• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). There are daily reviews of audio hardware and expert members to help answer your questions. Click here to have your audio equipment measured for free!

Polk Signature Elite ES20 Review (Bookshelf Speaker)

Rate this speaker:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 6 2.5%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 31 13.0%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 149 62.3%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 53 22.2%

  • Total voters


Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Apr 22, 2021
Definitely a lot of people love it. I think a lot of people also don't care too much and find it gimmicky. Not sure if the ratio is 90/10, 10/90, or 50/50.

For my part, I can count the number of times I've been wow'd by it and that number is in single digits, lol.

Individual tastes vary of course. But regardless of one's affinity for surround sound, I do think that for a given dollar amount it's inarguable that the subwoofer and front speakers deliver the most value. Unless working with a totally uncapped budget I would always advise people to spend that money on a 3.1 setup and add the surround speakers later once the war chest has been replenished.
I agree that you can start with 3.1 but you really need to go to 5.1 to start the surround experience. 3.1 just will not get you there. I see you personally like the 3.1 but you are leaving a lot on the table. Many, many movies have very good surround content that makes a big difference. I would take your idea and ramp it up to start with a 5.1 (as the OP wants surround sound) and then if he feels the need to to 7.1 he always can later as the AVR will do both. A lot of it is the room design and the movie types that are watched. A very bad room such as a two sided room with the other two sides open are tough to get any decent sound in, stereo or surround. but usually the surround will help out the bad situation a lot.
Thanks for posting JohnBooty! Anyone interested in surround around here is welcome. It seems sometimes I am the only one!:)


Senior Member
Forum Donor
Sep 23, 2019
Albany, NY USA
My feeling is that 3.1 is at best warmed over stereo and that's before taking into account the lobing issues that most budget centers are notorious for. While I appreciate the enhancement that occurs with movies, I like surrounds even more for music, particularly live music although it also helps with recorded music that is densely recorded for separating instruments.
Last edited:

Steven Holt

Active Member
Forum Donor
May 8, 2022
Excellent value speaker. Would be hard to choose between these, the KEF Q150, and Emotiva B1+
I would tell you to flip a coin, but since there are three of them and no three sided coins....well oh hell. Probably the best thing to do is go by price, maybe wait for a sale.


Active Member
Nov 24, 2019
1) Are there any other passive bookshelf speaker/s measured in ASR with similar or more sensitivity ?
2) I am just learning but could it be that port distortion is compromised to get little more low end extension ?


Addicted to Fun and Learning
Sep 24, 2020
I realize that, the one for sale is the model before. Nearly the same.

I was never certain, if one line superseded the other, or they coexisted together and one was considered an improved or slightly better "version".

I have mentioned before, but Polk's Website, is confusing, and hard to navigate, as least in regards to simply showing how all their speakers (multiple lineups) exist in some pecking order.

From what I gleam, there seems to be about 7-8 lines, that almost overlap......Yikes!


May 5, 2022
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Polk Signature Elite ES20 bookshelf speaker. I purchased it from Amazon for US $349 a pair including shipping.
View attachment 205739

I really like the look and finish of this series from Polk. Despite budget pricing, it looks nice and purposeful as you can tell from the unique rear port plate:
View attachment 205740

Measurements that you are about to see were performed using the Klippel Near-field Scanner (NFS). This is a robotic measurement system that analyzes the speaker all around and is able (using advanced mathematics and dual scan) to subtract room reflections (so where I measure it doesn't matter). It also measures the speaker at close distance ("near-field") which sharply reduces the impact of room noise. Both of these factors enable testing in ordinary rooms yet results that can be more accurate than an anechoic chamber. In a nutshell, the measurements show the actual sound coming out of the speaker independent of the room.

Measurements are compliant with latest speaker research into what can predict the speaker preference and is standardized in CEA/CTA-2034 ANSI specifications. Likewise listening tests are performed per research that shows mono listening is much more revealing of differences between speakers than stereo or multichannel.

Reference axis was the tweeter center. No grill was used. Measurement temperature was about 62 degrees F (17 degrees C).

