Surround Sound Speaker Systems

Atlantic Technology 4400 Speaker System

ARTICLE INDEX

Atlantic Technology 4400 Speaker System

Introduction

Started in 1989, Atlantic Technology's main goal has been to provide an immersive surround sound experience. They target seamless pans from right to left, and crisp clear dialog in their speaker setups along with dynamic powerful bass from their subwoofers. In their opinion, the sound should be neutral with a wide dynamic range - ability to go from the soft pitter patter of rain to loud destructive explosions without strain. All the speakers from left, right, center, and surrounds should blend seamlessly, recreating the movie's atmosphere in your own home.

Atlantic Technology 4400

So does the AT 4400 system achieve their primary goals? Read on to find out!

Specifications

  • 4400LR Front Left/Right
  • Design: Two-way, Sealed Enclosure, MTM Array
  • Drivers: One 1" Silk Dome Tweeter, Two 5.25" Woofers
  • MFR: 80 Hz - 20 kHz ± 3 dB
  • Nominal Impedance: 8 Ohms
  • Crossover Frequency: 2.5 kHz
  • Sensitivity: 90 dB
  • Recommended Amp Power: 10-150 Watts RMS
  • Magnetic Shielding: Yes
  • Dimensions: 15" H x 8.3" W x 9.5" D
  • Weight: 15 Pounds/each
  • MSRP: $1,050/pair
  • 4400C Center Channel
  • Design: Two-way, Sealed Enclosure, MTM Array
  • Drivers: One 1" Silk Dome Tweeter, Two 5.25" Woofers
  • MFR: 80 Hz - 20 kHz ± 3 dB
  • Nominal Impedance: 8 Ohms
  • Crossover Frequency: 2.5 kHz
  • Sensitivity: 90 dB
  • Recommended Amp Power: 10-150 Watts RMS
  • Magnetic Shielding: Yes
  • Dimensions: 8.4" H x 18.4" W x 9.7" D
  • Weight: 17 Pounds
  • MSRP: $600 USA
  • 4400SR Rear Left/Right
  • Design: Two-way, Sealed Enclosure, Bipole-Dipole
  • Drivers: One 1" Silk Dome Tweeter, Two 4.5" Woofers
  • MFR: 80 Hz - 20 kHz ± 3 dB
  • Nominal Impedance: 8 Ohms
  • Crossover Frequency: 3 kHz
  • Sensitivity: 90 dB
  • Recommended Amp Power: 10-150 Watts RMS
  • Magnetic Shielding: No
  • Dimensions: 12.4" H x 10.9" W x 7.5" D
  • Weight: 11 Pounds/each
  • MSRP: $950/pair
  • 444 SB Subwoofer
  • Design: Sealed Enclosure
  • Driver: 12" with Four-layer Aluminum Voice Coil
  • Amplifier: 325 Watts RMS
  • Crossover: 40 Hz - 140 Hz, 18dB/octave
  • Phase Invert Switch
  • Auto-On
  • MFR: 25 Hz - 250 Hz ± 3 dB
  • Dimensions: 16.9" H x 16.5" W x 16" D
  • Weight: 42 Pounds
  • MSRP: $900 USA
  • Atlantic Technology

Design

Atlantic Technology 4400 Speaker System

The 4400 system has a very subtle design meant to blend in with today's shiny black flat screen HDTV's. Mainly matte black, with piano gloss black side panels. They look nice and match well to my family room system. I read that with previous versions of the 4x00 system, these side panels could be swapped for different finishes, but Atlantic decided not to continue this trend.

Atlantic Technology 4400 Speaker System

The 4400LR and 4400C speakers have two settings, adjustable via switches on the rear panel. One for high frequency roll off (to tone the speaker down in rooms with highly reflective surfaces like hardwood or tiled floors) and one for boundary compensation (which helps to eliminate the negative effects of mounting a box speaker inside a cabinet).

Atlantic Technology 4400 Speaker System

Rather than the 5 way binding posts which have become the norm for speakers in just about every price range, the 4400LR/C use spring loaded binding posts which don't easily accept banana plugs. Luckily, I was able to slide the banana connectors into the spring loaded holes for the LR speakers even though I don't believe they were designed to work that way. For the center channel, due to clearance issue with the cabinet, I had to remove the plugs from my speaker cables (thank god for quality locking banana plugs!) and use bare speaker wire. Not usually a problem, but the holes in the binding posts were not big enough to allow for easy insertion of my 10-gauge Belden cables. Without a direct comparison of binding posts, its impossible to say what affect these posts have on the sound. Just be sure to have a nice set of spade speaker cables if you decide to pick up a 4400 system! I did contact Atlantic Technology regarding their choice of binding posts and their reasoning was the speakers needed adequate clearance for wall mounting.

