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Atlantic Technology 444SB Subwoofer Review
10-19-12, 05:56 PM
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: New Joisey
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Atlantic Technology 444SB Subwoofer Review
Atlantic Technology 444SB Subwoofer Review
The subject of this review is the Atlantic Technology
subwoofer. The 444SB is an acoustic suspension sub which measures 17"x16.5"x15" (HWD), and weighs just 39 pounds. The 12" driver is front firing. The internal BASH amp is rated at 325 watts RMS, with no indication of peak wattage. The quoted frequency response is 25Hz-250Hz +/-3dB. There is a 1 year warranty on parts and labor. The MSRP for the 444SB is $1000.
The test unit came single boxed, but it was a thicker material then most boxes are. There was additional cardboard inserts for extra side support. The subwoofer was protected on the top and bottom by dense custom sized foam, with the bottom piece being almost double the thickness of the top. The unit was wrapped in a protective plastic bag too. All-in-all I would say the packaging was adequate, given the fact that the 444SB is a relatively light subwoofer.
Accessories were minimal; a 2 prong power cord -- so ground loop issues will not be a problem -- and the owners manual. I have to say that Atlantic Technology must have put a lot of time into the manual, because it's excellent. It not only covers all their current subwoofers, but it also contains lucid explanations, a tremendous amount of detail and easy to follow illustrations. Every company should put out a manual like this one. Somebody was definitely paying attention to minutiae.
Atlantic Technology also has a wireless option for the 444SB, but it wasn't included with the review unit so I don't know how well it works.
The design and appearance of the 444SB is somewhat unique, and isn't just the typical black box subwoofer. The top and bottom panels have a fine texture to them, while the sides are a satin black and slightly arched. The finish on the side panels is so smooth and even that it almost appears to be plastic, but I believe it's actually MDF. The review unit did a have a few very small paint chips on two of the corners. The bottom of the front, rear and both side panels have a small bevel cut in the middle which is used to create the integrated feet at all four corners. It makes for a nice appearance.
The cabinet is constructed of .75" MDF all around, and is lined with fiberglass damping material which is stapled in place. That insures it will remain attached to the walls not only during shipping, but also for the life of product. There's a smallish cross brace in the middle of the cabinet, but despite the brace and damping the knuckle rap test returns a somewhat hollow sound. To help secure the driver Atlantic Technology added an extra .75" MDF ring behind it that the mounting screws attach directly to.
The grill continues the slightly arched effect of the side panels, and gently protrudes to the front. It's made from a plastic lattice framework that's a bit on the thin side, so it flexes somewhat. The grill material is acoustically transparent, so it shouldn't alter the sound if you choose to leave it on. There are four posts on the grill itself -- one in each corner -- that are used to attach it to the cabinet. Where those posts insert are rubber grommets, which ensures the grill won't rattle or vibrate at all. Coupled with the slightly rounded side panels the grill helps form a very cohesive appearance. I liked the way it all looked together.
The driver appears to be nothing special. It has a tiny rubber surround attached to what looks and feels like a painted sandpaper cone material. Having grown accustom to huge surrounds I was initially shocked to see such a tiny amount being used on the 444SB's driver. Yes, that does have benefits -- more cone area is, after all, a good thing -- but this driver almost appears to be weak. But appearances proved to be deceptive in this case. The suspension is fairly stiff, with little give when pushed. The frame is stamped steel with a double stacked magnet, while the dust cap is inverted. Atlantic Technology has chosen to use a 2", four layer vented aluminum voice coil. I wasn't able to remove the driver to photograph it because the screws were hidden under a foam ring on the front panel. I would have had to damage that ring in order to get the driver out, so I opted not to.
Atlantic Technology has thoughtfully put the gain knob on the front panel. It's a thumb dial with an LED indicator and a "click" on feature, although there are no markings allowing you to tell what it's set for. That would be a nice addition for Atlantic Technology to make, because at a glace it's not terribly obvious what you have it set for. You need to be at a certain angle to see the LED under the grill too, because of the aforementioned lattice work frame, so it can be difficult to tell whether the light is green (on) or red (off).
