SMR logoPolk Audio RT5000 Loudspeaker System

Polk Audio have assembled a home theatre loudspeaker package which has the potential to raise the roof of your home, but can it do so in a controlled and uncoloured way?  John R. Potis Jr., our resident Polk expert, unleashes the power of the RT5000 system on his unsuspecting ears.

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

Polk RT5000 Complete Home Theater Speaker System
(RT3000 See Review)

CS1000p Center Channel Speaker Specifications

Driver Complement:
2 × 6½" (16.½cm) Dynamic Balance Subwoofers (shielded)
2 × 6½" (16.½cm) Dynamic Balance mid/bass drivers (shielded)
1 × 1"(2.½cm) Dynamic Balance Tri-laminate dome tweeter (shielded)

Overall Frequency Response:
30H z - 26kHz  -3dB Limits: 45Hz - 25kHz
Crossover Topology/ Specifications
Mid/high module: driver #1 2nd order LPF @ 800Hz; driver #2 2nd order LPF @ 2kHz.
150Hz 2nd order electrical HPF on both drivers.
Tweeter HPF 2nd order @ 2kHz. Mylar film capacitors used throughout.
Sub-woofers: 2nd order Butterworth LPF, fixed 150Hz

Impedance: compatible with 8 ohm outputs
Recommended Amplification: 20 - 250 watts/channel
Efficiency (1M, 1Watt): 92dB
Sub-woofer Amp Power: 100 watts
Available Finishes: black or rosewood finish wood veneer
Cabinet Dimensions: 34"W × 8 5/8"H × 14"D (86.4cm W × 21.9cm H × 35.6cm D)
MSRP $1,200

f/x1000 Bi/Dipole Switchable Surround Speaker Specifications

Driver Complement:
× 6½"(16½cm) Dynamic Balance mid/bass drivers
× 1"(2½cm) Dynamic Balance Tri-laminate dome tweeter

Overall Frequency Response:
40Hz 26kHz -3dB Limits: 50Hz 25kHz
Crossover Topology/ Specifications:
2nd order LPF @ 2kHz
2nd order HPF @ 2kHz. Mylar film capacitors used throughout.

Impedance: compatible with 8 ohm outputs
Recommended Amplification: 20 -250
Efficiency (1M, 1Watt): 90dB
Available Finishes: black, white or rosewood finish wood veneer
Cabinet Dimensions: 11¼"W × 19 13/16"H × 9¾"D includes depth of wall mount brackets. (28.6cm W × 50.3cm H × 24.8cm D)
MSRP $1,200/pr

(All specifications as per manufacturer)

Polk Audio RT5000 Complete Home Theatre 'Speaker System


General Description

Polk CS1000pContrary to my initial impression, the Polk RT5000 is not a pair of speakers.   Rather it is a complete speaker system for the home theater.  Designed from the ground up to be seemless, the RT5000 uses speakers in different configurations (depending on their purpose) but using the exact same drivers throughout.  The theory being that using the same drivers insures a completely timbre matched system.  This is one place where theory meets reality.

Comprising the RT5000 system are a pair of RT3000p speakers for front right and left duties, a CS1000p center channel speaker and a pair of their new f/x1000 surround speakers.

See my RT3000p review for a full discussion of their capabilities, but Ill give you a hint here, they are a superb pair of speakers and a fantastic selection for a combination audio/video system.

Polk F/X1000The CS1000p is the first center channel speaker I know of to incorporate a powered sub-woofer (two- 6½ inch woofers and a dedicated 100-watt amp) to handle the duties of bass in the all important center channel speaker.  Given the nature of movie soundtracks and the fact that such a large percentage of sonic action takes place in the center channel, this is an idea whose time has come. Midrange is handled by two of Polks 6½ inch "Dynamic Balanced Drivers", the same ones Polk uses in all the other speakers in the system.  The tweeter is Polks own  1inch "Tri-laminate" dome- another proprietary design.  A new engineering twist (to my knowledge anyway) was Polks decision to vary the midrange crossover points.  Polk says that this eliminates comb-filtering effects that so often afflict low profile center channel speakers - thus insuring superior off-axis performance.  The energizing of both the sub-woofer sections on the RT3000p and CS1000 are accomplished with the flick of a toggle switch.  One direction for "on", another for "off", yet still another position for "auto-off".  This last position turns the amplifier off if no signal is present for some time and turns it back on when it detects a signal again.  This system worked flawlessly for me, so well in fact, that I cant even tell you how long it takes for them to turn off.

