Atlantic Technology is a well established audio company seeking to provide products with excellent performance at very reasonable prices. The company currently produces a range of speakers (including bookshelf, floorstanding, surround, and in-wall), subwoofers, soundbars, and a handful of accessories. While browsing their website, you will find that many of their products offer great bang for the buck, with no-frills construction and aesthetics, and solid performance. The 642e SB is Atlantic Technology's flagship subwoofer, and resides in a market with some pretty stiff competition. After reading Jman's review of the 444SB, I expected very good performance from the slightly more expensive 642e SB. It has definitely turned out to be one of my favorite subs for both music and movies. Read on to see why I like it so much.
Design, Aesthetics, and Build Quality
The 642e SB THX is a typical sealed enclosure subwoofer with a single 12” long-throw composite cone woofer. It has a built-in high efficiency, high current 350-watt RMS amplifier which is matched and equalized to make the best use of the 12” driver. The enclosure is constructed with ¾” MDF, and sealed to minimize distortion, and the assembled unit weighs about 65 lbs. It does not take up an absurd amount of floor space, but it’s not what I would call small either. From a general design and function point of view, it is a fairly simple and straightforward unit, but I would say its simplicity is one of its most attractive traits.
A good subwoofer does not have many options but to abide by the laws of physics. Unfortunately, those laws dictate that it should be shaped like a big square box. Only so much can be done to make a big box look pretty, without adding a lot of cost to the end product. Having said that, I find the Atlantic Technology subs to be very attractive, without being overly frilly or gaudy. They stuck with black, which is a pretty safe bet, but added a few subtle touches which give the 642e SB a unique appearance. The arched feet compliment the curved side panels and grille rather nicely. The option for a gloss finish on the side panels is a nice touch as well, not usually available on lower priced models. It is still essentially a big square box, but with a touch of elegance that makes it pleasant to look at.
Build quality, finish, and materials all appear to be very good, based on the outward appearance of the sub. The various textures on the exterior of the unit give the impression of quality as well, and do not look or feel cheap. They do not necessarily look premium either, but in this case I would prefer to invest in function over form, as a subwoofer is not typically positioned to attract visual attention.
Setup and Operation
There really is not much to say about setup, because there was not much to it. One of my favorite things about this sub is its ability to just sound great without much intervention or adjustment. When I first unpacked it, I set it next to the right wall of my 15'w by 16'd by 10'h (approx. 2800cuft) home theater, about ¼ of the distance to the rear wall. This was due partially to convenience, as I was too lazy to move one of my own subs to make room for it. The manual recommends the same placement relative to the corner, but on the front wall rather than the side. Ready to hear what it was capable of, I plugged it in and connected it to the sub out on my pre-pro, and set the initial level with the crossover set at 80Hz. I started some music, and somewhat to my surprise, I loved what I was hearing immediately. In fact, I listened for a few hours without moving the sub or even touching the volume control more than once or twice. The volume control knob operates like you would expect, but also has fixed THX position (completely counter-clockwise). I did testing in both modes, but found no real need to set it at any position other than the THX level (basically bypassing the dial). No EQ, no room correction - it just sounded great. I made some slight tweaks to the position to help improve the response at my listening position, but I spent very little time and effort finding a spot where the sub seemed comfortable. Regardless of my initial listening impressions, the 642eSB is relatively simple in terms of features and controls, so you can proceed from unboxing to listening to your favorite tunes in a relatively short period of time.
Pink Floyd - Yet Another Movie (Momentary Lapse of Reason, ALAC)
I have come to appreciate the fullness and depth of bass typical of Pink Floyd recordings. On the wrong setup though, it can sound muddy and boomy. The AT sub did an excellent job of giving me all the depth and punch I wanted, without ever being obnoxious or boomy. There is a fair amount of detail to be heard in so much of Pink Floyd’s music, and the 642e SB presented me with every bit of it.
Peter Gabriel - Heroes (Scratch My Back, ALAC)
The Scratch My Back album is completely void of percussion, but certainly not lacking in the bass department. Many of the tracks feature lush string arrangements, which can sound pretty incredible on a capable 2.0 channel system. The addition of a great subwoofer, however, takes the experience to the next level. Peter Gabriel is not only a musician but an audiophile, and has even partnered with Bowers & Wilkens to create the Society of Sound, which promotes the appreciation of high fidelity recordings and audio equipment. His recordings are, no doubt, mastered to take full advantage of the finest home audio systems, and the Atlantic Technology sub did not leave me feeling like I had missed anything that Mr. Gabriel had intended for me to hear.
Enya - The Longships (Watermark, ALAC)
I remember listening to Enya with my mom as a kid, when she was gaining popularity. After finding an interest in audio, I eventually stumbled across content in this track that I had been completely missing (like completely), as we usually listened in the car or on a portable radio. Since then, it tends to be one of my go-to tracks for trying out subwoofers. There is a very deep drum that is repeated periodically throughout the song. The depth of the drum is not the only challenge though, as some subs I have tried go plenty deep but still miss the sustained rumble that follows. The 642e SB nailed this one on both accounts. I probably listened to it two or three times in a row. This was when I really started falling for the Atlantic Technology sub.
