Polk Monitor 11T Floorstanding Tower Speakers
- 1" plastic dome tweeter
- 2x 6.5" woofers in MTM configuration
- 2x 8" passive radiators
- MSRP: $950 in 1990
Tested with Denon AVR-2803.
Stereo separation is good.
Midrange and treble are sometimes very clear and sometimes smeared.
This review shows very uneven frequency response from the 11T, with a dip in 1050-3000 Hz range and a bump at 12500 Hz followed by a sharp dropoff toward 20 kHz. Perhaps this explains why sometimes I think the midrange and treble are as I would expect them and sometimes they are excessively forward.
Bass with neutral equalizer at low volumes is missing completely. At medium volume I hear some of it but proportionally to the higher frequencies, not enough. My theory is that the passive radiators don't do much when woofer excursion is low as would happen at lower volumes.
With the bass tone control set to +6 dB on the AVR-2803, there is more bass but the speakers do not play any lower (and so still don't play low notes). They just have more mid to upper bass, to the point where it can be constantly present (but this is not enjoyable, because music is about contrast rather than steady state tone).
Astral Projection - Nilaya: bass drum hits feels delayed. Perhaps this is because more of the bass is produced by the passive radiators (in terms of surface volume) compared to a ported speaker with a larger driver, and the passive radiators are out of phase with the woofers. This is I imagine more pronounced with EDM material with quick drum hits than with acoustic rock material.
The low frequency descents in Nilaya are completely missing when played via 11T, even with the bass tone control set to +6 dB.
I am puzzled how some reviewers say that 11T have a surprisingly large amount of bass. The only way I see this happening is if they turn the bass knob all the way up on the receiver and by "bass" they mean "mid-bass and up".
11T could, I suppose, be decent night speakers as their bass output drops dramatically with volume.
Weirdly enough, sitting in the next room over, about 110 degrees off axis horizontally from 11T (far to the side and slightly back), the bass is significantly deeper than in any other position that is more on axis. This, besides just being weird, makes me wonder if the speakers do actually produce bass in random directions that neighbors could be hearing while I don't.
I then hooked up Denon AVR-2803 to 11T's as front A and BP-8 as front B, so that I could compare 11T's to BP-8 and also BP-8 to my reference Integra DTR-50.4 + Wharfedale Emerald EM 99 Mk IV + Sony SAC9 subwoofer combo (IWS). The BP-8 and the IWS turned out to be quite similar tonally, with the IWS combo producing much more bass (because Wharfedales play quite low plus this combo has a subwoofer). This gave me a very controlled speaker to speaker comparison (11T vs BP-8 on the same receiver) and a good comparison of the BP-8 reference for 11T's to my overall IWS reference.
Two things immediately stood out:
- The 11T's produce more treble and there is noticeable smearing in the lower treble. The smearing is not audible with BP-8's, however this essentially means that BP-8 are not reproducing some of the sound that 11T's reproduce. On IWS however, the smearing is present but to a much lower degree and is much less noticeable - you have to be listening for it specifically, if you are just listening to music it tends to not advertise itself.
Perhaps this smearing is a recording artifact of the source material, which is compressed music. 11T's end up making this artifact more prominent, making the speaker unpleasant to listen to, whereas Wharfedales make this artifact less prominent, making them pleasant to listen to. BP-8 largely don't play the artifact at all, which is debatable as to whether this is ultimately good or bad.
- 11T's sound like they have less midrange than both the BP-8 and the IWS combo. This is particularly surprising because I generally consider Wharfedales to have a somewhat recessed midrange, and while I have it brought up via the equalizer I think it is still dipped compared to other speakers. Well, 11T's have even less midrange than that when compared back to back to other speakers. When I was just listening to 11T's by themselves I haven't noticed the lack of midrange however. This observation is consistent with the measured treble bump and midrange dip linked to earlier.
Listening to the three sets of speakers I again noticed excellent stereo separation produced by the 11T's. It is more noticeable compared to Wharfedales, though Wharfedales do have good separation. BP-8 have less separation than Wharfedales even though I had them positioned between the Wharfedales and the 11T's, this is consistent with an observation I read about bipolar speakers that they wash out imaging somewhat.
Finally, I replaced BP-8 with Boston Acoustics T930 Series II on the AVR-2803 which should be a closer match to the 11T sonically. They are indeed similar in the relatively low amount of bass produced (T930 is a sealed box). In the higher frequencies though there are differences: T930 sounds floppy on occasion, while 11T sounds buzzy in the midrange and noisy-smeary in the lower treble. I prefer any of my other speakers to either of these two, but between the T930 and 11T I would probably stick with the T930.
While performing the most recent rewiring I noticed that the terminals on the 11T were perhaps slightly oxidized and maybe this has a noticeable effect on the sound. I feel that the way the speaker sounds is too pronounced to be just caused by the slightly oxidized terminals though.
At moderate listening volumes 11T's do not impress. The lack of bass and the audible treble distortion (which could be present in the source material but is highlighted by the speakers) make them not appealing to listen to. I would rate 11T's slightly below Polk RTi70 in sound quality and overall desirability and possibly on the same level as Polk Monitor 60 Series II.
11T's could be suitable for night listening due to lack of bass, especially at lower volumes, but they still occupy a large amount of space compared to Sony SS-CS5 which is my reference night speaker and sonically I find SS-CS5 to be more pleasant.