Hands On: Atlantic Technology 44-DA Atmos Speakers Deliver State-of-the-Art Theater Fun
By Robert Archer
Atlantic Technology has always positioned itself at the forefront of the home theater market. During the early days of home theater, for example, Atlantic Tech introduced one of the first THX-certified loudspeaker systems. The company continues to build upon its rich home theater history with its latest product, the 44-DA Atmos speakers.
At $500 per pair the 44-DAs are priced significantly below many Atmos-enabled speakers. Working directly with Dolby, the speakers are designed to reproduce the object-based soundstage and image requirements created through the implementation of the Atmos format in a residential environment.
Keeping aesthetics in mind, Atlantic Tech developed the speaker to fit on top of its THX-certified 4400 speaker to create a seamless, one-piece look. However, because of its relatively small footprint, the speakers can be placed on just about any speaker or on bookshelves without looking out of place. The 44-DA utilizes a 5.125-inch woofer and 1-inch silk-dome tweeter arranged in a concentric driver array, aligned to fire at a pre-determined angle that’s engineered to reflect and disperse sound throughout the seating area.
Before setting the speakers up in my system I ran two 16/2 bare-wire cables from the receiver to the binding posts of the 44-DAs, which are located on the back panel of the speakers. The posts reside in a cavity that limits space and access, so dealers might not be able to use some audiophile types of cables.
After inserting the cables into the binding posts, I placed the units on top of my Monitor Audio Platinum Series PL100 speakers, and per Atlantic Technology president Peter Tribeman’s advice, I went into my Onkyo TX-NR636 receiver’s setup menu and increased the speaker level gain by 4dB to ensure a balanced soundstage between the rest of the system and the 44-DAs.
After a break-in period of about two weeks, I found the speakers added varying levels of spaciousness to streaming content from Netflix, as well as non-Atmos encoded Blu-ray discs and broadcast media. And besides sonics, they integrated without the appearance of “additional speakers.”
Where the speakers really shined was with Atmos content. Using an Atlantic Tech dealer demo disc as well as the Transformers: Age of Extinction Blu-ray, I thought the speakers delivered on the promise of Atmos by creating a soundstage that extended well beyond the traditional horizontal plane of my 5.1-channel setup. I think there is a lot of potential for dealers to affordably deliver this new era surround-sound technology to clients. The products are sure to mature and improve.
One way to approach products like Atlantic Tech’s Atmos speakers is to think of the speaker as a means to add increased immersion to home theater. The soundstage effect will vary depending on the quality of the source material and the hardware, but it’s a simple way to capitalize on Atmos for both new and existing clients. Tribeman notes that dealers can position the 44-DAs in the front or rear of a system for installation flexibility.
I’ll add that I found the speaker to be well engineered and think it could provide value to consumers with and without Atmos decoding capabilities, boosting a 5.1 system to 7.1, for example. Additionally, it works well complementing soundbars. In one configuration I used the 44-DAs with a Triad OnWall Mini 3.0 soundbar and it provided a nice front soundstage extension, with minimal aesthetic impact.
As you can tell I really like the 44-DA. It’s a solid sounding, small-footprint and versatile speaker — and much more than a “one-trick pony.”
CE Pro Verdict
PROS: A small-footprint, reasonably priced solution that offers diffuse sound capabilities that add immersive quality to Dolby Atmos and non-Atmos multichannel soundtracks.
CONS: Perhaps the only criticism of the 44-DAs is that people will lump the speaker into a stereotypical scenario in which the product is only good for Atmos soundtracks. That is not the case; approach the speaker with an open mind.