American HiFi Home Theater Tower Speaker
- Enjoy rich, clean, full-range sound for movies, TV and music with Polk’s new Dynamic Balance acoustic array
- (1) 1” high-resolution Terylene tweeter for crystal clear high frequency response that perfectly reproduces the latest high resolution audio files
- (3) 6.5” low distortion mica-reinforced polypropylene cones with four-layer voice coils for clean, clear bass, better linearity, and dynamic mid-range
- Exclusive Polk Power Port technology for greater, more impactful bass
New Dynamic Balance Acoustic Array
Whether upgrading your home theater setup with an advanced Atmos configuration or enjoying your favorite music, Dynamic Balance ensures a rich, clean, full-range sound no matter what you’re listening to. This patented technology analyzes the speaker’s entire electro-acoustic and mechanical system for improved material selection and more efficient geometry. It pinpoints and eliminates issues that reduce speaker performance before they become a part of the finished product.
High-Resolution Audio Performance
Our newly designed Terylene dome tweeter features curvilinear formers that extend response and lower resonance. Its powerful ceramic motor structure also lowers system resonance and extend low frequency response for better dispersion in the critical midrange, delivering clear and detailed high frequency response for realistic reproduction of vocals and instruments. Certified and capable of delivering 40kHz to support the latest high resolution audio files so it feels like your right there in the studio or concert hall.
Exclusive Polk Power Port Deep Bass Technology
Power Port® is our patented design that smoothly transitions the air flow from the speaker’s port into your listening area. It also extends the overall bass port, providing greater surface area to eliminate turbulence and distortion, for bigger, more musical, deep bass impact. Plus, it offers 3dB more bass response output than a traditional port.
High Sensitivity and Maximum Compatibility
Works with the most modestly-powered amplifier or receiver. Whether you’re connecting them to the newest digital processor, or your vintage rig, you get sound reproduction that’s spacious, clear, enveloping, and realistic. Plus, it’s compatible with latest Dolby and DTS surround sound technologies.
Custom Mid-Range Drivers
Mica-reinforced polypropylene cones with butyl rubber surrounds, four-layer voice coils, massive ceramic motor structures and high-temperature Conex fiber spiders combine to create drivers of exceptionally high efficiency, for clean, clear bass, better linearity, lower distortion and greater durability.
Four-Driver Cascading Tapered Crossover Array
Gives you a seamless, lifelike soundstage no matter where you’re seated in your listening room. There’s no more sweet spot—instead, it’s all around you.
Anti-Diffraction Magnetic Grille
Computer modeled for a precision fit and enhanced good looks—and made to minimize sonic interference.
Dual Gold Plated 5-Way Binding Posts
Perfect for easy setup and bi-wire and bi-amp configurations, they ensure the most direct, efficient, and loss-less connection possible.
Dual-Floor Compatible Feet
Customized for improved stability and bass coupling to the floor, the speaker tower feet are designed for both carpet and hard floors.
Quality Crafted Cabinet Design
Strong, rigid and acoustically inert enclosure reduces unwanted internal standing waves for less audible coloration. And non-resonant Meddite MDF construction, with extra bracing and minimum thick baffles, ensures a more lifelike sound.
Designed with the same components throughout to achieve seamless speaker-to-speaker blending effects in multi-channel systems.
American Modern Styling
Curved edges offer a sensual yet powerful look that fits with any home decor—available in a stunning black washed walnut finish.
Polk Signature S60 Speaker System Review
Daniel Kumin | Jun 16, 2017
Signature S60 Speaker System
AT A GLANCE
Excellent range and tonal balance
Good blend from unusually low-profile center
Sub doesn’t add much to the towers alone
With the Signature Series, Polk successfully practices its long-held ethos of delivering high performance at affordable cost in a new, smartly designed lineup.