Polk ES20 Measurements
Let's start with our usual "spinorama" graph:
View attachment 205741

On axis is reasonably good, marred by some resonances between 600 and 1000 Hz. And some unevenness in high treble area. There is a directivity dip around 4 kHz.

I forgot to note on the graph the deep bass extension. F10 is at nearly 35 Hz! This is partly due to a cabinet that is deeper than normal.

We see the cause of that roughness around 600 Hz in our near-field measurements:

View attachment 205742

We see more of a dip in directivity caused in vertical axis mostly:

View attachment 205743

Fortunately my listening room has a thick carpet and high ceilings so I will be hearing a more optimal off-axis response than averaged above.

Predicted in-room response with my custom trend line is thus:
View attachment 205745

I usually draw the trend line after my listening tests are completed and do in a manner that is consistent with that experience. See the next section.

I was impressed by the smooth and constant horizontal beam width and dispersion:

View attachment 205746
View attachment 205747

This also has wider than usual response which should create a more diffused field around the speaker (my preference).

Vertically we have the usual restrictions but again, the sweet spot is larger than I normally see in this class:
View attachment 205748

I like the low distortion especially at 86 dBSPL:
View attachment 205749

But notice how that resonance around 600 Hz is also showing up here in the form of distortion. This means that we will have impact beyond that frequency due to harmonics.
View attachment 205751

We see the same resonance in impedance graph and waterfall:
View attachment 205752

View attachment 205753

Finally for fans of timing tests, here are the impulse and step response:
View attachment 205754

View attachment 205755

Polk ES20 Listening Tests
My female starting track which lacks bass sounding a bit muddy/tubby and somewhat bright. So I brought out the EQ tool:

View attachment 205756

First filter was around 600 Hz. It is a small filter but per past experience, it not only removed a bit of muddiness but also reduced distortion. The latter caused the sound to be more open and clear. Once there, on tracks with good bass, the sound was more or less balanced. But with female tracks without such, it sounded too bright to me. A quick and dirty shelving filter fixed that nicely.

Once there, I was extremely impressed with the fidelity. Track after track sounded beautiful. Not only was the tonality right but there was this clarity and lack of distortion that kept impressing me. ES20 could play pretty loud and distorted gracefully in that the woofer just lost deep bass and became a tubby. Pull back a bit and you were golden.

I can see Polk having to both want to create an accurate speaker while working within strict budget and retain channel that demands "showroom sound." To that end, they have done a very good job here, producing bass response that is way above what you expect. And do so with very little distortion. The only issue is the port/cabinet resonance which makes the sound muddy and screws up upper bass a bit. And elevated treble which can be a bit much if bass response is not there. Fortunately both of these factors are excess output meaning EQ not only fixes them, but also reduces distortion. Result is a speaker and sound that you can really be proud of.

I can recommend the Polk Signature Elite ES20 as is but hugely so with equalization. You are getting so much performance for so little money.

As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
Thank you amirm, my best setup to date for my limited budget in 38m2:
ES20 260€ Amazon
Rotel A11 Tribute 520€ local dealer
FLAC--->USB HDD--->Windows Tablet Pipo X3--->Foobar--->APO -1dB @ 600Hz--->DAC Audioengine D1


  • 1652770359816.jpg
    275.1 KB · Views: 195


Staff Member
CFO (Chief Fun Officer)
Feb 13, 2016
Seattle Area
Can you improve the speaker by blocking the port and making it sealed?
Bass response is an asset of this speaker so I would not want to block the port.


Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Jun 23, 2021
I’m surprised you didn’t bitch about the angled banana plugs pointed up. That drives me nuts.


Addicted to Fun and Learning
May 11, 2020
Calabasas, CA
Bass response is an asset of this speaker so I would not want to block the port.
If someone is using a sub, blocking the port might help with integration and with the possible port resonance. I wouldn't be above testing it both ways.


Active Member
Forum Donor
Aug 1, 2020
Wonder how the polk es20 would fare as a bookshelf center with audyssey xt32 correction? Any possible issues under that use case?
Top Bottom