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Mission impossible: High-quality bass from small speakers?

Big bass from small speakers isn't new, but really high-quality bass from a small box is something else again. Here's hoping the H-PAS, (hybrid pressure acceleration system) is the bass-enhancing breakthrough it claims to be.

Can little woofers make high-quality bass?
Steve Guttenberg

Bass, really high-quality bass, is something I associate with large speakers and subwoofers. Smaller models generate significantly less bass output, but thanks to clever design it is possible to eek out more bass than little boxes used to make. But trust me, you can't predict bass performance by reading speaker specifications. Listening is the only way to learn what a speaker sounds like.

Speaker designers use all sorts of tricks involving bass ports and equalization techniques to boost bass, but bass quality, if not quantity, suffers in direct comparison to larger designs. Right, size still matters.

That may change: Atlantic Technology and Solus/Clements, two American speaker manufacturers, announced that they have joined forces to develop, market, and license a revolutionary new loudspeaker design protocol capable of delivering deep, low-distortion bass at high volume levels. This technology, dubbed H-PAS, (hybrid pressure acceleration system) will allow smaller cabinets and small drivers to achieve levels of performance "...normally associated with much larger speaker systems."

The new patent-pending system combines elements of several technologies: bass reflex, inverse horn, and transmission line in a unique cabinet design. H-PAS does not require the use of special drivers, any kind of onboard electronics or outboard equalization--it is a purely passive system, completely compatible with all amplifiers and receivers.

Philip Clements of Solus/Clements Loudspeakers invented the technology. Clements is working with Atlantic Technology to develop a range of compact speakers using H-PAS. He has appointed Atlantic Technology, the exclusive licensing agent for the technology, and will continue development with the company.

Atlantic Technology will be demonstrating the technology at the CEDIA Expo next month in Atlanta.

Atlantic Technology anticipates shipping its first H-PAS product, the H-PAS-1 speaker, in the fourth quarter of 2009. Solus/Clements will also deliver an H-PAS 6.5-inch tower and bookshelf early next year. Prices will be announced soon, but I'm guessing the Atlantic speaker will be around $1,200 a pair.