Atlantic Technology System 6200 surround speaker system

Most high-end speaker companies arrived late to the home-theater party. Dedicated to 2-channel music playback, they eventually split into three groups. One group would banish you to the Mines of Moria if you even uttered the words "home theater" in their presence. Another recognized the bottom-line impact of multichannel and reluctantly designed a few home theater pieces—perhaps a simple center and a subwoofer—for their dealers to sell along with their 2-channel models. A third developed a little more enthusiasm for home theater and built serious centers, subs, and surrounds to match the sophistication of their traditional designs.

Then there's Atlantic Technology. Their speakers have always been suited to high-quality music reproduction, but ever since the company's launch back in the early 1990s, they have also always been designed from the ground up as multipurpose packages, with neither the reproduction of music nor of movies given lip service.

Along with the more expensive System 8200, the System 6200 is a significant departure for Atlantic. Not only are both systems more expensive than their previous flagship, the System 450 (reviewed in the May 1998 SGHT), they're far larger and more complex. They've been designed not only for users who set up their own system, but for custom installers as well.

Eight Easy Pieces
If you ignore the trim pieces that make up its accent-panel set, as well as various spikes, feet, etc., the System 6200 comes in eight parts: the left and right 6200 LRs, the 6200 C center-channel, two 6200 SR surrounds, two PedWoofer subwoofers, and the SA-6200 single-channel external amplifier, which drives both subs in parallel.

The 6200 LR is a conventional-looking vertical D'Appolito array: two 6.5-inch woofers separated by a 1-inch dome tweeter. There's nothing exotic about the drivers; the woofer cones are made of graphite-loaded homopolymer (GLH), and the silk-dome tweeters are ferrofluid-cooled with neodymium magnets. The crossovers are steep-slope (fourth-order). Dual terminals are provided for biwiring or biamping, if desired.

What distinguishes the 6200 LR from most of its competitors is that Atlantic has taken into account the fact that the speaker will be used in a real room. The rear panel has three controls. The three-position HF Energy control adjusts the slope of the tweeter's response (not just its output level) for a reverberant room, a damped room or an average room. The Location switch increases the midrange and high-frequency output for mounting the speaker behind a perforated projection screen. And the Boundary Compensation switch will be useful when you can't avoid positioning the 6200 LR close to a wall or a large piece of furniture. Some of these switches' settings are labeled THX Normal and THX/Average, but the System 6200 is not presently THX-certified, though some parts of the system (not the subs) may have a THX Select rating by the time you read this.

The 6200 C center-channel speaker has the same controls and drivers as the 6200 LR. Here the two woofers are mounted side by side, but unlike in most such designs, they're very close together, with the tweeter nestled into the V-shaped area just above and between them. This tight driver configuration is an attempt to minimize the off-axis response suckouts common to horizontal woofer-tweeter-woofer configurations.

The 6200 SR surround, with its two woofer-tweeter pairs mounted at 90° to each another, can be operated in dipole or bipole mode thanks to an easily accessible switch. They can be mounted on the wall (as I used them) or on dedicated stands (a $650/pair option).

The 6200 Ped (for pedestal) Woofer sports a side-mounted 10-inch driver mounted in a tall, thin cabinet designed as a base for the 6200 LR, though the sub can be used separately. (A matching pedestal stand, sans driver, is available for the 6200 LR for $650/pair, trim panels extra.) The PedWoofer is not self-powered; it is sold in pairs together with the SA-6200, a mono power amp that drives the left and right subs in parallel and can be mounted in any convenient location, such as in an equipment rack.

The SA-6200 also includes the last, and perhaps most important, element in what Atlantic calls its C.O.R.E. (Custom Optimized, Room Enhanced) Technology. (The other elements are the Boundary Compensation switches on the 6200 LR and C.) Apart from the usual Crossover, Phase, and Level controls found on most subwoofers, there is also a single-band, parametric equalizer. In general, such an equalizer lets the user select the equalizer's center frequency, the width ("Q") of the frequency band it covers, and the level of boost or attenuation. The SA-6200's parametric equalizer provides only attenuation, which is as it should be. (Boosting the bass over a narrow band to try to compensate for a response dip is never a good idea.) The system comes with a CD, developed by Atlantic Technology and test-equipment maker Sencore, that provides a variety of test tones to help in configuring the SA-6200's equalizer.

A remote control provides for adjustment of the subwoofer level, mute, and remote selection of four fixed equalization presets over and above that provided by the parametric. These curves are very subtle in their operation, and provide a slight response dip around 100Hz (Eq1, primarily designed for music), a boost around 60Hz (Eq2, for punching up special effects), a more subtle boost around 80Hz (Eq3), and a broad rise below about 70Hz (Eq4, designed for low-level night operation).

The SA-6200 amplifier also has a hardwired, nondefeatable "sleep" mode. That is, after a time with no bass input, it goes into standby. I don't really like sleep modes on subwoofers, unless there is a user option to defeat them. If the sub amp shuts down during a period of inactivity, it might cut off the leading edge of a sudden bass transient in the fraction of a second it takes for it to turn back on. I never found this to be a problem with the SA-6200 during normal operation, but with the right piece of program material it could be.

Finally, you can buy the System 6200 with unfinished MDF trim panels (standard) or a variety of optional panels in various finishes.