Picture this: “Dad” likes big sound, strong bass and an overall killer audio experience to go with a TV the size of a kitchen table.
“Lazy Slackers” don’t want to bother with a receiver, speakers, sound modes, universal remote or any of that fun stuff.
“Mom” doesn’t like remotes, speakers or wires, and her opinion counts most.
You get the picture. So do makers of soundbar speakers. They are family problem solvers. Real innovation in a soundbar means developing something that solves the real problems – getting large, accurate sound with concussive bass out of a single speaker that fits under a television.
Atlantic Technology has done just that with the PowerBar 235 (MSRP: $899). It started with a concept, called H-PAS (Hybrid Pressure Acceleration System), which uses an internal pressuring matrix to produce more bass from the speaker enclosure, eliminating the need for a subwoofer. The system debuted in tower speakers, but the soundbar is a perfect application and one that CE pros can attach to TV sales.
At 6.5 inches deep the PowerBar 235 is bulkier than a lot of soundbars. The PowerBar requires the large cavity for the H-PAS system. It’s also 26 pounds, which includes the built-in 80-watt amplifier plus four drivers (two woofers and two tweeters). My wife thought the whole thing looked like a really large center channel, so she was relieved when I told her this was everything, and not part of a 7.1 system.
The PowerBar sets up easily. Hook up the main audio sources to the two digital optical inputs in the back of the control panel. There’s also a set of analog inputs, one digital coax input, a subwoofer output and a mini jack in the front, which I used for my iPhone. It can be placed on a table or mounted on a wall with the built-in keyhole ports.
The speaker comes with a very small remote, but it o ers all the functionality you need including volume, bass/treble adjustment, speaker mode and source. My only problem with the remote is that its size makes it vulnerable to getting lost.
I used the PowerBar with Blu-ray movies, TV shows and streaming music. In short, it sounds impressive. Atlantic Tech suggests not using a subwoofer, and I think they’re right. With test tones I could get usable bass down to 40Hz with the PowerBar, and that’s something a lot of soundbar/subwoofer combinations can’t do.
On music the PowerBar delivered. There are four listening modes: 2-channel, 3-channel (enhanced vocals), 5-channel (virtual surround) and 5-channel enhanced (more surround effects). Personally I preferred the 3-channel mode for everything, partly because I find virtual surround tends to be heavier on the “virtual” than the surround itself and in this case the 3-channel provided plenty.
Zombie attacks during “The Walking Dead” sounded grisly and gritty, while dialog was clear. Music, especially when I was listening to Nicholas Lens’ “Flamma Flamma” opera, sounded imposing the way it’s supposed to.
I like this speaker a lot – it sounds impressive and is easy to use. Lacking, however, are wireless connectivity for smartphones and HDMI inputs that would further cut down on the all the wires, something soundbar users would appreciate.
Would this satisfy the family in the opening scenario? Indeed.