The amp is a high current BASH model. There are no high-level or XLR inputs or outputs, meaning line-level connections are your only choice. The dual RCA inputs can be used simultaneously, effectively "summing" the input so you can set the gain lower. The amp itself runs very cool; regardless of how hard I pushed -- even pounding it with 1.5 hours of electronic music -- it never seemed to be fazed. The silkscreening is easy to see and very legible, so making adjustments is effortless. There's the ubiquitous Auto On/Always On switch, as well as a toggle to run either normal or inverted phase. Most of the screws were tight, but one was stripped.
The Auto On/Standby feature could use a little work though. I found the receiver volume had to be turned up higher then normal for it to come out of Standby mode. Being a sports junky I can often be found watching some type of sporting event on TV. I had more than one instance were the 444SB would go into Standby mode because there were only announcers talking. I wish Atlantic Technology had made the trigger time a few minutes longer.
The amp includes Atlantic's proprietary Clear Filter Technology (CFT), which "
reduces the deleterious effects the enclosure itself can have on the sound
". CFT "
introduces a reciprocal correction in the exact frequency region where these problems occur, resulting in a markedly cleaner, more detailed sound. Every one of our subwoofers has its own Clear Filter, optimized specifically for that particular model
". Initially I was skeptical of that description because it sounds a bit suspect to me. In practice, however, CFT seems to work quite well because the 444SB is one very nice sounding subwoofer with tremendous composure.
My living room is 13x17x8 (1768 CF), so it's not terribly large. The main seating position is approximately 11 feet from the subwoofer. All testing was done after the unit had been broken in for at least 25 hours.
There appears to be some very talented engineers working for Atlantic Technology, because the 444SB is an amazing little subwoofer. It hits hard and precise, with clean transitions and nice textures. The bass could probably be a touch richer, but pitch definition is pretty much spot on. I've often seen people confuse loud bass for powerful bass, but in reality that "power" is generally nothing more then harmonic distortion. That's not at all the case here; the sound is dynamic and crisp, with no hint of any self-imposed colorations. The 444SB definitely seems to be targeted at the discriminating individual, because there's no mid-bass bloat whatsoever. Perhaps the best way to sum it up is to say it's an overachiever, with excellent performance and sound quality.
I run each test scene twice; once while seated in my normal listening position, and then a second time while sitting a few feet from the subwoofer. This allows me to hear it as I normally would, yet also affords the opportunity to determine if the subwoofer is straining even the slightest bit. Both tests are run at the same volume level, which is slightly above what I would normally use.
Like most people I have specific movies and particular scenes I use when testing subwoofers, all of which I used here. Each individual test is listed below in the format of
Lord of the Rings: Bridge of Khazad Doom
- There is an ultra low frequency rumble in portions of this scene, as well as significant amounts of impact generated by numerous structures crumbling. For a subwoofer to handle all of that properly it needs to be fast, precise and capable of reaching very deep, otherwise a lot of it comes across as nothing more than annoying resonance. The 444SB shined on this scene.
The foreboding rumble was clean, precise and powerful. On a subwoofer with proper definition you can hear what sounds almost like a crackling noise, which the 444SB produced perfectly. Dynamic passages were excellent, and it mostly kept it's composure as the volume was raised. I say mostly because some of the ultra low frequency produced a slight dip in the sound quality at really high volumes, but it was probably at a level most sane people wouldn't try to push such a small subwoofer. I just wanted to find what the true limit was and see how the 444SB would react.
The collapsing structures and crumbling walls were produced with a nice, powerful sense of realism. In Scene 1, where Sarons helmet and ring drop to the ground, the 444SB could have used a touch more extension. In order for those two effects to have the correct presentation a tactile sensation is required. The 444SB fell a bit shy; there was a little sense of impact, but not quite what the scene demands.
My favorite part of this scene to play around with is the Balrog's roar. There's an instance when you see it for the first time that I just love to crank way up. He jumps out of a cavern and lands right behind the Fellowship with a thud, and then lets out a fire-breathing roar. The 444SB did very well here. The huge impacts created when the Balrog's feet hit the ground as he chases after the Fellowship came through with sufficient impact to be enjoyable, but not entirely convincing. Volume wasn't an issue; I could turn the receiver up really loud and the 444SB would just continue to play along, losing very little in the process.
Collateral: Club Fever
- Although this scene doesn't contain a tremendous amount of LFE information it does have a driving musical soundtrack and over-emphasized gun sounds. The music portion I've found can cause trouble for a subwoofer because it does tend to drown out the voice track in certain spots, especially if it lacks clarity and speed. Because of that articulation is crucial. The 444SB was a real treat.
