Polk Audio speakers have been reviewed by The Secrets Team before. I hoped that the new speakers would be special.

Polk Audio T50 Speakers - Polk Towers w/out grills

Highlights

Polk Audio T50 Speakers

  • 1” Silk Dome Tweeter
  • 6.25” extended throw composite driver
  • Two performance tuned front-firing sub bass radiators
  • Acoustically-inert, furniture-grade MDF cabinet construction
Introduction

Back in the mid 1980’s when I worked at a high end audio store one of the many products we sold were Polk Audio speakers. At the time not many people had heard of Polk, but we sold many of the speakers because they were affordable and sounded great. They featured advanced technology drivers, nice cabinetry, and they were easy to drive or in other words worked well with any receiver or amp. At the time, Polk had an Ad campaign that featured a button that said, “I got Polked!” When a customer bought one I would give them that Polk button.

POLK AUDIO SPEAKERS REVIEW SPECIFICATIONS
Drivers:

Tweeter – 1-inch Silk Dome, Midrange 6 1/2 inch Composite Driver, Woofer (2) – 6 1/2 inch bass radiator

Design:

Bass Reflex, 2.5 way

Total Frequency Response:

38Hz – 24kHz

Efficiency:

90 dB

Nominal Impedance:

6 ohms

Recommended Amplifier Power:

20 – 100 Watts/channel, Peak 150W

Cabinet Dimensions:

Depth 8 3/4 “Height 36 ¼” Width 7 ¾”

Warranty:

5 years’ parts and labor (original purchaser)

MSRP:

$129.00 ea

Company:

Polk Audio

SECRETS Tags:

Polk Audio, T-50, Floor Standing Speakers, Tower Speakers, Speakers Review, Speaker Reviews 2016

Design

Polk Audio T50 Speakers - Front of Equipment Cabinet

The new Polk Audio T50 features the latest in design and technology from Polk’s upper line of speakers. The Polk T50 has a 1” silk dome tweeter for the highs. The mid-range frequencies are handled by a 6.25” extended throw composite driver. The bass response is extended with the use of two performance tuned front-firing sub bass radiators per tower. Furniture grade MDF cabinets house the high performance drivers. The T50 is designed using Polk’s patented Dynamic Balance technology. Dynamic Balance technology allows Polk engineers to design out distortion-causing driver and system resonances for low distortion performance.

Setup

Polk Audio T50 Speakers - Curved Grill

The Polk T50’s came very well packed, and not as heavy as I thought they would be. I opened one end and tipped the speaker over on its other end then I slid the box up off the speaker. I rapped my knuckles on the top. The Polk speaker boxes sounded solid, inert. No hollow, unbraced sound from these speakers. They are slim and should be able to disappear into any room or space. The T-50 speakers are nice looking with a curved grill that makes them look elegant in an understated way.

A look at the drivers gave me confidence that they would sound very good. These are nicely built speakers. I placed them about six feet apart and not towed in.

Polk Audio T50 Speakers - Binding posts

The Polk T50 comes with 5 way binding posts close to the bottom of the rear panel. I am thankful for the binding posts, but the receptacle was a little small and I found it difficult to screw the speaker wire in. I used Audioquest Type 4 speaker cable and connected the Polk’s to my Emotiva 250 watt monoblocks. I turned on the cable box and TV to break in the speaker while watching movies. Interestingly, I found the movie Woodstock. So I cranked the sound and decided to take a trip down memory lane.

In Use / Listening

Woodstock

Woodstock

Right out of the box, the Polk T50 sounded smooth, and clear with great dispersion. As I watched the movie Woodstock, I noted the fine reproduction of voices from the singers (Jefferson Airplane). When the bands jammed, the Polk T50’s retained the rhythm and dynamics of the music. When Santana took the stage I was just amazed at the fire and the magic that the group produced during their seminal great show.

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I thought the drum solo in particular was well rendered. The Polks not only preserved the greatness of the performance, they were fun to listen to. A great start to the review for these speakers I thought. So I let them burn in for a few days before I returned for more critical listening.

