Polk Audio RM6900 Home Theater Speaker System Reviewed

Polk Audio RM6900 Home Theater Speaker System Reviewed

Designed to go with a simple modern décor yet perform to Polk's level the RM6900 system comes ready to fight with a full 5.1 system. Sleek lines and a host of mounting options allow this system to adapt to almost any room.

The year was 1972. President Richard Nixon made an unprecedented eight-day visit to Communist China and was later re-elected by a landslide. Police apprehended five men attempting to bug Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C.'s Watergate complex. Eleven Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games in Munich were killed after eight Arab terrorists invaded the Olympic Village.

That same year, Johns Hopkins University graduates Matthew Polk and George Klopfer began building speakers in Baltimore, Maryland under the Polk Audio brand name. Their goal was to develop high quality two-channel speakers with improved parts for better sound characteristics. In those days, terms like home theater and surround sound had not been made up yet and the long-playing record (LP) was king. A typical stereo had large floor standing loudspeakers that took up nearly half the room.

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Fast-forward 33 years. Polk Audio has grown to become one of the most recognized brand names for speakers worldwide. Polk Audio continues to develop a broad range of high quality loudspeakers that fit different lifestyles for both home and car applications. For home use, Polk has engineered numerous specialized lines of speakers including small satellite enclosures to complement the current flat panel display market. One of their newest systems, the RM6900 speaker ensemble, is a complete on-wall home theater speaker system with five matching satellites and a powered subwoofer.

Unique Features
The five satellite speakers in the RM6900 set have titanium extruded aluminum enclosures with a rounded back design. The rounded back not only stiffens the enclosure, but also breaks up standing waves for better sound quality. The silver-colored enclosures match many of today's plasma and LCD televisions and can be wall mounted to blend in with the surroundings. The mounting brackets included for each satellite have hidden wire channels and allow for 15 degrees of lateral movement. If you seek more adjustment positioning, the speakers, the center channel and satellites have threaded inserts on the back to use optional omni mount brackets, so the speakers can be fully aimed where desired. Additionally, two small shelf stands are included for the front left and right speakers for tabletop or bookshelf placement. Optional floor stands (SA-2 stands) are also available from Polk for the RM6900 system.

The left and right front satellites and center channel have two 3.5-inch mineral-filled polymer midrange drivers and a center-mounted .75-inch silk/polymer composite dome tweeter. The surface area of the dual 3.5-inch cones is roughly the same piston area as a 5.25-inch driver. The advantage of using the smaller drivers is a better force-to-mass ratio and a compact design for a smaller enclosure. The rear satellites have identical 3.5-inch midrange driver and .75-inch dome tweeter.

The satellites all share a feature Polk calls "Power Port". Simply put, there is a small port in each cabinet for air to enter and exit, which enhances low frequency efficiency and provides approximately two decibels of gain. Because there is inherent air turbulence flaws with most ported enclosures, Polk created a molded diffuser cone into the top of the grille frame to reduce unwanted port noise, often called "chuffing". The Power Port vents are nicely hidden under the wrap-around speaker grilles and diminish air turbulence by acting like a long, flared port.

The RM6900 system incorporates a thin subwoofer enclosure made from medium density fiberboard that can be tucked away out of sight. Where most subs have a front-firing or down-firing driver, Polk placed the 12-inch subwoofer and slot-loaded port on the side of the enclosure for a smaller profile. The slot-loaded port is wide to minimize port noise and the enclosure is internally braced to minimize resonance. Like the satellites, the design of the sub creates an unobtrusive look that blends nicely with home furnishings.

Click to Page 2 for Installation, Listening, and the Final Take.

Installation/Setup/Ease of Use

The shallow depth of the RM6900 speakers complements elegant flat displays. It doesn't matter if the satellites are wall mounted next to a display or placed on floor stands or tabletop stands, the speakers almost vanish. There are several connection options for the RM6900s. Because the subwoofer cabinet offers speaker level inputs and outputs, Polk recommends connecting the left and right front speaker outputs of the amplifier to the front speaker level inputs on the sub. The front speaker outputs of the sub can next be connected to the front speakers. The center and surround speakers can be connected directly to the receiver/amplifier.

