i have a pair of polk rti8 as the front speakers and a polk csi3 as the central. now i want to buy two bookshelf speakers to be the surround. the salesperson suggested me to go with polk rti4. and i prefer athena as-b1 cause it is $200 cheaper. but i am not so sure if surrounds are very important in a home audio system, for both music and movie. can anyone tell me if the athena as-b1 is good enough to be the surround for what i already have?
Get the Athenas, yes the surrounds are not real important at all unless you often listen to music in MULTI-CHANNEL mode (not Dolby II)...most people listen to music in plain old stereo mode or even in pure direct mode. For HT, you can get away with very mediocre speakers as surrounds---the RTi4s while better than Polk's R series are still not all that great for the money, as HT surrounds even the Polk R150 or R20 will do just fine and I'm sure the Athenas can't be any worse so I'd take the $200 savings gladly.
I've got the same speaker set paired with the Fxi3 surrounds from Polk. I've noticed movies made recently utilize the surrounds more and more, I also noticed more dynamic range in the surrounds since upgrading my DVD player. I'd definitely recommend the Fxi3 or Fxi5 for your situation, the adjustable bipole/dipole switch makes them perfect for any placement.
While you won't notice the timbre mismatch in movies as much, if you want to expand to DVD audio , SACD or even using a 5 channel DSP on a 2 channel source, the Athenas will mess up your sound stage a lot. I had an Athena paired in with the Polks for a month and hated how they sound together. If you insist on a bookshelf go for the Rti6, or preferrably last year's model the Rti35, that was a great speaker they should have stuck with.