Test Report: Atlantic Technology PowerBar 235 Soundbar

Home theater nuts can never have enough subwoofers. But the average household isn’t run by a home theater nut. Usually, the decisions about what goes into the living room are made by someone for whom audio gear is only slightly more welcome than cockroaches. For that person, even one sub may be too many.

Atlantic Technology built its PowerBar 235 soundbar precisely for households split by the conflict over good sound versus bulky audio gear. The PowerBar 235 is one of only a couple of soundbars designed to deliver satisfying bass response without a subwoofer.

Most sub-less soundbars sell for around $100 and don’t play much below 100 Hz. The PowerBar 235, though, sells for $899 and has a rated bass response of 47 Hz. The extra bottom end comes from H-PAS (Hybrid Pressure Acceleration System) technology, a set of resonators tuned to deliver maximum bass response from the unit’s 4-inch woofers.

Atlantic has proven the benefits of H-PAS in its AT-1 tower and AT-2 bookshelf speakers, but a soundbar is a tougher challenge. The PowerBar 235 is just 6.5 inches deep and 6.5 inches high, and it’s packed with electronics to power the speakers. Can H-PAS work in such a constrained space? We’ll soon find out.

Most people buy soundbars because they want something simple, and the PowerBar’s about as simple as a soundbar gets. It’s designed primarily for connection to your TV’s audio output. The three digital inputs offer Dolby Digital and DTS decoding, which comes in handy if your TV puts out only Dolby Digital from its digital output. There’s also a front 3.5mm input for easy connection of a smartphone or MP3 player.

There’s even a subwoofer output, intended, as Atlantic’s Web site puts it, for “incorrigible bass hounds” who want even more low end than the PowerBar 235 delivers.

Besides H-PAS, the PowerBar 235’s most interesting feature is its flippable design. If you’re placing it flat on a shelf, the “bump” holding the inputs and controls goes up. If you’re wall-mounting it, the bump goes down. Atlantic includes an insert with upside-down control labels, so the labels are right-side-up when you flip the bar over.

Setup

If you want something easier to set up than the PowerBar 235, you’d better stick with the speakers in your TV. The only complicated part is figuring out where to put it, because it’s bulkier than the average soundbar. Your best bets would be under the TV on a shelf, or as a wall-mount. Note that with its 6.5-inch depth, the PowerBar 235 sticks out a lot farther from the wall than those $300 active soundbars at the big-box stores do.

When I used the PowerBar 235 with my Samsung 47-inch LCD TV, which sits on a large, long TV stand with a shelf underneath, I placed it on the shelf and ran a Toslink optical digital audio cable from the TV to the soundbar. When I used it in my home theater with my front projector, I placed it on a couple of stands and connected my Samsung Blu-ray player, again using a Toslink cable.

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