Of the three or four speaker brands that pumped the vast majority of air throughout the hi-fi boom of the 1970s, only one—Polk Audio—is still doing what they’ve always done (design and make loudspeakers), where they’ve always done it (more or less), and with very much the same ethos (value/performance, with value in italics). OK, so Polks, like virtually all other mass-market speakers sold in the U.S. are now actually manufactured overseas. But they’re still conceived here according to the old Polk standards—industrially designed in San Diego out of the corporate headquarters and engineered in Polk’s original hometown in greater Baltimore.
Although co-founder Matt Polk has long since departed to retirement and ancient-textiles collecting (audio folk do make the most interesting retirees!), the company has stayed remarkably close to its roots and true to its creation story. Which, if I’m allowed a somewhat brutal paraphrase, might be: really good speakers, cheap (they would prefer the word affordable, I’m sure). For nearly five decades, Polk has demonstrated that you can get about 92 percent of the performance of the very best loudspeakers for about one tenth the cost, and each generation of their speakers seems to nudge a half-point closer. This is no writerly hyperbole. You can easily spend $3,500 on a pair of esoteric 6-inch two-ways, to which something like Polk’s RTiA1 (which I reviewed in an earlier version a few years back) will directly compare with eyebrow-raising success (all prejudice aside, or double-blinded away).
The most recent exposition of the Polk Way arrives in the form of the company’s new Signature series, its latest entry into the value wars of full-sized speakers. Polk is promoting the Sigs as “Real American HiFi,” and the look, which in my samples featured dramatic “washed black walnut” vinyl woodgrain exteriors, silvered driver diaphragms, and gloss black baffle trims with prominent, brushed-nickel fasteners—has an undeniably tough, Harley-esque air. (They’re also available in a Classic Brown Walnut vinyl as shown.) On close inspection, it must be said, both the look and the feel are budget: The vinyl wraps’ seams are clearly evident on the speakers’ bottoms, and the towers’ integral feet are distinctly plastic. None of which has any bearing on the sound, of course, although all those décor-group elements cost money.
Nonetheless, as these are Polk speakers, my expectations were substantial as I unboxed the Signature system that had been shipped up from the Chesapeake: a pair of flagship S60 towers, an S35 ultrawide “slim center,” and a pair of S20 bookshelf models that we pressed into service as surround channels.” (Polk now offers a smaller S15 bookshelf ($230 pr) and a dedicated S10 surround satellite ($200 pr) for when compactness counts.) Polk also sent a PSW125 subwoofer, not officially in the Signature series, to round out the 5.1-channel array.
The S60 tower deploys three identical-looking 6.5-inch cone woofers made from mineral-filled polypropylene and a 1-inch dome tweeter made from terelyne, a polyester fiber that is said to offer extended high-frequency response over a standard silk dome and which allowed the Signatures to become Polk’s first line to be awarded official Hi-Res Audio certification. The “four-driver cascading tapered crossover array” makes the S60 a two-and-a-half way design, wherein the top 6.5-inch driver runs like a regular two-way, from low frequencies up to the tweeter; the bottom two drivers also start in the low frequencies but roll off sooner, producing less midrange.
The S20 speaker employs similar drivers in a simple two-way design, but the S35 center is dramatically different. Fully 2 feet wide but barely 4 inches tall, it packs six 3-inch drivers to flank a 1-inch tweeter similar to those found in the other speakers. The 3-inch drivers are similarly cascaded, with the inner pair passing the most midrange and the two outer pairs each passing successively less midrange component; all contribute low-frequency output.
All three speakers are vented designs, exploiting Polk’s proprietary Power Port, which locates a turbulence-smoothing parabolic diffuser directly opposite the port openings on the rear of the S20 and S35 (which has dual small ports) and on the bottom of the S60.
Setup and Listening
I set up the front Polks in my standard 5.1-channel layout: S60 towers flanking my 55-inch Vizio TV (and just behind my acoustically transparent Seymour screen, when extended) and S35 center on a low stand just below the Vizio’s bottom edge. The S20 being used as surrounds went on tall stands in the commonly utilized direct-radiating surround positions, about 110 degrees south of the on-axis (viewing) line. The PSW125 sub went in my long-proven subwoofer position to the right of and behind the right-front tower. With everything in place and functioning, I left the Polk suite on for a couple days of casual use and overnight radio playback to cover any break-in questions—Polk made no requests in this regard, but belt and suspenders—and then settled in for the serious listening.
