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Polk Audio RM6500 Home Theater System Print E-mail
Tuesday, 01 February 2000
ImageIt is truly a wonderful time to be entering the home theater market. Prices on systems are at all-time lows and the cost-to-value ratios are at all-time highs. The RM6500 is no exception to this trend.

This RM6500 is a space-saving six-speaker, five-channel home theater loudspeaker system offered at a modest $1,099.

The nuts, bolts and polymer aggregate material: As I began to set up this system, I noticed that the mini-satellites were heavy for their size – six-and-three-quarters inches high by four inches wide by five inches deep. After reading up on the subject, I learned that the satellite enclosures are made up of a polymer aggregate material that contains the appearance and acoustic characteristics of stone. This stone-like substance helps limit the enclosure from resonating, which is a good thing since the RM6500 includes a neat little bracketing system that allows you to mount the satellites against surrounding walls. Without this resonating dampening material, acoustic coupling would occur, resulting in the wall actually becoming a part of the speaker, turning audio signals into a muddy mess of phase cancellation and distortion. This bracketing system is both simple and flexible, allowing you to easily mount the satellites either vertically or horizontally, toed in or out, up or down. (TIP: It is usually best to position the tweeter toward the inside or center point of the imaging area when mounting or placing a speaker horizontally.)

Speaking of tweeters, all four satellites employ a three-quarter-inch silk dome tweeter, along with a three-and-one-quarter inch midrange. Time align design is also included in the RM6500 satellites, allowing the signals from the tweeter and midrange to arrive at the listener's ears at the same time. The center channel encases two three-and-one-quarter-inch midrange speakers and a one-and-three-quarter-inch silk dome tweeter. All of these enclosures are magnetically shielded, allowing for placement in close proximity to TVs.

The bottom end of this system is filled out by a 100W-powered subwoofer, which includes an eight-inch down-firing long-throw driver with a one-and-one-half-inch voice coil.

We've all experienced the sensation of audio signals rifling from virtual silence to ear- popping sound in our local theaters. Home theater is not too different. The system that you invest in must react to these sudden shifts in volume. The RM6500 handles these stress levels surprisingly well.
Starting from the bottom up: I really enjoyed the performance of the rear-firing 100W- powered subwoofer. The low thunderous frequencies that this small enclosure delivered while I reviewed the invasion of Omaha Beach sequence of Saving Private Ryan (Paramount) were totally enveloping, coming from virtually no discernible direction, or should I say all directions. Polk Audio has accomplished this through the innovative Power Port® design. This design is capable of handling large volumes of high velocity airflow with low turbulence. The result: very little extraneous noise or loss of signal.

The little satellites and center channel held up under the heat as well. There is a scene in Saving Private Ryan in which "tank-busting planes" swoop down from overhead. The transient response and imaging were so lifelike that I found myself crouching down in my chair, as though the airplanes were flying through my listening area. Polk credits this pinpoint-accurate imaging to the use of Dynamic Balance® technology, which produces a flat frequency response, lower distortion and clean detail. Deep Blue Sea (Warner Home Video) has a scene in which the cook is wading through the flooding corridors of an underwater research facility. All you hear are creaks from the structure as the water pressure from the ocean tries to squash the lab like a grape. Then, all of the sudden, a tremendous roar and splash occurs as the shark appears – the audio hit the soundstage like a ton of bricks. The RM6500 held up just fine under all off the structural stress and pressure that this piece of software was dishing out – a little harsh at some levels, but with no detectable distortion.

So much for the blood and guts. On a more subtle note, towards the beginning of The Thomas Crown Affair (MGM/UA), the soundtrack delicately integrates the sound of tap dancing that slides from left through center to the right and back again. The RM6500’s reproduction was smooth as silk without missing a step, hypnotic in a sense. (By the way, the soundtrack of this DVD is wonderful.)

The Downside
Even though the Polk RM Series as a whole has won the Audio Video International Grand Prix Award for seven consecutive years, there was one downside concerning the issue of flexibility. The system should only be used as a system. I tried hooking up the main satellites directly into my Sherwood/Newcastle receiver and going straight from the subwoofer output of the receiver to the input of the RM6500 subwoofer. The mains sounded thin and harsh and the subwoofer didn't seem to be pumping up to snuff. To Polk Audio's credit, they do make mention in the owner’s manual that you may experience difficulties if you try to set the system up in the manner I've described above. The sound would vary depending on the receiver. I had to give a shot to see what would happen. The preferred set-up is to take the center channel output from your receiver directly into the center channel speaker inputs, then run the surround outputs of your receiver to inputs of the surround satellites. Finally, run the main left and right outputs from your receiver into the corresponding main inputs of the powered subwoofer, then from the subwoofer outputs to the left and right main satellite inputs. Pretty simple, all in all. Nevertheless, this problem makes the system a little less flexible than I would like.

If you are looking at entering the home theater sound market, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better system than the RM6500 – at $1,099.00, the performance price ratio is hard to beat. But look, and listen around – do your research and read the specifications carefully before investing. My feeling is that you'll come to the same conclusion that I did – as a long-term investment, the Polk RM6500 Series is a keeper.

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