I had been reading about the TSI line being the the replacement for the monitor line from the forums. I however did not find many reviews on this site for this line except for one where the person was give theTSI500s to be reviewed...i was not so lucky!! but it was a starting point for my search. Many of my friends suggested i just buy the monitor 70s which got great reviews or the RTI10s ..... but finally bit the bullet :D and bought the Cherry version of the TSI500 and CS20 for my front sound stage.
I wanted to share the information of my journey to audio nirvana and the performance of these babies after one whole week of break in.
Finding the Right Speakers -
first...I don't consider myself an audiophile..yet!!....do not have the money to buy all the equipment or the fancier speakers and if i did.. my wife would mostly let me sleep outside the home.
However i am a musician (play drums, bass and piano) have my own home studio with my studio monitors (KRK 6).....know the difference between good and crappy sound...loss less format audios, mp3s ripped in 320Kbps vs the low quality and so on. I had been saving and waiting for a long time to upgrade from my lowly R300 (living in an apt...they were more than enough to fill the room up)....they were no slouch in any way...worked and served me well all these years without any hiccups. Once I moved to a home :) I needed something bigger and exciting and also not too hard on the wallet.
I went online and found that a lot has changed in the last 4 years with so many brands and newer lines to choose from....I wanted to stick with polk, if their entry levels could perform so admirably I could not lose. But still wanted to listen and compare the other offerings as this would be an investment. Took most of my favorite CDs.... Beethovens Sonata collection, Angels and Airwaves especially the Valkyrie Missile Track, soundtrack of Slumdog Millionaire, The very best of Diana Krall.... and did blind test comparison of POLK TSI 400 to Klipsch Icons and for grins the Bose 301 at Best buy. Also did the similar test at FRYs electronics with the TSI500, Boston Acoustics, Infinity P362s. Even asked my wife too to listen to them and see if I chose the right woman :D!!
We wrote down all the results and found the following points stand out immediately in favor of the TSIs
Best buy did not have the TSI500s on display so i tested with the Polk TSI400s to get a feel for the line. Polk's TSI 400 beat the Klipsch Icons VF35s that were bigger than them at the same volume level....the mids, the highs were all perfect compared to the cheif competition at a higher price point, I went into magnolia theater and had a listen to the Klipsch Icon WF-34 and thought they were weak given their price was 200$ more. I thought it was not fair for the BOSE 301 to be compared with the TSI400 but I did it anyways and the result was the same with me feeling it was an unfair comparison to the BOSE. Enough said.
At Frys things got heated up...Boston Acoustics floorstander seemed very similar to TSI400 in terms of sound..the infinity P362s were definitely a bit better...and thats when i decided to put the TSI500 in the mix..and things were much easier to decide. TSI500s had better presence, midrange...the highs surprisingly were very good...i thought i would lose some highs by going with the bigger cabinet and woofer combo with the similar tweeter..but it was fantastic. Overall i felt polk TSI 500s were the best among the speakers i could directly compare them with.
Now back to my friends place...he is a much more nitpickier person and owns Paradigm Reference Studio 100....I listened to them to know what real high quality sound meant...they were incredible..beat the TSI500 fair and square, the problem was I could not convince myself that marginal step up in clarity in mid range and highs (he pointed out Diana Krall taking her breath, the cymbals sizzle stay on longer after the hit, the bass note coming out cleaner...i thought it was the same out of the TSI500s too :D) meant shelling out almost 1.5 times more than what i will pay for the TSIs. If you think all of these makes a difference when u listen to music then by all means spend the 2K for the mains alone.
In Home theater performance however I liked them equally there was not much difference at least to my untrained ear.
These are not 5K speakers so do not expect an immaculate finish with looks to die for. They came in shipped by UPS. The speaker cabinet was strong and the knock proved it was sufficiently damped. The cherry finish was perfect, my wife loved the finish..she did not know i ordered them in cherry, they were not too glossy nor matt. The black gloss top however is what makes this speaker look beautiful with the contrasting cherry body. I inspected the port at the bottom...this is the first time i am seeing speakers with ports on the bottom..do not know if this is a design feature by polks engineers to increase performance or more of not having a gaping hole on the front or rear of the speaker.
The only gripe I had with them was I felt the Grill could have been designed better...klipschies had a nice grill with magnets to attach them to the cabinet
Gentleman and ladies..this speaker is a big one...so you better have the room to play them in, they are almost 4feet tall and provide the room with a majestic appeal. Most of my friends who have visited my home from the time these came in have only praises for the look.
Performance and Value
I had listened to them in the store..wide open area and lots of ambient noise. Was waiting to see how they would perform inside my home. I set them up in my living room 12*20 feet and had them running in low medium music for around 2 days before i began listening to them critically.
Everything I had hoped for and more is what these speakers delivered. The happiness i got when i heard my favorite bass lines in tracks said it all. I was powering it using a pioneer receiver and sent in around 80 true RMS watts before i decided it would be dangerous for the shelves in my room. they did not break a sweat and delivered every note and every hit perfectly. I Crossed them over at 50hz and could hear my PSW-10 subwoofer actually bottom out when pushed to the max. I guess this is a sign that i need to upgrade my sub :) to compliment these great towers.
One thing that did come to my mind was when I see speaker reviews online I hear people running speakers at near reference levels with very expensive amplifiers....which in this case would be around 200 True Watts. I think one would be insane to run that much power when sitting around 10 foot away from monsters like these. If this was really true then most of the reviewers would have had partiall or even permanent hearing loss :D. For most of the enthusiasts who live in a home with a family hitting true 120 watts/channel in a big room would be a darn good achievement.
Please do your self a favor and buy the CS20 if you even think of the TSI500s as mains for your Home theater.....you need that big a center to keep up with these champs.
On the whole I would say Polk delivered in spades in this line and I am sure that its only a matter of time before they become the next best sellers.
The TSI500s/CS20 are for the audiophile who is practical and knows what he is getting are one of the best speakers he can buy for under 1000$.
Great Job Polk....now if only i can find my Matrix DVDs!!:D
I will post pictures of my setup soon.