I always prefer to begin my listening with full-range stereo auditions, straight no chaser (and no subwoofer). So I cued up “Straight, No Chaser”—a hard-driving version of the Thelonious Monk classic by B3 lunatic Dr. Lonnie Smith (via Tidal) on my Oppo BDP-105D player. Drummer Johnathan Blake’s busy cymbal rides and aggressive snare fills sounded excellently airy and lifelike, while the good Doctor’s percussive organ riffs carried that peculiarly Hammond-tonian note-attack puff, and some gurgly grit when a handful of low notes collided, to underline realism. And this persisted at lifelike levels: The S60s had no trouble producing real-club levels without compromising the lower-frequency clarity and dynamics necessary to convey Smith’s B3 barrage.
The S60 towers’ vocal delivery was very fine as well. My usual rotation of male voices revealed a sound that was natural and even, though slightly warm or weighty. Warm/weighty perhaps, but without any narrow-band aberrations in the upper-bass octaves that might have induced the colorations I call chestiness or “hoo.” And overall, the S60s provided a pleasingly neutral midrange, whether from voices, strings, or woodwinds. On a track like “A Sign of the Ages,” the richly expressive baritone of the largely forgotten but highly influential Gil Scott-Heron sounded liquid and full, with just that touch of characteristic nasality. (Anyone else ever notice how much he and Boz Scaggs sounded alike?)
As far as I could find, Polk’s only statement regarding the S60s’ range is “Total Frequency Response: 26 hertz to 40 kHz”—just so, with no qualifications of level or anything else. This is not terribly helpful—the same could be said of nearly any speaker 4 inches or larger—but it certainly elicits hope of a certain bass ability, which the towers more than fulfilled. In my studio, the S60s produced ample output to at least 35 Hz, as plumbed by my extensive dubstep library (about six tracks, all of which sound pretty much alike to me, except for delivering slightly different deep-bass drones, which is exactly their function). A low C at 32 Hz sounded very little attenuated if at all, relative to my everyday system (complete with imposing SVS PC12-Plus subwoofer), which is damned impressive. And the frequent bass-diving downward sweeps encountered in such music generated some real, gut-fluttering infra-bass.
The Polks were quite happy playing loud—toward the upper range of my 150-watt-per-channel amplifier—but dense textures like big-band horns could get a touch strident. Stereo imaging was defined and stable, but without unusual depth or that last degree of “hang-in-space” believability I hear from the very best speakers.
One of the better-sounding recordings I own is a version of the instrumental suite from Kurt Weill’s The Threepenny Opera, which I have in 96/24 via a pirated transfer from a 30-inch-per-second two-track master (shhhh!). It’s goose-bumpingly natural, and the S60s did a fine job preserving elements like delicate suspended-cymbal mallet strokes and plinking piano/banjo unisons (a brilliant Weill innovation in orchestration), while the solo trumpet calls had the round, resonant brass character I want to hear. Listening to the same tracks via my everyday speakers for a quick reference revealed no big distinctions: The Polks were a shade warmer, and they went a tad lower with a bit heavier and slightly looser 40-to-100-Hz balance, but the overall timbral balance was ostensibly the same—which in my book means excellent. Only in direct, level-matched comparisons could I discern another difference, which wasn’t so much in any one quality as in a “quantity of clarity.” Switching to my long-discontinued Energy speakers struck me as if a single, very thin layer of acoustically broadband cheesecloth had been removed, making things neither brighter nor duller but somehow, just barely there-er. And by no means do I intend this as a criticism: In a comparison with Energy speakers that would, if made today, surely cost four or perhaps five times as much, this is in fact strong praise.
