|Atlantic Technology IWCB-52 In-wall Speakers|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers In-wall Loudspeakers|
|Written by Andrew Robinson|
|Saturday, 01 December 2007|
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As of late, I’ve become increasingly interested in in-wall speakers, not only for their practicality, but also because they have become exceedingly good in providing truly reference grade sound in a sleek unobtrusive package. Nothing is sexier than having a guest walk into your listening room and be blown away at your system’s sound, only to ask, “Where are the speakers?” Because of these facts, my reference room features a complete in-wall speaker system from Meridian entirely hidden from view by a custom fabric wall as seen in the August edition of AVRev.com.
However, not everyone has the budget or the means to welcome a speaker system such as the Meridian into the home. Hence my interest in the Atlantic Technology IWCB-52 in-wall speakers reviewed here. Why did I choose Atlantic Technology’s IWCB-52s for this review (and for my home) over the many other reputable and wonderful-sounding brands out there today? Simple. The IWCB-52s sound amazing and they do something other in-walls claim to do but few manage to actually pull off – they can be placed almost anywhere on your wall and still sound great. While my first reason is important, it’s the second that got me interested in the IWCB-52s and was the cause for this review.
For those of you who may or may not know of Atlantic Technology, as well as its president and CEO Peter Tribeman, it is one of the few companies that not only embraces new and emerging multi-channel audio playback, but has also helped in pioneering products, mainly loudspeakers, to take full advantage of the latest trends. Atlantic Technology was among the first to offer THX-certified loudspeakers, as well as powered loudspeaker systems to the consumer marketplace.
Out of their packing boxes, the IWCB-52s are fairly standard in terms of looks when talking about in-wall speakers. They are relatively compact, a mere three-and-seven-eighths inches deep, which means they can be easily installed into traditional two-by-four studded walls. The IWCB-52s are a little over nine inches wide by nearly 18 inches tall and weigh a hefty (but not too hefty) nine pounds, and retail for a cool $600 each. It’s important to note that the IWCB series comes in various sizes, three to be exact, from the smaller IWCB-52s (reviewed here) to the larger IWCB-626s. A quick e-mail to Atlantic or a trip to your dealer will help in deciding which IWCB system is right for your room and your budget. The IWCB-52 is an enclosed in-wall speaker, with a “box” around and over the back of the speaker itself to prevent sound and excess vibration from escaping into your walls, ensuring that the maximum amount of sound and sound quality you paid for actually reaches your ears. Aside from the thick black box that encases the IWCB-52’s “guts,” the only other sight to behold on the back of the speaker itself is the single push-pin-style binding posts, which can accept various gauges of bare wire. The IWCB-52 also features a white metal grille, which can be painted to match your décor.
The IWCB-52 has a two-way design featuring a single one-inch soft dome tweeter and a five-and-one-quarter-inch Graphite Loaded Homopolymer or GLH woofer. It has a reported frequency response of 75Hz-20kHz and a nominal impedance of six ohms with a sensitivity of 87dB. While 87dB is far from super-efficient, Atlantic Technology claims that any receiver or amplifier with between 10 and 120 watts on tap will drive the IWCB-52s nicely.
Most of today’s modern in-wall (and in-ceiling) speakers feature some sort of directional or moveable tweeter to aid in their placement. However, most of these adjustable tweeters are flimsy and, despite the moveable title, offer very little in terms of positioning, resulting in a sonic image that isn’t quite on the mark with your listening position or display. Worse still, the all-important midrange is often not aligned with the treble, resulting in a vague sonic performance. Atlantic Technology has taken a different approach with their IWCB series, opting for a stationary tweeter with LRT or Low Resonance Tweeter, which handles the higher frequencies as well as the mids, giving the speaker a more or less point source sound. Couple this LRT technology with Atlantic’s new DVC or Directional Vector Control and you can electronically “aim” the high and midrange frequencies at your listening position. All sound lobes, or falls off, in a downward curve as you increase your distance from the speaker. The lobe can be tracked and compensated for, but what the Atlantic Technology has done is allow that lobe to work to their advantage. Going further still, the DVC control lets the user electronically manipulate that lobe for proper imaging when the tweeters are placed off-axis either above or below ear level. On paper, it all sounds very good, but does it work? Well, that’s what I wanted to find out.
Before I went any further, the folks at Atlantic Technology graciously loaned me their new 10e CSB corner subwoofer to fill out the IWCB-52s’ bottom end. I placed the 10e CSB in the corner along my front wall below the right speaker and, with the help of my Denon 4806’s Audyssey EQ software, had it dialed in in no time. Now, I know having a non-in-wall mounted sub somewhat diminishes the stealth factor of the installation, but the 10e CSB is unique not only in its shape and size, but also in its ability to be painted to match your décor. While I have yet to hear an in-wall sub that can match a free-standing one, the 10e CSB is a great compromise between an in-wall and a coffee table-sized sub, complimenting the IWCB-52s beautifully.
I had requested the IWCB-52s for my office system. While the room itself is not huge, a mere 11 feet wide by 14 feet deep, I spend an awful lot of time listening to music and editing in there, so I figured it was as good a place as any for a second system.
I have a 50-inch HD Vizio display mounted on the front wall of my office, which pulls double duty as a third viewing monitor, as it’s connected to my Apple G5 film editing system. Because my ceiling is only eight feet high or so, the large plasma display takes up a lot of real estate both visually and physically. The IWCB-52s had to be installed above the display, which not only put the speakers off-axis vertically, but set the all-important tweeter/midrange drivers roughly seven feet off the ground.
The installation went very smoothly and installed much like any traditional in-wall speaker would. The installation was so easy I wouldn’t hesitate in saying any dedicated DIYer couldn’t do it alone. However, hiring a custom installer would alleviate any potential mishaps and save one a bit of time. Plus, by using an Atlantic Technology authorized dealer/installer, you can rest assured you’re getting all the IWCB speakers have to offer.
Once they were in the walls, I powered the IWCBs with my trusty Denon 4806 receiver that was connected to my Dish Network HD DVR, Macintosh computer and Toshiba XA-1 HD DVD player. Since my Vizio display is not 1080p, there was no need to upgrade my player to something more current. All cabling came by way of Monster, with the power duties falling to Richard Gray’s Power Company.