Test Report: Atlantic Technology AT-1 H-PAS Speakers Page 3

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PERFORMANCE
The AT-1’s honest low-bass output is not always an easy distinction to hear on typical pop music, but with the right material it becomes almost obvious. For example, the famous Telarc orchestral bass drum, “the drum that launched ten thousand audiophiles,” on Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance Marches was tight, deep, and resonant, as it should be — and you simply must have solid output to below 35 Hz to hear this.

But careful selections from the pop canon proved capable of showing off the AT-1’s abilities as well. “Gaia,” from James Taylor’s Hourglass, includes a very low, resonant big-drum-and-reverb event that basslimited speakers merely hint at but that the H-PAS towers delivered with remarkable authority, clarity, and freedom from bloat. I happened to have on hand a pair of almost identical-size (and similarly priced) towers from another maker employing three 5.25-inch drivers per speaker and conventional vented alignment. Direct comparison was revealing: On the conventional towers, the last drum strikes’ fundamentals were almost entirely missing from “Gaia,” leaving only “doubling” content an octave higher for an obviously muddier result.

North of, say, 150 Hz, the AT-1 strikes me as a speaker straight out of the Atlantic Tech playbook: tight, precise imaging; accurate, even unromantic midrange; unexaggerated yet extended top octaves. By “tight and precise,” I mean a musical soundstage that is well defined and easily localized left to right, but without a great deal of “depth,” something fairly typical of midrange-tweetermidrange layouts. (In my view, this “tightness” becomes an asset in multichannel playback, where it helps support intelligibility and spatial precision.) And by “unromantic” I mean free of the slightly enriched output in the male-voice octaves that makes so many speakers sound a touch warmer.

While I found the AT-1’s horizontal coverage to be excellent, its vertical “sweet spot” was a bit narrower. This made speaker positioning important: In my room, a fair degree of backtilt, by adjusting the supplied spikes higher in front, delivered easily heard gains in openness, clarity, and treble “air.” Reproduction of massed strings was now vibrant and “toothy” but unstrained, and well-recorded cymbals carried the detailed, airborne sizzle indicative of fine reproduction. (The AT-1’s rear-panel –1/0/+1 dB tweeter- level switch might also come into play here in tailoring to room acoustics, program, or taste; I listened at the 0 dB setting.)

Atlantic’s AT-1 isn’t perfect. Like all floor-standers, it requires a certain amount of space for optimum placement of speakers and listeners relative to walls and to one another, and like all full-range designs it is subject to the often-divergent imperatives of practical and acoustical considerations — something a sub/sat layout often mitigates. I found that pulling the towers a good 3 feet from the front wall clarified its deep-bass abilities by reducing “wall-bounce” reinforcement of the upper-bass octaves.

But when given the placement they preferred, the AT-1s continued to amaze. A high-rez download of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring (Minnesota Orchestra, Eiji Oue) excited the big-orchestra low-end dynamic slam that I associate with big, expensive subwoofers while simultaneously retaining excellent definition and timbral breadth.

While the AT-1 played loud as hell without complaint (absorbing 150 watts per speaker), it’s remarkably efficient, delivering powerful levels of deep bass from modest-power means; a 50-watts-per-channel receiver would deliver very satisfying levels in my room, which happens to be far from small.

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