[Hardware Review] Polk Audio's HitMaster Studio Monitor

Helps you pretend to be a Pretender!
Author: Aram Lecis
Published: March 19, 2010
Let's face it, there is actually a pretty big market built around custom Rock Band and Guitar Hero gear. You can get everything from a sequined guitar strap to a monogrammed drum throne, and if you are into the "professional" RB/GH scene, then you likely have all that along with a few custom instruments. You're doing everything you can to make the music game scene feel as much like a true rock and roll experience as possible. Well now Polk Audio has created a product that helps achieve that illusion of reality.


The HitMaster studio monitor is a very accurate replica of on-stage monitors used by professional and semi-professional musicians everywhere. For those of you whose knowledge of the industry doesn't extend beyond your living room, a stage monitor is a relatively small amplifier that points directly at the musician and provides him or her with a feed of his own output, which otherwise can be almost impossible to discern among the chaos of a live performance.

If you are the type with custom graphics on your bass drum, an autotuner on your mic and mother of pearl buttons on your rock band guitar, then you probably already own 4 HitMasters (you can daisy-chain them together off of one output so the whole band can have their own monitor). There is no denying they add an air of authenticity to your fake rock concert, and while they are pretty much useless from a gameplay point of view, in a genre about pretending, a purely aesthetic addition to your hardware counts for more than you might think.

[Overall]

A monitor speaker for the Guitar Hero/Rock Band crowd is a pretty niche item, but the HitMaster is in no way limited to just that role. I hauled it outside and hooked my iPod up to it and it served as a great PA system to provide music for our Ultimate Frisbee championships, and it gave a little extra kick to my surround sound as an extra center speaker. It you are going to be hosting an outdoor gaming night, the HitMaster makes a great companion piece to your digital projector. It looks like serious business, and nobody is going to scoff at your tiny little baby speaker or anything. It's never going to function like a true monitor speaker, giving you just the audio for your particular instrument (at least not without a lot more fancy audio equipment) but it will definitely help impart that feeling that you really ARE in a band.

[Build Quality]

The HitMaster is a solid piece of kit, as our British friends would say. It features the same build quality you would get out of a professional studio monitor, and certainly feels like it can be treated like a real piece of road equipment, and not some delicate flower that needs to be pampered. The handle on top provides an easy way to tote it form your house to the car and wherever else you need, and the solid mesh grill covering the speakers gives you a little peace of mind if your and your buddies are getting a little rowdy during a session of Guitar Hero: Metallica.

[Performance]

You aren't going to want to use the HitMaster as your sole form of audio output unless you live in a tiny one room cabin, and it isn't going to replace your surround sound system in your home theater. If you are looking for a portable speaker system you can bring to your next rock band gig, or if you want to add a little more oomph to your existing setup (the PS3's Audio Multi-Out is perfect for this) then the HitMaster is an outstanding choice.

Featuring a 6.5" woofer and a pair of solid horn tweeters, the HitMaster provides a super clean, if not super loud sound. I was able to crank the volume to the max (yes, it goes to 11, and yes, that joke is getting a little trite) with nary a hint of distortion, and the speakers have great range.

[Final Thoughts]

While this is certainly a boutique product that in no way offers any gameplay advantage, it definitely has its charms. It does what it is intended to do, does it well, and serves several other valuable purposes in a pinch. Portable enough to go anyplace, and sturdy enough to not have to worry about, the HitMaster can be a workhorse for your on-the-go audio needs, and will inspire jealousy and get you a few more votes at your next faux battle of the bands.

Verdict: Buy It!