Sound quality isn't the first priority for success in the midpriced home-theater speaker market. Yes, it's important, but compact size, rock-bottom pricing, and attractive styling usually take precedence. Atlantic Technology (AT) is different in that the company has built its reputation by rearranging that agenda and putting sound quality at the top of the list. Even AT's least expensive system, the T70, sounds terrific. Sound quality isn't the first priority for success in the midpriced home-theater speaker market. Yes, it's important, but compact size, rock-bottom pricing, and attractive styling usually take precedence. Atlantic Technology (AT) is different in that the company has built its reputation by rearranging that agenda and putting sound quality at the top of the list. Even AT's least expensive system, the T70, sounds terrific.
Pretty they're not
The System T70's look is strictly home-theater generic. We doubt that these oh-so-plain, black, vinyl-wrapped boxes will find their way into the Museum of Modern Art's collection anytime soon. But that old adage about beauty being only skin deep applies here; lurking behind the T70's grilles are some pretty snazzy drive units: AT's proprietary 4-inch, titanium-coated, molded-graphite (TCMG) woofers and 1-inch, silk-dome tweeters. Those drivers are deployed throughout the T70 LR front speakers, the T70 C center speaker, the T70 SR surround speakers, and the T70 PBM subwoofer. The five satellite speakers are all two-way acoustic-suspension designs; their compact MDF enclosures render them acoustically inert.
AT's novel ideas show up everywhere. For example, the T70 C center speaker's bottom is outfitted with rubbery, curved runners that fit into grooved slots on the supplied base. Those runners make it easy to tilt the T70 C up or down toward the listeners, which makes a big difference in the overall sound.
The T70 SR surround speakers have a forward-firing, 4-inch, TCMG woofer and a pair of side-mounted, .75-inch, polymer-dome tweeters. These TriVector speakers project sound forward and off to the sides, creating a nicely dispersed surround effect.
The full-sized T70 PBM sub measures 11.3 by 16.5 by 14.9 inches. AT eschews the typical ported approach to subwoofer design in favor of a sealed, acoustic-suspension strategy. Why is that? Sealed subs produce far cleaner and tighter bass than your average ported sub, though AT subs lack the feel-it-in-your-gut impact of the best ported designs. This 37.5-pound beast is powered by a 125-watt amplifier and has a front-mounted, 10-inch, long-throw woofer. One nice touch: The T70 PBM has line-/speaker-level throughputs, jacks that allow you to string together additional subs.
The sturdy speaker-binding posts accept banana, bare wire, or spades, and AT throws in basic wall-mounting hardware. The sats are somewhat power-hungry, so plan on using at least a 75-watts-per-channel receiver if you like to play your DVDs or CDs at louder than medium levels.
The little speakers that could
Transparency isn't a word that we normally apply to moderately priced (around $1,000) home-theater speaker packages, but the System T70 is an exception. It can portray depth and ambiance in ways that most sub/sat systems cannot. For example, Red Iris, an absolutely exquisite CD of 14th-century Italian instrumental music, took our breath away. The T70 conjured up the sound of a medieval fiddle and percussion filling the ancient church's acoustic space.
The same held true when watching the Fight Club DVD--all of the subtle ambience was revealed. The near-subliminal, primitive, organic sounds, sirens, and low-frequency effects were frighteningly realistic over the T70. That affinity for full-bodied sound was also apparent on the Being John Malkovich DVD. The surround effects inside Malkovich's head were fantastic, and Carter Burwell's lovely score sounded especially lush. Dynamic range and loudness capabilities were more than adequate for small to midsized rooms.
Summing up, the $1,100 System T70 is an equal-opportunity speaker package that handles music and home theater with real gusto and comes highly recommended. If you have a slightly larger room or a bigger appetite for bass, you might also consider stepping up to AT's very good , which comes with a 12-inch sub.