By Ron Goldberg
While several custom-centric vendors have previously released home components for satellite radio, Polk is one of the first mainstream audio companies to jump into this market. The XRt12 is a stylish piece designed as an "audiophile" offering—satellite radio taken seriously.
About the size of a traditional low-profile audio component, the XRt12 features slick black cosmetics with a vivid blue readout display for music info. The unit also features a composite video output so the info can be displayed on a TV screen. Both front panel and remote operation are simple, as is characteristic of the format. You can scan by category or access via direct entry, and favorites can be stored in 4 banks of 5 presets, for a total of 20 memory slots.
With home adapters already available for mobile XM users, Polk had to bring something extra to the party to justify the purchase of a separate add-on component. The company started with the sound quality, which is variable with satellite radio to begin with, and not particularly well-served by an inexpensive portable with a home kit.
Polk improves upon the situation by doing the things a seasoned audio maker would. They've used a Burr-Brown DAC and a good-quality, quiet preamp. The power supply, display and audio circuitry are on separate boards. The resulting audio specs are something that you wouldn't be embarrassed to add to a customer's glitzy system—80db of signal to noise, less than 0.05% total harmonic distortion and more than 50 dB of channel separation. This is a highly audible upgrade over a portable XM player with a home dock.
In addition to the sonics, the XRt12 also offers RS-232 control for multiroom and custom applications. This allows remote room control of the tuner and the ability to display channel and track information to keypads in remote zones.