Polk Monitor XT10 Subwoofer Review Page 2

Initial Tests and Setup
After running some tests on the sub in my main theater, I relocated it to my secondary system in my den. Asking a 10-inch sub to fill a 3000 cubic foot room is just unfair, so I felt a fairer testing environment would be a 900 cubic foot space. My secondary system consists of a vintage Vizio 50-inch Plasma TV (remember those?), an Oppo BDP-103 Blu-ray player, a TiVo Bolt, Denon AVR-2313CI, with an Andrew Jones designed Pioneer SP-PK22BS speaker package: a SP-C22 center channel speaker and four SP-BS22 bookshelf speakers.

My reference subwoofer in this system is a RSL Speedwoofer 10s, which will allow a great comparison to the Polk Monitor XT10 since they both feature similar specs and woofer sizes. The XT10 is a lightweight at 23 pounds, whereas the Speedwoofer comes in at 40, so it wasn’t back-breaking work moving the XT10 throughout the room to find the best placement. I ended up choosing the front left side, about 1/3 toward the center point, since this provided the most output. I then adjusted the volume on the sub using the Disney WOW calibration disc and a SPL meter.

As you can see from the measurements, the XT10 has solid output above 30 Hz but falls off a steep cliff below this mark, which is typical for a 10-inch woofer in a small enclosure. Physics dictates that to get output at and below 25 Hz, you need a larger woofer in a bigger box coupled with ample amplification to move a lot of air. In the case of the XT10, it has none of these—it’s a small box, small woofer, and dainty 50-watt amplifier (100-watts peak).

In Use
My reference system consists of four subwoofers time-aligned and EQ’d with a MiniDSP HD, so my ears are used to pancake flat bass response and output below 20 Hz that can shake a house off its foundation. So when I sat down to listen to the XT10, I had to keep my expectations in check. To prepare my ears for the experience, I listened to all of my audition material on the Speedwoofer 10s first, to have a fair comparison.

I decided to start my adventure with some musical tracks since I assumed this would be the easiest task for the dainty sub given its strong output above 30 Hz. First up is The Eagles: Farewell 1 Live From Melbourne Blu-ray with track 21—“Life’s Been Good.” The song starts with Don Henley rocking the kick drum, and the XT10 instantly made its presence in the room known. Unfortunately, not in a great way. The bass response is a bit too boomy and hangs around longer than it should for my taste. While I was impressed with its output, its signature sound is a bit too bloated, especially compared to the Speedwoofer 10s, which has a much tighter sound. I found this to be the case throughout my musical adventure—the bass response did give some heft in the lower frequencies to music, but I preferred quick and tight versus loud and boomy.

Moving on, I tested the XT10 with some bass-intensive Blu-ray movies, and although I didn’t expect to be blown away, I was pleasantly surprised by its sub-30 Hz performance. For instance, during the opening sequence of Overlord, which is one of the most bass-intensive discs out there, the XT10 was able to rattle some pictures on the wall. As the German anti-aircraft guns attempted to repel the aerial armada approaching the French coastline, the bass dipped below 25 Hz and the explosions from the flak were surprisingly impactful. Despite not feeling the subfloor vibrating, the XT10 created an immersive experience that conveyed the sense that all hell was breaking loose.

To test the XT10’s performance on gunshots and mortar rounds, I turned to my favorite demo disc, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. I jumped straight to the attack on the secret CIA compound, which features the powerful blast from a Heckler & Koch HK417 rifle firing 7.62x51mm ammo. Having heard this sequence hundreds of times and experienced the real-life sound of the gun, I was disappointed to find that the XT10 wasn’t capable of reproducing the signature sound as intended. While the blast of the gun is fast and distinctly clear, the XT10’s specs just don’t allow it to deliver the same level of detail and impact.

As the founding member of Bassaholics Anonymous, I realize I have an issue when it comes to the deep stuff. There’s no such thing as too many subwoofers in a room, and if you can’t feel the bass deep in your bone marrow, then you aren’t trying hard enough. Needless to say, hearing that I was going to be reviewing a $299 subwoofer didn’t necessarily get my hopes up that it would wake the dead with its output—and it didn’t. That being said, I’m smart enough to know there is a very big market for a subwoofer in this price range, and frankly, it performs quite well given its physical constraints.

Its output at and above 30Hz is very impressive, and the subwoofer would mate extremely well with a soundbar in order to enhance the lower-end of the audio spectrum. Will the bass be as tight and accurate as a sub costing three to four times as much? Absolutely not, but you’re getting a generous amount of output for a relatively low price, which makes it quite a good value. If you’re willing to stretch the budget a bit further, there are better subwoofers out there, but you’ll be spending nearly 50% more. To a basshead like myself, this is a great investment, but I realize I have some personal issues I need to deal with.