Subwoofers look pretty much the same. Some are big, and some are small, but most are cubes or boxes of some sort. Catch is, they don't all sound the same. We've heard our share of boomy, muddy-sounding subs, and while they sometimes click with home theater, the boomier models fall to pieces when they attempt to reproduce the nuanced sound of a stand-up bass. That's why we were so jazzed about Polk's most affordable sub, the $199 PSW10: it pounds out home-theater thrills and musical bass with equal prowess.
The PSW10 has a 10-inch composite woofer and a 50-watt high-current amplifier. Yes, we know that some of you are probably snickering over the skimpy power rating, but we'd urge an audition before you dismiss this sub. We found its bass power definitely up to snuff. For connectivity, you get stereo speaker-level inputs and outputs as well as RCA line-level inputs. All that's missing is a direct/LFE input that bypasses the onboard 80Hz-to-160Hz crossover control. We prefer direct inputs because they make it easier to blend the sound of satellites and the subwoofer, but we didn't have any problems matching the PSW10 with Polk's Monitor 30 satellite speakers.
This is a fairly compact subwoofer, just 14.5 inches high, 14 inches wide, and 15 inches deep; thanks mostly to its robustly constructed MDF (medium-density fiberboard) cabinet, it weighs a hefty 26 pounds. The PSW10 is available in black or cherry-colored vinyl, and its titanium-finish front baffle matches that of the other Monitor Series speakers. The extended warranty offers five years of protection on the woofer and three years on the electronics--pretty decent considering that the electronics warranty on many other products is often limited to just 12 months.
The PSW10's deep-bass capabilities were impressive, but its definition and control on the Blue Man Group's new DVD-Audio disc, The Complex, were really special. The Blue Men's drums and percussion-heavy instrumentals lose impact on muddy-sounding subs. But the PSW10 delivered every thump and rumble with the utmost clarity. That said, it will do its best work in small to moderate-size rooms. If you want to feel the bass in larger spaces, check out the PSW10's bigger sibling, the PSW12.