If you've been reading our reviews, you probably know Atlantic Technology makes some of our favorite speakers, but because its build quality and performance standard are high, so are the prices. Now, with the six-piece, 5.1-channel System 920, Atlantic tweaked the formula and cooked up a more affordable $899 package. We were a little nervous about how the price would impact the 920, but as soon as we listened, we knew Atlantic had another winner on its hands. Our satellite and subwoofer samples were impeccably finished in high-gloss silver paint--the System 920 is the classiest-looking affordable system we've had the pleasure of reviewing. The sats are fitted with curved, magnetically attached perforated metal grilles, and we think the System 920 would be right at home gracing the wall next to a pricey plasma TV.
The satellites are just over 8 inches tall and can be mounted on bookshelves or stands, or directly to the wall with the rear-panel keyhole slot or threaded insert. Meanwhile, the 26-pound 102 SB is one of the sleekest-looking baby boomers we've ever tested. It's a 13-inch cube subwoofer--pretty darn small compared to the competition.
The complete System 920 retails for $899 in Black Satin and $999 in that snazzy Metallic Silver. If you have a 6.1- or 7.1-channel system, Atlantic sells individual black satellites for $105 each; silver sats go for $120. The 102 SB subwoofer is available separately for $374 in black and $399 in silver. Bass fiends can forgo the 102 SB and move up to one of Atlantic's larger subs. Last but not least, Atlantic is readying a dedicated 1200 C center speaker for use with the System 920 (price and availability to be announced). The System 920 satellites' 1-inch soft dome tweeter and 4-inch GLH (Graphite Loaded Homopolymer) woofer share an obvious kinship with the drivers used in Atlantic's high-end systems. The 920's cabinets are solidly built and fitted with heavy-duty five-way binding posts.
The 102 SB subwoofer features a down-firing, 8-inch long-throw composite woofer. As with all Atlantic Technology subwoofers, this little guy is a sealed (nonported) enclosure design to provide higher-definition bass than more typical ported subs. The 8-inch driver features a massive magnet structure and a high-temperature voice coil to make the most effective use of the onboard 100-watt power amplifier. Stereo line-level inputs and outputs are provided, plus a crossover bypass option for easy setup with A/V receivers. If you have an older receiver, you can take advantage of the 102 SB's adjustable 40Hz to 140Hz crossover. A large, rear-mounted heat sink cools the built-in 100-watt amplifier. The System 920 virtually disappeared when we doused the lights and watched the Open Water DVD. This taut thriller about a couple of deep sea divers who find themselves abandoned in the ocean doesn't have heavy-duty special effects or explosions, but the tension of the couple's increasing panic in the midst of lapping water was palpable. By comparison, Jaws was kid stuff, Open Water is for grown-ups, and the scene in a nighttime thunderstorm was frightfully realistic.
The most common small satellite-subwoofer system pitfall is a lack of midbass. Even when the subwoofer's deep bass is adequate, the bass-challenged satellites rob the music of its natural warmth. Not this time, though--the 920 gets the mid and deep bass just right and tonally mimics the balance of a larger system. Trumpeter Chet Baker's smoky, late-night brand of jazz sounded wonderfully natural over the System 920. True, the little subwoofer doesn't have the feel-it-in-your-gut sock of Energy's or Mirage's baby subs, but the Atlantic's crisp definition was evident on every plucked note on a stand-up bass. Baker's warm trumpet tone had the sort of depth we associate with much more expensive speakers. It's worthwhile to note that we were surprised how much we enjoyed the 920's sound in stereo--most similarly sized sub/sat systems need the extra support of all the satellites to sound acceptable with music. This system sings with CDs!
Finally, we trotted out the new White Stripes concert DVD, Under Blackpool Lights, and loved the band's raw power even more than we do on their CDs. We could just about feel Meg beating the hell out of her toms and kick drum, and Jack's full frontal guitar theatrics weren't reined in.