Polk Audio R300 Floorstanding Speakers - excellent value, nice step up from HTIB systems

May 9, 2007 (Updated May 11, 2007)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Excellent sound quality for the price

Cons:Lacks bass, especially for music

The Bottom Line: Excellent sound quality and wide soundstage for the price

I have used this pair of speakers in my home theater setup for over 2 months now. It is currently connected to my home theater receiver, an older Pioneer model – the VSX-D510 which is rated at 100W x 5 channels. The speakers are the front-left and front-right channels of my 5.1 home theater system. My primary use for these speakers is for watching movies, but they are also occasionally used for listening to music. I did quite a bit of research prior to purchasing this speakers both online and by listening to various floor standing speakers in local stores. I was looking for a replacement to my former HTIB – Home Theater In a Box – system. I based my decision on my sample listening and the positive reviews I had read online.

Basic info on Floor standing Speakers
The purpose of floor standing speakers is to produce the low, middle and high frequencies of the source material – typically either music or movies. The most often used speaker designs are 2-way and 3-way, which represent the number and type of drivers utilized in the speaker. A 2-way speaker contains a tweeter to produce the high frequencies, and a woofer to produce the middle and low-end frequencies. A 3-way speaker also contains a tweeter and a woofer, but adds a mid-woofer to handle the middle level frequencies and leaves the woofer to handle only the low-end frequencies.

The main difference between floor standing speakers and bookshelf speakers is the physical size. Bookshelf speakers are smaller in height than floor standing speakers, and are typically smaller in width and depth as well. The general advantage of floor standing speakers is that they produce a wider soundstage than bookshelf speakers. This means that the sound produced by a floor standing speaker is generally easier and more clearly heard from various listening positions to the left and right of the set of speakers. There are, of course, many other design and environment conditions that will have a large impact on the soundstage produced by the speakers – so a particular set of bookshelf speakers may have a wider and clearer soundstage than some other set of floor standing speakers. But, as a general rule, this is one advantage the floor standing speakers typically offer over bookshelf speakers.

Basic info on the Polk Audio R300 Speakers
The R300 is part of Polk Audio’s entry level line of speakers. The ‘R’ denotes that it is part of the R series, which is the least expensive and most basic in the Polk Audio line of speakers. The retail price is $400 / pair, although they can be found for much less online and in electronics stores.

The R300 is a slim, black tower design speaker made with an MDF (medium density fiberboard) cabinet. It has one 6-1/2” woofer and a 3/4" silk dome tweeter. The drivers are made of a polymer composite utilizing Polk Audio’s technology called Dynamic Balance, which is supposed to reduce distortion and provide a wide-range response from low to high frequencies. It has a vent port on the back of the cabinet which helps to enhance the bass response. It is also magnetically shielded so that you can place it close to your TV without having to worry about any interference with the picture. Finally, it has 5-way binding posts to use with connecting to your receiver or amplifier with speaker wire.

The overall frequency response of the speakers is 45Hz – 24kHZ with recommended power of 20 – 150 watts per channel. Each speaker weighs approximately 25 lbs. and measures 33" H x 7-3/4" W x 8-3/8" D.

The warranty for the speakers is 5 years, which covers both parts and labor.

Included in the Box
1) R300 Speaker
2) Warranty registration card

My Use of the Speakers:

Sound Quality -
For me, the quality of sound that you get for your money is far and away the most important characteristic of any speaker. You can very easily get some sweet sounding speakers if you are willing to pay hundreds of dollars per speaker, but it is much more difficult to find a pair of nice, clean sounding budget speakers for less than $200 – especially if you are looking for floor standing speakers. So my search for floor standing speakers was primarily driven to find the best sounding set of speakers that I could find for less than $200 pair.

I reserved judgment on the sound quality of these speakers until after I had made sure they were broken in. I turned on 3 movies, approximately 8 hours worth, and let the speakers run through the movies before I considered them fully broken in. I’m not completely sure if these speakers need a break-in period, but my rule is to reserve judgment on all audio equipment until after it has had a chance to fully “stretch it’s legs”. After that time period, I was confident that I was listening to the sound reproduction that the R300 speakers are capable of producing.

My experience so far with the R300 speakers has been extremely positive, with the speakers producing clear, accurate sound that has more detail than other speakers that I auditioned in this price range. The difference in sound quality and tonal accuracy is a very noticeable improvement over my previous HTIB speakers. The wide and transparent soundstage from the speakers has also been impressive, and they have no trouble filling my 12 ft. wide basement with evenly dispersed sound.

I have primarily used the speakers for DVD movie watching, and the sound effects and musical scores have sounded fuller and more detailed than with my previous speakers. The introductory music and initial battle scenes in the movies Gladiator and The Matrix: Reloaded, for example, showed how well the speakers perform with versatile types of sound. The introductory music sounded smooth and the high notes were not harsh or brassy. The initial battles scene highlights the fast response and well blended mid-range sound, and I did not hear any resonance or other hint of the speakers struggling with the sound effects. The low-range sound effects were not boomy or muddy, although the impact of these sounds was not extremely impressive. The low-range sound is adequate for most movies, but there is a definite need for a strong subwoofer to fill out the bottom end of the audio spectrum. The mid-range sound is warm and not harsh, and I was also pleased with the clear sound effects and instrument sound reproduction of the R300 speakers with this respect.

Listening to some my favorite CD’s and MP3’s - Seether, Three Days Grace, Linkin Park, Audioslave, Breaking Benjamin and Beastie Boys (to name a few) - all sounded better than they sounded with my previous speakers. The music sounded fuller and had more punch to it. The vocals sounded smooth and the woofer and tweeter combination had no trouble producing the various instrument sounds. The low frequencies were not boomy, but I again missed the low-end “oomph” that I was hoping to hear with the speakers.

Appearance is the least important characteristic of speakers for me, but may be more important to others. The R300 speakers have a very basic and low-profile appearance. The rectangular shape and small footprint do little to make the speakers stand out from their environment. The black colored grill matches the black finish of the cabinet exterior, and the only real color on the speakers is the red found in the Polk Audio logo. In general, the build quality of the speakers is top notch and the low-profile appearance allows them to blend well with just about any home décor surroundings.

Overall, I am extremely happy with the R300 speakers. They have gotten quite a few hours of use over the last 2 months for watching movies and listening to music, and they have really added a lot more enjoyment to the movie watching and music listening experience. They provide warm, clear, accurate sound and a very even soundstage in my listening environment. Their budget price is an added bonus to make the pair an outstanding value for the left and right channels of a home theater. Pair them with a strong subwoofer and they provide a high impact movie experience. With the 5 year warranty from Polk Audio, I am confident that they will provide many happy years of listening.

My other speaker reviews:
- Polk Audio DB570 Car Speakers
- Polk Audio PSW12 Subwoofer

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