Atlantic Technology FS-7.0 Soundbar and SB-800 Sub Page 2
Wide Open Space
If anyone tries to convince you that a particular soundbar or faux-surround system sounds just as good as a system with discrete speakers, that person is either lying or has suffered severe hearing damage from the burst of the housing bubble. Physics is physics, and unless you have the aid of illicit drugs (for medicinal purposes), there’s no way you’ll consistently experience the same kind of surround sound performance from a soundbar that you will from a traditional speaker system. That being said, there are plenty of rooms and situations where a soundbar is the ideal system to have, especially when there’s no easy way to run wires or otherwise install a pair of surround speakers (not to mention an additional back surround pair). Another benefit to a soundbar is the much-reduced installation time. It’s a big bonus, whether you’re doing it yourself or paying someone else to do it.
So, assuming that a true surround system isn’t an option, is it worth it to shell out $800 for the FS-7.0 (plus $300 for the SB-800 subwoofer)? Absolutely—and not just for surround sound listening. The FS-7.0 and SB-800 sub sound great—even when you’re playing two-channel music. Thanks to those angled triple-voice-coil side-firing speakers, it generates a soundstage that’s much wider than you’d expect. For example, the two-channel audio track of the multiple pianos on The 5 Browns CD/DVD had a natural and open feel that surprised me. The 1-inch soft-dome tweeters in the FS-7.0 are very smooth. The upper register of the piano in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” was delicate and airy—something I wouldn’t have expected from a soundbar.
7 Out of 7
Of course, surround sound is a soundbar’s primary task, and the FS-7.0’s performance is extremely impressive. It does an excellent job of creating the effect of a surround field. However, instead of putting you in the middle of the action, the soundbar creates the sensation that you’re sitting along at the back edge of a large bubble of sound. While the soundfield never quite engulfs you, you can definitely hear surround effects going on in front of you. The surround placement is also consistent and rational, even though it all happens in front of you rather than around you. For example, after the rats are discovered in Ratatouille, the exodus of rodents sounds like it starts at your nose and heads to the river. You can clearly hear the rain falling in front of you. After Remy loses track of his family, the echoes of his voice and the water are extremely convincing. And as he furiously swirls around under the rushing water, there are a few brief moments when the soundfield engulfs your head.
From the opening credits to the first big race in Cars, the FS-7.0 created an impressively wide soundfield. The SB-800 did a fine job handling the low rumble as the cars swept by, too. The system also handled smaller sonic details just as well. For instance, in The Others, where much of the fright depends upon subtle, low-volume sounds followed by much louder events, the FS-7.0 reproduced the smallest details of tense breathing and creaking floors fabulously. There were no problems with dialogue intelligibility. Voices were strong and clean—I could hear and understand the voices of the others in the upstairs junk room more clearly than I could with many other systems.
You might think it’s silly to talk about the performance of a soundbar with 5.1-channel Dolby TrueHD material. I mean, we’re talking about a soundbar here—does bit-for-bit, lossless audio really matter? As a matter of fact, it does, because that’s when the FS-7.0 really began to shine. When I popped in the Spider-Man 3 Blu-ray Disc, the sound-field became even more full and robust. When the New Goblin first flies in, he seems to materialize above your head as he zooms in to attack. Punches and crashes have a full, strong impact, and the swirling sound of the column of sand around Flint Marko as he is atomized is remarkably real.
As you’d guess from the FS-7.0’s two-channel performance, its performance with multichannel music was also wonderful. Here, the effect is as if you were sitting behind most of the crowd, except the music is as clear as if you were sitting in the front row. As long as we’re talking about music, the FS-7.0 also did a fantastic job re-creating a thoroughly believable soundfield of the roaring crowd when my kids played Rock Band in our PS3’s Dolby Digital mode.
Nothing can replace a multi-discrete-speaker, multi-thousand-dollar home theater system, and Atlantic doesn’t tout the FS-7.0/SB-800 system as being able to do so. On the other hand, it’s a great alternative to a traditional home theater setup or built-in TV speakers. When you take into account the system’s surround and music performance, its simplicity and ability to automatically adapt to any AVR from two to seven channels, and its reasonable price, the FS-7.0 is an outstanding value in a soundbar speaker.