Sunfire Atmos Subwoofer Page 2
Given the Atmos’s dainty size, it was a snap to perform the placement test I mentioned earlier, especially with the wireless transmitter/receiver combination. My SVS sits snugly in the front left corner of the room, but the pair of Atmos subwoofers gave the best output huddled together in the front right corner. I tested the subwoofers with and without the built-in EQ and found I preferred the sound with the EQ engaged.
While the Atmos has its own crossover settings, I chose to use the 80-hertz crossover setting in my Integra DHC-80.2 surround processor, which has always worked best with my M&K S-150 speakers. The sine wave frequency test on the Digital Video Essentials Blu-ray showed that the pair of subs had modest output at 18 Hz, were virtually silent from 22 to 30 Hz, then picked up steam (volume) from there with no noticeable transitional hiccups as the sound moved to the main speakers.
In my view, a good subwoofer needs to pass two tests: It has to sound good with music, and it has to produce deep, room-shaking bass with movies. If it passes one but not the other, then it won’t find a home in my system.
Owl City’s number-one hit “Fireflies” made its debut in 2009 and went to the top of the charts in 10 weeks. While some might not like the 1980s-inspired synthesized music, I really love the powerful low-end track, and the Atmos delivered the goods with tight and powerful bass. Likewise, the subs showed impressive handling of the Beastie Boys’ “Brass Monkey.” The bass track seems to hit the 40-Hz range really hard, and I could play the track loudly without the little subs breaking a sweat. I watched as the long-throw, 6.5-inch active woofer pulsated wildly in and out of the tiny box.
The Eagles’ Hell Freezes Over DVD was one of the first must-have concerts to hit DVD, and it still sounds pretty damn good today. The opening track, “Hotel California,” shows off the disc’s audio prowess with the acoustic arrangement as the song begins, but the track really starts to shine when the bass kicks in. It’s with tracks like these that the Atmos really excels—solid bass that makes you want to crank the volume knob as far as it can go. When I performed an A/B comparison with my SVS, the Atmos held its own with the much larger sub on this and other musical numbers.
Switching to movies, I really wanted to see if Carver’s dream of having a mini-sub (or subs in my case) would be able to compress enough air in the room to put the big box (or cylinder tubes) out to pasture. My kids are huge Disney fans, and when my son was 2, he absolutely had to watch Toy Story 2 every day for what seemed like an eternity. I like Buzz Lightyear as much as the next guy, but after 700 days straight of “To infinity and beyond!” you find yourself rooting for Zurg at about day 357. The audio and video quality of the Blu-ray is nothing short of spectacular, especially the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack. When the Toy Story 2 title bursts onto the screen, the massive bass rumble literally shakes my subfloor and rattles the windows with my SVS. Sadly, the Atmos can’t re-create that experience. The bass is certainly present and loud, but it doesn’t give you that smack-in-the-chest feeling. Furthermore, when Buzz enters the planet’s atmosphere and engages his jet pack, the bass response was plenty loud but had none of the visceral impact of my larger reference subwoofer.
In every deep bass scene I tested, the Atmos demonstrated similar shortcomings, from Forrest Gump’s heroic adventures in Vietnam to the opening battle in Gladiator or Darla tormenting the fish in the Finding Nemo DVD. I’ve grown so accustomed to powerful sub-25-Hz bass response, that when it’s missing, I feel let down. When I placed my fingers on the Atmos woofer, I felt some movement in the driver, but the pair of little subs can’t produce the loud and powerful low-frequency response these low-bass-intensive movie soundtracks demand. I’m not talking loud explosions; I’m talking the kind of bass that rumbles not only your windows, but your neighbor’s windows, too.
Out of curiosity, I used a single Atmos in tandem with my SVS and found the effect in my room to be outstanding. The pair mated together seamlessly, and they gave me chest-pounding bass in the lower frequencies while increasing the output above 30 Hz and evening out the bass response in the overall room.
There’s a lot to like about the Sunfire Atmos. Its build quality is impeccable, and it’s one of the best-sounding musical subs I’ve ever had the chance to audition. Its output in the 40-Hz range is extremely impressive given its dainty size. Furthermore, it will disappear in most rooms—which, depending on your domestic situation, may actually call for a truce in your war of the roses over the A/V gear. But there’s no such thing as a free lunch when it comes to the laws of physics.
If you want really deep bass for your movie soundtracks, or happen to be a big fan of pipe organ recordings, you’ll have to move to a larger, more capable sub that can hit those lower frequencies with more impact. But that’s not to say the Atmos (or two of them) might not be more satisfying in a smaller room (that is, less than my 5,000 cubic feet). And if your current living arrangement places substantial restrictions on what size subwoofer you can use, this little powerhouse may be your best ride to the bottom.