• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required. There are many 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: 7 2.5%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 36 12.9%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 164 59.0%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 71 25.5%

  • Total voters
    278

Xyrium

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Forum Donor
Joined
Aug 3, 2018
Messages
574
Likes
493
Very neat offering, I think this one's a success. Good to hear user reports on Polk's customer service being exemplary as well.
 

ninetylol

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
721
Likes
701
I think this speaker is awesome but why does an JBL 305p for example have a higher score besides costing less? What am I missing?

Also @amirm a review of the top of the class ES60 would be interesting seeing how good this one is :)
 

Everett T

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Forum Donor
Joined
Aug 2, 2020
Messages
715
Likes
595
I think this speaker is awesome but why does an JBL 305p for example have a higher score besides costing less? What am I missing?

Also @amirm a review of the top of the class ES60 would be interesting seeing how good this one is :)
Bass extension, I'm assuming.
 

Spkrdctr

Major Contributor
Joined
Apr 22, 2021
Messages
2,238
Likes
2,975
I hate to beat a dead horse any more than the poor horse has already been beaten, but I think he can handle one more whack. This is the speaker that kills the GR Research Little giant killer speaker pair for $1000. The Polks literally blow them away. Price, bang for the buck, Amirs great testimony on lots of bass in a small speaker, what is there not to like at this price? Add in an inexpensive SVS PB1000 sub and you are all set for people shopping in this price range. These and a few other speakers Amir has tested smoke high priced goofy stuff like the LGK speakers. Just sayin........great Polk product for the price.
 

VintageFlanker

Master Contributor
Forum Donor
Reviewer
Joined
Sep 20, 2018
Messages
5,103
Likes
20,426
Location
Paris

Pauper

Member
Joined
Apr 15, 2021
Messages
65
Likes
41
I wonder if there would be extra shipping fees to U.K. thanks to brexit - but don’t get me started on that subject!
 

radry

New Member
Joined
Aug 25, 2022
Messages
2
Likes
0
How do they sound compared to the ELAC Debut 6.2?

I recently purchased the ELAC and they sound extremly harsh/bright to my ears. Especially movie or TV Dialog is almost painful. My only way to "fix" it was to set Treble to -2dB on my AVR but that makes everything slightly muffled.
 
Last edited:

ninetylol

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
721
Likes
701
Anyone using these as desktop PC speakers? I upgraded to the big ES60 and dont know if i should sell the ES20s or use them with an SMSL AO200 or similar.
 

warpdrive

Active Member
Joined
Jan 21, 2021
Messages
174
Likes
188
Anyone using these as desktop PC speakers? I upgraded to the big ES60 and dont know if i should sell the ES20s or use them with an SMSL AO200 or similar.

They are a bit big but if you can fit them, they should be great as a desktop system. I would probably prefer the ES15 size-wise which still has enough extension to get away without a sub.

I really like this line from Polk. It errs on a little brightness but I don't find the excess to be objectionable in my room
 

risandipra

Member
Joined
May 12, 2021
Messages
26
Likes
11
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.

Conclusions
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/
Thanks for the review as well as the note on EQ. I found it just the same as on my setup. (Plus -3db on around 60 Hz. But it was just my room condition). I put the speakers very close to the proximity walls and found that removing the rear port grilles help with the boominess.
 

Jeromeof

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Forum Donor
Joined
Jul 25, 2021
Messages
648
Likes
1,051
Location
Ireland
I have the ES20 and I did some comparisons with some speakers I have and this Polk line provide great 'bang for buck', but possible a little big for a desktop setup. I have them setup without Subs in one room and it's very impressive. But because I liked these I also recently bought the much smaller ES10 and have them setup with a sub in my desktop setup. I believe the ES10 have exactly the same tweaker and to my ears have a similar brightness (which need a little eq) but that setup worked better for me in my small desk area.
 

Cars-N-Cans

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
May 19, 2022
Messages
819
Likes
1,013
Location
Dirty Jerzey
Thanks for the review as well as the note on EQ. I found it just the same as on my setup. (Plus -3db on around 60 Hz. But it was just my room condition). I put the speakers very close to the proximity walls and found that removing the rear port grilles help with the boominess.
That will naturally change the port tuning, for what its worth. The conical taper at the end makes up a portion of the port. Id imagine that it probably tilts the lower portion of bass response down a bit, but it could cause a peak higher up as the port tuning is now at a higher frequency without the rear plate.
I have the ES20 and I did some comparisons with some speakers I have and this Polk line provide great 'bang for buck', but possible a little big for a desktop setup. I have them setup without Subs in one room and it's very impressive. But because I liked these I also recently bought the much smaller ES10 and have them setup with a sub in my desktop setup. I believe the ES10 have exactly the same tweaker and to my ears have a similar brightness (which need a little eq) but that setup worked better for me in my small desk area.
I have the '55 floor speakers, and as far as I can tell the entire line is modular using the same 1" tweeter and overall design. The deviation is from the woofer beginning to beam a bit before the tweeter starts to take over, which causes the width of the response pattern to narrow a bit in the cross-over region. The nice thing about the bigger versions of the series with 6" woofer(s) is that instead of a "brightness", you can instead look at it as a shortfall in the cross-over region, which is pretty much at 2 kHz, which the shape and location coincides with the response of most simple graphic equalizers. A little infill at 2 kHz nicely fills it in and flattens out the in-room response. The same may be possible with the ES10 as Id imagine that same dip is probably around 4 kHz with the smaller woofer, but they may have a different response.
 