The f/x1000 surround speakers (also a new design) proved to be spectacular performers.  For enveloping and non-localizable surround effects, the f/x1000 features two 2-way speaker systems mounted on opposing baffles set at a 45º angle. Again, the same tweeter and mid/woofers are used throughout the system.   A front mounted control allows the speakers to be switched between bipolar or dipolar operation- depending on ones needs or positioning requirements.  Polk recommends dipolar when the speakers are placed to the sides of the listener, bipolar when placed to the rear of the room.

Initial Impressions

My Initial impression was that this was one hell of system!  The very first thing (of many) that impressed me came while watching "True Lies".  The scene where Arnolds daughter is out on the construction scaffold trying to keep the key to the bomb away from the "Psycho".  When the Harrier Jet came into the scene from under the action, for the first time what I heard actually sounded as I assume a Harrier would (truth be told- Ive never heard a Harrier, but you get my drift!)  The f/x 1000s continued to impress on "LA Confidential."  The shoot-out in the old house near the end of the movie proved particularly spectacular.  Its one of the best uses of Dolby Digital" Ive found and I was totally immersed in the action.  Bullets literally whizzing by me, foot falls running around me- it was really impressive.   The bass from the shotgun blasts was quite literally, kicking at my sofa&from the side!

L.A. Confidential"Independence Day" proved to be another opportunity for the f/x1000s to show off.  In particular- the chess scene in the park.  It was the realistic sound of the wind blowing through the bushes and trees that caught my attention this time.  I could almost feel it!  It really transported me to that park and that opening scene showing the plaque left behind on the moon?  The bass rumble, as the alien ship passed over-head, needs to be heard on the RT5000 system to be believed.  It could be played back at absolutely uncomfortable levels with no hint of strain (from the system, not me!)

Switching the fx/1000s from bipole to dipole did not bring about changes as dramatic as I expected in my room.  Partly to blame (credit?) may be the fact that the speakers needed to be mounted a touch father back then usual due to their size- in order to clear a doorway.  This made them a bit more directional even in dipolar mode due to the early reflection from the rear wall.  One scene where I found dipolar operation clearly superior to bipolar was another excerpt from "Independence Day" in which the alien mothership first casts its shadow over New York City.   The music track had a localizable character and I could hear it distinctly on both sides of me using the bipole setting.  Switching to dipole made the music much more enveloping.  My advice is to do a considerable amount of experimentation in your home before settling on a setting.  One thing is for sure: in my imperfect circumstance, surround effects still sounded wonderful.

Are you noticing that I seem more preoccupied with what was going on behind me than with what is in front of me with the RT5000 system?  It seems that way to me too!  But the fact is that the RT3000ps and the CS1000 were more than holding up their part of the bargain.  The f/x 1000s were enabling me to hear things I have never heard before.  The shooting of the Coke can from "Independence Day" being one instance.  After taking the bullet, that Coke can did so much bouncing around that it literally had me looking behind me for it.  Yes, thats behind me.  Have you ever had the experience that a sound effect was placed where you know that it couldnt possibly have been?  You back up the movie to hear it again and its not where you heard it the first time.   Initially, you are so caught up in the action that the video and the audio can work together to pull this off.  When you back it up again, the brain is less distracted by what its seeing, and it doesnt work this time.  Well, prepare for this to happen to you with the RT5000.  You will get lost in the performance, you will suspend belief and you will have a great time!

Polk F/X1000In my RT3000p review, I talked about panning effects and the speakers very wide soundstage.  Say what you want about the movie "Batman and Robin"- the fact is that it has a very interesting soundtrack with complicated and varying surround sound effects.  Its a great demo disc for the audio portion of your system.  The scene where Bruce announces to Dick that Alfred is sick is interesting because he says if from off stage right.  On the RT5000 system you hear it off stage right.  I mean, way off stage right!  It sounded as if he was speaking from my next room.  Prepare to be driven to distraction the first several times this happens.  Its wild!

What is a Theater System Without Bass?

Not the same, thats what.  Ill bet I dont have to tell you, bass adds a lot to the experience.  Bass was another area where the RT5000 system was unshakable.  On paper the sub-woofer section of the CS1000 center channel speaker doesnt seem to go down all that low (-3dB at 45Hz), but let me set you straight.  To test it out, I turned the woofer sections of the RT3000p off and directed all the bass to the center channel speaker.  Believe it or not, it still sounded great.  All by itself, the CS1000 produced enough bass to support the rest of the system.  Of course, if you read the RT3000p review, you know that it doesnt have to work alone here, the Polks possess awesome bass power.   The combination of the front three speakers could produce a larger quantity of bass than I could comfortably stand.  Quality was excellent too.

