Go to Home Page

Click Here to go to Index for All Speaker Reviews

 

Product Review
 

Athena Technologies Micra 6 Compact 5.1 Speaker System

August, 2004

Jared Rachwalski

 

Specifications:


MS Satellite:


● Tweeter: 1/2" (13mm) Textile Dome
    Woofer: 3-1/2" (9 cm) Injection Molded
     Polypropylene
● Frequency Response: 100 Hz - 20 kHz
± 3
    dB
● Recommended Amplifier Power: 20 - 100
    Watts
● Crossover Point: 2.8 kHz
● Impedance: 8 Ohms Compatible
● Dimensions: 7" x 4.5" x 4.5"
● Weight: 1.2 kg (2.6 lbs)

MC Center Channel:


● Tweeter: 1/2" Textile Dome Woofer:
    Dual 3-1/2" Injection Molded Polypropylene
    Cones
● Frequency Response: 100 Hz-20 kHz
± 3 dB
● Recommended Amplifier Power: 20 - 100
    Watts
● Crossover Point: 2.8 kHz
● Impedance: 8 Ohms Compatible
● Dimensions: 4.5" x 11.2" x 4.5"
● Weight: 2.2 kg (4.9 lbs)

M225 Subwoofer:


● Woofer: 8" High Excursion Injection Molded
    Poly-Cone
● Down Firing, Bass Reflex Active Subwoofer
● Frequency Response: 30 Hz - 100 Hz ± 3 dB
● 75 Watts RMS, 225 Watts Peak Amplifier
● Preset Crossover Control
● Dimensions: 16.75" x 9.4" x 14.2"
● Weight: 10 kg (22 lbs)


System Price: $550 USA ($700 CDN)
Optional MS-STB-1 Stands $70 USA ($90 CDN)

 

Athena Technologies

 

www.athenaspeakers.com

Introduction

It is now awfully easy to find a nice compact 5.1 speaker package for under $1,000 US. However, with more choices comes one problem: more choices. Sure it is easy to find good sound, but it is not so easy to find great sound. At this low price, you must wade through lots of brands and models to find that great deal.

The Athena Technologies Micra 6 is an entire 5.1 speaker system that costs less than $550 US. Therefore it is very important to keep one little thing in context while listening to these speakers – the price! I could easily point out many things that I would have liked better, but at this price I cannot nit-pick. Sure the sub doesn’t reach 25 Hz, the speakers are light in the mid-bass, and the center wavers at high volumes. Still, for less than the price of a decent receiver you get an entire 5.1 setup!

What I was impressed with was the smooth and clear sound the speakers produced with both music and movies at moderate volumes. I was floored by the compact 8” sub that performed impressively in my large open room. Read on.

Fit and Finish

Lets start with the swivel type mounting brackets that are thoughtfully included on the center and satellites. The center’s mount runs the entire length of the speaker, pivoting at either end where it attaches.

With two keyholes it allows you to mount the speaker against the wall above your plasma TV (as the advertisements suggest). Personally, I used the mount to angle the speaker up slightly while having it sitting on my center channel stand. Found on the Satellites are similar brackets with two wall-mounting options. One keeps the speaker parallel to the wall, while the other angles the speaker down. Each bracket is tightened with an extra large slot screw. The solid mounts with their flexible designs are a big plus for a speaker in this category.

The shapely designed center and satellites are constructed of injection-molded resin. They only have spring clips but surprisingly they accept 14 gauge bare wire. Overall these speakers are tasteful, in a plasma TV kind of way.

Subwoofer

Next is the very impressive little sub. It doesn’t extend down to 25 Hz, and it does exhibit some port noise – but let's put things into perspective here, this is a clean sounding sub that integrates very well with the satellites (not to mention that it is included in the $550 package). The sub did fall behind the satellites at rather loud volumes, however the quality of the bass from this little 8” sub really surprised me. It was the definite highlight of the system - Athena engineers scored a big win with this unit.

Located on the front of the sub is a lone output level control, interestingly they opted out on including a crossover control. The system was designed for easy set up, with the idea being that you just connect everything together and watch movies without worrying about crossover frequencies. The designers decided that they would set it at a point that matched well with the satellites. Unfortunately, this means that you may overlap the crossover in your receiver with the subwoofers, so turn your receiver’s crossover to its highest position.

MS Satellites

Obviously, these speakers, by design, are not to be played without the subwoofer’s help. At only 7” tall and employing only a 3˝-inch ‘woofer’, one shouldn’t expect much low end out of these speakers. Fortunately Athena found the right integration between the sub and the satellites, and they complement each other very well. It is hard for any set of speakers this small to achieve decent mid-bass. Therefore the sub is required to play frequencies that are directional – which also warrants keeping the sub up front. I was defiantly impressed with the solid center image the speakers presented with two-channel music. As for depth and imaging, good definition was present between the speakers, although they did not extend too far beyond themselves.

