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Atlantic Technology System 370 THX Speaker System Print E-mail
Wednesday, 01 December 1999
ImageTrying to find the right home theater speaker system can be an anxiety-ridden process, but listening even once to the warm, dynamic and articulate performance of the Atlantic Technology System 370 may be the audio Prozac that will relieve your blues.

The 371LR and 373C are sealed box designs consisting of two 6 inch coated composite graphite woofers, two 3-inch composite graphite midrange drivers and a 1-inch silk-dome tweeter arranged in a D'appolito configuration. The rear surrounds, deemed "TwinPolar," have their two 5-1/4-inch composite graphite woofers and two inch silk dome tweeters mounted on two sides of a triangular cabinet. Both speakers have frequency responses of 80Hz-20kHz. The 372PBM subwoofer is powered by a 275-watt amp that can drive the 15-inch-high excursion cone to a peak SPL of 108dB with a frequency response of 25Hz-500Hz. The System 370 retails for $4,300 without the optional floor pedestals.

One of the biggest challenges faced by a manufacturer is to produce a speaker that is warm and engaging, yet sufficiently neutral and free of distracting colorations in tone. Missing the mark can result in a product that is either dull and closed in, or overly bright and edgy. While varying levels of one distortion or the other inhabit all of the speakers I have ever heard, the System 370 does an outstanding job of striking a balance between the two.

Though providing many sonic thrills and chills, one of my favorite films, 'Crimson Tide' (Hollywood Pictures DVD 13679), suffers from a close-miked dialogue track that accentuates sibilance. It also creates a lower mid-range suck-out, giving voices a mildly hollow character. The 373C center channel speaker reflects this tonal anomaly without causing it to drive you to distraction. In sharp contrast to 'Crimson Tide', the fantastically creepy 'Jacob's Ladder' (Artisan DVD 60458) possesses a very natural tonal balance with a warm and inviting dialogue track. In a chameleon-like fashion, the 373C's high level of neutrality reveals the stark difference between these recording balances while adding little character of its own.

Tonal neutrality alone doesn't make for a satisfying home theater experience, but combine neutrality with explosive dynamics and you're on to something. In Chapter 4 of 'Jacob's Ladder,' Jacob finds himself staring down a subway train that is literally from Hell. As he dives out of the way, the soundtrack erupts with an explosive transient that through lesser speakers can sound compressed and less than startling. Through the 370s, this burst made my heart skip a beat and had me chasing after my previous breath.
Chapter 8 of 'Crimson Tide' features an explosive kitchen fire that serves metaphorically as the emotional flashpoint for Denzel Washington's character. The full frequency dynamics delivered by the System 370 give essential weight to the explosion and roar of the blaze, driving home the gravity of the scene.

Some have criticized the use of di-pole surrounds in discrete digital systems as being less capable of delivering image localization than direct radiating speakers. The v-pole configuration of the 374SRs addresses this issue very effectively. The 374SRs provided excellent surround performance in my large room. As the jets take off from the aircraft carrier at the beginning of 'Crimson Tide,' the front to back imaging is seamless and stunning in its ability to convey the image size of a real jet flying through my room. For imaging tricks on a smaller scale, Chapter 33 of 'Jacob's Ladder' features the scientist responsible for all the mayhem explaining the conspiratorial plot to Jacob. Out of frustration over his role in the experiment, the scientist kicks a can that sends a couple of birds flying skyward. The outstanding image focus of the birds frantically flapping wings directly overhead had me ducking for cover.

The Downside
Though having little sonic flavoring of its own, the System 370 possesses a touch of brightness in the mid-treble, but as I mentioned earlier, its essential balance is well within the acceptable bounds. The only other issue is with the 372PBM subwoofers lowest frequencies. I feel they lag behind the beat just a tad, lacking the excellent speed and control of the upper bass.

The Atlantic Technology System 370THX has proven to be a very worthy performer and, without going too far out on a limb, an early favorite for my vote for home theater loudspeaker of 1999. Capable of explosive dynamics, a forgiving yet sufficiently neutral tonal balance and an exhilarating surround presentation, this well-designed package is ideal for medium to large rooms and is not wasted on top-notch upstream components. This is a system I could live happily with for the long haul, and I recommend it highly.

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