Polk Audio’s LCi RTS100 is the world’s first THX Ultra2-certified ceiling speaker, meaning it had to meet extremely stringent standards for sound quality, especially in terms of accurate tonal balance and dynamics. What’s more, the RTS100, much like Definitive’s competing UIW RCS II, is designed to present sonic images that seem to come from the front of the room—not from the ceiling overhead. Put these factors together and you have what may be the finest in-ceiling home theater speaker currently available.
The RTS100 is a two-way design based on a 1-inch tweeter (the same one used in Polk’s top-line floorstanding speakers) and two 5.25-inch woofers. The underside of its enclosure has two contoured, recessed pockets with drivers that are angled toward the listening area. A mounting pocket for the tweeter serves double-duty as a waveguide that improves dispersion of highs and helps imaging cues sound as if they come from the front of the room. Tweeter and Wall Dist switches let you adjust treble and bass output to fit your specific placement requirements. Each RTS100 comes with two sets of grilles: a metal one you can paint, plus a cloth one, which is more sonically transparent.
Five beefy dogleg clamps secure the RTS100 to the ceiling, but the speaker also comes with Polk’s STL100 Stud-Lock mounting system, which reinforces the ceiling with a concealed metal frame that provides a rigid, vibration-free platform for the speaker. Polk also provides a massive top-mounted eye-bolt to which you can atach a heavy-gauge safety wire—just in case.
As mentioned earlier, the Polks should be used with a high-quality subwoofer (we used JL Audio’s f112 reviewed in TPV 75), and they need some run-in time to achieve optimal smoothness and openness. But once those factors are in place, real magic begins to unfold. While sometimes spectacular-sounding, the RTS100s more often than not beguile listeners with a complex blend of “just right” qualities that add up to persuasively natural sound.
The Polks offer abundant resolution and detail, inviting you to savor deep, subtle “interior” aspects of music or soundtracks. Listen to Erik Friedlander’s haunting cello solo from Fred Hersch’s “Child’s Song” [Personal Favorites, Chesky, SACD], and the rich textures and profoundly melancholic sound of the cello will send shivers up your spine. Similarly, eavesdrop on the quiet conversations between the swordsman Li Mu Bai and his would-be lover Shu Lien in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and you’ll see how the RTS100s reveal the deep passions underlying words spoken at little more than whisper levels.
Yet these speakers offer serious muscle, too. At the suggestion of TPV Convergence Editor Christopher Jones, I put on Firehose’s classic post-punk album Flyin’ the Flannel [Sony] and turned the Polks up—way up. The result: clean percussion, ripping guitars, and snarling bass that sounded fabulous, even at boisterous volume levels.
One of the RTS100s’ greatest strengths is an overall sound so well-integrated and refined from top to bottom that you can listen for hours on end without fatigue.
Finally, the Polks present focused images and deep soundstages that, for the most part, appear to emanate from the front of the room. As TPV Managing Editor Arnie Williams observed, “If you blindfolded listeners, I doubt they’d guess the Polks were in the ceiling.” Relative to Definitive’s UIW RCS IIs, the Polks produce somewhat more coherent soundstages, with well integrated highs and mids, but they feel ever-so-slightly less convincing because they are presented above ear level—as if you are looking up at the performers on stage. TPV
Polk’s LCi RTS100s are among the most advanced and best-sounding in-ceiling home theater speakers on the planet. Apart from their front-of-the room imaging, the speakers deliver impressive measures of refinement, smoothness, and detail. The only catch, really, is that the RTS100s are quite expensive at $2399/pair. We realize that excellence is never cheap and the benefits of THX Ultra2 certification carry justifiable costs. But lower-priced alternatives such as Definitive’s UIW RCS II offer stiff competition, so we can’t help thinking an RTS100 price reduction might be appropriate. TPV