Polk Audio has long offered huge value for music lovers with budgetary constraints. The Baltimore- based loudspeaker giant continues that tradition with its RM series on-wall speakers.
The sleek, magnetically shielded RM30 left/right pair and RM302 center channel feature a 1-inch dome tweeter flanked by two 4.5- inch midrange driver in ported cylindrical enclosures 24 inches in length. The back of each speaker is a curved polished aluminum half-cylinder, into which is fitted a composite vented housing for the drivers and crossover network. Result: high-tech elegance, ideal for use with larger flat-panel displays.
Back brackets enable easy wall mounting. With a supplied molded foot, the RM30 can stand upright on a shelf or speaker stand; a foot for the RM302 lets it lie securely under or atop a TV. The RM302 and RM30 are identical except for the optional feet and the position of the logo on the pop-off grilles—both models have “RM30” printed on the back, and both retail for $459.95/each.
The similarly designed RM101 is a compact little speaker with a 3/4-inch fabric dome tweeter and 3.5-inch midrange driver, intended for surround effects use and priced at $109.95 (See “Screamin’ Deals” in this issue). The PSW404 powered subwoofer is Polk’s recommended low-frequency reinforcement for this system, and retails for $479.95.
I installed the system in my home-theater room, with the RM30’s on sturdy 26-inch stands and the RM302 lying horizontally on the subwoofer’s shipping box, angled up toward the listening area. The RM101’s replaced a pair of Silverline SR-12’s in the upper outer corners of wall-towall bookshelves along the back wall. I designated all speakers as “small” (limited low frequency capacity) in speaker setup and ran the Halo’s autocalibration feature. I tweeked the subwoofer’s phase and level by ear using Patti Smith’s superb bass-heavy cover of “When Doves Cry” (Land, Arista), then sat back to enjoy an assortment of tunes and movies.
“Pleasantly surprised” doesn’t come close to describing my reaction. “Astounded” is more like it. The RM30/302 combines startling clarity and dazzling dynamics with a huge open radiation pattern. There’s absolutely no sense of sound confined in boxes, as there often is with similar looking loudspeakers. The Polks present a dimensionality that immediately recalled a first encounter with a pair of Wilson WATTs and how I was bowled over by their ability to present a palpable acoustic image to a listener anywhere in the vicinity.
Listening to music in twochannel mode left little to be desired—everything from David Bowie’s “China Girl” [Let’s Dance, EMI America] to Maroon 5’s “Secret” [Songs About Jane, Octone] came through with effortless grace, each voice and instrument clearly separated in an enormous acoustic space. The Polk’s treble is extended and slightly dry but not brittle. Its midrange is the essence of sonic neutrality— Renee Fleming’s By Request [Decca] was gorgeous, deep, impassioned, open, airy, and vibrant. Midrange neutrality extends into the upper bass, where the Polks tend toward leanness. Listeners hoping to extract heavy bass from this speaker without the aid of a subwoofer will be disappointed—and misguided. It’s optimized for clarity and openness, not for rock-concert impact. Other on-walls offer more weight and authority in the lower mids/upper bass, at the expense of imparting “chesty” qualities to vocals and instrumentals. Polk designers are to be congratulated for resisting that urge.
Clarity and openness were also the rule in multichannel mode. Dialog, music, and localization effects were perfectly rendered in Walk the Line, the great 20th Century Fox film about Johnny Cash.
The PSW404 subwoofer is this system’s weak link. With an onboard 200-watt amp and what Polk claims is a “10-inch” long-throw woofer (actually a 5.5-inch driver with a fat rubber surround), the PSW404 sounds tubby and muffled. In the scene in Walk the Line where the young Cash approaches Sam Phillip’s recording studio for the first time, the intensifying bass line sent the 404 into overload. Polk’s PSW12 sub is a far better performer for less money—more tuneful, more powerful, and better looking.
Movie-and-music fans looking for an excellent affordable audio system would have to hunt long and hard to top the RM30/302/101 combination. TPV