Polk T50 review

Polk T50 review

Last Updated on by Daniel Lawrence

Most modern speaker shoppers are looking for smaller and more style-conscious music and home theater speakers, but the advantages of larger speakers for sound quality and performance have never been clearer. In addition, while soundbars are getting better all the time and maybe perfectly satisfactory for most people, a great set of full-size tower speakers provides a dramatic improvement in detailing, dynamic range, bass power, and stereo imaging.

Quick review

It is a remarkably decent-sounding tower speaker for not much money, but it faces stiff competition.

The T50 is Polk’s spiffy new tower. Compared to a pair of monitor speakers on stands, this speaker takes up no more floor space. A handsome cabinet makes it look more expensive than it is, and it provides excellent home theater performance at a low price.

While Polk clearly aimed at the superb, budget-friendly Pioneer SP-FS52 tower when creating this speaker, it doesn’t quite match its audio quality. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; for instance, the Pioneers are quite uncommonly excellent, while the Polks are solid “very good.”

However, Andrew Jones, the designer of the Pioneer speakers, is no longer with the company, and its AV division is now owned by Onkyo. Basically, it is not clear how long those SP-FS52 speakers will remain on sale. If they disappear, the Polk T50 would be a great alternative.

Design and features

Polk t50

In addition to the black grain wood vinyl finish on the T50’s cabinet, a removable, curved black cloth grille protects the drivers. Overall, the speaker has an above-average fit and finish for its price range with a small, flat pedestal base. This is not an entry-level model by any means.

Compared to other towers, the T50 is not very large; it measures 36.25 inches high, 7.75 inches wide, and 8.75 inches deep.

In the T50 are a 1-inch silk dome tweeter, one 6.5-inch extended throw composite midrange/woofer, and two 6.5-inch bass radiators (bass radiators are passive devices, meaning they are not driven by your receiver’s power amplifier). Compared with bass ports (which are open), bass radiators don’t produce audible “chuffing” noises. Additionally, they give you more placement options than ported speakers.

With one set of five-way binding posts on its back, the T50 is compatible with banana plugs, spades, pins, or stripped bare wires; its impedance is 6 ohms. The T50 comes with a five-year warranty.

In addition to the T30 center-channel speaker, the T15 bookshelf/surround channel speaker is part of the T Series and offers buyers a true 5.1-channel home theater experience. Additionally, Polk offers a number of compatible subwoofers, including the PSW10 and PSW111.

Performance

Polk t50

The T50 makes a great first impression with its bright and clear sound, as well as its tight and defined bass.

With just two T50s flanking the display, we did not miss surround sound and even a subwoofer while watching “Mad Max: Fury Road.” In addition to the films’ never-ending parade of muscle cars roaring across a post-apocalyptic landscape, the T50s’ three bass drivers were fully exercised by the score’s pounding drum beats. Our T50s did not strain or produce audible distortion during our heavy-handed auditions.

We were pleased with the T50’s home theater abilities, so we settled down and listened to Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” album. Davis’ horn was highlighted by the T50s’ immediacy, and the band’s grooves felt lively. Stand-up bassist Paul Chambers distinguished himself beautifully.

Then we switched to Pioneer SP-FS52 towers, which are almost as big as the T50s, and they cost the same. However, the sound was significantly different. Overall, we preferred the Pioneers.

The SP-FS52 has three smaller 5.25-inch woofers, yet they produce a richer and fuller tonal balance, so it sounds like a larger speaker than the T50. Polk’s image had less depth and dimension than Pioneer’s, but Pioneer’s soundstage was bigger and deeper.

On Jack White’s “Lazaretto” album, the T50s had superior vocal and guitar presence, and the SP-FS52s opened up the sound more, while we preferred their smoother bass-midrange-treble balance. Additionally, the SP-FS52s rocked out better with Queens of the Stone Age’s “Lullabies to Paralyze” album.

Pros

Polk’s big T50 tower speakers sound very good for the money. In addition to looking great, they have a 1-inch tweeter, 6.5-inch woofer, and two 6.5-inch bass radiators.

Cons

It costs the same and sounds better than the Pioneer SP-PK52FS. Polks are only available in black, woodgrain vinyl finishes. Some recordings might sound harsh due to their treble detailing.

Conclusion

Polk’s T50 is a great speaker for the money, but we prefer the Pioneer SP-FS52 tower for the same price. A bigger, deeper soundstage and a fuller balance on Pioneer’s product were more appealing to us. Some might prefer the T50’s more immediate sound signature.

Both speakers have a tendency to accentuate sibilance and grit in movies and music because their tweeters can’t provide the last word in clarity. In fairness, these shortcomings are only apparent when compared to more expensive speakers like the SVS Prime Tower and the Wharfedale Diamond 230.