Polk RTi A1 Bookshelf Loudspeakers Reviewed

Polk RTi A1 Bookshelf Loudspeakers Reviewed

The Polk RTi A1 bookshelf loudspeaker sits solidly in the middle of the Polk product line at $339.95 per pair. At 89 dB efficiency the A1 is easy to drive with an airy top end, and a natural midrange that was low on listener fatigue and high on musicality and finesse.

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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).

Additional Resources
• Explore the Bookshelf Speaker section for more reviews and information.
• Read reviews for the Polk RTi A9 and RTi A7 on HomeTheaterReview.com.

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.

Sound
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.

All speakers - even the best of the best - have limitations. The key
is how does the designer fold them into the whole to retain and enhance
the overall coherence of the presentation. Do they stick out, or merely
blend in? The RTi A1 uses its size limitations to its advantage,
creating lemonade out of the tricky lower frequencies that doom lesser
bookshelf models. It presents a wonderfully detailed, coherent, warm,
and punchy sound that works well over all types of music. And it
provides enough cosmetics and sound quality to appeal even to the most
discerning of buyers with much higher budgets. Balanced, engaging, easy
to drive, and great looking - with the RTi A1, Polk has put its foot
firmly down into the bookshelf speaker category and raised the bar in
its price category.

High Points
• The RTi A1 provides an incredible level of sound quality for its price.
• The RTi A1 offers a very balanced, engaging presentation that's easy to drive.
• The RTi A1 offers many of Polk's most advanced technologies and
ergonomic features, and a very attractive cosmetic profile befitting
speakers costing much more.
• The RTi A1's relative light weight and small size make placement easier than does other high performance smaller speakers.

Low Points
• The RTi A1 presented a slightly warm tonal character in the low frequencies.
• The RTi A1 lost some performance when wall-mounted or on a bookshelf.
• The RTi A1 is not available in a gloss black finish.

Conclusion
I loved the Polk RTi A1. Right out of the box, it delivered a huge
impression of quality, value, and performance way beyond its price
point. It's put together wonderfully and delivers very attractive,
engaging, and dynamic sonic performance. It even will likely appeal to
buyers with higher budgets, and who doesn't need to save a few bucks
these days. This is one of Polk's best offerings in many years and
comes with an enthusiastic endorsement from HomeTheaterReview.com.

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