Young woman wearing bright yellow hoodie pointing excitedly to a pair of Polk Audio RC85i in-wall speakers on bright blue background

Polk Audio RC85i Speakers: A Complete Review

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Are you looking to upgrade your audio system with some discreet in-wall speakers that sound great and won’t cost you a fortune? In this Polk Audio RC85i review, we’ll dive deep into the world of in-wall speakers and help you decide if these speakers are the perfect addition to your home or commercial space.

Polk Audio has been a big name in the audio industry for decades And the RC85i speakers help explain why with their impressive specs and features. Let’s take a closer look and see if these could be the in-wall speakers for you.


The Polk Audio RC85i speakers are competitively priced, currently selling on Amazon for about $280 per pair. As we’ll soon see, these speakers offer excellent value for money when compared to some of their competitors.

But price shouldn’t be your only consideration when picking out in-wall speakers. So assuming these aren’t too expensive for you, let’s move on.

Product specifications and features

Here we’ll get into some of the more technical aspects of the Polk Audio RC85i speakers. Don’t worry if you’re not an expert in speakers—we’ll be explaining the significance and impact on your listening experience every step of the way.

Dimensions and design

The Polk Audio RC85i speakers measure 14.2 x 10.1 x 3.8 inches, making them a sleek and unobtrusive choice for your walls. They come with a white paintable grille, allowing you to match them seamlessly to your room’s color scheme. The rectangular design fits effortlessly into most standard wall cavities, while the included mounting brackets ensure a secure fit.

Speaker configuration

These in-wall speakers feature a 2-way configuration, consisting of an 8-inch dynamic balance woofer and a 1-inch dynamic balance tweeter (related: 2-Way vs 3-Way Speakers Demystified). The woofer is responsible for reproducing low and midrange frequencies, while the tweeter handles high frequencies. This setup ensures a well-rounded and balanced audio experience.

Frequency response

The RC85i speakers have a frequency response of 35Hz to 20kHz, which means they can reproduce sounds in a broad range of frequencies—from low, deep bass to high, piercing treble. This ensures that you’ll enjoy accurate and clear audio, whether you’re watching a movie, listening to music, or hosting a party.

Sensitivity and impedance

With a sensitivity of 90 dB and an impedance of 8 ohms, these speakers can work well with most home audio receivers or amplifiers. Sensitivity measures how efficiently a speaker converts power into sound, while impedance refers to the resistance a speaker offers to an electrical current. Higher sensitivity and lower impedance typically result in better audio performance.

Power handling

The RC85i speakers have a power handling capacity of 20 to 100 watts per channel. This means they can handle a wide range of power inputs, ensuring compatibility with various audio systems and providing ample volume for most settings.

Key features

  • Moisture-resistant materials: These speakers are built with moisture-resistant materials, making them suitable for use in kitchens, bathrooms, or even covered outdoor areas.
  • Paintable grilles: The included paintable grilles let you customize the speakers to blend seamlessly with your room’s decor.
  • Swivel-mounted tweeters: The tweeters can be swiveled up to 15 degrees, allowing you to direct high-frequency sounds towards your listening area for optimal audio performance.
  • Easy installation: The RC85i speakers come with a comprehensive installation manual and a cutout template, making the setup process a breeze.

Sound quality

Get ready to be impressed by the RC85i’s exceptional audio performance. Let’s dive into the details of what makes these speakers stand out in the world of sound.

Audio performance in various settings

The Polk Audio RC85i speakers excel in a variety of environments. Here are some examples:

  • Home theater: These speakers provide immersive surround sound, delivering crisp dialogue and powerful effects, making them perfect for movie nights or binge-watching your favorite TV shows.
  • Multi-room audio: With their wide frequency response and balanced audio reproduction, the RC85i speakers work well as part of a multi-room audio system, filling your entire home with high-quality sound.
  • Commercial installations: The speakers’ sleek design and paintable grilles make them an attractive choice for businesses, restaurants, or retail spaces, providing customers with a pleasant listening experience.