Getting Hooked Up

Polk RT3000While Im on the topic of bass performance, Id like to talk about the sub-woofer hook-up options of the RT3000 with regard to a Dolby Digital system.  You have several options.  First option is the old fashioned way: to use speaker leads to the front right and left speakers.  You set your processor to "large" speakers and turn the LFE output on your processor to "off."  This will direct the bass from both right and left channels to the speakers woofer sections as well as anything that would have been destined for the LFE sub-woofer.

The second option is to use your speaker wires to feed the top portion of the speakers only (set processor to "small"), and disconnect the upper modules of the RT3000ps from the sub-woofer sections.  Now you feed the sub-woofers in one of two ways.  You can "daisy chain" the subs from the LFE output on your processor.  You wire one sub to the processor, then wire the second sub-woofer to the first sub-woofer via a long RCA interconnect cable or you can use two interconnects, each  from the LFE output on the processor directly to the sub-woofer sections using a "Y" connector, if need be.  Another alternative, and this is what I did, is to run a long interconnect around one side of the room to the left speaker.  I terminated that interconnect with a "Y" adapter and used one short interconnect to the left speaker and a longer one across the front wall to the right speaker.  I found this last method to sound better than using the daisy chain but I didnt find it to be the best method in all cases.

Batman and RobinWhile I had the RT5000 system, I made several changes to the audio portion of my video system.  I used a pre-amp/processor for a while, then switched to a receiver, then to another receiver, then settled on a processor/integrated amp (Yamaha DSP-A1). With all of this shuffling around of equipment, I noticed that things changed as I changed units.  The same set-ups on the speakers didnt give me the same results with different machines.  Specifically, I found that the level of output from the LFE channel relative to the output from the speaker outputs changed.  With one receiver, I had to crank up the volume on the Polks sub-woofers almost to their maximum just to get the same results.  With my original processor, I was sure that using the LFE outputs to the bass modules of the RT3000s was the best sounding way to go.   With two of the receivers, I felt running them full range from a speaker level input was the best way to go.  As I received the DSP-A1 late in the review process, I settled on using the speaker level feeds and didnt experiment any further.

The moral of my little story is that things are not as standardized among makers of electronics as we would like and I highly suggest that you try both methods and see what sounds/works best for you.  Certainly connecting up with only speaker wires worked very well in all cases and was the easiest way to get the job done.

Getting back to the action, in the movie "Stargate", when Spader enters the missile silo for his first meeting with the "brass", the sound of the bass rumble within that silo was something to hear (how do they work in that environment?)  And when they initially fired up the Stargate, the bass had everything in the house quaking.  It sounded great and sounded loud!  This is one of the loudest scenes I know and it was loud enough to shut down one of the receivers I had through here (when they spec a receiver "all channels driven", dont always believe it!) but it was always clean as a whistle through the Polks.  Something else that I had never previously noticed is that throughout "Batman and Robin", there are foot-stomps galore.  Lots of bass- rich foot-stomps, compliments of Mr. Freeze.  These never sounded bloated or soft, but were quite powerful, well-defined and short-lived bass transients.  Pretty cool!

Front and Center

Polk CS1000pJumping back to the front of the room, I now feel that Ive short-changed the CS1000 thus far in this review.  I dont want to do that, but the fact is that while what it does is pretty spectacular upon close inspection, it never draws attention to itself in normal operation.  Ive already mentioned the bass performance, which was great and is an excellent addition to any system, but one may overlook the CS1000s contribution to system bass performance and attribute it to the RT3000s.  Dont.  It makes a great contribution.   Bass aside, midrange articulation was outstanding, vocals were sharp and clear and tonal balance excellent.  The CS1000 was clearly up to any dynamic challenge it faced.  It was also a very honest speaker.  If you cue up to one of Mr. Freezes scenes within "Batman and Robin" you may think that there are problems with the dialog channel.  He sounds as if hes speaking from the bottom of an aluminum trash can!  But soon enough you will hear that this is only a characteristic of his voice, everybody else sounds natural as can be.  Honestly, Ive never noticed before how obnoxious his voice sounded on this movie, but then again, the RT5000 system was responsible for a number of such revelations.


I concluded the RT3000p review by saying that for a combination audio/video system, they may be the speakers that lets you have your cake and eat it too. Well, the rest of the RT5000 system is the icing on that cake.  It offers incredible dynamics, bass response, detail and articulation with the flexibility and efficiency to work in any room and with a wide variety of electronics.  Highly recommended!

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 & Warner Bros. cannot be reproduced without permission.  Dolby Digital is a trademark of Dolby Laboratories Licensing Corporation.

This page resides on the SMR Home Theatre server at: and contains JavaScript to prevent it being opened in a frame on another site.  The images on this page are digitally watermarked: Digimarc
Last updated 08 September, 1998

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