McGary Audio

Essential Sound

Monday, March 31, 2014

Home Cinema Review!
Atlantic Technology H-PAS
Full-Range PowerBar 235

Price: $799
Likes: near audiophile sound
Dislikes: bigger than most SBs
Wow Factor: soundbar with bass

by Russ Long

  Soundbars have risen in popularity over the past few years. As their quality continues to improve and people come to the realization that they are a viable option for attaining high-quality audio, with fewer speakers, at a reasonable price, they will continue to gain market share. Many video buffs, myself included, have a full, surround-equipped home theater but still want to have the ability to have a satisfying viewing/listening experience in other rooms. Others, due to layout limitations and lack of space to dedicate to a home theater, don't have the option to implement a surround system. Thus, a soundbar is the only viable options.

  Atlantic Technology touts the H-PAS PowerBar 235 (and based on my experience, rightfully so) as the world's only soundbar that doesn't require a subwoofer. The soundbar is powered by a built-in amplifier that supplies 80-watts RMS to a pair of 4-inch woofers and 1-inch soft dome tweeters. The soundbar has a frequency response of 47 Hz to 20 kHz (+/-3 dB) and can reproduce audio at near cinema volume levels for an amazingly satisfying listening experience.

Is the Atlantic Technology H-PAS PowerBar 235 a full surround system? No, but it provides, across the front, a full sonic picture from its well-integrated drivers, and it has remarkable bass response.

  The PowerBar 235 provides an abundance of connectivity options. The rear panel is equipped with three digital inputs, via two Toslink optical connectors and a coaxial connector, and one analog input via a pair of RCA connectors. The front panel has an eighth-inchmini-jack input for easy Pod, iPhone, etc. integration. Front and rear panel IR sensors allow for clear control from anywhere in a room. There is also a subwoofer output. The soundbar's 100-240VAC AC adapter provides the 24VDC required for operation.
  The PowerBar 235 can be oriented with the Control Pod that emits from the center of the box at the top or the bottom of the unit. The default configuration is with the Control Pod on top but if the soundbar is going to be mounted on the wall underneath a TV, you will likely want to electronically flip the orientation so the Control Pod will be on the bottom of the box. If the box is inverted, the grille should be flipped and the included inverse control panel label should be utilized. Not only does the display reverse when you switch the orientation, but the speakers actually reverse as well so the left speaker is always on the left and right is always on the right.

Atlantic provides Bluetooth wireless convenience

  While the box's innovative design delivers exceptionally high quality, full-range, multi-channel sound, this high performance comes at a cost. At 42.75 inches wide, 6.5 inches tall, and 6.5 inches deep, the 18-pound, beautiful black box is larger than the competition, ands take a bit more space to place, And at $799 it's also more expensive (although the price is more reasonable when you consider that you don't need to factor in the price of a sub with your system). The PowerBar 235 includes an ultra-simple remote control that includes power, input source selection, treble and bass adjustment, volume, surround mode selection, mute, and speech enhancement activation controls. The soundbar can also be utilized with most universal remotes.
  The PowerBar 235 includes multi-channel DSP that supports both basic Dolby Digital and DTS encoding, allowing the user to switch between a 2-channel, 3-channel, 5-channel or 5-channel expanded environment providing the user the ability to customize their listening experience. The Speech Enhancement Mode improves dialog intelligibility by boosting the frequency range where human voices are reproduced. This is a great feature when trying to listen in situations where there is a significant amount of background noise.
  The soundbar's 6.5-inch height can pose positioning challenges. In most instances, when it is placed in front of the TV, it will partially obscure the screen and possibly the TV's remote sensor. If your TV stand doesn't have a shelf that will accommodate the PowerBar 235, you will likely want to wall-mount the TV and/or sound bar. Utilizing Atlantic Technology's SHELF-2405 TV top speaker shelf is another option.

Quality drivers are key to full soundbar sound

  The patent-pending H-PAS (Hybrid Pressure Acceleration System) technology was jointly developed by Atlantic Technology and Phil Clements of Solus/Clements Loudspeakers. H-PAS is a passive system that doesn't require any special drivers, on-board electronics, or outboard equalization; it combines components of several different speaker technologies including bass reflex, acoustic suspension, inverse horn, and transmission line. A unique cabinet design allows the PowerBar 235 to implement all of these speaker technologies, resulting in an extended bass response with minimal distortion and a surprising amount of headroom.
  An engineering team at Atlantic Technology mathematically modeled H-PAS technology making it possible to apply H-PAS design parameters to a wide variety of speaker designs. In addition to implementing it into several of its own designs, Atlantic Technology is licensing H-PAS to other manufacturers so I'm sure we'll be encountering it more often in the future.

