Incorporating many of the company's most advanced driver and cabinet technologies, as well as real wood-veneer cabinetry, Polk's RTI series provides an affordable alternative to those who don't want to step up into the real loudspeaker big leagues to get some advanced performance. The series offers three floorstanding models (RTi A9/reviewed here, 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 flagship of its RTi line, you don't need to squint to see the RTi A9. It's...well...kind of big. When considering its affordable price ($1699.90 per pair, MSRP), at first glance you get the firm impression that, if nothing else, you are getting a lot of speaker for the money. Measuring 48.625 inches high by 8.875 inches wide by 21.375 inches deep and weighing in at a cool 75 pounds, the RTi A9 takes over a room in a big way. On the top, the design employs a 1-inch Silk Polymer Composite Dome Tweeter crossed over at 1.8kHz and 12dB per octave to two 5.25-inch Dynamic Balance midrange drivers. Polk cleverly houses the tweeter/midrange array in its own sealed sub-enclosure which the company says improves performance, and negates the need for porting. 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.
The midrange drivers cross over at 120Hz at 12dB per octave to three 7-inch Polymer Composite woofers. The RTi A9 utilizes the company's PowerPort Plus technology, which consists of two ports - one front and one rear firing - supplemented by internal "plates" to reduce air turbulence and increase efficiency. Located under the woofer array, the large front port fits nicely into the cabinet with a silver fitting. The very slick rear port puts a cone at the mouth of the port to streamline airflow, reduce chuffing, and smooth out frequency response. But unlike most ports that simply end at the edge of the cabinet, Polk uses an elegant plate to terminate the PowerPort, which adds a wonderful cosmetic touch. The RTi A9 provides two sets of 5-way, gold-plated binding posts for bi-wiring/bi-amping. As with all the RTi designs, the RTi A9 features real-wood veneer side panels and utilizes an elegant, tapered cabinet design, which looks great on a big speaker while also likely improving 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 quiet the enclosure. To that end, Polk also utilizes its DAHLI (Damped Asymmetric Hex Laminate Isolation) technology to thoroughly brace the cabinet with a six-layer laminate with five viscous layers. The RTi A9 offers two optional veneer finishes - Cherry and Black - with the Cherry really distinguishing itself. The removable grills, with nice looking molding on the top and bottom creating an elegant blend into the baffle, look good but their plastic construction sticks out just a tad. Without the grills, the drivers look great against the baffle and that helps, as it seems there's, like, eighteen of them. The overall fit and finish of the RTi A9 goes a bit beyond what one would expect at the price point, even by today's standards.
The RTi A9 presents a nominal 8 ohm load with a 91dB efficiency. It needed a solid boost in overall power quality to open up properly, and went up another notch when paired with better quality power sources.
Right off the bat, the RTi A9s hit you pretty hard with a crisp, punchy sound. They threw a deep, wide soundstage with very good imaging, with an upfront tonal balance that distracts from those qualities just a smidge. The high end, while certainly veering towards crispy, never offends and offers a lot of detail and speed. The midrange offers an excellent amount of musicality, inner detail and neutrality, meshes well with the top end and excels with vocals and piano. While Polk chose to play the midrange drivers down to 120Hz, which seems pretty low, the midrange doesn't seem to have suffered for it, nor does the bass, which really packs a punch and keeps things very tight and controlled.
Click to Page 2 for The High Points, The Low Points and The Conclusion.
It stays in time with the top end, adds its own dose of pace and
musicality, and rarely sounds even a little sloppy and never sticks out
too much. The RTi A9 also plays loud when powered properly, with very
little breakup. In fact, the speaker rarely broke a sweat in this area.
Even with the PowerPort Plus, the RTi A9 needed some room around it to
sound its best, with the sound fattening up a little too much as it
moved closer to walls. Overall, the RTi A9 delivers an excellent level
of sonics with great pacing and dynamics, crisp imaging, and a healthy
dose of refinement and transparency. The forward presentation can be
defined as more of an overall flavor than an inferior aspect of one or
more particular bands. Underneath it, nothing sticks out negatively,
and the sound quality brings a ton of game on virtually every level.
• The RTi A9 provides a superb
overall level of performance and musicality, with great soundstaging, a
smooth and detailed high end and midrange, and punchy, extended bass.
• The RTi A9 provides an impressive amount of design and technology, and looks fabulous in both of its finishes.
• The RTi A9 sounds as big, if not bigger, than its large footprint
would suggest, with dynamics and bass capable of filling even very
• The RTi A9 has a somewhat forward tonal balance.
• The RTi A9 needs good quality power to perform optimally.
• The RTi A9 needs some space around it to sound its best.
The Polk RTi A9 provides a remarkable level of performance and
musicality for its affordable price. It also earns its way there,
packing a ton of design into its large enclosure. Its minor sonic flaws
never interfere with its excellent transparency, overall neutrality,
big sound, and punchy bass. Large floorstanding speakers have come a
long way over the years. Consumers can now expect to receive high-end
design elements, lustrous finishes, and much improved performance from
what the market offered even only five years ago. The Polk RTi A9 is
indicative of that progress, and then some.
• Read more floorstanding speaker reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Find a subwoofer to pair with the RTi A9s for a 2.1 system.