Polk RTi A1 Speaker System
From Baltimore with Love
Did you know that Baltimore was the second U.S. city to achieve a population of more than 100,000, after New York? It has given us great Americans as diverse as Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American to serve on the Supreme Court, and John Waters, who will probably never serve on the Supreme Court, although I’d love to see him try. Barry Levinson based four movies in Baltimore: Diner, Tin Men, Avalon, and Liberty Heights. Six Fortune 500 companies reside in greater Baltimore. The city’s best known university is Johns Hopkins, which educated Polk Audio’s three cofounders: Matthew Polk, Sandy Gross, and George Klopfer. All of them have since moved on, although Matthew Polk maintained an active design presence until recently. Polk Audio is currently owned by DEI Holdings, which also owns Definitive Technology and the Directed Electronics car technology empire. It remains a Baltimore stalwart as well as one of the few truly distinguished speaker brands available to megachain shoppers.
Polk’s speaker brands include the high-end LSi Series. I once reviewed the LSi7 for another publication, and it was one of the best monitor speakers I’ve ever heard. Polk’s other lines include, in descending order, the RTi; the TSi; the R, T, and M Series; the VM and RM Series sat/sub sets; the OWM outdoor speakers; and the SurroundBars. The SurroundBar 360 (HT, January 2009) is one of the most accomplished and interesting specimens in an iffy genre. But the subject of this review is the RTi. It’s just one step down from the top but quite affordable at $340 per pair for the RTi A1. The series has been available since 2007.
I like working with and listening to five identical monitors and did so in this review. It’s worth noting that these speakers are available in odd-numbered sets (like five or seven). If you’d prefer, there’s also a matching horizontal center, the CSi A4 ($280), and voice-matched in-wall and in-ceiling models are available for surround use. Also along for the ride was the DSW PRO 500 remote-controlled subwoofer.
The Teardrop Explodes
Someone forgot to tell the Polk design team that the RTi A1 is a cheap speaker. They sculpted its teardrop-shaped enclosure with curves that deter internal standing waves. The enclosure is made of five layers of MDF bonded and dampened with a viscous adhesive. The top layer is paper-backed wood veneer.
Our review samples in Cherry looked sweet; the speaker is also available in Black. The drivers utilize composites. The 1-inch tweeter is a fluid-cooled silk polymer composite dome with a neodymium magnet, and the 5.25-inch woofer is a polymer mineral composite cone. They’re attached to the veneered baffle, and gray plastic trim rings finish the look.
Unusually, this speaker has ports in both the front and rear. The front port is at the bottom of the baffle and employs Polk’s patented Acoustic Resonance Control, which aims to improve performance by reducing cabinet resonances. The rear port is a Power Port design, which according to Polk, reduces the air turbulence (chuffing) issues that can afflict ported speakers. Located at the top of the back panel, the port is covered by a 3.25-by-4-inch plastic plate that includes both a keyhole for mounting and a funnel shape that enters the port. This means you can hang the speaker on the wall without blocking the rear port. The plate will reflect and guide the port’s output from behind the speaker. Ingenious. On the bottom of the back panel are two round feet. Together, the plate and the feet let the speaker maintain a uniform 0.75 inches from the wall it hangs on.