AudioScience Enthusiast

Active Member
Joined
Nov 18, 2022
Messages
179
Likes
47
Quick question!

My NAD M10 V2 with Dirac Live recommends 80Hz crossover, which my SVS 300 Micro sub could achieve for my small office / computer desk but I am not sure if these ES20 are good enough for 80Hz crossover?

Since I can’t find anything else in this price range, if I have to set crossover higher on these ES20, it would suck to have to suffer with localization, which I am sensitive to.

Any advice?
 

warpdrive

Active Member
Joined
Jan 21, 2021
Messages
174
Likes
188
Quick question!

My NAD M10 V2 with Dirac Live recommends 80Hz crossover, which my SVS 300 Micro sub could achieve for my small office / computer desk but I am not sure if these ES20 are good enough for 80Hz crossover?

Since I can’t find anything else in this price range, if I have to set crossover higher on these ES20, it would suck to have to suffer with localization, which I am sensitive to.

Any advice?

I would definitely use 80Hz with these. Shouldn't be a problem at all
 

ROOSKIE

Major Contributor
Joined
Feb 27, 2020
Messages
1,944
Likes
3,552
Location
Minneapolis
Quick question!

My NAD M10 V2 with Dirac Live recommends 80Hz crossover, which my SVS 300 Micro sub could achieve for my small office / computer desk but I am not sure if these ES20 are good enough for 80Hz crossover?

Since I can’t find anything else in this price range, if I have to set crossover higher on these ES20, it would suck to have to suffer with localization, which I am sensitive to.

Any advice?
Hi.
Wow NAD M10 V2 with the Polks?
In my testing the SE20 is capable of significant output in a small space without fear of overdriving the speakers down to about 40-50hrz. (this is without any frequency boosting)
In a small room I would use a 40-50hrz High Pass with them.
I am not sure there will be any gains by tweaking that variable much unless you plan to hit 110db @the desk.

In a larger room, in the farfield, and for loud playback 80 hrz sounds reasonable or even 90hrz. But still even in a large room for 85db average(fairly loud) playback levels the SE20 can get by with a 50hrz X-over(but I would choose 80 only as I prefer higher crossover points and use multiple subs). Above 85 averages(very loud) then 80/90hrz comes right into play.

In any case in a small office at a desk you will surely never drive them that hard.

The real issue is measuring to make sure you are getting a good blend with the sub as that can be hard especially at a desk. I suppose Dirac will help you.
 

VintageFlanker

Master Contributor
Forum Donor
Reviewer
Joined
Sep 20, 2018
Messages
5,103
Likes
20,426
Location
Paris
My NAD M10 V2 with Dirac Live recommends 80Hz crossover, which my SVS 300 Micro sub could achieve for my small office / computer desk but I am not sure if these ES20 are good enough for 80Hz crossover?
Are we talking about a 3k€ amp and a 1k€ sub, that your plan to pair with some 200€ speakers...? Why ?

I know, little correlation between price and performance, but, hell !
 
Last edited:

AudioScience Enthusiast

Active Member
Joined
Nov 18, 2022
Messages
179
Likes
47
Are we talking about a 3k€ amp and a 1k€ sub, that your plan to pair with some 200€ speakers...? Why ?

I now, little correlation between price and performance, but, hell !
Yes, ideally I would get a better pair of speakers for the NAD M10 V2 but since I already blew my budget on the 3k+ amp, I think these Polk ES20 is the best value money can buy in this price range, until I have funds to upgrade to better speakers in the future. Actually I am thinking if I can get away with the even cheaper ES15 or ES10? Any thoughts?

I would definitely use 80Hz with these. Shouldn't be a problem at all
In a larger room, in the farfield, and for loud playback 80 hrz sounds reasonable or even 90hrz. But still even in a large room for 85db average(fairly loud) playback levels the SE20 can get by with a 50hrz X-over(but I would choose 80 only as I prefer higher crossover points and use multiple subs). Above 85 averages(very loud) then 80/90hrz comes right into play. In any case in a small office at a desk you will surely never drive them that hard.
@warpdrive @ROOSKIE thanks for confirming that 80Hz crossover wouldn't be a problem.

The real issue is measuring to make sure you are getting a good blend with the sub as that can be hard especially at a desk. I suppose Dirac will help you.
@ROOSKIE yes I am counting on Dirac to help with integration but choosing the crossover seems to be still up to the user. I am mainly just concerned with localization.
 
Top Bottom