Polk HTS12 12″ Ported Subwoofer
The Polk HTS12 is a 12″ ported subwoofer that’s highly affordable, attractive, well-built, and promises to deliver deep bass with low distortion. These are the ingredients for a successful subwoofer, and Polk has been selling affordable subs for many years. But in 2018 it’s not enough to just offer a “good” sub because competition is fierce.
Internet-direct companies such as Hsu, SVS Sound and Monoprice (among others) have subwoofer offerings that raise the expectations bar among AV enthusiasts in terms of what they expect for their dollar. Faced with such competition, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Polk came up with the HTS12, which sports a tough-to-beat MSRP of $449.95 ($399 on Amazon).
Features and Specifications
The Polk HTS12 12″ subwoofer has a 200-watt RMS class-D amplifier (400 peak) pushing a 12″ polypropylene cone driver mounted in a 49.9-pound ported cabinet.
The sub offers controls for volume, low-pass (40 Hz to 160 Hz), and phase adjustment. There’s also a power switch as well as a 12-volt trigger. For inputs, you get an unfiltered LFE connection as well as stereo RCA with the low-pass function.
Warranty is 3 years for the electronics and 5 years for the driver.
At CES 2018 Polk showed the insides of the HTS12. You get a properly built sub for your money.
I used this sub in my living room system as part of a stereo rig. The AVR running the show is an NAD T777 and I use Dirac Live for room correction. Currently there’s a pair of Paradigm Monitor SE 6000F in the rig, so that’s what I used with the sub for this review.
This system utilized an 80 Hz crossover, with the AVR connected to the LFE input of the sub. I trust the provided controls work as advertised for alternative configurations. However, my thinking these days is if you are not using an AVR with bass management and room correction EQ for subs, you’ll have to spend more on a subwoofer that has these features built-in. The flip side is those features only add to a sub’s cost and are redundant if you use a competent AVR.
It did not take long to ascertain that the Polk HTS12 brings convincing, tight, tactile bass to the table. It’s a well-behaved sub that looks slick and feels solid. I doubt this sub would rank high on data-bass.com and I have no idea how it would do in a CEA2010 measurement but subjectively I can tell you it absolutely kicks ass and is a wakeup call to the ID sub makers that Polk is not about to leave money on the table when it comes to budget-performance subwoofer shoppers.
Dirac Live measurements reveal a sub that lives up to its specs and then stretches a bit to give you a bit extra. What I mean by that is in-room, 20 Hz was only down by 5 dB and Dirac Live was happy to dial in flat response right down to 20 Hz. The sub did not seem to mind at all, and as a consequence I actually got better in-room response than the dual GoldenEar ForceField 5 subs I replaced with the Polk. And for anyone worried about the 200-watt amp rating, consider that the sub is able to push its driver to the limit without showing signs of stress, which in my room was as loud as I play tunes.
In the grand scheme of things, this sub did everything I’d expect from a competent, affordable, mid-sized 12-inch sub… that costs hundreds of bucks more. And while it won’t plumb infrasonic depths, with a bit of EQ it’ll bestow your system with truly full-range response. What I heard as I played Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories indicates that a genuinely “good sub” is now obtainable for under $500. Polk’s HTS12 is tight, clean, and the port is “invisible” in that it never chuffs. Moreover, this sub achieved room lock with ease, organs shook the floor drums imparted tangible chest slam.
Movies fared fantastically thanks to the clean and deep output of this Polk sub. Recent releases like Avengers: Infinity War and Pacific Rim Uprising benefitted from a sub that mad thumps and thuds feel real. I did not sense that the sub was pushing its limits at any time and think most people would find one suits all their bass-making needs. Furthermore, since you can get two HTS12s for under a grand, I’m inclined to suggest taking that approach over purchasing a single sub for that money. These are definitely good enough performers to justify upgrading by adding more instead of replacing.
Proof is in the pudding, and all I had to do was switch from 2.1 to 2.0 and back, keeping Dirac Live engaged, while playing the excellent album “Rock On” by Teddybears to “get” how the effortless deep bass of the HTS12 made the music sound more real. The impact is not just physical, it’s emotional. It’s feeling the bass guitar in your gut while tapping your foot and just letting the music flow.
Unsurprisingly, everything that the sub did well for music and for movies also applies to games. You get the low level rumbles, the explosive impacts, and of course the soundtracks that are key to som many games sound that much better.
Surprisingly, and this may be a bit controversial to say, but I think I prefer this Polk to the twin GoldenEar ForceField 5 subs I was using. Measurements make it abundantly clear it plays deeper than the GoldenEars. What’s more, I’m not hearing a difference in quality that would make me choose the ForceFields over this Polk ,and I doubt anyone would be able to tell them apart in a blind test (aside from the Polk’s ability to dig deeper). ‘Nuf said.
The Polk HTS12 is an outstanding option for a 12″ ported sub at its price point. Economy of scale has clearly allowed Polk to craft a subwoofer that offers a lot of performance for under $500 and looks good doing it. If you plan on spending more, there are plenty of subs that will outperform this Polk. But if you cap your subwoofer spend at $450, you’ll have a hard time finding such a complete package when it comes to looks and fidelity. Given that reality, it should come as no surprise this model is a Top Choice selection. I’m simply blown away at the value Polk offers.
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