The setup
  I placed the Atlantic H-PAS PowerBar 235 on a shelf approximately 22-inches off the floor directly below a below a Sony KDL-46EX640 LCD TV. In most instance, the soundbar was used as a standalone playback device but I spent some time auditioning it along with an Episode ES-SUB-12-300 powered sub. Playback was primarily via an Onkyo√≠s BD-SP809 Blu-ray player, but I also utilized a Pioneer Elite BDP-53FD Universal Blu-ray Player on occasion (since the Onkyo doesn't support SACD and the majority of my high-resolution audio material is in the SACD format). I also utilized the front panel mini-jack input to playback music from my iPhone.

The audition
  While a soundbar can't provide the sonic spread of a true multi-speaker surround system, soundbars do have the ability to provide high-quality sound with a small footprint at a fraction of the cost of a surround system. Soundbars typically require a subwoofer to attain anything close to full range audio but that's not the case with the H-PAS PowerBar 235 as it's the first soundbar I've encountered that actually provides full-range audio (down to 40 Hz) without needing a subwoofer. As a standalone unit, it actually outperforms many soundbars that are coupled with a sub.
  While the remote is nothing fancy, it does provide access to all of the PowerBar 235's functionality and with the presumption that most users will be utilizing a universal remote, there's no reason to include anything beyond this.
  I spent time with my staple list of evaluation movies which includes The Dark Knight, Ratatouille, Hugo and Bolt. The soundbar does a surprisingly good job of emulating surround sound. In most instances I preferred the 5-channel Expanded mode when viewing movies but I always did a brief audition of each mode before watching the film as it sometimes varied based on the mix and encoding.

I was impressed with the soundbar's natural sound, imaging, low-frequency response, and overall smoothness. I would have never guessed that a soundbar could provide this enjoyable of a listening experience, but how wrong I was.

  I spent time listening to Pink FloydDark Side of the Moon, Elton John — Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and James Taylor — Hourglass SACDs, The Beach Boys — Pet Sounds, The Beatles — Love, and Fleetwood Mac — Rumours DVD Audio discs and Daft Punk — Random Access Memories and Phoenix Bankrupt! CDs. With each recording, I was impressed with the soundbar's natural sound, imaging, low-frequency response, and overall smoothness. I would have never guessed that a soundbar could provide this enjoyable of a listening experience, but how wrong I was.
  While I did spend some time listening to the soundbar in conjunction with an Episode ES-SUB-12-300 powered sub (which went lower as you would expect), the bulk of my time was spent listening, solely to the PowerBar 235. I found that I truly love the way it sounds, and it is surprisingly capable of providing an adequate amount of deep, distortion-free bass
  Besides the wired connection, I also set up the PowerBar 235 to stream via its wireless Bluetooth capability, through the included BTAA-50 Bluetooth adaptor. The ability to wirelessly stream CD-quality, stereo music from my laptop, or my IPhone from another room is very convenient. The Bluetooth adapter comes standard with the PowerBar 235.

The verdict
  Is the Atlantic Technology H-PAS PowerBar 235 a surround system? No, but it presents a good surround impression from its well-integrated drivers, and it has remarkable bass response. The high-quality sound does come at a $799 price tag, and it needs more space than your average soundbar. But it is worth the extra effort and expense — especially when you consider the extra connection options, Bluetooth and its superb sound. If you have a need for a serious soundbar, the Atlantic Technology H-PAS PowerBar 235 is a top choice. It also gets our Everything Audio Network Stellar Sound Award

 An avid home theater and audiophile listener, Russ Long makes his living as a Nashville-based professional audio engineer, who has recorded hundreds of albums for various artists, including Grammy Award winner Sixpence None The Richer. 

  John Gatski is publisher/owner of the Everything Audio Network©Articles on this site are the copyright of the Everything Audio NetworkAny unauthorized use, via print or Internet, without written permission is prohibited.

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