Polk T50 review: Low-priced, big-sounding speaker a towering value

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The Good The big Polk T50 tower speakers sound very good for the money. They look sharp, too, and feature a 1-inch tweeter, 6.5-inch woofer and two 6.5-inch bass radiators.

The Bad The Pioneer SP-PK52FS sounds better and costs the same. The Polk is only available in a black, wood-grain vinyl finish. Its treble detailing can, on some recordings, sound harsh.

The Bottom Line The Polk T50 is a remarkably decent-sounding tower speaker for not a lot of money, but it faces stiff competition.

7.8 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Sound 7
  • Value 9

While many of today's speaker shoppers are looking for increasingly smaller and more style-conscious home theater and music speakers, the performance and sound quality advantages of larger speakers have never been clearer. And while sound bars are getting better all the time, and they may be perfectly satisfactory for the majority of users, a great set of full-size tower speakers deliver dramatically superior detailing, dynamic range, bass power, and stereo imaging.

Which leads us to Polk's spiffy new tower, the T50. This affordable speaker takes up no more floor space than a pair of monitor speakers on stands. It offers excellent home theater performance for the price, and looks more expensive than it is thanks to handsome cabinetry.

Polk was clearly aiming at the superb, budget-friendly Pioneer SP-FS52 tower when designing this speaker, but it doesn't quite hit the same level of audio quality. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; the Pioneers are quite uncommonly excellent and the Polks, meanwhile, are a solid "very good."

On the other hand, the designer of those Pioneer speakers, Andrew Jones, is no longer with the company and its AV division is now owned by Onkyo. In other words it's unclear how long those SP-FS52 speakers will remain on sale, and in case of their absence, the Polk T50 would make a very good substitute.

Design and features

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Polk is a handsome speaker, the T50's medium-density fiberboard cabinet is covered with an attractive black grain, wood vinyl finish, and a removable, curved black cloth grille protects the drivers. The speaker has a small, flat pedestal base with an overall fit and finish that are above average for the price class. It certainly doesn't look like an entry-level model.

As towers go, the T50 isn't very big; it measures 36.25 inches high, 7.75 inches wide and 8.75 inches deep.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The T50 is a two-way, bass-reflex design with a 1-inch silk dome tweeter, one 6.5-inch extended throw composite midrange/woofer and two 6.5-inch bass radiators (bass radiators are passive devices, meaning they are not actively driven by your receiver's power amplifiers). One advantage of bass radiators is they replace bass ports (it's a closed box), so bass radiators never produce audible "chuffing" noises. They also free up more placement options in the room than ported speakers do.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The T50's back has one set of five-way binding posts that work with speaker cables terminated with banana plugs, spades, pins or stripped bare-wire ends; the speaker's impedance is rated at 6 ohms. The T50 is sold with a five-year warranty.