Monday, December 22, 2014

Polk R150 Review: Silly looking R15 and T15 clone?

Polk R150 Review: Silly looking R15 and T15 clone?

One of my first reviews was of the PolkT15, a simple bookshelf speaker found on sale at Best Buy for $49.99. From all the information I can gather; the T15 and the R15 use the same drivers and crossovers, however the T15 is front ported and R15 is rear ported. So those differences made little bit of sense from a users point of view. 

This brings us to the Polk R150, kind of an oddball bookshelf speaker. With it's tweeter placed below the mid (but nothing indicative of this being for any technical benefit). I can only imagine that this bookshelf along with it's sister speakers, exist only to be sold as door buster items. From what I can tell, none of these speakers are currently found listed on Polk's product pages as it is.

I went in to this review with the idea that the R150 probably is just the T/R15 flipped upside down, and missing any sort of wall hanger built in if you were looking for that. Between the two, I though the T15 was a better looking speaker, it's easier on the eyes but over all construction quality seems to be about equal. It's when I took apart the R150 that it was confirmed that they share at least the exact mid-range (they all have r15 printed on them. And while the tweeter on the R150 didn't have R15 printed on it like the T15 did, it's of the exact same size and visually identical. Seeing all this, I have to assume that they are nearly identical speakers (though I do hope to get new close mic and 1m measurements of the T15 soon)

Listening was done in different rooms and it has been a long while since I spent any time with the T15s. I did find the bass response very lacking, with the sister speaker the T15 to be slightly superior, I think due to the front firing port. Overall the R150 sound remarkably similar (the same?) to the T15's from the mid-range and up. By far the biggest issue is with vocal reproduction. In everything I listened to they just seem layered on top everything else, and not in a good way. But like vocals were cut out of construction paper and glued over the music playing behind them. It is very distracting when you hear it. The cheap tweeters are just not very articulate and with the significant boost after 10khz (see measurements) that are pretty fatiguing.

While music reproduction is not these speakers strong point, I could see them being used in a more home theater like situation where the ability to hear vocals may take priority. However their remain options that would do both better.

Unless you need some Polk bookshelf's to use as surround speakers, I would look into many of the other offerings at similar price points.

Disassembly Pictures

Above is a album of the speaker and it's components. It's as well made as any of the other $50 bookshelf speakers. At it's "retail" price, other offerings are both better performers and better built, the Pioneer BS22 and Infinity Primus options are easy step ups. If you are reeeaaaallly looking to stay in the sub $50 a pair price point, it remains hard to beat the Dayton B652 AIR.

Measurement Album

Close mic driver measurements


@1 meter



Above are the measurements I took. Both the close mic-ing of individual drivers and single speaker 1 meter responses indoors and outdoors.

From the individual driver measurements, we can tell that the mid-range doesn’t have very good lower extension. It really taps out at 100hz, where it takes a very steep nose dive. In theory, I guess the ports output could help make up for that steep fall off, as my measurements give it good output to about 40hz, though I highly doubt you would get close to that in an actual listening environment. The mid gets a little ugly between 1khz and 3khz, where it's crossover point. Tweeter measurements with and without the grills are pretty similar. At least the grills don't kill them like they do on the Pioneer BS22. However their output rises quickly and large peak after 10khz.

In my 1 meter measurements many of these issues can be seen manifested to various degrees. With the in room measurements, the Polk R150 shares the common bump from 100-200hz that rear ported speakers show in my room. Just as in the close mic measurements, the ugliness 1khz-3khz can be seen and is even more problematic thanks to it also being in the middle of a 10db hump. This is where I think much of the problem lies. It doesn't help that there also exists a pretty good size valley after it that then grows in the a nasty spike at from 9-16khz. These is one situation that presented it self in both the T15 and R150 regardless of measuring techniques. I think it shows that something it fundamentally wrong with the speaker.


Overall, this is another speaker to avoid.

TL;DR

The upside down version of the R15 and T15. Not very musical, sound bad and Polk should feel bad. If you are only going to spend $50, get the Dayton B652 AIR. The R150 might be ok if you really need a cheap Polk surround speaker.