The club music had a nice even tone to it. The gunshots were pronounced but a little less than concussive which, to an extent, was a welcome change; the embellished gunfire can get a bit old after a while, especially when you've watched this scene as many times as I have. Frankly, it was a nice change of pace to hear something properly weighted. It's hard to imagine getting much better clarity from any other subwoofer.
Avatar: Assault on Home Tree
- For those familiar with the movie this scene has low frequencies, ultra low frequencies, explosions, gunfire, voices and enough other things going on to provide a good subwoofer test. With the 444SB it was all there, just the way it's supposed to be.
Once again, my favorite part was the dynamics; things that were supposed to be loud were, things that should have been soft were. The balance was incredible. The roar from the gunships engines, the sound of the rockets being launched, the impact of each explosion, the crackling of the massive roots as the tree begins to list were all distinct and properly weighted. It was very engulfing.
I continued on with Battle For Pandora, Fall Of The Heros and Ewya, each scene being as clear and precise as the next. Volume wasn't an issue either; I was able to listen at a level above anything I would ever consider on a normal basis, yet the 444SB didn't complain.
War of the Worlds: The Machine Emerges
- The archetype. Perhaps the most recognized subwoofer test scene of all time. The depth and volume of bass that occurs during a several minute span is simply amazing. If you want to see what your sub is capable of this scene can certainly be used as a barometer. With subterranean vibrations, exploding pavement and collapsing buildings you have ultra low, low and mid-bass frequencies pouring out of your subwoofer. One of the most punishing combinations there is, and an excellent way to really push something to the brink. The 444SB did a fine job with this very difficult material.
Let's start by getting the bad out of the way first. In order for this movie to completely capture you there must be chair-rattling waves of subsonic bass. That didn't really happen. I did feel some physical sensation, but none of my fillings were dislodged. Not that any acoustic suspension subwoofer with a single 12" driver would really be capable of such a feat, so perhaps that's not a demerit after all. Now, on to the good, which is a whole lot more of a list...
The definition when the pavement buckles was fantastic; no sloppiness, no resonance, no issues. Buildings crumbled, earth collapsed, windows explode, all of which creates a cacophony of noise, yet none of it threw the 444SB for a loop. The emphasis always seemed to be spot on, with a nice sense of detail and articulation. Could I drive it to a volume where unpleasant things started to happen? Yup, but I suspect you could do that with almost any subwoofer. At a volume level conducive to retain your hearing everything just worked. The house that gets blown up at the end of the Emergence scene was particularly powerful.
The lightening from In The Storm had a nice forceful sound when it struck the ground. The heat ray in -- oddly enough -- the Heat Ray scene had excellent definition, with almost a penetrating effect. The bridge destruction from Escape can only be described as explosive, which is apt given that's precisely what happens. At The Window was enthralling. The gunfire, explosions and fighter jets from The Fight Begins were all percussive in nature, lending a nicely balanced weight to the entire scene.
10,000 BC: Mammoth Hunt
- During this scene there's either ultra low bass or mid-bass, with very little in between it seems. The ultra low fell a little shy of the mark, but that's about the only negative there was.
When the mammoths are just meandering about there isn't much bass to reproduce, save the occasional thud when one of their massive feet hit the ground. It came across more like heavy footstep then a thunderous pounding sound. The stampede was more of the same, with the sensation not quite palpable, but everything about it was clear, accurate and precise. Even though there are several dozen mammoths you could almost hear their individual footsteps.
I tossed in a few more movie scenes, because I was really enjoying the 444SB. The Grid and Games, from
, sounded incredible. The sound track and special effects had clear, salient bass that really helped make those scenes enjoyable. The footsteps from the huge Lycan, in Scene 10 from
, strained the 444SB a little though. To be fair, that's some of the most brutal bass there is, so it wasn't entirely unexpected. Scene 5 from
, where Tony Stark escapes from his captors, was almost flawless. The gunfire and explosions had tremendous definition and authority, even making my blinds rattle a few times (I really have to get rid of those things).
After all the testing was finished I checked the amp for heat and found it to be a little on the warm side, but definitely not hot. Considering how long I had been testing, and how hard I was pushing it, that's very commendable. This seems to be a well designed amp.
