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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 13.0%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 164 59.2%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 70 25.3%

  • Total voters
    277

Kobold

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I ordered based on positive reviews. Now it's time to buy an amplifier.
My budget: Speaker price. So $300-500
My style; Progressive Rock and all its subgenres.
Thanks...
Hi!
This:
I have one and also Nad C368. Speakers was ES20 and now ES55. My room is 38m2.
See my post here:
I prefer the sound with the Silkline. The right side gets a little hot though...
 

Progger

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Hi!
This:
I have one and also Nad C368. Speakers was ES20 and now ES55. My room is 38m2.
See my post here:
I prefer the sound with the Silkline. The right side gets a little hot though...
Thank you, i buy second hand yamaha a-s301.
 

nalap

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I've wanted to try some Polk bookshelf speakers for a long time. Would you call the ES20 a good speaker for critical listening to music or would you call it good for home theater ?
 

Doodski

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I've wanted to try some Polk bookshelf speakers for a long time. Would you call the ES20 a good speaker for critical listening to music or would you call it good for home theater ?
 

Beershaun

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Gahf

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Easy answer - You want louder, get a bigger one :D

I do worry about small speaker drivers, especially the baby actives favoured around these parts, which are working bloody hard below 100hz yet are equalised to be 'flat' to 50hz or so 9at potentially horrendous distortion levels).
Couldn't agree more. If you equalise a 4/5/6 inch woofer to go below 70/80 hz at reasonable db levels the sound quality might just not remain the same. I have experimented with Peerless NE180 in a 0.5 cuft box, though it has a fs of 44 hz, it needs quite a bit of boost between 40-100 hz to sound complete in a two way. IMG_1489.JPG
 

Power Pop 23

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Amazon USA is currently selling the Polk Signature Elite ES20 loudspeaker in 'Black' for $299.20, $19.80 below their previous price low.

 

MTBDoc

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Amazon USA is currently selling the Polk Signature Elite ES20 loudspeaker in 'Black' for $299.20, $19.80 below their previous price low.

So much for the wonderful Black Friday special price :confused:

Edit: and Amazon would rather deal with return + shipping a new pair than simply refund the $30. The originals were on my front porch just now, the replacements will be here Monday. So I won't be trying the amp w/ this speaker today. MONDAY!
 
Last edited:

panblue43

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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/
Hello! Thank You this review! I usually read your topics about bookshelf loudspeakers-welcome the straight and honest tests and the informative measurements.
I think the polk es20 is an underrated and the best price to value ls.
The polk integrates the power, enjoyable sound equal at movies and music in a pure stereo system. It has good bass response with nice roll-off, opened good detailed vocals (at movies crystal clear dialogs) and crisp, fresh trebles.
I had an almost 3x priced ls but I missed its "soul" , the rythm, they were not enjoyable.
My favourites were the wharfedale diamond 11.2s but they could not handle the power as well as the polk es20 and they were not opened in the mids as the polks.
I am happy with the polks paired with marantz pm7005 in a mid sized room.
Good work and best regards from Hungary.
 

sthomper

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Polk also had a "Cure" for the port issues, on several other models, they would have a front AND rear facing port(s) of different diameters, but tuned to the same Bass box frequency, supposedly the rear and front radiation, along with the different sized ports would reduce this issue.View attachment 205875
i have a pair of es-20, with dual polk psw10s....for me, in a case such as with the misfits song - hybrid moments, a baritonish vocal, i didn't get that at all. 7.5 ft ceiling, with owens-corinng insulation above, a rubbery gym tile floor with concrete walls. for the most part it vocals sat in just fine but maybe needed a bit of boost. ears are different too.
 

Progger

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I've noticed that I've been watching a lot more movies since I got the speaker. I focus more on whatever I'm watching. These speakers are also very successful in movies, TV series and sports events!
 

Marioshata

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Hello,
I recently got the Polks (ES20) and I am very happy with them. I started wondering about the EQs posted on the second page by user Maiky76. To my understanding the first one (LW) is aimed at making the Listening Window flat. Sorry for the stupid question, but what does the other one (Score) do? Should they be implemented with something else in mind? Isn't the point of HI-FI speakers not to sound flat like studio monitors? I know EQ preference is very subjective from one person to the other. Are they some sort of pre EQ to make the speaker sound right before ones personal EQ preference? Which one is best LW, Score or per reviewer amirm (-2.0dB at 600Hz)? Again sorry for the stupid questions.
 

staticV3

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Sorry for the stupid question, but what does the other one (Score) do?
It maximizes the loudspeaker preference score:

Isn't the point of HI-FI speakers not to sound flat like studio monitors?
No. By using speakers that closely resemble what's used in the mastering studio, you can hear the music as intended:
20240209_165112.jpg

Are they some sort of pre EQ to make the speaker sound right before ones personal EQ preference?
That is precisely what the presets from Maiky76, Pierre, FlipFlop, etc. are aiming to do.
 

Marioshata

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It maximizes the loudspeaker preference score:


No. By using speakers that closely resemble what's used in the mastering studio, you can hear the music as intended:
View attachment 348497


That is precisely what the presets from Maiky76, Pierre, FlipFlop, etc. are aiming to do.
Thank you for the video. I understand now.
 

ManuMaker

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Oct 13, 2021
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Hello everyone!! please I need some help I can get the S20 in argentina for 450 and the ES20 for 630?? what do you recommend?? Thanks!!!
 

Angel II

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Hello everyone!! please I need some help I can get the S20 in argentina for 450 and the ES20 for 630?? what do you recommend?? Thanks!!!
I had the ES20 they were fantastic. If you also have an equalizer you make them even more beautiful. You can forget about the subwoofer with these little beasts.
 

ManuMaker

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I had the ES20 they were fantastic. If you also have an equalizer you make them even more beautiful. You can forget about the subwoofer with these little beasts.
thanks!! I want to now if the SE worth the 180usd difference.
 
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