces of the RT3000 are the sub-woofers. One may be placed under each satellite or, if circumstances dictate, they can be separated, the subs being placed where they look/fit/sound the best. Likewise the smaller satellites can be positioned for best performance. This makes for a rather flexible system. But the flexibility does not end there. These subs are sub-woofers in every sense of the word. Each has an integral 300-watt amplifier with all the attendant controls and varieties of inputs.

For the purposes of this review, the satellites were placed on top of the sub-woofers.

Polk Audio RT3000P Loudspeaker Setup and Listening...

I found the speakers very easy to set up for good sound, but some tweaking of position paid off in spades, as it often does. I wound up with a spacing wider than I would have expected, which provided me with a wide soundstage with solid center fill and nicely delineated images. Tonal balance was best, I found, with a good bit of toe-in. With this setup, lateral imaging was absolutely first class. I was treated to a wide soundstage extending well beyond the positions of the speakers. Depth of image was very good and got even better once the hard reflection was removed from the wall behind and between the speakers (I opened the window!) Lateral specificity was very good too.

Tonal balance was on the warm side of neutral. On instrumentals, the sound was always exceptionally pleasing with never a hint of grain, grit or glare. GRP's "Live In Session" CD (GRPD-9532) sounded fast, punchy, articulate and thoroughly enjoyable. Dave Grusin's piano was well balanced with excellent timbre and Abe Laboriel's bass lines were fluid, powerful and focused. The drums on "Rit Variations" sounded wonderful with a great combination of transient punch and power. On female vocals, however, I sometimes wished for a bit more upper midrange energy. Sometimes the sound seemed just a touch opaque or veiled, but this was very recording- dependent; not all recordings or types of music came through the same way. While Sarah McLachlan sounded a little distant, Cindy Lauper and Jennifer Warnes sounded very nice. Video soundtracks were never bright, brittle or shrill.

Treble was unexpectedly good, given my experience with the RT2000. While the RT3000 uses the same tweeter as the RT2000, I found it to integrate better with the midrange. I was not bothered by the same dryness that was my main reservation with the RT2000. Instead, I found the treble to be very smooth and well balanced with no trace of etching and with a good amount of air. When the delicacy of the treble and overall detail of the RT3000 couldn't quite keep up with the thrice-the-price Genesis Technologies APM1, I decided that a comparison with a speaker a little closer to the price of the Polks was in order.

Comparing....

Polk Audio RT3000P High Frequency Section I pulled out the NHT 2.9s and hooked them up. It was obvious that the Polk shared more in common with the $9,500 Genesis APM1 than it did with the $2,500 NHT. In comparison to the warmer Polks, the APMs were exceptionally neutral and a little cool sounding. The NHTs were on the opposite side of the neutrality line, sounding a little cooler still. Where the Polks were a little reticent in the upper midrange, the NHTs went in the other direction, sounding more energetic and brighter. Personal preference will depend on your tastes, your room, and your selection of music and, inasmuch as there is so much variation in these areas, I won't call either wrong. Listen to both if you can and see which sounds more right for you.

Bass was the other area where the two speakers diverged. While the NHT's bass was exceptionally tight and articulate, the Polk's bass had more bloom and was not quite as taught. Again, listen for yourself and see which you like. Given the Polk's powered sub-woofer section, which takes the bass load off your amp, it can be driven with a much smaller amplifier without compromising bass or dynamics. In fact, I got exceedingly good sound with the Conrad Johnson CAV50, a 45-watt tubed integrated amp. So, while the NHT is capable of taut and articulate bass, you will need a pretty hefty amp in order to drive them this well. Once I got the Polks into the video system (see RT5000 review coming soon) I was extremely impressed with the power and authority of the bass. With a 60-watt Adcom GFA 535 amp driving them, I got very powerful video performance, much more so than I could get with any passive speaker system I know of. With 300 watts built into each speaker pushing two 8-inch drivers, which provide the same radiating surface as a 12-inch woofer, these RT3000s can shake the walls with little coaxing! You gotta hear them with your favorite bombastic video soundtrack!

Imaging was very good with both speakers but I got a bit more lateral spread with the Polks, which could be placed further apart than the NHTs. On video, this was a real boon. With the speakers flanking the video screen I was almost driven to distraction by panning effects. As an image panned from screen center off stage, I was sometimes flabbergasted by the sonic image as it traveled off screen. Very convincing. I would rate the imaging as one of their greatest attributes for sure.

And more listening....

Polk Audio RT3000P Low Frequency Section The Soundtrack to "Braveheart", (London 448 295-2) was awesome on the Polk RT3000. Wide and deep sound staging, and beautifully neutral reproduction of the London Symphony, punctuated by deep and powerful percussion. The "Battle of Stirling" must be heard on a system with similar bass capabilities in order to fully appreciate the roar of battle.

One need not listen to classical to appreciate the RT3000s, though. Smash Mouth's "Fush Yu Mang" (INTD-90142) was a lot of fun on the Polks. The speaker's bass capabilities along with its penchant for rhythm made "The Fonz" a really fun track, while the midrange clarity and the smooth and spacious treble gave a serious amount of ambiance and perceived space to "Walkin On The Sun." Additionally, speech intelligibility was a notch better on the Polks than on a lot of speakers I've used.

On the aforementioned Sarah McLachlan's "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy (Arista 18725-2), the noted somewhat dark nature of her vocals was accompanied by the extremely natural-sounding solo guitar work on the tracks "Ice" and "Hold On". The second half of the title cut, which is actually a simpler version of "Possession" with solo voice and piano accompaniment, was particularly elegant in its simplicity over the Polks. The piano was very nicely balanced and there was excellent sense of acoustic space. Very nice.

Conclusion:

What....you really need a conclusion?? Are you serious? Did you skip the body of the review and jump down here or do I have to beat you over the head with a pair of wet interconnects?? OK, OK. If I haven't made myself sufficiently clear, I'll sum it up for you here. [Deep breath] With surprising bass performance that will rock your world, a clear and musical midrange, a smooth, clean, completely unfatiguing treble, all coupled with superior imaging and sound staging in a speaker that is made to be driven to the extreme with modest amplifiers, the RT3000 is on my hot list. [Whew!] If you are planning a video system, make damned sure you check these bad boys out. If you are planning a music only system, ditto. If you are planning a combination audio/video system, these speakers are the ones that may just let you have your cake and eat it too. Speaking of eating, let's see what the future brings and if Polk can make me eat these words!

Good luck and listening,

© 1998.

 

More information about Polk Audio loudspeakers can be found at the Official Polk Audio Web Site.

Text © John R. Potis Jr.; HTML © SMR Home Theatre and Images © John R. Potis & SMR Home Theatre cannot be reproduced without permission.

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Last updated 06 August, 1998

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