Atlantic Technology System 4400 Speaker System
Price: $3,350 At A Glance: Stand-mounts and center with three-way HF control and bass adjustment • Switchable bipole/dipole surrounds • Sub with front-baffle volume control
HT Roots Matter
To Atlantic Technology, home theater is not a necessary evil. This is not a loudspeaker company that specializes in two-channel audio and tosses out a few centers and subs as an afterthought. The brand has been firmly rooted in home theater from day one. The company cares about dialogue clarity, panning, surround effects, and bass dynamics. The first two alone are worth a thousand-word essay: You want to catch every word, but you also want pans to be seamless across the three front channels. How do you go about reconciling those two requirements? You do a lot of listening and experimenting. After about a third of a century, Atlantic Tech has gotten pretty good at it.
Like so many historic speaker brands, Atlantic Tech was born in New England. The company has amassed a comprehensive line of products from satellite/subwoofer sets to towers. Its in-wall and on-wall speakers are as carefully engineered as its freestanding speakers. Atlantic Tech is a veteran in THX-certified systems. Some of its product lines represent extended trains of thought. So it is with the System 4400 reviewed here, successor to the System 4200e.
Toggles for Tweakers
The System 4400 satellites are THX Select certified. That means they can achieve volume levels of up to 105 decibels in rooms of up to 2,000 cubic feet with a screen-to-seating distance of 10 to 12 feet. Please note that you’re not obliged to play anything at 105 dB—that includes 20 dB of headroom for unrestrained peaks above the standard 85 dB reference level. It’s not a prescription for listening pleasure or auditory health.
As someone who has adopted chunky stand-mount speakers as my reference standard, I was immediately comfortable with the System 4400’s basic configuration. The 4400 LR is 15 inches tall and includes a sweet silk-dome tweeter and a 5.25-inch GLH woofer. GLH stands for graphite loaded homopolymer (plastic). Like the other speakers, the 4400 LR has curved metal grilles that attach magnetically, which makes for easy grilles-on versus grilles-off comparisons. Gloss Black side panels dress things up a bit. Two keyhole mounts and a couple of toggle switches are located on the back.
One of the switches is labeled Boundary Compensation. When the speaker sits close to a wall, proximity to the room boundary naturally boosts the bass output. You can use the two-way toggle to shave down what otherwise might be bloated midbass. The other switch is a three-way Hi Energy toggle that sculpts the tweeter’s rolloff slope to account for both room acoustics and taste. Your choices are 0 (Average), + (Damped Room), and – (Reverberant Room). This labeling scheme is pretty self-explanatory: The plus sign indicates more treble for a damped room, one that has lots of absorptive elements. The minus sign indicates less treble for a reverberant room, one that has lots of hard reflective surfaces.
Whatever the acoustic character of your room may be, Atlantic Tech diplomatically recommends that you try each of the tweeter-toggle positions to see which one you like: “You may decide that you prefer them set in a particular manner inconsistent with your room’s acoustics but which sounds best to you. Experiment. It will be worth it.” I was usually satisfied with the middle setting (with one exception that I’ll note later on).
The 4400C center speaker has an unusual five-sided profile, sort of like a rectangular solid with the top back edge lopped off. This presumably works against bass- mangling standing waves, or unwanted sonic reflections, in the enclosure. Again, the Gloss Black side panels lend some formal beauty. The driver array is a slightly unorthodox variation on the woofer-tweeter-woofer array, with the two 5.25-inch GLH woofers spaced close together and the tweeter pushed slightly above them rather than directly in between. The Boundary Compensation and Hi Energy toggles reappear, so that the center can be consistent with whatever settings you choose for the front left and right speakers. This speaker doesn’t have keyhole mounts to match the others. But it does come with a wooden cradle that allows for vertical angle adjustments. The center can sit higher or lower than the left and right speakers, yet still angle downward or upward toward the sweet spot.
The 4400 SR surround includes dual pairs of 1-inch silk-dome tweeters and 4.5-inch GLH woofers. You can toggle them between bipole and dipole operation (acoustically in phase or out of phase with each other). However, the Hi Energy and Boundary Compensation switches in the three front speakers do not reappear. Dual keyholes are provided for mounting.