Time Further Out

Dave Brubeck “Time Further Out”

Within a few days I had time to really sit and listen to the Polks, I decided on one of my favorite Jazz classic recordings, Dave Brubeck’s Time Further Out. Listening to the music on Unsquare Dance I noticed that the T 50’s preserved the tautness of the bass. The hand clapping during the song was crisp, and the sound of the upper registers of Dave’s piano was glorious. Everything was in balance, not one frequency overshadowing another.

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The T50’s did a good job of disappearing. The speakers filled out a nice soundstage with the instruments sounding life size or at least a good approximation. On complex passages, there was some blurring of the musical lines when things got congested. Again I noticed good snap on drums and cymbals from the T 50. Listening further I detected that the lower mid bass and bass is the weakness of the speaker, and that the highs and mids are for their price class pretty darn clear.

Moody Blues

Moody Blues “Time Traveler”

I next turned to a Moody Blues favorite, On the Threshold of a Dream. On Never Comes the Day by the Moody Blues as the music swells, the Polks handled the crescendo with an assured ease. The bass line though not as good as it can be, was well preserved. The Polk never sounded harsh nor did it clamp down at healthy levels. The tambourine on Are You Sitting Comfortably was distinct and weighty.

As I tried pushing the Polks up at higher levels I could hear them start to fall apart. Note though that apartment dwellers who push for the volume that I had for the Polk T50 would be evicted. I took out my SPL meter to get a measurement of the loudness from my listening seat. At the 75-85db range the Polks are wonderful, which is the level I usually listen to if I am not rocking out. The Polks can play louder, but they are at their best at this level I think.

Polk Audio T50 Speakers - No grill

Now during the listening phase of this review I had the opportunity to show the speakers to fellow Secrets Team reviewer and Senior Editor Jim Clements. Jim and I both live in San Antonio and we are members of the audio club (River City Audio Society) here in San Antonio. Despite busy schedules we both find time to socialize and share our love of audio. Jim had wanted to come over to my place for a while. When we found time I told him I had a surprise waiting. As I greeted Jim at my door I decided I would not tell him how much the speakers cost, but just let him listen.

Before we sat down I told him I had these Polks and that I wanted to get his take on them. We got comfortable and after we popped open our Shiner beers I pulled out the Polks for a quick listen. I didn’t tell Jim how much the speakers cost I just set them up and cued some music. Before we started listening Jim commented on how nice and well made the speakers looked, something I noticed as well when I unboxed them.

Cat Stevens

Cat Stevens “Cat Stevens”

I decided to pull out a few audiophile favorites of mine to put the speakers through their paces. First up was Cat Stevens Teaser and the Firecat. When I played The Wind, I could hear the delicacy of the strings of the guitar reproduced oh so sweetly. Cat Steven’s voice had that “you are there” presence. By that I mean that Cat’s voice was suspended clearly between the speakers. It was as if you could reach out and touch him.

Jim commented that the Polks reminded him of his Reference Paradigm speakers. The recording played to the Polks strengths, namely a good clear midrange and not too demanding dynamics. The bass was good, not great but the bass did blend in nicely with the mids. “I really like these speakers Frank”, declared Jim.

Famous Blue Raincoat

Jennifer Warnes “Famous Blue Raincoat”

Next I tried Famous Blue Raincoat by Jennifer Warnes. This is bigger music on the dynamics scale and I thought it would be a tough go for the Polks. On First We Take Manhattan, the clear midrange kept the instrumentation compelling. Jennifer Warnes superb vocals were beautifully presented and the searing guitar was kicking butt. On Bird on a Wire, the drums were presented with clarity if not with the best impact or weight of bigger speakers.

The backing men’s chorus were blurred by comparison with better speakers. I also noted that the Polks do a wonderful job of timing. I could hear the rhythmic pull of the musicians and the ebb and flow of the music so much so that it made for a more immersive experience.

