Polk Audio PSW450 review: Polk Audio PSW450

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4 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Superb home-theater and music bass; 12-inch woofer.

The Bad Large.

The Bottom Line A killer price-to-performance ratio puts the PSW450 ahead of the pack.

8.0 Overall

While most midpriced subwoofers easily muster enough rumble to deliver a visceral home-theater experience, they too often stumble when playing a tune. That's why we're so pumped by Polk Audio's nimble PSW450 sub. This bad boy can negotiate the finer subtleties of a deftly plucked stand-up bass yet is still capable of cranking out the fury underpinning the Saving Private Ryan DVD. While most midpriced subwoofers easily muster enough rumble to deliver a visceral home-theater experience, they too often stumble when playing a tune. That's why we're so pumped by Polk Audio's nimble PSW450 sub. This bad boy can negotiate the finer subtleties of a deftly plucked stand-up bass yet is still capable of cranking out the fury underpinning the Saving Private Ryan DVD.

How do they do it?
We didn't spot any technological breakthroughs or heroic features, just a solidly engineered, direct-radiating, 12-inch woofer teamed up with a high-current, 150-watt amplifier that has 350 watts of peak power. True, that might not seem like a lot of juice for a midpriced sub, but the PSW450's output capabilities are fully competitive with others in its class. The Polk's textured, black-vinyl-wrapped box is no beauty, though the gently beveled grille is a nice styling touch. Measuring 17.5 by 15.0 by 19.0 inches, there's no denying the fact that this is a full-sized speaker. The PSW450 is magnetically shielded for safe placement near TVs.

Hookup options are versatile enough. Beyond the direct (unfiltered) LFE input that's required for smooth sub integration with A/V receivers, the PSW450 also offers switchable high-pass speaker-level outputs that will come in handy when the sub is used with older Dolby Pro Logic or stereo receivers.

Home-theater and music subwoofing
We started our evaluations by sampling a bunch of our favorite CDs with substantial low-end action, and the PSW450 never faltered. Morphine's The Night CD throbbed with real authority--every supple note rolling out of Mark Sandman's thick-toned two-string bass was cleanly articulated. Lyle Lovett's Joshua Judges Ruth CD packs quite a low-frequency wallop on "She's Already Made Up Her Mind," and this Polk proved to be in the select group of subs that never blurred or muddied the subterranean goings-on.

Our trusty bass-laden DVDs--Jurassic Park, The Thin Red Line, and Blue Man Group's Audio--energized our listening room with a vengeance. No, we're not saying that the PSW450 had the kidney-kicking power of far more expensive subs such as Definitive Technology's $1,199 or B&W's $1,400 ASW 2500, but it didn't embarrass itself, either.

The $530 PSW450 is smack-dab in the middle of Polk's highly regarded five-model sub lineup. We've auditioned the $300 PSW250, which is excellent for the price. And the top-of-the-line, $770 PSW650 has garnered more than its fair share of rave reviews. So it should come as no surprise that we think this model is a winner, too. The PSW450's even-handed abilities at both home-theater and music listening make it easy to recommend.

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