HitMaster Gaming Studio Monitor

Review

posted 1/5/2010 by Dan Keener
other articles by Dan Keener
One Page Platforms: AV
Audio Testing
The HitMaster is designed primarily for franchises such as Rock Band or Guitar Hero, but it certainly does a good job when playing other genres, including shooters, racing and casual party games. However, I spent the majority of my time reviewing it for its stated purpose, using Rock Band 2 and The Beatles: Rock Band on the Xbox 360. Even though I use and HDMI to hook the 360 up to my DLP, I actually used the dongle and switched over to analog audio so that I could use my TVs analog audio out jacks to get the signal to the HitMaster. This worked out really well, as my Nintendo Wii is also routed through the TV speakers (more later).

After setting up the HitMaster and going through my “sound check”, I started fooling around with the volume during the Rock Band 2 opening sequence to see what was appropriate for my great room. When I turned the knob about halfway up, the first thing that came out of my mouth was “That thing is loud as hell!” When I checked, I was only at ‘6’ on the dial, which goes to ‘11’. After settling in at about ‘4’, I spent several hours of Rock Band play just jamming through various songs and playing all three instruments. While playing the bass, guitar or drums, the HitMaster performed flawlessly, keeping in sync with the video and giving me excellent audio. It is quite apparent that the HitMaster was engineered with the guitar and drum players in mind when it comes to band games, but singing is what I do best, so I had at it.

Unfortunately, I had some trouble with the HitMaster sending out some feedback and a delay in my singing vocals (game music was fine) that I wasn’t expecting. I am not sure if this was an issue with the HitMaster, or more likely, the microphone and how close it was to the monitor. I was able to avoid the issue in the future by watching where I was at in relation to the speaker while singing, but it was an interesting problem that I hope to have cleared up in my interview with Polk Audio that is scheduled to appear this week on GamingNexus.

For those that were wondering, yes, I did turn it up to ‘11’ after breaking it in for a few hours, and it was almost criminal how loud it was. Needless to say, the family was begging me to turn it down, the cats were running for cover and I had to move off center to keep my eardrums in one piece.

In addition to the band games, my family and I put in quite a bit of time playing the Nintendo Wii utilizing the HitMaster as the primary audio source. Because the Wii is hooked up directly to the TV speakers (and not routed through the home theater) this proved to be an excellent comparison for reviewing the HitMaster. What I quickly found out was that it didn’t matter whether the game was Mario Kart, Cooking Mama or Wii Fit, and the HitMaster provided an excellent audio experience that simply blew away what the TV could produce.


I was intrigued by the possibilities the HitMaster offered other than gaming. So I pulled out an eight foot mini to mini cable and plugged in a variety of devices to test it out. The first and most obvious was my iPod Touch. In fact, while writing the review for the HitMaster, I had it plugged into my touch and used it as my background music. No matter what song played off my list, the HitMaster sounded great and was much better than the boom box or laptop speakers that I usually use while writing. I also played around with it hooked up to my gaming laptop and played a few casual games while it was hooked into my headphone jack. Again, it sounded great and obviously better than anything the small speakers on the laptop can muster.

I was extremely satisfied with the audio that the HitMaster provided during all of my testing. While it certainly won’t make me forget about my home theater system and its sub anytime soon, it puts out enough bass and creates a nice blend of midrange and highs that should satisfy anyone looking for a good audio boost for their system. While I am not usually a huge fan of horn tweeter design, it works well in the HitMaster design and really accentuates the high end of the audio range.


Miscellaneous Items of Note
  • Does not come with a mini-jack for iPod, AUX hookup
  • Works with any device that outputs audio through a mini-plug jack
  • Cabinet is built to last and travel
  • Grill is steel mesh, but could be thicker
  • Volume can only be controlled from knob on back of monitor
  • By default, most TVs will not output HDMI digital audio via analog audio out
Pros
  • Compact and mobile design
  • Cost effective way to get quality sound
  • Cabinet built to last

Cons
  • Vocals tend to get “bright” at higher volumes
  • Mini jack to hook up MP3 and iPods not included
  • Grill and “HitMaster” logo on it susceptible to wear

Testing Methodology
Items utilized in the testing of the Polk Audio HitMaster Gaming Stage Monitor included, but not limited to: Xbox 360 Elite, Nintendo Wii, Samsung 56” DLP, ASUS Gaming Laptop, 2nd Generation iPod touch

The Conclusion
The Polk Audio HitMaster is a must have for any gamer that needs to add some punch to their audio or likes to take their gaming on the road. Too many times, the gaming moves on, but the experience stays at home because the audio simply doesn’t measure up to what gamers are used to. The HitMaster solves that problem and much more by providing an inexpensive way to get bigger and better portable audio anywhere there is an AC outlet. Better yet, it doesn’t matter which gaming system you own, as it makes the audio portion of the gaming experience better no matter what console it is hooked up to. I was actually most impressed with its audio playback from my iPod and laptop and how well it blended into my office workspace.

There was little I could find that was negative about the HitMaster other than some bright vocals at high volumes and some feedback and delay when singing nearby the HitMaster while playing Rock Band. Otherwise, there were just a few cosmetic issues and a missing cable that would have been a “nice to have” in the box. However, for $99, I don’t know of a better gaming audio product on the market that delivers such diverse functionally with both quality and wide ranging audio. There were multiple times in 2009 when the HitMaster would have been an ideal companion for me on trips and to parties where Rock Band was used heavily.


A-
The Polk Audio HitMaster is an excellent audio enhancement to not only band games like the Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises, but gaming in general. Unlike other band game add-ons that are merely gimmicky “enhancers”, the HitMaster is all about reproducing quality sound for those that don’t have the means to unleash the true audio in their gaming experience.



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