Atlantic Technology 4400 Speaker System

Atlantic Technology 4400 Speaker System

The 4400SR surround speakers are built a bit differently. The entire cabinet is a very soft matte black finish. They are very solid and well built. The surrounds even use a more standard binding posts which worked perfectly with my banana plugs. On the front is the switch for bipole/dipole setting.

Atlantic Technology 4400 Speaker System


Setup

I first set up the 4400 system in my dedicated home theater system. I placed the fronts on 24" high stands about 10' from my listening spot, center on a 13" angled stand, and the rears on 28" stands directly to the sides of the couch. The rears were set to Dipole and mains and center did not have any boundary compensation turned on. All speakers were driven by Parasound Halo A-23 amps. The subwoofer was set to bypass with my Marantz SR7001 crossover setting at 80Hz and the front-located gain (volume) level set a little below halfway. Initially I tried the sub in the right front corner, but got very weak performance unless sitting near the wall. So I tried moving in between the front speakers and, literally, boom, I had bass. After a few weeks of listening on my nicer gear, I thought I would try the system out in the family room, in a more likely scenario. Hooked up to an Onkyo 606 receiver with a PS3 as the source, this seemed to be closer to the "target audience" in my mind. Overall setup/placement was very similar to the Home Theater room.


In Use

All the AT speakers have a very neutral midrange - some consumers mistakenly think this is a "dry" sound, preferring certain types of coloration such as bright highs or forward midrange. It really depends on your tastes. The high end is crisp and clear, even at loud volume.

The 4400 system has excellent depth to the soundstage. Sounds effortlessly extend behind the speakers with a lifelike quality. This is where the AT speakers really shine and to me it was their best quality. The width of the soundstage was adequate, but does not seem to extend to the right or left of the LR speakers much. I also noticed that there is no "height" to the image. If you imagine a straight like from tweeter to tweeter, every instrument and vocal sits on this line.

The 4400SR surrounds are built well and sound terrific. They do an excellent job of creating the surround experience without distracting from the main soundstage. I can easily recommend the 4400SR if you need a solid set of dipole/bipole speakers for your system.

The system is designed as a satellite/subwoofer and that's how it should be treated. A subwoofer is definitely required for the full range experience. With the 444SB being a sealed design, I expected the bass to be quick and tight, with plenty of detail. In actuality, the bass is a bit too intense in the upper region for my tastes, and I found myself having to turn the gain down on it to less than halfway. Some of this could be due to room placement, but I tried a few different locations and didn't have much luck in improving the tightness. If you look at the room response in the On the Bench section, you can see that there is an increased response in the 60 Hz - 80 Hz region, and that is what I was hearing.

The Atlantic Technology Engineers are sending me the Model 642e THX Select Subwoofer to try in place of the 444SB. So, check back in a few weeks for an addendum to this review, reporting on the results of adding this subwoofer to the system.

Batman

The Dark Knight - A great scene to test out the ability of the AT's to recreate explosions and the rumble aspect of home theater is the batmobile/batbike section. I crank the volume when i watch movies or listen to music, so its very important to me that a set of speakers can play loud without distortion. The 4400 system is THX certified so you would expect them to be able to play loudly without a problem.. This is certainly the case! I was able to crank the levels for the batmobile scene and the 4400 speakers didnt miss a beat. The sound of vehicles moved from speaker to speaker, left to right, front to back with ease. Something the AT engineers set out to do and accomplished in spades. The 4400 is a very cohesive system and sound FX feel planted no matter where they are coming from. The weakest link in the system is most certainly the 444SB. It just can't keep up with the speed, clarity, and detail of the speakers. It can recreate the kabooms and rumbles, but I get that feeling of only hearing one bass note coming from it. With it being a sealed design I really expected the bass response to be tighter.

Watchmen

Watchmen - The opening fight with the Comedian has some great surround FX in it. I found the 4400SR provided terrific atmosphere and space to the rear soundstage. Set in dipole mode and placed to the sides of my couch it was hard to locate where the speakers were, even with them being so close. Much different than my standard direct radiating surround speaker which is easy to detect where the chirps, glass shards and rain are coming from. Dialog throughout the movie was clear, relatively full and never drowned out.

The Piano

The Piano (Michael Nyman) - Track 9 "The Scent of Love" - I like this track because it is mostly solo piano, and beautifully written of course, with good atmosphere around the featured instrument. On the 4400LR's, the piano was anchored in the middle with a definite presence behind the speakers. Hard keystrokes would carry nicely beyond the speakers themselves, allowing myself to sink into the music. When the strings enter about midway, the 4400's open up with very nice dynamics and a clean tonal quality. Something seems to be missing for me in the midrange though. The sound of the piano just seems a bit empty for my tastes.

