One of the best known and most storied brands in affordable high performance loudspeakers, Polk Audio has earned its reputation not only through its pure value proposition, but how it has maintained it through many industry and economic evolutions. While it certainly lost its way a few times over its 30-plus years, losing some quality and brand equity overall (like many other specialty brands trying to expand), it has not only remained solvent, but steadfastly continued to innovate and endure. Today, it remains a positive symbol of affordable quality, and shows no signs of giving that up anytime soon.
Along with its array of loudspeaker products, Polk offers sixteen different subwoofer models that span virtually every application, including wireless and in-wall. The middle model (price-wise) in its five-model entry-level PSW series, the PSW111 ($299.95/MSRP) employs an 8-inch Dynamic Balance composite woofer driven by a 150 watt continuous/300 watt peak amplifier, within a vented enclosure utilizing a downward-firing port, intended to keep the woofer's profile as low as possible. Developed in conjunction with Johns Hopkins University, Dynamic Balance resulted from a laser interferometry research project that enables Polk to analyze the entire surface of a vibrating driver in real time, in order to determine the right composition of driver materials for the particular product. Measuring a compact 12.125 inches high by 11 inches wide by 13 inches deep and weighing in at a surprisingly hefty 20.3 pounds, the PSW111 keeps a very low profile and can be easily hidden in most home theater setups. The non-magnetically-shielded PSW111 provides volume and low pass (80Hz - 200Hz) controls, a phase control, low-level inputs via RCA (stereo or LFE/mono), and high-level inputs and outputs via pin terminals. The unit's fit and finish is good, with rounded side edges and a good quality standard grill design. The PSW111 only comes in a Black vinyl finish, and offers a solid set of feet that provide good grip.
The PSW111 delivered a good combination of speed, detail, extension, and punch given its small size, with an overall controlled approach. On movies and gaming material, it added substance and punch, and didn't sound strained too often. With its small driver, cabinet, and somewhat laid back demeanor, it sacrificed ultimate sizzle, impact, and extension for control and precision. This highly benefitted music tracks, especially when paired with smaller main speakers. In this type of setup, the PSW111 flourished, drawing an effective line between meaty and punchy. Polk used one of its more powerful amps in the smaller PSW111, an interesting choice that helps keep its slam and bang factor high, and its distortion low. Also interesting is the fact that the PSW111's price is only $50 less than the bigger PSW125, which uses a similar design, the same amp, plays lower, and offers the same connectivity and an additional finish. But size matters, and, given that the PSW111 essentially offers a smaller version of the 125's sonic profile, the extra dough pays for Polk squeezing that sound out of a much more friendly-sized box. Overall, the PSW111 delivered some very good sound given its size, while adding a tiny dose of refinement for the music lover. While some of its competitors might provide a bit more drama, the PSW111 makes up for that with versatility. The PSW111 sounded just as good away from walls as next to them, offering good placement flexibility.
Read about the high points and low points of the PSW111 on Page 2.
• The PSW111 offers very good performance for its size, performs well
over movies, games, and music without sounding overly strained, and
sounds terrific with smaller main speakers.
• The PSW111 is very compact and not very sensitive to placement, a great combination.
• The PSW111 looks very good and offers great connectivity and controls.
• The PSW111 needed a shade more extension, weight, and power, and a dose of overall attitude.
• The PSW111 only comes in Black.
• The PSW111 is not magnetically-shielded.
The PSW111 adds another compelling wrinkle to the compact subwoofer
wars. Polk's blend of performance, size, and features works very well,
bringing overall good performance as well as excellent versatility and
connectivity to this lower price bracket. Like its siblings in the PSW
class, it tends to err on the polite side, but certainly doesn't suffer
with movies and games and hangs with its competitors in these areas in
many ways. The upside to its sonic balance is that music sounds really
good, which is no small thing. For a smaller application, and
especially one with smaller main speakers, the PSW111 ranks as a