Atlantic Technology FS-7.0 Soundbar and SB-800 Sub
Seven Channels Plus
When you hear that we can now add a seven-channel soundbar to the list of the many technological wonders in the world today, your first inclination might be to ask, “Dude, it’s a flippin’ soundbar. What’s the point?” And I might respond, “Uh, marketing?” So you can imagine that when the new Atlantic Technology FS-7.0—the world’s first seven-channel soundbar—arrived, I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic to set it up. After all, I would need to remove my current in-wall center-channel speaker, replace it with a blank panel on which to mount the new all-in-one system, and then run seven speaker wires across the floor. I don’t know whether it was the titillation that comes with undressing a new piece of gear or the surreptitious sniffing of Styrofoam packaging, but for some reason, I began to warm up to the idea of a seven-channel soundbar. After all, I’ve never known Atlantic Technology to be the kind of company that would do something simply because it would make good copy in an ad, so the thing just might sound good. If nothing else, it certainly would have plenty of cool drivers scattered all over the cabinet and lots of settings to fiddle with.
Of course, if I’d read the cover letter that came with the system, I’d have known not to expect a complicated setup or a complex array of drivers. Simplicity was one of the design criteria for the FS-7.0. Although it’s the first soundbar that can reproduce seven discrete channels of home theater audio, it does it without extensive signal processing or built-in amplifiers. It achieves this acoustic sleight of ear—the trick of making your brain believe it’s hearing sound from different parts of the room—by virtue of good old-fashioned clever speaker engineering and utilization of well-known psychoacoustic principles. If that wasn’t enough, Atlantic Technology wanted the new soundbar to be simple to set up, usable with A/V receivers that have two to seven channels, sound like it’s a much larger speaker system, be less room dependent than most other soundbars, and look good hanging on the wall. (And you thought soundbars were boring.)
1 + 2 + 3 = Faux
With its Gloss Black finish, sloping top and bottom, and relatively small wall-print of 40 inches wide by 4.75 inches tall, the FS-7.0 looks good. Across the back of the cabinet are recessed speaker terminals for the LCR and the four surround speaker channels in a 7.1-channel system. If you use an AVR, you simply run speaker wire from its speaker-level outputs to the corresponding speaker terminals on the FS-7.0 like you would if you were using discrete speakers. At first glance, this row of connectors might be daunting, but each set of terminals is clearly marked, and the instruction manual includes an easy-to-follow wiring diagram. Atlantic Technology also provides a mounting template that shows the locations of the built-in keyhole brackets as well as the speaker terminals. The template makes it easy to drill holes in the wall for the speaker wire in the right spots. It also makes a great guide so you can see which terminals to connect the speaker wire to when you bend over the soundbar from the front—something you’re going to do unless you’ve run 10 extra feet of wire. The spring-loaded speaker terminals are recessed into the cabinet (which is a necessity in order to mount the soundbar flat against the wall). So they’re a little harder to get to than the terminals on many speakers. The holes in the connectors for the speaker wire are smaller than I’d like, but as long as you don’t use trans-Atlantic telephone cables for speaker wires, you’ll be OK.
If you decide to take off the front grille to admire what you’ll expect to be a multitude of drivers hidden behind it, you’ll be in for a letdown. All you’ll find across the soundbar’s front baffle are a trio of 1-inch soft-dome tweeters separated by a pair of 4-by-6-inch drivers. (Atlantic chose oval midbass drivers because they provide approximately the same radiating surface area as 5.25-inch drivers, yet they allow the cabinet height to be an inch shorter.) As you’d expect, there’s one tweeter each for the LCR channels—but it appears that some now-unemployed engineer forgot to spec a midbass driver for the center channel.Actually, this isn’t the case, because each of the 4-by-6-inch drivers incorporates a dual voice coil. So the left driver, for example, handles the mid and low frequencies of the left front channel, while it also reproduces half of the output of the center channel. Likewise for the driver on the right. Atlantic Technology says this arrangement lets the FS-7.0 create a tightly focused LCR image while keeping the overall size small. And it costs less to make because it uses only two midbass drivers instead of three. Score one for clever speaker engineering.
The four surround channels in this 7.1 system are handled by two 3.25-inch surround speakers, one mounted on each side of the FS-7.0’s cabinet and angled back toward the wall. Although you’d think the soundbar is missing a couple of drivers here too, it’s not. These ordinary-looking side-firing drivers incorporate triple voice coils. One voice coil is dedicated to the side surround, while the second reproduces the back surround channel. Because of the angle of the speakers, the sound bounces off the front wall, to the side walls, to your ears. The third voice coil reproduces part of the corresponding front channel, which Atlantic Technology says helps create a larger sense of spaciousness than you’d expect from a 40-inch-wide soundbar. The multi-voice-coil design means that each driver (except for the center-channel tweeter) is active to some degree whether you’re listening to two, five, or seven channels.
A Basic Accessory
Since a pair of 4-by-6-inch drivers won’t give you the kind of bass most people want in a home theater setup, Atlantic Technology sent along an SB-800 subwoofer. It’s a compact (11-by-13-by-13-inch), 100-watt powered unit with a forward-firing port and an ultra-long-excursion 8-inch woofer. If you don’t want or can’t use a subwoofer (maybe because you’re a communist, a serial killer, or someone who hates puppies), the instruction manual suggests that you use your AVR’s “small” speaker setting with the front-channel crossover at 60 hertz and the surround channels at 100 Hz. While this won’t rattle your display of collectible Hummel figurines off the shelves, the FS-7.0 will still sound astoundingly better than using the speakers that are built into your TV.
Don’t Get Testy
The hardest part of setting up the system is connecting all the speaker wires. However, since the FS-7.0 doesn’t involve lugging speakers and wire all around the room, it’s pretty much a breeze. The keyhole brackets are already installed on the back of the soundbar. All it takes is two screws in the wall, and you’re done. Now it’s time to get your decibel meter out and start listening to some test tones, right?