Given the completely different configuration of the S35 center, I had to wonder if it would sound, well, completely different, but it didn’t. Comparing center-speaker mono with two-main-speaker mono showed a surprisingly close match, with no glaring colorations or contrasts. The very low-profile center was clear and articulate, and in fact on some male voices it displayed a small but audible increase in low-midrange emphasis. This was clearly less evident on most female voices, from which I conclude a modest but relatively broad-banded rise (or, conceivably, adjacent dip) somewhere in the 300-Hz-ish region. This is also the upper end of the range most affected by boundary gain from neighboring room surfaces.
Equally surprising, the S35’s off-axis consistency was very good. Surprising, because a line of small, identical drivers covering the same range—and as far as I could tell, Polk’s skinny center is a simple two-way construct—will display substantial response “lobing” along its long axis (horizontal, in this case) unless measures are taken to lessen this in the crossover. With its six woofers spaced a bit less than 4 inches on center, you could expect peaks and dips around 300 Hz (and 600 and 150) at certain angles, but when I compared on-axis sound with off-axis, I heard little difference other than the expected loss of brightness (from moving off the tweeter axis). Perhaps the “cascading” of the drivers described earlier helps mitigate the off-axis effects. On the other hand, the fact that this matches the range at which I heard the S35’s very slight lower-midrange shift seems suggestive. Either way, the S35 proved an eminently competent center unit, and its slim form-factor is sure to be a big sales-floor draw.
I cued up the Blu-ray of Passengers, rather a talky movie—for a sci-fi spectacular, anyway—but one with lots of spatial and dynamic cues. The Polk suite did a fine job throughout, keeping dialogue (of all three, count ’em, three characters) firmly onscreen and solidly intelligible, while producing a seamless surround bubble at the listening position. The S20 two-ways may be large for a lot of surround positions, but they worked just fine at the primary listening spot. For a listener seated to one side or the other, discrete effects tended to pull toward the closer speaker, which I found problematic—but this is generally the case with any directradiating close-in surrounds, so no knock on the Polks. I briefly auditioned the S20s as full-range stereo speakers (the real reason we’d selected these big boys over the smaller dedicated surrounds), and they made an impressive match to the S60s; fact, they sounded remarkably good from soup to nuts. This was an admittedly limited experience, but I’d wager that a system with four S20s (and the S35 and PSW125), at a savings of $450, would be no great hardship at all but the highest volume levels.
Even though it’s a big 12-inch model, the PSW125 subwoofer felt like a bit of an afterthought in this system—and indeed it was, as there is no Signature Series subwoofer offered to date, and Polk sent this $350 model as a fairly priced match. It’s very plainly finished, with cheap push-terminal speaker-level ins and outs (which you’ll likely never use) and a very basic control set; there’s no crossover-defeat LFE switch, just a continuously variable Low Pass knob, which you’re instructed to set at its max for LFE use. I went back and replayed the big action scenes from Passengers, as well as a handful of my favorite big-bass sequences from movies and music alike. While the sub clearly added a degree of extension, and a similarly modest dose of deep-bass level, the towers on their own could come quite close. Seems to me, there are subs for just a couple hundred bucks more that might provide a more powerful bottom octave—Polk’s own upgrade might be the DSW PRO 660i (I’ve no experience with it), while the usual go-to web brands-—SVS, Hsu Research, Power Sound Audio—also spring to mind. That said, I’ve no qualms whatsoever in suggesting a subwoofer-less, S60-based system; the towers have plenty of extension and oomph to yield a solidly cinematic, if not quite referencebandwidth, experience.
Overall, Polk’s newest family certainly deserves your attention. In the past couple of years, we’ve watched aggressively priced, extraordinarily well-performing midtowers with surround companion models march in from brands based in Germany, Japan, and Canada (all manufactured in Asia, of course) to recalculate the U.S. market’s value/performance quotient. Now, Polk’s distinctly American Signature series joins the fray, fully equipped to match up with the invaders.