Nora Jones

Nora Jones “Come Away With Me”

We finished up with Nora Jones Come Away With Me. This record sounded sweet and beautiful, as it should. I did note that on Nora’s soaring high peaks were clipped by the Polk’s. Nora’s voice also had a slightly cardboard sound, as if it was not fully fleshed out compared to better speakers. I don’t want this to come across too negative because the Polk’s do so many things well. The Polk’s imaging, timing, and musicality are very engaging.

So the time had come to reveal the secret of the Polk’s cost. “So Jim, what do you think?” said I. Jim squirmed in his seat and said, “Well Frank, there’re good! I just can’t believe how they remind me of my Paradigms, except the Paradigms have more and better bass”. “I told him, “Jim, they cost $128.00 each.” Then I watched as Jim’s jaw dropped to the floor.

I reconnected the Klipsch Cornwall’s and we resumed our listening session. “Oh yeah, way better sounding,” Jim said as the music came from the Klipsch. Well ok, and it should be considering how much more a set of Cornwall’s will set you back. Jim and I both agreed that the Polk’s are a very good value, and really good sounding on their own right.

I remember owning a pair of Advent speakers back in the 1970’s and since that time I have wondered what speakers today might replace that storied speaker for value. For each decade I could make an argument for a particular speaker. If I remember correctly, the original Advents sold for roughly the same price as the Polk T50’s. Amazing, right? It seems to me that although the price of all items sold has gone up since the 1970’s, today a consumer can get more for their money than before from excellent audio equipment. The Polk T50 is a product that you could identify as one of those audio products that gives you more bang for your buck today.

Conclusions

Polk Audio T50 Speakers - Tweeter and Midrange

Priced at Only $129.00 Each THE POLK T-50 Offers Impressive Design and Build in its Price Class. A True Full Range Tower for Small to Medium Sized Rooms, The Polk Can be Used as the Heart a Two Channel or Surround Sound System for Audiophiles on a Budget.

Likes
  • Slim Cabinet, Small Foot Print
  • Excellent Bass
  • Smooth Highs
  • Detailed Mid-Range
  • Tremendous value
Would Like To See
  • Easier Access to Binding Posts

The Polk T50 speaker system came to me unheralded and without much fanfare, but it is quite special in its own right. Within its limitations, and all audio components have limitations, the Polk T50 offers more than a glimpse of what high end sound is about. The sonic choices the designers of the Polk T50 made honor the music. The unassuming Polk T50’s are a bargain, and will compete with speakers at 2 to 5 times the price. If you are shopping for speakers under a grand a pair, do yourself a favor and take a listen to these. You might get “Polked”, I sure did.

  • Jim Milton

    I used to have a pair of Polk monitors. I have since “moved up” to Revel, but my monitors went to my son. I enjoyed the sound of the Polk’s and now my son is enjoying them. Matthew Polk may not be with the company anymore, but his ingenuity still lives on in these speakers. I still recommend them…

  • Carlo Lo Raso

    I haven’t heard a pair of Polk speakers in many years. They were big towers and I remember being impressed. I also remember those great old ads in audio magazines featuring Matthew Polk in his lab coat!

  • Jim Milton

    …like Matthew was a doctor or a scientist or something. Ha! Such was marketing back then.

  • Francisco Licon

    The folks at Polk back in the day had a sense of humor, and they had the right sense of fun and excitement about the Audio industry. I wish you could have seen Jim Clements face when I told him how much the T50’s sell for! Crazy nice sound for so little money.

  • Carlo Lo Raso

    Yup, the Polk and the old Carver ads were always fun!

  • Dale

    Hi Francisco,

    Dale in Houston. What electronics and source do you use for your home theater component and music reviews? Thanks.

  • Francisco Licon

    Hello Dale,
    I have the Rotel RC-1590 pre-amp and Rotel RB-1552 MkII amp. The sources are Apple Music which I stream to the Rotel, a Rega RP 6 Turntable with Exact Cartridge, a Sony Blu-Ray player, and I stream video from the internet through my Apple TV. Upgrades or changes happen every so often. Happy Listening!