I have to admit there was a period of time when audiophile snobbery influenced my opinion of soundbars. Over time however, I think between my increasing willingness to view these products with a more open mind, and the fact that manufacturers have improved the performance of these products, I have done a complete 360 with my opinion.
The latest contributor to help change my opinion is the Boston-based company Atlantic Technology and its new 3.1 HSB TV Speaker Base. Measuring 36 inches wide, 16 inches deep and standing just under 5 inches. The company says the 3.1 HSB is capable of supporting televisions up to 60 inches wide. Internally the pedestal speaker system utilizes six 4-inch midrange drivers, three ¾-inch soft-dome tweeters, and a 6.5-inch downward firing low frequency driver that is powered by an 80-watt RMS amplifier. Augmenting the woofer section is the H-PAS enclosure design that helps the speaker achieve lower frequency response capabilities than standard cabinet designs.
The somewhat large, all-in-one speaker system allows users to use the amplification of their choice through its passive left, center, right speaker array. In my case I used it with A/V receivers from Onkyo, a 3.1 amplifier from Phase Technology, and two-channel amplifiers from Audio Source and Monoprice.
Using the speaker system with all of those speakers was easy for the most part. With the Onkyo receiver I configured the system by using a Y-cable out from the receiver’s subwoofer out. Running the first connection to my Triad subwoofer amps was simply plug-and-play. Running the other cable to the Atlantic Tech’s subwoofer input, I disengaged the low-pass filter control, and I used the speaker’s volume control to lightly dial in some support to bridge the HSB 3.1 with the Triad subs. In this configuration with the 3.1 HSB I felt that both movie and broadcast content sounded fantastic. Dialog had sharp articulation with richness in male vocals that added to the sense of “realness” to the sound. Overall, I recommend to dealers to try this setup, I found it easy to integrate into my system and through this setup I was able to achieve good dynamic balance that many homeowners will appreciate.
Moving the 3.1 HSB upstairs in my home I mated it first to the Phase Tech P3-35. To do this I placed it on top of an entertainment stand, ran three Monster 16/2 cables from the phoenix connectors on the amplifier. Next, I engaged the amp’s three-channel mode, and I ran a cable from the amp’s LFE out to the input of the 3.1HSB. This configuration took me a few attempts to dial in a balance of low frequencies that I felt were well integrated. The sub section by itself plays down to mid bass levels with a lot of output, and I felt at times it overpowered broadcasts of NFL games and other content. Initially I started with the sub’s volume at approximately 11 o’clock, eventually ended up at about 9 o’clock. In this setup I engaged the low-pass filter so I could also adjust the crossover setting from approximately 90Hz to about 60Hz by listening by ear to music and TV broadcasts, as well as a couple of Blu-ray discs.
I think my experience with the sub and the speaker running as a 3.1 solution will be typical of the install experience with the 3.1 HSB. Environmental factors such in this case of the speaker system’s placement on top of a TV/media stand up against a wall near a curio cabinet contributed to the “bassiness” that I first heard. Having the options to dial in the tonal balance were there so I was able to overcome the less than ideal location of the speaker in the grand scheme of things to produce good sound.
Using the two channel amps I was also able to achieve good sound. In addition, I also listened to plenty of music via sources such as broadcast and channels like MTV Live, as well as content from TuneIn, Pandora, and music from my network via an Apple TV. What I found with music was a tightly focused soundstage with smooth midrange. Overall I think the 3.1 HSB is just as adept at music reproduction as it is with multichannel audio content from broadcast and Blu-ray discs, and I think this is due to setup flexibility the subwoofer section provides, as well as its H-PAS enclosure and driver array that adds nice midrange depth and clarity. I will also point out that no matter what amp I paired the speaker system to, the amp had no issue driving the speaker regardless of whether it was music or A/V content.
I think my only real criticism is that in some cases with flat-panel televisions that use two feet instead of a single base at the center. With TVs that use two feet the 3.1 HSB won’t be able to work with larger TVs. Placing a 43-inch VIZIO M Series 4K TV on top of the 3.1 HSB left its two feet very close to the edges of the speaker.
Adding it all up, the 3.1 is on a short list of the best soundbars in the industry. Looking at its setup flexibility, sound quality, competitive price point, solid build quality, and the fact that can serve as the foundation to the majority of A/V systems (most TVs are not wall mounted) the do-it-all speaker works well in everything from 2.0 to full Dolby Atmos-enabled systems without sacrificing sound quality.