I programmed my receiver bass management system to treat the front speakers as large, the center and surround speakers as small and turned off the subwoofer. The benefit of connecting the system and setting up the speakers in this fashion is higher performance. You could connect each satellite and the subwoofer directly to a receiver/amplifier, but the low-pass filter may block some low frequencies being sent to the sub. Since the sub has its own built-in low-pass filter, connecting the stereo outputs of the receiver/amp directly to the sub eliminates the double filter effect. Another alternative is using the Low Frequency Effects (LFE) line inputs that bypass the subwoofer's built-in low-pass filter. This feature is great for avoiding the double-filter effect when using a filtered sub out jack.

Despite Polk designing the RM6900 system to be wall mounted, the engineers included a five-way binding post that is recessed for a flush fit to the wall. This opens up the speakers to high performance cabling. Polk also includes templates to wall mount the RM6900 system either vertically or horizontally. Installation of the satellites is an exercise in simplicity that I found refreshing. The included table stands for the front left and right speakers are durable and easy to assemble. Unlike many home theater in-a-box systems, I was able to breeze through installation painlessly.

Final Take
I remember when the measuring stick of a good stereo system was not how much air the drivers displaced, but by how much space the cabinet displaced. The bigger, the better was our motto. Bookshelf speakers were cute, but a floor-standing loudspeaker was far more desirable, never mind more unsightly. Thankfully, the evolution of electronics has brought us into wanting both form and function. Technology has increased performance levels with even the smallest satellites and today it's just as important to have good sounding speakers as it is to have a seamless balance between a home theater and a home's décor.

Small satellite speakers often fall short of my expectations. I don't assume small speakers will sound small, but I want them to perform well. At a time when many companies are slapping together satellite/sub systems in order to feed the growing uneducated HTIB consumer crowd, it's refreshing to see a company like Polk Audio care about the product that has their name on it. The RM6900 wasn't just made to fill a niche, it was carefully crafted to sound like an expensive large speaker ensemble at a fraction of the cost and size.

My first impression of the thin subwoofer enclosure was it had been cut in half, or was a victim of the Atkins diet. It has a very small cabinet. Jumping to conclusions, I discounted the effect a 12-inch driver in a small enclosure would have on the overall impact of low frequencies. However, my assumptions were wrong. Just as the satellites sounded much bigger than their size implied, so did the subwoofer. The transition between the detailed airy midrange of the satellites and the punchy bass was quite good. Dialogue from the center channel was well represented during movie playback and vocals in music content were smooth and dynamic.

Adjusting the volume, phase and frequency of the sub netted good results, and I was surprised at the weighty response of the subwoofer. In fact, during action movies, the strong impact of the low frequencies was almost boomy.

Although the niche market for the Polk Audio RM6900 is complementing flat panel displays, I would recommend this system to anyone seeking quality sound from a small package. Intimate environments could benefit from the RM6900, and for those looking to build a 6.1 or 7.1 surround sound system, Polk sells center channel and single satellite speakers to meet any current or future requirement.

Polk Audio RM6900 Speaker System
Overall frequency response: 28-24kHz
Recommended amplification: 20-150 watts
Shipping weight: 51 lbs.
Limited 5-year warranty

Front & Center Satellites
Midrange driver: (2) 3 1/2" drivers
Tweeter: (1) 3/4" silk/polymer composite dome
Crossover: 2.7kHz
Enclosure Type: vented with top-mounted Power Port
Dimensions: 12 1/2"H x 4 1/2"W x 5"D

Surround Satellites
Midrange driver: (1) 3 1/2" driver
Tweeter: (1) 3/4" silk/polymer composite dome
Crossover: 2.7kHz
Enclosure Type: vented with top-mounted Power Port
Dimensions: 7 1/8"H x 4 1/2"W x 5"D

Subwoofer
Frequency response: 28-180Hz
Crossover: active 4th order low-pass
Amplifier power output: 100 watts
Continuous Average Power
Driver: 12" long throw
Enclosure Type: bass-reflex with slot-loaded port
Dimensions: 16 1/2"H x 8"W x 23 7/8"D

MSRP: $1,149

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