Thursday, April 3, 2014

Polk T15/R15 Review, Test, and Disassembly

The first budget speaker from a huge name brand that I’ve picked to disassemble and review. The T15 can regularly be found for in the $50-$60 at Best Buy which is what prompted my purchase and review. (From what I can gather the T15 and R15 are the exact same speaker, at the very least they seem to share the same tweeter. With the former being a Best Buy exclusive.)

Right off the bat it was by far the best constructed speaker I’ve seen in this price range. Thicker and a bit denser looking fiberboard than either the Dayton B653, Monoprice 8250 or the Sony B1000, the front face is nicely finished with what looks like a smooth plastic top surface, and most impressively it has at basic but real cross over (just a basic high pass and low pass filter for each driver). There is also some slight corner bracing going on. I didn’t weight them, but the T15 is heavier than the Dayton B652 and fares better on the knuckle wrap test.   

So did all these seemingly clear and obvious bonuses translate into a better sounding speaker for the money?

For a quick answer; no they didn’t. At least not to my ears and at least not for music. I’ll get to theater use a bit later.

For the ABX comparisons I used the Dayton B652, generally considered one of the best $50 pair of bookshelf speakers out there, since the price points are the same I felt they made a good match to compare to. Starting from the bottom, or the bass one might say. The Polk T15 was adequate for a small bookshelf speaker; it actually had pretty decent extension into the 80hz range. However, as music moved out of the bass range and into everything else the speakers response became very peaky in room. Part of this is just the nature of my real world testing environment (I had some oddly flat outdoor measurements throughout the midrange and up into 3khz or so). The end result was something that sounded very much like many voices were being projected through a tube. Following this, is a huge drop off in treble response starting at 2.5khz and really lasting though the rest of the audio range. This was seen in both indoor listening environment testing and outdoor testing. The Polk T15 might as well be the bastard offspring of the Monoprice 8250 and the Sony B1000.

When it comes down to it, musically these speakers are just not good performers out of the box. So I decided to use these speakers as my first attempt to make my own EQ files using REW. After a few go arounds I feel like I actually got some decent sound out of them. They became much more musical, the tube like sound was gone and I started to enjoy them as much as I have some of the step up speakers I’ve been listening to. So they do have some potential if you take the time to take some room measurements and EQ as needed.

As a basic home theater speaker, I didn’t encounter any of the obvious issues I did with music. I watched plenty of TV and movies, with The Avengers being my final test. Now they didn’t blow my socks off or anything but they were a vast improvement form the Samsung F6300’s built in speakers. If you intend to us them in this application I think you could so worse. The Polk T15 would probably be a serviceable surround speaker for any of the other similar Polk products. 

One thing I did take away as a whole, was that with a little bit of time spend working on an EQ file, these speakers really did become pretty pleasant. I don’t think it would be worthwhile to spend much time on room treatments or anything like that. But once EQ’d (a good) bit these were not bad. However out of the box I would still pick the Dayton B652 without question. 


I'm updating this review to link it with a new review of the Polk R150's; a sister speaker of the T15/R15. Im also including an outdoor response graph (@ 1m, mic placed between the tweeter and woofer. Which might help explain the huge dip, and I used a far too wide response rage on the graph that visually smooths the response far too much) that I had taken shortly after this review was made. I have learned a lot since this time and believe we can refer to the new review of the R150's to be a more accurate technical view of this group of sister speakers. I do hope to take new close mic and 1m measurement of the T15 to bring additional updates.

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