Polk XRt12 XM Radio Reference Tuner Review

Francis Vale


Has Clear Channel finally made your radio listening anything but? Are you ready to leave earth in search of intelligent radio life in outer space? I have been waiting for a top tier audio maker to finally get into the XM satellite radio game, and Polk, who also makes very good speaker systems, has walked up to the plate and launched one out of the park.

The 17" wide by 2.3" high Polk XRt12 Reference tuner is styled and sized to match the other A/V gear in your system rack. It's a very good looking, well made unit with a curved fascia, which features a four line display that shows signal strength, channel name and number, artist name, and song title.  You can also display this information on your TV set via the XRt12's composite video signal output.

The XRt12 offers several choices about how you want to feed the XM Radio digital signal into your audio system.  The rear panel of the XRt12 sports RCA analog outputs, as well as optical and coaxial digital outputs.  I used the coax output to feed the XM Radio digital satellite signal into my Sunfire Theater Grand III processor. There is also an RS-232 connector on the rear of the XRt12 that allows connection to your whole-house audio distribution system. This setup enables remote room control of the tuner and can display tuner data on remote keypads.  But unless someone hacks it, the RS-232 port does not work with PCs.

The stylish front panel controls of the XRt12 include menu selection, category scan, channel scan, and another function key that adjusts the display settings.  A memory function key stores artist name and song data so there is no need to go madly scrambling for pen and paper to write the information down. Just enjoy the beat. The display has a feature that lets you enlarge the text so you can more easily view XM Radio information from a distance.

Another nice feature is that the XRt12 has a line out level adjustment so you can match the tuner's analog output to that of your other components (this doesn't work with its digital output, which is fixed). There is also an auto shutdown feature with a 60, 120 or 180 minute timer. Finally, there is a parental-control lock for screening out adult content (or objectionable music.)

The XRt12, of course, comes with a remote, which has a power button, numeric keypad, category select button, a jump button to return to the previous channel, and a mute button, among others. It also has a capability for storing up to twenty channel presets. The preview function allows you to see what is playing on other channels while still listening to the current channel. Other functions include display brightness and contrast adjustment, and the channel skip button let's you remove unwanted channels so you can easily customize your listening line up. The remote is not backlit, and although nice looking and well-laid out, it lacks proper tactile feel when using its various functions. It's the weakest part of the whole rig.


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