Polk's RTI loudspeaker series falls in between its LSi and TSi series at the top of its product line, with its VM series lodged in between providing sleeker, more modern looks designed for home theater environments. The RTI series offers many of Polk's most advanced driver and cabinet technologies along with real wood veneer finishes and sleek cabinet profiles. The series offers three floorstanding models (RTi A9, RTi A7, RTi A5), two bookshelf models (RTi A3, RTi A1), two center models (CSi A6, CSi A4), and two surround models (FXi A6, FXi A4).
The RTi A1 (MSRP $339.95 per pair) offers an impressive array of features and a stunning cosmetic profile. It employs a 5 ¼-inch Polymer Composite Dynamic Balance tweeter with rubber surround coupled to a 6 ½-inch Polymer Composite Dynamic Balance woofer with rubber surround, crossed over a 1.9 kHz @ 12dB per octave in both directions. 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 combination of materials for the particular product. It employs two ports - one front and one rear firing, utilizing Polk's patented ARC Acoustic Resonance Control (ARC) Technology. The rear port, or PowerPort, puts a cone at the mouth of the port to streamline airflow, reduce chuffing, and smooth out frequency response. The smaller front port, located under the woofer, is tuned to suppress internal cabinet resonance, according to the company. The RTi A1 provides two sets of 5-way, gold-plated binding posts for bi-wiring/bi-amping, and a handy keyhole mounting bracket. The RTi A1 utilizes an elegant, tapered cabinet design, which not only looks terrific, but very likely improves performance by minimizing and diffusing internal standing waves - generally (although it has to be executed properly, of course), less boxy designs have the potential to sound better, as they can cancel internal resonances and result in a more inert, quieter enclosure. The RTi A1 offers two optional veneer finishes - Cherry and Black. Both look terrific, although the Cherry won my heart. Even the removable grills look great, with nice looking molding on the top and bottom creating an elegant blend into the baffle. The fit and finish of the RTi A1 has to rank amongst the best ever in this price range.
The 12 pound RTi A1 presents a nominal 8 ohm load with an 89dB efficiency, and it proved to be a pretty easy load to drive. Using a good quality A/V receiver, the speaker had plenty of output and dynamic headroom, and never seemed to need anything more. Right out of the box, the RTi A1 provided simply superlative sound considering its price point. The speakers threw a wide, deep soundstage with pinpoint imaging and overall clarity. Starting at the top, the RTi A1 presented an airy, detailed treble with no overt zinginess whatsoever, which continued down into the upper mids. Every now and then things got a bit sparkly, but only in a good, listenable way. The midrange reproduced vocals and piano wonderfully, with a deep, natural quality that made listening a pleasure and devoid of any fatigue. Of course, with ported, smaller designs, things always get interesting when going from the midrange to the mid bass, and even the low bass, as the ports must do things that drivers really should. The RTi A1 sounded a bit warm and thick in the upper bass, but never did this detract from the enjoyment of the whole. It blended well into the whole sonic palette, and even added some things to some weaker recordings. Going lower, the bass really kicked butt - deep, punchy, well-timed, and more than capable of rocking the house.
Mounted on the wall, the RTi A1 maintained much of its quality, losing only a bit of mid bass clarity and overall soundstaging. This is typical of a wall placement. On a bookshelf, the effects were similar, but never did any placement seem to significantly faze the RTi A1.