Polk RTA 11t loudspeaker Page 2
The cabinet is covered with a "furniture-grade" vinyl finish and is constructed from 3/8" fiberboard, with ¾" MDF front and rear baffles. The sides are braced horizontally, and a front-to-back brace adds further stiffening of the enclosure. The top of the cabinet is filled with what appears to be acrylic fiber, and all the drive-units are rebated into the baffle.
The RTA 11ts were positioned well away from room boundaries, as the mid-bass became too heavy when the speakers were placed within 3' of the rear wall. Sidewalls were 56' away. As my floor is quite heavily carpeted, I tried using Tiptoes to clean up the upper bass/lower midrange, but the metal studs on the speakers' bases defeated this, the speaker sliding off the smooth top surface of the cones. At low levels typical of casual background listening, the sound of the RTA 11t was quite seductive, a rather loose, rounded bass quality being allied to a feeling of air and space in the treble. Upon more critical listening, however, it became apparent that although the speaker is tonally well-balanced through the midrange, the overall characteristic resembles the familiar saddle-shaped "loudness" contour, where emphasis in the treble and bass compensate for the ear's low sensitivity at the frequency extremes at low listening levels.
The peak in the high treble exaggerated spit and sibilance in spoken male voice, and could be heard as a metallic signature added to recorded tape hiss, though paradoxically, the treble in total sounded rather recessed and shut-in. Violin tone, as well as the sound of the flute on the Stereophile Poem LP, was too warm, and lacked HF air. Despite the presence of the high-treble peak in the speaker's response, the speaker was too laid-back, apparently due to a lack of energy in the presence region. At high levels, however (spls in the 90s), the sound took on a treble hardness which had me reaching for the volume control.
Lower down in frequency, a hooty lower midrange added to the feeling of a warm tonal balance. Again, this was not unpleasant at low levels, but at more normal playback levels the speaker featured a significant degree of resonant overhang in the lower midrange. This was particularly bothersome on my own piano recordings, where the definition of pitch became obscured. On slow music, or when the melodic line being played lay well above the treble staff, things were relatively OK, but with contrapuntal music lower down in frequency, the sound of the piano degenerated into an unclear mess. Similarly with orchestral music or rock music with a complex mix: the sound was acceptable as long as things were quiet and simple, but when they got complicated and loud, instruments seemed to obscure each other's tone colors, the result being an untidy, muffled effect.
In this respect, the RTA 11t performed significantly less well than the two much less expensive speakers reviewed this month, the Cambridge SoundWorks Ambiance and the Monitor Audio MA7. The Ambiance may have a less flat tonal balance than the Polk speaker, and it is certainly more "colored" in that sense. But it has considerably more clarity, there being much less resonant overhang in the lower midrange, and it is more listenable as a result.