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Atlantic Technology IWCB-52 In-wall Speakers Print E-mail
Saturday, 01 December 2007
Article Index
Atlantic Technology IWCB-52 In-wall Speakers
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Music And Movies
I kicked things off Diana Krall’s Love Scenes (GRP Records) and the track “My Love Is.” The opening finger snaps sounded natural, with good speed, detail and air. The accompanying double bass was also quite nice, allowing the sub to strut its stuff while blending beautifully with the IWCB-52s’ lower midrange. Speaking of the lower midrange, the IWCB-52s’ was rather good and plunged deeper than I was expecting, while remaining extremely nimble. Krall’s vocals through the IWCB-52s were natural-sounding in both tonality and scale. However, they were a bit forward-sounding, which brought Krall way forward in the soundstage, which in a small ensemble number such as “My Love Is” was welcomed. As far as imaging is concerned, the IWCB-52s are capable of producing a strong center image, which is where Krall was firmly planted, with the large double bass further back in the overall aural picture. The IWCB-52s do an admirable job of producing a soundstage, but they don’t quite have the depth beyond the front wall that more expensive in-walls have. Still, their side to side presentation is very good. So, does the DVC work? The entire track, and I mean everything from the large double bass to Krall’s vocals, rang out at or near ear level, creating quite an interesting performance, if not a slightly disorienting one. You see, my eyes could see the speakers, yet my mind told me that the sound was coming from directly in front of me. If I remained focused straight ahead, the sound appeared dead center, as if from nowhere, but if my eyes wandered up, the sound would move up to the speakers. It took a few songs for me to get used to the illusion, but once I was used to it, the effect was eerie and cool.

I decided to give the IWCB-52s a bit more to grapple with and cued up Incubus’ latest album, Light Grenades (Sony). On the track “Dig,” I decided to punish the speakers a bit and throttled the volume towards 11. At the extremes, the IWCB-52s’ sound flattened a bit and became a bit more forward and aggressive, but not fatiguing or overtly harsh. The sub remained incredibly composed and dished out rich, deep and taut bass, despite my aggressive attempts to make it blow up. Bring the volume back to Earth a bit, the sound filled back out and retained a bit of its composure and musicality. The vocals remained the focus and fell forward of the rest of the musical spectrum. The guitars had the appropriate amount of bite to them and, for the most part, sounded natural to my ears. However, that last bit of detail and air that would fool one into thinking they were hearing the real instrument was missing, but even the most expensive in-wall speakers generally suffer in the same way. My guess is that it is just a measure of physics more than any kind of design flaw.

Before I dove into movies, I took a detour with some multi-channel music spinning up VH1 Storytellers: Matchbox Twenty on DVD (VH1 Television). Starting with the track “Mad Season” in Dolby Digital, the IWCB-52s’ presentation sweetened up a bit. The IWCB-52 upper midrange was still a bit forward-sounding, but it didn’t shout quite as much when I pumped the volume. The tweeter and subsequent higher frequencies gained a bit of smoothness and sparkle. The bass remained most consistent, as did the lower midrange. The nice thing about the IWCB-52s is that they paint a very large image for speakers of their size. Skipping ahead to the song “Crutch,” the swanky rendition wasn’t robbed of its lounge-like quality through the IWCB-52s. The jazzy cymbal crashes sounded the most natural thus far in my listening tests, with a fair amount of air and shimmer. Rob Thomas’ vocals had tremendous presence and scale and stood out in stark contrast to the rest of the musical elements. The horns were my favorite, sounding full, rich and the most natural by far.

For films, I kicked things off with Bad Boys II (Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment) on DVD and chaptered ahead to the freeway chase scene and let ‘er rip. Bingo. From the roaring engine note of the Ferrari 575 to the crashing and crunching sound of the cars bouncing off the pavement, the sound was epic and involving. I’ve spent my share of time in mixing studios and the sound of the IWCB-52s with movies is up there with the best of them. The adrenaline-fueled ride the IWCB-52s can dish out is intoxicating. The sounds of shattering glass were enveloping, explosive and extremely nimble across all five speakers, creating a seamless 360-degree circle of carnage. The midrange, especially dialogue, held firm amidst the action unfolding on screen. The lower midrange was quite nimble and hugely dynamic, which helped solidify the sense of speed from the sub, especially in regards to the bob and weave driving of the large semi-truck. Dynamically, the IWCB-52s are juggernauts; they don’t take a whole lot of power to do their thing, but they can and will use it judiciously if need be to rock you to your core. The surround sound performance was seamless, allowing me to forget about the speakers themselves and focus not only on their sound, but also ultimately on the film itself, which is the idea.

I ended my evaluation of the IWCB-52s with Signs (Touchstone Home Entertainment). Signs, despite being a huge blockbuster movie, is filled with subtlety. The quiet backdrop of the farm and rustling of the crops and leaves down to the gently clanging wind chime were rendered faithfully and without incident. The IWCB-52s did a remarkable job of conveying the sparseness of the landscape and even the characters themselves. It’s the film’s lack of crash and bang sound and the IWCB-52 complete restraint that made the important sounds, like the alien dialogue, all the more relevant, haunting and dynamic. James Newton Howard’s score was beautifully rendered through the IWCB-52s and remained rather subdued and in the background when necessary, despite the IWCB-52s’ tendency to be a bit forward. When the action finally picks up in the end, the IWCB-52s’ ability to go for broke was highly effective. The IWCB-52s really know how to grab at the pulse of a scene and pump blood through it, however fast or slow it’s needed. They really are exceptional speakers for movies, especially ones calling for suspense and action.


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