Ian Tracey/Boellmann: Suite Gothique (Bombarde! French Organ Classics, CD)
A pipe organ, like an orchestra, can be especially challenging for an audio system to accurately reproduce, as it can sustain a high level of output over a large frequency range for prolonged periods of time. Larger organs are capable of extremely low frequencies, which go beyond the range of many subwoofers. If you have experienced one in person, you know you can feel these notes as well as you can hear them. I must say that the Atlantic Technology sub really impressed me here. The Liverpool Cathedral organ sounded fantastic, and the power of the bass notes was unmistakably present. The acoustics in cathedrals like this promote lots of reverberation. Typically you associate that with echoes of voices, but at the end of some of the pieces in this recording, you can actually hear the deep bass notes reverberate for several seconds after the organ has stopped playing. A very unique sensation, which the 642e SB reproduced very nicely.
It is no surprise that the latest Bond film is packed with action, accompanied by intense sound effects, but the 642e SB started showing off before the movie even began, thanks to a stellar intro song performed by Adele. Depth and punch were just right, and super smooth. As much as I enjoyed the music tests, however, I had some doubts about how well a sealed 12” subwoofer could do with movies. It was not long after we started watching Skyfall that my skepticism faded away and I simply enjoyed the full depth and dynamics of the soundtrack. As expected, there was no shortage of crashes, gunshots, and explosions, all with accompanying thumps and rumbles. During the chase scene when the subway train crashes, the Atlantic Technology shook the couch, the floor, and probably just about everything else in the room. I could not detect any signs of strain or distortion coming from the sub. It never drew my attention away from the movie, and provided a very enjoyable and immersing viewing and listening experience.
You may very well know that 9 is a beautifully animated film, complimented by an equally amazing soundtrack, that can really test your sound system. It is a great measure of your sub's ability to reproduce very deep, sustained bass. The 642e SB impressed me yet again during this movie. While it does not quite have the raw, brute power of larger ported subs on the market, it provided an incredible amount of depth and punch throughout the entire movie. The bass was always very clean and smooth, never overpowering, but never weak.
The Dark Knight Rises (Blu-ray)
This is becoming a favorite of mine for sound tests, partially because I love the movie, but mainly because the combination of action sequences and musical score make for a seriously epic theater experience. The first time "the bat" emerges from a dark alley in the heart of Gotham, you will realize the 642e SB means business. Every explosion is not only heard, but felt. The Hans Zimmer soundtrack is the perfect compliment to the dark story and heart pounding action. The thundering bass notes and lush string arrangements were reproduced with great clarity, and never interfered with the dialogue. The sub shook the room, without being annoyingly boomy or muddy. This is another great example of its excellent performance during movies or music, without the need to tweak and tune it differently, depending on the application. It just sits there and pumps out whatever you want to hear.
Ok, so the 642e SB sounds great, but is it worth $1250? There are so many subwoofer options in the $500-$1500 range, how does one choose the best? How much is enough and how much is too much for a 12” powered sub? Considering what this unit is up against in that range, such as offerings from SVS, Power Sound Audio, HSU, Paradigm, Velodyne, etc. its performance really should be able to justify its price. In my opinion, $1250 is a fair price, considering its level of performance, and standard features included. To be honest, I would definitely buy this sub, but I would take a look at the availability of b-stock or refurb units before picking up a brand new one. Either way, the Atlantic Technology sub is a solid competitor among others in its price range. If you order directly from Atlantic Technology, they also offer a 30-day hassle-free money-back guarantee. If it does not make all of your wildest dreams come true, or you just happen to find a better deal on something else, they will take it back and refund your money. The shipment of your purchase is free, but if you decide to return it, you pay to send it back. Sounds fair if you ask me. A guarantee like that builds my confidence in the retailer, and in my opinion, adds value to their products.
Conclusion and Recommendation
I love this sub. I want this sub. It sounded great from the moment I hooked it up and left me with nothing but satisfaction after every song and every movie. It does both extremely well, and with a very small amount of fuss. It looks great, it is well constructed, and easy to operate. If you have spent at least $2000 on a 5-channel speaker system, and you are looking for an all-around great performing sub to complement your speakers, I can confidently recommend the Atlantic Technology 642e SB. Buy it, take it out of the box, hook it up, and enjoy the music. Then, enjoy some movies. Then, enjoy some more music. It’s that simple. Now, let me take a step back and say that if you have not spent $2000 on your speakers, the 642e SB is not a bad option for you, but be prepared to feel the need to upgrade those once you get used to this sub. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with Atlantic Technology's flagship subwoofer, and hope for the opportunity to get my hands on some more of their gear.
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