I use a combination of lossy and lossless material -- MP3's and CD's, for the most part -- to see how musical a subwoofer is, and in both instances the 444SB did remarkably well. The motions of the driver were controlled and precise, almost regardless of the volume. The 444SB hits hard and sharp, with nothing veiled or sluggish at all about the bass. It was a treat to hear real dynamics when playing music. I could easily see myself using this subwoofer in a 2 channel system.
Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon
The heartbeat made the door of my hallway closet rattle when played at volume. I like that type of problem. Roger Waters open E a the beginning of Time was powerful, with a wonderfully expressiveness nature. I think during certain parts of Dark Side he has a bit too much treble dialed in, and the 444SB made sure I heard every bit of it. The classic track Money, which everyone has listened to at least a thousand times, sprang to life with excellent pitch definition on both the bass guitar and kick drum. It was nice to hear Us And Them and Any Colour You Like played with the deep bass and powerful drum lines they're supposed to have. What a shame so many people haven't heard Dark Side like this.
Skid Row - B Side Ourselves
This is a 5 song EP they released which consists of cover tunes from various bands that each individual Skid Row member felt was significant to themselves. It's not a bad mix. My favorite of the lot is their rendition of a Rush song called Know What You're Doing. They take the typical Rush intricacies and odd time signatures, then added a bit of Skid Row aggression. And it worked out perfectly; the 444SB rendering the bass and drums with spot-on detail and impact. The ending was especially percussive, just as it should be.
Jonny Lang - Lie To me
This CD is a minimalist dream - the music and the mix are crisp and not overly processed. Simple old-school blues, which is right up my alley. On the eponymous title track and Darker Side the instruments were all distinct and clear. The kick drum on Good Morning Little Schoolgirl and Still Wondering were dramatic, producing a nice sharp impact. Hit The Ground Running, which has a deep kick drum track, was almost too much at times. As the volume increased the 444SB began to take on the tone of a live performance.
Bass Mekanik - Quad Maximus
The Welcome Stranger track had one of my windows rattling (which prompted me to finally break down and buy a Gramma). The Bass Mekanik song was surprisingly clear, with the 444SB actually creating some pressure waves that I could feel in my head! Same thing happened on Funky Annihilating Bass. That's pretty impressive for a single 12" driver in a small acoustic suspension cabinet. Bass Station had more dynamics and accuracy then I expected it would, no small feat considering this type of music doesn't have much of either quality.
The last bit of torture was the prototype -- Bass I Love You -- along with a dosage of Sub Bass Excursion for good measure. Both of these tracks were reproduced in a manner no subwoofer this size should have been able to, and at a volume that didn't seem right. While the lowest of the lows were conspicuously absent, what it did play was done so with a level of authority and precision that belied the 444SB's physical appearance. Perhaps the most impressive part is that the 444SB didn't try to kill itself when pushed, it simply refused to do what it was unable to. Somebody at Atlantic Technology is definitely paying attention to the details.
Unfortunately I wasn't able to test Atlantic Technology's support. There's no way to send them just an email, you have to fill out a form on their website. In order to do so you're required to include, among other things, your name, model number and serial number. Providing all that information made me question whether or not I could do so anonymously, which is imperative in order to test a company's support. Since I wasn't convinced I would be able to remain incognito I decided to forgo this part of the review.
This may be the most breviloquent Conclusion section I'll ever write, because there's really not much to say. Simply put, the Atlantic Technology 444SB does what it's supposed to, how it's supposed to and when it's supposed to. There isn't a whole lot more to it; virtually everything about this sub works, and works well. I honestly have a hard time recalling any subwoofer that had better composure, dynamics and clarity. It's not the least expensive unit available, but it's a quality one. Being somewhat of a 'bass-head' means I would have liked a touch more lower extension, but that's about the only "flaw" I can think of. One thing is for certain; if Atlantic Technology ever makes a 15" version of the 444SB I may very well be there first customer.
Please use the
Atlantic Technology 444SB Review Discussion Thread
for Questions and Comments
The measurements were taken using XTZ Room Analyzer II Pro. It was close mic with the tip of the microphone pointed directly at the center of the driver, and on the same plane as the leading edge of the surround. The sub was indoors, physically positioned in the center of my listening room. No other speakers were running.
If you take yourself too seriously, expect me to do the exact opposite
Last edited by theJman; 03-22-14 at
. Reason: Fixed broken picture link
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