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Polk Audio RM95 review: Polk Audio RM95

Polk Audio RM95

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Steve Guttenberg John Falcone
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Steve Guttenberg

Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.

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John Falcone

Executive Editor

John P. Falcone is an executive editor at CNET, where he coordinates a group of more than 20 editors and writers based in New York and San Francisco as they cover the latest and greatest products in consumer technology. He's been a CNET editor since 2003.

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4 min read

Polk Audio engineers and designers are hip to the fact that everybody wants the smallest possible speakers. Big displays and small speakers are where it's at, and Polk's RM95 home theater five pack comes with four tiny satellites and a very compact center speaker for $600. You add your choice of subwoofer--Polk's or otherwise--to mix and match yourself up to a full 5.1 system.

6.8

Polk Audio RM95

The Good

Five-piece home theater speaker package; supercompact satellites and center speakers; wide dispersion design produces a room-filling sound; shelf and wall brackets are included.

The Bad

You'll need to provide the subwoofer; spring-clip connectors rather than banana jacks; small size limits dynamic range; achieving optimal crossover with a subwoofer can be a challenge.

The Bottom Line

Its unusual triangular design helps the Polk Audio RM95 home theater speaker package project a spacious sound, but it can't rock out at higher volumes.

It's one thing to design small satellites; making them sound big is something else. Faced with that challenge, the engineers developed a dual-driver design that significantly increases the satellites' dispersion to create a room-filling sound. The three-sided, triangular shape of the satellite speakers is key to meeting the design goal. One side has the usual midrange/woofer and tweeter, the next side has a single midrange/woofer, and the third is finished in a high-gloss paint finish. You set up the speakers with the tweeter/woofer side directly facing the listening position, while the woofer-only side faces the closest wall. The reflected sound increases apparent image size.

The satellites are 7.5 inches by 4.25 inches by 4.25 inches, with the 2.5-inch composite cone midrange/woofers and 0.75-inch silk/polymer dome tweeters. Removeable cloth grilles cover the drivers--one on each side. The sat cabinets are fabricated from molded "composite" material that we suppose is similar to that found on the Definitive Technology ProCinema 600 speakers (DefTech and Polk are sister companies), but the Polks felt less substantial. The individual speakers are available separately as the RM8, so you can get a second set ($250 per pair) if you need to expand to a 7.1 configuration.

The RM95's center channel speaker is a conventional, front-mounted woofer-tweeter-woofer array; it's available separately as the RM8 Center ($150). Viewed from the side, the center carries over the sats' three-sided design. It's 3.25 inches tall by 9.4 inches wide by 3.8 inches deep, one of the smallest we've seen outside of a home-theater-in-a-box system. The RM95 is available in either high-gloss black or white finishes. The look and feel is fine, but it's not going to be confused with a high-end speaker system.

The satellites can be shelf mounted with the included tripod base or wall mounted with the supplied brackets. Polk offers an extra cost floor stand, the SA3, that attaches to the threaded insert on the bottom of the sats. The center speaker can rest in the supplied cradle/base or wall mount via its threaded insert. We were disappointed to see Polk used spring-clip connectors on all of the RM95 speakers; we would have preferred more secure banana jacks or binding posts.

The RM95 speakers are all too small to produce bass on their own so we used them with a Polk DSW PRO 400 sub for all of our listening tests. Achieving a smooth blend between the sats and sub took some doing, and we eventually settled on using a 120Hz crossover on our Denon receiver's bass management/speaker setup menus. Still, the blend was less than perfect, so we were occasionally aware that all of the bass was coming from the DSW PRO 400. And when that happens, the RM95 sats sounded like the small speakers they are.

The Vantage Point Blu-ray Disc was used to test the RM95's home theater skills. The film covers an assassination of a U.S. president in a public square in Spain. The RM95 sats did an excellent job of placing us in the midst of the action; the Blu-ray's surround mix was above par and the spatial coherence between the front and rear speakers was excellent. But the assassin's gunshots and the terrorists' bomb blasts were dynamically reigned in by the speakers. Dialog clarity was only average, and sometimes sounded a bit boxy.

In other words, the wee speakers have significant dynamic limitations compared with larger speakers. So, we weren't surprised to hear that the Nine Inch Nails concert Blu-ray, Beside You In Time, was viscerally scaled back by the RM95. This sort of music doesn't cut it over speakers with 2.5-inch woofers. John Mayer's acoustic set on his Live at Radio City Blu-ray was a better fit. The quieter music sounded fine, and the concert surround experience was quite nice.

Listening to CDs in stereo, the left/right sats projected a large soundfield. But we were somewhat distracted when we noted that most of the bass was coming from the DSW PRO 400 subwoofer. The RM95 sats sounded puny on the Raconteurs first CD, Broken Boy Soldiers. Opening up the sound with Dolby Pro Logic IIx surround improved things, but we were happier with the RM95's sound for movies than music.

It's also worth noting that we found the dual-driver design gambit worked well, producing a sound that stretched the full width of the CNET listening room, even though the speakers were placed 3 feet from the side walls. The Definitive Technology ProCinema 600 was nowhere as spacious sounding.

Our complaints about the RM95's limitations notwithstanding, it may be ideal for very small (less than 150 square feet) rooms, and for buyers who listen at a fairly quiet volume most of the time. If that doesn't jibe with your needs, the Definitive Technology ProCinema 800 satellite/subwoofer system may be a better choice--but it's considerably more expensive.

6.8

Polk Audio RM95

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 6
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