One of the best known and most storied brands in affordable high performance loudspeakers, Polk Audio has earned its reputation not only through its pure value proposition, but how it has maintained it through many industry and economic evolutions. While it certainly lost its way a few times over its 30-plus years, losing some quality and brand equity overall (like many other speciality brands trying to expand), it has not only remained solvent, but steadfastly continued to innovate and endure. Today, it remains a positive symbol of affordable quality, and shows no signs of giving that up anytime soon.
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Along with its array of loudspeaker products, Polk offers sixteen different subwoofer models that span virtually every application, including wireless and in-wall. The second from the bottom (price-wise) in its entry-level PSW series, the PSW110 ($249.95/MSRP) employs a 10-inch Dynamic Balance composite woofer driven by a 100 watt continuous/200 watt peak Class A/B amplifier, within a vented enclosure utilizing a downward-firing port, intended to keep the woofer’s profile as low as possible. Developed in conjunction with Johns Hopkins University, Dynamic Balance resulted from a laser interferometry research project that enables Polk to analyze the entire surface of a vibrating driver in real time, in order to determine the right composition of driver materials for the particular product.
Measuring 14.5 inches high by 14.25 inches wide by 17 inches deep and weighing in at 33.5 pounds, the PSW110 keeps a relatively low profile and weighs a nice amount for its very affordable price. The non-magnetically-shielded PSW110 provides volume and low pass (60Hz – 160Hz) controls, a phase control, low-level inputs via RCA (stereo or LFE/mono), and high-level inputs and outputs via pin terminals. The unit’s fit and finish is very good, with nice rounded edges and a solid, fully-rounded grill design that allows for more wood grain on the baffle. The PSW110 comes in either a Cherry or Black vinyl finish, and offers a solid set of feet that provide good grip.
The PSW110 offered a conservative overall sound that performed relatively well with both movies and games and excelled with music material. It lacked ultimate extension and weight, and needed more pop on intense movies, but didn’t overly distort in these situations. Side effects remained low. Musically, the PSW110 needed some more immediacy and speed, but kept things going very well and didn’t detract from the material. It kept up with hard rock and metal, and added some good bloom and warmth to large scale classical tracks and acoustic material.
Continue to Page 2 for more on the high points and low points of the PSW110.
Overall, the PSW110 had a low-key sonic profile and, while needing a
bit more sizzle, it erred on the side of light rather than boomy. At
its price, it provides a small glimpse of higher-end designs, while
keeping its mistakes on the low-key rather than aggressive side. A very
affordable design that probably sways more towards music but certainly
hangs in there on the slam, bang, and rock front. The unit sounded good
in lots of different places, with the downward-firing port minimizing
the wall interactions.
• The PSW110 provides a good overall level of performance that excels with music material.
• The PSW110 is not very sensitive to placement.
• The PSW110 looks very good, offers two finishes, and offers great connectivity and controls.
• The PSW110 lacks immediacy, speed, and overall impact, keeping a low-key approach.
• The PSW110 didn’t particularly excel with home theater applications.
• The PSW110 is not magnetically-shielded.
The PSW110 provides an interesting, compelling and somewhat unique
value proposition. Rarely at this price point do you find a design that
excels with music. While the PSW110 didn’t quite deliver all the goods
with movies and games, at its price point, that’s more of a description
of its sonic profile rather than a knock against it. It certainly
performed satisfactorily in these areas, but just sounded a bit better
with music. Nothing at this price point should ever be judged against
the higher-end of the category from a purchase perspective. There will
always be areas where budget products come up short. A very refreshing
product, at its very affordable price music lovers with some movies in
the catalog as well would be hard pressed to find a better value than