First off, I'd like to thank Polk for giving me the opportunity to evaluate these speakers, and apologize profusely for taking so long to get this review written. I won't bother going into the reasons for the delay and instead will just offer the excuse that I've been very "busy" and I know we all can relate to that.
I was actually among the first to receive these speakers, very soon after they were released. The pair came without any manuals or documentation, and info, even on the website was minimal at the time. The only things I had to base my pre-demo expectations on were a .pdf "spec-sheet" and the list price. Also, not being "in the market" for a pair of similar speakers and living in an area where Polk dealers are not meant that I hadn't really been exposed to any of the most recent offerings from Polk. I do own a mix of older Polk speakers, including RT3, RT55, RT800i, LSi7 and SDA-SRS2. I'm also something of an amatuer speaker builder, so I have several pairs of DIY speakers sitting around, one or two of which I wouldn't be ashamed to show other people. I consider myself much more of a "gear head" enthusiast than an audiophile, and that is reflected in the type of equipment that I own. I'm also primarily a 2-channel enthusiast, though I do also have a modest home theater.
I tend to like big speakers, so I was excited to find out that I would receive the TSi500. Upon removing them from the boxes, I was immediately impressed with the cherry finish. It's vinyl, but it's very well done. The overall look of the speakers is pleasing with the grilles on or off, and IMO, the speakers look more expensive than they are.
They're not all that heavy. That can be a good thing if you plan to move them around much, but it concerned me a just a little because cabinets this size usually need considerable internal bracing to reduce cabinet resonance that can otherwise color the sound. Turns out, I didn't find that to be a problem, and I appreciated the lighter weight when I moved out of my house a few months ago. More on that later.
I hooked these up in my aforementioned modest home theater, in place of my RT800i's. They were driven by my older Denon 3801, and matched with a CS400i center. I live(d) in an old home built in the 1930's. The room where I initally set them up was very "live" with large leaded-glass windows, oak floors, a brick fireplace and (smooth) 10ft. ceilings: Not very good for high quality audio. We added a large area rug and thick drapes that helped to tame reflections somewhat, but the room still tended to sound bright and very live. I had discovered some time ago that rear speakers, placed where they would have to be, didn't really improve the theater experience in this room, so I removed them in favor of a simple L-C-R setup.
I played them regularly for a couple of months before trying to really evaluate the sound. Speaker break-in is real, but I think it varies a lot from speaker to speaker. I couldn't tell that these changed much over the time I had them. So how did they sound? I liked them. In this room they worked well- better than my 800i's in fact. There was some discussion about their impedance, as I think the first spec sheet incorrectly listed them as being 4 Ohm. I was a little concerned about driving them with the 3801. I ran an impedance sweep on them however, and they are 8 Ohm speakers; Sensitive, easy-to-drive 8 Ohm speakers at that. They have that "big speaker" sound that I like and the bass is powerful and extended, but doesn't sound artificially bloated. Polk always does a good job with that, IMO, and these are no exception. I didn't use them with a sub and I felt they had plenty of low end, especially for music. There's so much low frequency material thrown into movie soundtracks for effect that I'm sure a good sub would add to the overall experience, but it would take a pretty good sub to go much lower than these speakers will on their own. I felt like they were digging into the 30's without a problem. If I had to nitpick, I'd say they were a little forward in the upper midrange for my taste, at least on two channel music. This is a characteristic that tends to work in favor of home theater use, which is probably how most people would use these speakers. They got a good mix of music and movie use as well as a little bit of video gaming, and they performed well with everything I threw at them. They seem to have a lot of dynamic capability and they can get quite loud without sounding strained.
For a little more serious evaluation, I moved them to my smaller den and hooked them up in place of my SRS2's. I had to set them up beside the SRS2's a little further apart than I would have liked. They sounded best toed-in just a hair. This room is much better sounding, with carpeted floors and textured ceiling, softer furniture, etc. Other equipment was a fully modified Toshiba 3950 (Black-Gate caps, upgraded Op-amp, etc.), a Dodd ELP with JJ tubes, and driven by a Sunfire 300wpc amp. In this room it was apparent that these speakers aren't overly bright as I kind of expected them to be. They're not LSi laid back, but they're not as bright as my RTxxi speakers with the Trilaminate tweeters. Bass improved with the tube pre/Sunfire combo, maybe due to the amp or maybe due to the smaller room, or both. It's unfair to compare these to the SRS2's directly, BUT they really didn't give up much in the bass dept, which surprised me. They throw a big wide soundstage, but again, not a fair comparison to the SDA's. Having gotten used to the SDA sweet spot, I noticed how much more uniform the sound from the TSi's was as I moved around the room. Just out of curiousity, I brought the Denon receiver in and hooked it up in place of the Sunfire and tube pre, to try and see how much difference the room was making versus the equipment. The Denon sounded significantly "harder" and less pleasing overall (probably more attributable to the tubes than the amp) but there was less difference than I expected. Perhaps it's due to these speakers being easy to drive.
Back on the tubes and the Sunfire, I listened to some female vocalists inlcuding Patricia Barber, Alison Krauss, and Norah Jones. I also played "Tricycle" by Flim & the BB's, "Two Against Nature" by Steely Dan, and selections from "The Final Cut" by Pink Floyd. Perhaps it could be attributed to their being "less revealing", but poorly recorded stuff doesn't sound as bad on these TSi's as it does on the SRS2's for example. 80's rock recordings as well as newer, thrashier stuff like Gaslight Anthem sounded pretty good on them. I couldn't find any solid evidence of cabinet resonance having a negative impact on the sound. These speakers don't sound a whole lot like the RT800i's (the most similar speakers I had to compare them with), but it's hard to put a finger on what's different. The TSi500's have a more pronounced bass response, and probably dig a little deeper as well. And I think the Tri-lam tweeter is a little hotter on the top octave or so.
Bottom line is I really liked these speakers and hated to see them go. If you're shopping speakers in excess of $1500, these may not be what you're looking for, but at their price point and even considerably above, I think they're winners.