Clarity and accuracy of sound reproduction

The Polk Audio RC85i speakers offer impressive sound clarity and accuracy. They reproduce high and low frequencies exceptionally well, ensuring that you won’t miss any detail in your music or movies.

Highs and lows

The 1-inch dynamic balance tweeter delivers crystal-clear highs, making every cymbal crash, violin solo, or movie score shine. The 8-inch dynamic balance woofer provides deep, powerful bass, giving you a satisfying rumble during action-packed scenes or bass-heavy music tracks.

Midrange performance

Midrange frequencies are crucial for accurately reproducing vocals and instruments. The RC85i speakers handle this range effortlessly, providing rich, natural-sounding voices and instruments that truly bring your audio to life.

Bass response and overall tonal balance

The RC85i speakers offer a well-balanced tonal profile, with the woofer delivering tight, controlled bass without overpowering the other frequencies. This balance ensures that every aspect of your audio is clearly represented, creating an immersive and enjoyable listening experience.

Soundstage and imaging

A good soundstage and accurate imaging are essential for an immersive audio experience. The RC85i speakers deliver a wide soundstage, allowing you to pinpoint individual instruments and sound sources within the mix easily. The swivel-mounted tweeters help further enhance imaging, enabling you to direct high-frequency sounds for optimal performance.

As you can probably tell by this point in our Polk Audio RC85i review, we’re BIG fans of these speakers’ sound quality and performance. There was never any doubt they would make our top 10 list of best in-wall speakers.

Installation and set-up

Do you hate overly complicated installations? So do we! Have no fear. We’ll walk you through the simple, step-by-step process of setting up your Polk Audio RC85i speakers like a pro.

Step-by-step installation process

Installing the Polk Audio RC85i speakers is straightforward, even for first-timers. Here’s a quick overview of the process:

  1. Choose the ideal location for your speakers, considering factors like room layout, listener position, and wall cavity depth.
  2. Use the provided cutout template to mark the area on your wall where the speakers will be installed.
  3. Carefully cut out the marked area using a drywall saw or similar tool.
  4. Route your speaker wires through the wall, ensuring that they are connected to your audio receiver or amplifier.
  5. Secure the mounting brackets to the wall using the included screws.
  6. Connect the speaker wires to the RC85i speakers, following the color-coded instructions.
  7. Gently press the speakers into the wall cavity, making sure they are flush with the wall surface.
  8. Secure the speakers in place using the built-in rotating cams.
  9. Attach the paintable grilles to the speakers, customizing the color if desired.

Tools and materials required

To install the Polk Audio RC85i speakers, you’ll need the following tools and materials:

  • Drywall saw or similar cutting tool
  • Screwdriver
  • Level (optional)
  • Wire stripper (if necessary)
  • Speaker wire
  • Paint and brush (if customizing the grilles)

Tips for optimal speaker placement

When installing the RC85i speakers, consider the following tips for optimal audio performance:

  • Position the speakers at ear level or slightly above, as this can help create a more immersive soundstage.
  • For home theater setups, follow the Dolby guidelines for speaker placement to ensure the best surround sound experience.
  • To reduce unwanted vibrations and improve bass response, make sure there are no large, empty spaces behind the speakers in the wall cavity.

Customization options

Like most in-wall speakers, these have paintable grilles, so you can match the speakers to your room’s decor, making them pretty much invisible. Additionally, you can experiment with the swivel-mounted tweeters to find the ideal direction for high-frequency sounds, ensuring the best listening experience.

Comparison with competing in-wall speakers

The Polk Audio RC85i speakers have a few notable competitors in the in-wall speaker market. Some of these include the Klipsch R-5502-W II, Yamaha NS-IW280A, and the Sonos In-Wall by Sonance. Let’s take a look at how the RC85i stacks up against these alternatives.

Klipsch R-5502-W II

The Klipsch R-5502-W II in-wall speakers are a more expensive option compared to the Polk Audio RC85i. They feature a horn-loaded tweeter, which enhances efficiency and detail in the high-frequency range. This model also has dual 5.25-inch woofers, providing improved bass response. 