An important part of believable and enveloping surround is the positioning. With their adjustable built in mounts, these are very easy speakers to install in even a “less than perfectly designed” room. Every room is different, and there is no rule to achieving the best sound. I found they sounded best located just behind my couch, aimed towards each other and slightly toed in to the front. The supplied mounting brackets made this very easy to attain.

MC Center

The MC center was decent at mid to moderate levels, but felt strained at more aggressive volumes. It's strongest area was how it blended with the mains. Panning across the front never sounded choppy. My only big complaint was the presence of slight sibilance, noticeable during Return of the King (present at loud volumes and at difficult passages).

The center speaker has two mids flanking a tweeter. On the back are spring clips, and attached to either end is the mounting bracket. This proved very useful when aiming the speaker while it was seated on my center channel stand.

Stand Up

Accompanying my set were two pairs of optional stands specifically designed for use with the satellites. Constructed of aluminum and steel, the stands are hollow with holes to run speaker wire through them. On the top is a mounting hole specifically for the built in bracket on the speakers. They complement the speakers very nicely and bring the tweets up to perfect height (right with my ears).

Some stands are hollow, and designed to be filled with either sand or lead shot. This can help to stabilize the speaker stand, and improve bass response. While these speaker stands are not designed this way, the speakers would benefit very little from that. Due to their small size and limited bass reproduction, it is not necessary.

The Sound of Music

For critical music listening, I use only a select few discs chosen based upon sound quality, detail, familiarity, and of course enjoyment. For mid-bass reproduction, I use Pork Soda, by Primus. Les Claypool’s splendid lead bass and Herb’s tight drum work can easily outline poor mid-bass reproduction. For detail, dynamic range and sound quality I use Free Fall, by Jesse Cook. This is a highly infectious album full of intricate guitar work and some deep down bass. For imaging and just plain fun, I turn to Rain Dogs, by Tom Waits. And the last disc, (and most recent addition) is Rated R, by Queens Of The Stone Age. This album begs to be turned up – at which lesser speakers can get muddy. This album is full of detailed guitar work, which all too often gets lost in the mix at high volumes.

With Jesse Cook, I definitely noticed port noise on track 8, however there have not been many subs that have not had difficulty with this track. The center image was very solid, and the stage was defined, albeit rarely extending beyond the two speakers.

Pork Soda brought out the biggest flaw in the system - ahem, this $550 system. Mid-bass was slimmer and had less impact than I prefer, but this is difficult to achieve with small midrange drivers. Most of the ‘punch’ people attribute to a fast subwoofer is actually the mid-bass from the midrange drivers. Granted, they do provide better mid-bass than my old Energy Take 5.2 system and for the price I cannot complain.

Rated R did what it usually does: at high volumes, detail became a little smeared. Keep in mind I do enjoy turning this whole album a little too loud. Again, my attention was turned to the sub. Persistently filling the room and pounding out sound larger than its size suggests, it constantly impressed me. Honestly, this album is less for sound quality and more for enjoyment.

Going to the Movies

Return of the King is a delightfully engrossing movie, filled with emotional dialogue intertwined with sword fights, sounds of destruction, and utter chaos. At modestly loud volumes, every speaker sounded great, each blending with the other. It was only at real loud volumes that the center had some trouble keeping up with the effects. The center handled the frequent sharp sounds of swords being drawn very well, yet exhibited some sibilance when the Morgul lord was talking.

Se7en was the next movie I used. It relies heavily on the music and effects to create the downright creepy mood. The system’s strong blend between all speakers was evident again with the many rain-drenched scenes. As usual, the sub delivered most effects with wonderful energy.

The system generally performed very well for movie watching. The speakers blended nicely with each other and the subwoofer. Naturally, due to their small size and power handling, they are best suited for a smaller room.

Conclusions

Throughout this review, examining and testing the pleasant quality of this system, I had to remind myself of its low price. Sure, the system shows its limits in larger rooms and at higher volumes, but in smaller rooms and at moderate levels, it sounds wonderful. Most impressive, for me, was the consistently solid little subwoofer. Athena has continued their tradition of providing an excellent value with a great system at a price both you and your spouse will find pleasing.
 

 - Jared Rachwalski -

    Related to the article above, we recommend the following:

Primer - Speakers

 

 

© Copyright 2004 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

Go to Table of Contents for this Issue

Go to Home Page

 

About Secrets

Register

Terms and Conditions of Use