Chesky

Chesky Ultimate Demo Disc - Sara K. - "If I Could Sing Your Blues" - Used to demonstrate true recorded depth, not engineered "echo", this seemed like a perfect disc to test out the 4400LR's ability to recreate depth in the soundstage. The track begins with a muted trumpet standing in the distance to the right and that's how it comes across on the Atlantic Technology speakers. If you close your eyes, its not too difficult to imagine your living room being larger than it is. Not nearly as convincing as my reference LS6's, but pretty dang good. Sara K's voice is very crisp and clear, maybe too much so. I am used to a little more fullness when it comes to vocals. There is no doubt in my mind that her voice is coming from a set of speakers and not from Sara K herself. The depth and soundstage is definitely there once again on the 4400LR's, I just wish they had a bit more midrange.


On The Bench

Tests were made with Behringer EMC8000 that was calibrated using a reference mic, an emu 0404 USB sound card, and RoomWizardEQ.

4400LR

Atlantic Technology 4400 Speaker System

Rated at 80Hz – 20kHz ±3dB, the response curve for the 4400LR's is not that far off in Figure 1. the extra 1-2 dB dips and peaks are most likely room related. My Home Theater room does have bass traps and acoustic panels, but it is not an anechoic chamber.

4400C

Atlantic Technology 4400 Speaker System

Similar results with the 4400C in Figure 2 as with the LR. closer to +- 4dB in my room.

444SB

Atlantic Technology 4400 Speaker System

In Figure 3 the 444SB has a pretty smooth bass curve, but does not reach the earth shattering low notes very well. I personally love subs that go below 20Hz, that add a lot to the feel of the sound.


Conclusions

The Atlantic Technology 4400 system is moderately priced at $3500 for a full 5.1 setup. Not bad for a THX speaker system, although I'm not sure if anybody really cares about THX certification anymore (remember the THX certified DVD for Star Wars The Phantom Menace??). However, the speaker market is so competitive these days that a buyer has a lot to choose from with a $3500 budget. Other companies offer nicer looking wood finishes, or full range floorstanding speakers for the same price, but at the cost of what? Clarity at high volumes? A seamless soundstage?

Give the 4400 system a look if you need a wall mounted installation, or you want a great soundstage with tons of depth and atmosphere, a coherent 360 degree soundfield, and clarity even at high volumes.


Addendum to Atlantic Technology 4400 system review - 642eSB THX select subwoofer

I was having trouble getting good performance from the 444SB so Atlantic Technology was kind enough to send me one of their THX Select certified 642eSB subwoofers. Upon arrival, I immediately noticed the size difference. The 642 is quite a bit larger! It also weighs quite a bit more. It was a decent workout getting it unpacked and moved. To me, this is a good sign when it comes to subwoofers. I set the crossover to bypass and cranked up the gain to about 40% then turned on some music.

First I tried out a track by Alicia Keys – "You Don't Know My Name" from The Diary of Alicia Keys. Wow, so much more depth and punch to the bass notes than with the 444SB. Already I could tell this was a different beast. It sounded like the 642 had quite a bit more range, both in the low end and the higher bass, closer to where the mains cut off. Everything just sounded a lot more seamless to me. I played a few more tracks to get a bit more familiar with the new sub. Radiohead's "There There" from Hail to the Thief was full and clean sounding. Gone was the slightly muffled sound I got from the 444.

Next up was The Dark Knight (Blu-ray). I skipped to the batmobile scene again. I was very curious how the 642 would handle all the rumbles and explosions. On the 444 I felt everything was mashed together. As if the subwoofer was really only playing one frequency. This was absolutely not the case with the THX 642. The sound of the batmobile had so much more depth do it. It felt more like a real engine rumble in my living room than with the 444.

The 444SB is set at $900 where as the 642eSB is $1200. Not a huge jump in price if you ask me. I highly recommend spending the extra 300 bones to get the 642 model. It outperforms the 444 in every category and is easily worth the investment. The only reason I can see getting the 444 instead would be if you have a size limitation on a subwoofer. If you don't mind it taking up a little more space, absolutely get the 642eSB instead!

Type/Features

  • Powered subwoofer, sealed enclosure
  • High efficiency tracking amplifier
  • 2-inch, four layer vented aluminum voice coil, vented motor
  • Continuous 40–140Hz crossover, 18dB/octave low pass output
  • Variable low level stereo inputs and low level outputs
  • Absolute phase invert switch
  • Auto signal sensing on/off/bypassBass Driver - 12" long-throw composite cone
  • Bass Driver – 12" long-throw composite cone
  • Output Power - 300W RMS
  • Distortion (amplifier) - <0.5%
  • Frequency Response - 25Hz - 300Hz ±3 dB
  • Low Level (line) - 20kÙ
  • Peak Output - 105dB SPL into 2000 cubic Feet
  • Dimensions (WxHxD) including grille - 19 x 21 x 20.5 in. (483 x 534 x 521mm)
  • Weight - 65 lbs; 29.5kg
  • Power Requirements - 110-120/220-240V, 50/60Hz
  • Price - $1,200