While the build quality and materials are top-notch, the larger dimensions of the Klipsch speakers could make installation more challenging. If you’re willing to invest in a higher-priced option, the Klipsch R-5502-W II could offer slightly better audio performance. But the Polk Audio RC85i still delivers excellent sound quality at a more affordable price (related: Klipsch R-5502-W II Review: In-Wall Master Audio).

Yamaha NS-IW280CWH

The Yamaha NS-IW280CWH in-wall speakers are an affordable alternative to the Polk Audio RC85i. They come with built-in sound-diffusing technology, which ensures even audio distribution across your listening area. 

But these speakers have a smaller 6.5-inch woofer, which might affect bass performance. And their power handling capacity is lower than that of the RC85i. The compact size of the Yamaha NS-IW280CWH makes installation easier, but you might have to compromise on sound quality due to their lower power handling and smaller woofer (related: Yamaha NS-IW280CWH Review: Value for Sound).

Sonos In-Wall by Sonance

The Sonos In-Wall by Sonance speakers are designed for seamless integration with the Sonos ecosystem. These speakers use Trueplay tuning technology for optimal audio performance, and they feature an architectural design for a clean, minimalist appearance. 

But they require a Sonos Amp for full functionality, which could increase the overall cost. While the Sonos In-Wall speakers offer excellent integration with the Sonos system, the Polk Audio RC85i delivers comparable sound quality without the need for additional equipment, making them a more budget-friendly choice (related: Sonos In-Wall Speakers: An In-Depth Review).

Real-world user experience

Don’t just take our word for it. Read on to learn about the experiences of real-life users who have tested the RC85i speakers in their own homes and spaces.

Reviews from users

The Polk Audio RC85i speakers have received numerous positive reviews from real-world users, praising their sound quality, ease of installation, and value for money. Many users note that the speakers provide excellent audio performance, especially considering their price point. Common praises include their clear highs, solid bass response, and overall tonal balance.

Common praises and criticisms

While the majority of user reviews are positive, some criticisms have been mentioned. A few users reported difficulties with the installation process, specifically with cutting the wall and routing speaker wires. But these challenges are, unfortunately, unavoidable when it comes to installing any in-wall or in-ceiling speakers. You can also mitigate these with careful planning and the right tools.

Longevity and durability of the product

Users have reported that these speakers stand the test of time, continuing to deliver excellent audio performance even after years of use. The moisture-resistant materials also ensure that the speakers remain functional in high-humidity environments, such as kitchens and bathrooms.

Pros and cons of the Polk Audio RC85i

Still on the fence? Our summarized list of pros and cons will help you weigh the benefits and drawbacks of the RC85i speakers and make an informed decision.


  • Excellent sound quality: The RC85i speakers deliver clear highs, powerful bass, and a well-rounded tonal balance, ensuring a top-notch listening experience.
  • Affordability: These speakers offer great value for money, providing high-quality audio performance at a competitive price.
  • Easy installation: With the included cutout template and comprehensive manual, the RC85i speakers are simple to install, even for first-timers.
  • Customizable appearance: The paintable grilles and swivel-mounted tweeters allow you to tailor the speakers to your room’s decor and optimize sound direction for your listening area.


  • Bass performance: While the RC85i’s bass response is generally good, it might be enough if you’re someone who obsesses about extremely powerful low frequencies. In this case, adding a separate subwoofer could be a solution.

The bottom line: Are the Polk Audio RC85is your ideal in-wall speakers?

In conclusion, this Polk Audio RC85i review has provided an in-depth look at the features, sound quality, and value of these in-wall speakers. The RC85i speakers are a solid choice if you’re seeking an affordable yet high-quality audio solution for your home theater or multi-room audio system. These speakers are particularly well-suited for you if you prioritize a balance of performance and price.

Conversely, if you’re an audiophile who seeks extremely powerful low frequencies or seamless integration with a specific ecosystem like Sonos, the RC85i speakers might not be the ideal choice for you. In such cases, you may want to consider alternatives like the Klipsch R-5502-W II for enhanced bass performance or the Sonos In-Wall by Sonance for compatibility with the Sonos ecosystem.

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