How should your 5.1-channel system handle the three channels in front? You might use the traditional approach of three separate speakers. Then again, you might simply use a passive soundbar with left, center, and right drivers. We’ve reviewed both kinds of systems—but until now, we haven’t reviewed both options at once. In this Test Report, that’s just what we’re going to do. We’ll start with Atlantic Technology’s new FS3 soundbar in the front and two voice-matched LCR3 satellites in the surround positions. Then we’ll swap out the soundbar for three more satellites to see what that brings to the table. To make it even more interesting, we’ll start with a single 8-inch SB-900 subwoofer, then contemplate the advantages of adding a second one.
System pricing is $1,550 for one FS3, two LCR3s, and one SB-900. Adding the second sub raises the cost to $1,900. For five LCR3s, the total is $1,725 with one sub or $2,075 with two.
I’m writing this introduction before starting the listening demos. Here’s what I expect to happen: The soundbar would have a more solid, but narrower, front soundstage. Substituting three speakers for the bar should expand the soundstage. It would also provide more flexibility in placement, if that were a factor. Adding the second sub would improve the evenness of bass coverage, extending good bass response to more locations in the room. As for what the speakers would actually sound like—their balance of frequencies, dynamics, coloration, and all the tangibles and intangibles that add up to listenability—I’m at square one. Let’s explore.
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