Polk Audio XRt12 (XM)
We love pretty much everything about satellite radio programming. From commercial-free music and uncensored hip hop, comedy, and talk channels to religious and sports programming, there's something for everyone. Less impressive, however, is satellite's sound quality. It's not a big concern for the vast satellite audience listening from their cars, but at home, over a decent set of speakers, satellite radio's ultracompressed digital streams can sound more like a grungy, low-bit-rate MP3 than a CD. Thankfully, refined listeners now have an alternative: Polk's XRt12 XM Reference Tuner is the first satellite radio that's truly audiophile-grade.
The introduction of the XRt12 represents Polk Audio's first foray into the component audio business; until now, the company's been best known for its high-quality speakers. Unlike the large number of satellite tuners that are compact plug-and-play designs intended for shuttling between car dashboards and home bookshelves, the XRt12 is a full-size home audio component, measuring 2.3 inches high, 17 inches wide, and 10.5 inches deep--about the size of a DVD player. The XRt12's gently curved black faceplate, large buttons, and deep-blue display are styled to match premium audio gear.
The radio is available through Polk dealers or direct from Polk's Web site for $250. The box includes an indoor/outdoor XM antenna and hookup cables, but naturally you'll need to sign up for XM's satellite service, which currently runs $12.95 a month. Fans of rival sat service Sirius should check out Kenwood's similarly well-appointed XM-3000, which sports three XM tuners for multiroom, whole-house satellite audio. (To see how Sirius and XM stack up against one another, check out CNET's quick guide to satellite radio.)home receiver, while the truly deep-pocketed may want to step up to Antex's