When something called “high fidelity” became a fashion in the 1950s, many manufacturers followed suit with the simple expedient of adorning their product from last year with a high fidelity label. The home theater bandwagon is a bit more difficult to follow, as speakers for use with televisions require something that “regular” stereo speakers don’t have: magnetic shielding (or, more precisely , a cancelation). Without it, placing the speakers a few feet away from a large screen does psychedelic-type things to color (footnote 1). However, adding a magnetic shield, usually in the form of a second magnet glued to the back of each speaker’s motor magnet, is the way to go. alone thing some speaker makers are changing before slapping a home theater label on stereo speakers from last year.
Atlantic Technology‘s 250 system, on the other hand, actually appears to have been designed from the ground up to meet the all the requirements of a system intended to listen to movie soundtracks, while retaining as much as possible the things considered important by high-end audiophiles. It’s a difficult order. (In fact, there are many who claim that the two are hostile that the best soundtrack reproduction can only be achieved at the expense of music reproduction, and vice versa. I think I disagree , but I won’t go into detail now.) So how close does the System 250 get to these lofty goals? Read on.
The 250 system
The six-piece 250 system consists of a pair of front left and right satellite speakers, a compact and discreet center speaker, two surround matrices, and a powered subwoofer module that doubles as an amplifier. stereo power for the entire system. and as a dedicated subwoofer driver.
The 251LR left and right speakers are slim two-way units with a dome tweeter centered between a vertical pair of 4 “polypropylene cone woofers. This arrangement provides a wide dispersion in the tweeter’s range, a narrower vertical pattern in the upper range of the woofer, and an increasingly omnidirectional pattern towards the lower end, the effect somewhat resembles the controlled vertical dispersion pattern required by the THX standard.
Center channel 253C is a similar array, but arranged horizontally for discreet placement above or in front of a video monitor. It has two “Tone Adjust” controls, which are basically midrange and treble tone controls. Because the center speaker will be placed in close proximity to the monitor, even on top of it, it is much more susceptible to unpredictable cancellation effects than the left and right pedestal-mounted speakers, which operate primarily in the open field. The difference is noticeably audible when you listen to the circulating pink noise test signal generated by Dolby Pro Logic surround decoders, as you get side-by-side A / B comparisons between the sides and center of each circle. The 253C’s controls don’t completely eliminate the difference, but I found they were able to reduce it to a pretty amazing degree. A unique feature, I believe, and very useful.
The surround speakers, like the left and right, are sort of THX as well; but this time it’s the mid and high frequencies that are bidirectional and the woofer that is not. The idea of ââa dipole surround is that, when placed to the side of the listening area, it directs the surround signal along the side walls of the room, but places the listener in the “zero” zone. “cancellation of the dipole, so that he hears the atmosphere in the room louder than he heard directly from the speaker. The effect is that the speaker seems to disappear. (The first time I heard this system, in a dark room of Hi-Fi ’94, last year Stereophile High-End Hi-Fi Show in Miami, I was completely unable to locate the surroundings. They were about 5 ‘from where I was sitting.)
The 252PBM powered bass module is a good idea. Its three integrated 40W amplifiers can be used separately to drive two surround speakers and the subwoofer, with an external amplifier or receiver driving the front speakers; or you can use external amps for all high-end speakers (including the center speaker). This provides a very easy way to go from an existing, inexpensive stereo system to a basic surround system and then to a full-fledged home theater surround system in two steps. I chose to skip the first step.
I placed the left and right satellite speakers on their optional stands, about 2 ‘in front and slightly flanking the edges of a 31 “screen so that I got an included angle from the listening seat. about 70 Â°. I placed the center channel in the middle of the arc between them, just above the monitor, and the speakers directly to the sides of the listening area, as recommended ?? each was about 7 ‘From the center of the listening area, a few meters from the front wall, offset by about one third of the width of the listening room, in order to minimize irregularities in the response of standing waves.
I used the Dolby Pro Logic test signal from the CP-3 to set the output levels of all channels to 75 dB SPL at the listening position. (Radio Shack’s it’s cheap sound pressure ?? the level meter is ideal for this.) To my surprise, the output levels of the CP-3 required virtually no adjustment? The front channels were precisely at the 75dB level with my Parasound amplifier’s input level controls wide open.
When I first turned on this system, I had just concluded a long love affair with the expensive home THX system from Fosgate / Audionics (footnote 2). I was quite prepared to be singularly unimpressed with Atlantic Technology.
I was definitely not oneimpressed. This puny-looking system made such a loud sound in my room it was almost laughable. As usual, it was necessary to adjust the surround level a few dB above what the measurement indicated, and the bass needed to be raised as well (see below); but after doing that I spent weeks almost giddy in amazement at what this system could do.
For example, it sometimes rocked the ground with bass from loud movie soundtracks, but it never blew up or sounded like the low end was moving away from it. He had remarkable speech intelligibility, but he did not shout, spit, or sizzle over the vocal whistles. It had more than passable definition and interior detail, an incredible degree of invisibility (with the lights off I could not locate one of the loudspeakers, except from memory), and a surprising degree of freedom from the colorations of the midrange.
And it could play well in the 90dB without pooing on heavy bass. It’s not very loud, but it’s more than enough to get your neighbors to hammer home the walls of your apartment.
Unfortunately, the Atlantic Technology system was not perfect. (Perfection costs more!) Its most serious flaw, as far as I am concerned, was its lack of ?? if you will excuse the tongue ?? balls. Due to a weakness in the lower mids, he lacked the authority and stentorian power that symphonic music, rock, and soundtracks need to make you aware. The bass trombone, for example, sounded emasculated and flawless, and the delicious dirt of a rock guitar sounded more like an old maid trying to speak nastily. It didn’t quite come off. Then there is a small question of medium.
I mentioned the need to increase the subwoofer’s level a few dB from its calibration setting. As it turned out, this was due to him questioning the Lexicon’s subwoofer output. The processor sub-output has an 80 Hz crossover, which is the de facto (and THX) standard for home theater. But the 252PBM also has a low pass input filter, and it’s invincible. As a result, the frequency range around 80 Hz was too attenuated by about 3 dB.
During system calibration, the SPL meter measured the maximum output of the subwoofer over its bandwidth, not its average level in each frequency band. A depression in the 80 Hz region would therefore not be recorded, but since a lot of musical bass information is in this range, the subwoofer rang as if it wasn’t high enough. Increasing it by 1.5dB added the necessary midrange body without making the 40Hz range too large. But it would be nice if you could change the 252’s crossover and not have to compromise the bass. [Either that, or Atlantic Technology should make it more clear that the system’s owners should not use their Home Theater receiver’s or processor’s dedicated subwoofer outputs.ÂEd.]
What did the Atlantic Technology 250 system do best? Music or soundtracks? It was, as always, a tough call, as it’s so hard to know what most of the recordings really sound like. I’ll say it didn’t sound as beautifully sumptuous on music as some audiophiles demand, and its shortcomings were exacerbated by listening without the distraction of an accompanying picture. But the reproduction of my own recordings by the Atlantic Technology system elicited a strong reaction of recognition, suggesting that this system is more “precise” than “musical”.
All in all, I find the price of the Atlantic Technology 250 system to be almost unbelievable. The 250 system delivered well over $ 1,500 in surround sound quality. A fabulous purchase.
Footnote 1: For the technically curious, it redirects the electron beams from the picture tube, causing them to hit the wrong phosphorus points. So, the green gun hits the red and blue dots, the red gun hits the green and blue dots, and so on. [If extreme, the tube’s shadow mask could become magnetized, rendering the discoloration permanent, even though a turn-on degaussing sweep is supposed to eliminate this problem.ÂEd.]
Footnote 2: Harman has discontinued its Fosgate / Audionics brand, replacing products with those bearing the âCitationâ brand. “??Ed.