Atlantic Technology 334SB
ubwoofers have come a long way
in many ways. One of the most significant is that it’s not that long ago
that I’d often have to explain what a
subwoofer actually was to most people. These
days, thanks to the over-whelming acceptance of multi-channel home theatre systems
and the enthusiasm with which movie
producers make sure there’s plenty of lowfrequency information pumped into the subwoofer (0.1 or LFE) channel, subwoofers have
become part of the consumer lexicon. So
most now not only know what a subwoofer
is, they’re happy to have one in their home.
At the same time, subwoofers now perform
better than they ever have. The advent of
low-cost, high-power Class-D amplifiers has
meant that subwoofer designers finally have
all the amplifier power they need at their
disposal at a reasonable cost, making it possible for small bass drivers, in relatively small
cabinets, to deliver impressively loud—and
impressively low—bass at affordable prices.
The Equipment
Atlantic Technology’s 334SB is the secondsmallest subwoofer in its ‘SB’ range. It and
the model below it (the 224SB) have 254mmdiameter bass drivers, while the two models
above it, the 444SB and 642e (and no, I don’t
know who dreamed up those model numbers!) sport 305mm-diameter bass drivers. All
models have internal power amplifiers whose
outputs increase in steps from a claimed 180watts for the 224SB to 350-watts for the 642e.
While it’s not immediately obvious from our
photograph, the 334SB’s enclosure is totally
sealed. This means that there’s no bass reflex
port, so there’s no possibility of unwanted
‘chuffing’ (noises from the port caused by air
moving in and out) and also no possibility of
small creatures (I recently heard of a pygmy
possum having to be removed from a Paradigm speaker) making their home inside your
subwoofer. The trapped air inside the cabinet
also acts as a ‘cushion’ that helps protect the
cone from being overdriven.
The bass driver is front-firing and,
although it’s rated by Atlantic Technology
with a diameter of 254mm, that’s actually
the overall diameter of the entire basket.
The more-important Thiele/Small diameter
is 210mm, which gives an effective cone
area (Sd) of 346cm². The cone is made from
paper, as is the dished central dust cap. The
surround suspension is rubber. Powering the
cone is a 50mm-diameter aluminum voice
coil, around which is wound four layers of
copper coated aluminium wire that operates
in the gap of a large centre-vented magnet.
The back plate of the Atlantic Technology
is fairly bare, not least because it has only
line-level inputs, not both line-level and
speaker level. Similarly, there are only linelevel outputs. The low-pass crossover control
is continuous, via a small plastic rotary knob,
and is marked ‘40Hz’ at its lowest point, and
‘140Hz’ at its highest. Alongside it is a ‘crossover bypass’ switch that actually looks like
a bit of an afterthought, because additional
Atlantic Technology 334SB Subwoofer
labelling appears to have been stuck on after
the plate was first screen-printed—but it’s
no less welcome for being an afterthought!
And at least it shows Atlantic Technology is
prepared to make such changes to an existing
production run, rather than just throwing in
the towel and leaving a much-wanted update
in the ‘let’s do it on the Mk II model’ folder.
The reason for including a proper crossover
bypass is that it enables the 334SB to be connected to the LFE output of a THX-certified
AV receiver and essentially conform with the
THX standard (even though the subwoofer
is not, itself, THX-certified). And if you don’t
have a THX AV receiver, but your receiver
offers sophisticated crossover frequency and
filtering options for the subwoofer (as most
do these days), you can use these controls
rather than the ones on the 334SB itself. (If
you have two low-pass filters in circuit, the
one in your AV receiver, plus the other in
the subwoofer, it can mean that the overall
filter slopes become too steep to allow proper
integration of the subwoofer with the front
and surround channels.)
Just to the right of the low-pass control
is a two-position phase control (marked
‘normal’ and ‘invert’ rather than the more
usual 0° and 180°) and to the right of this, a
subsidiary power switch that allows you to
select between ‘auto’ signal-sensing operation
(the subwoofer switches itself on when it detects and audio signal, and switches itself off
just as automatically when there hasn’t been
an audio signal for some time) and ‘on’ (this
position forces the sub to be on all the time).
Above this switch is a chameleon (multi-colour) LED that glows red when the subwoofer
is powered-up, but in standby mode, and
then changes colour to green when it’s actually operating or out of standby mode.
If you’ve been reading carefully, you’ll
note that I haven’t mentioned a volume
control. This is because Atlantic Technology
has very sensibly placed it on the front of
the subwoofer, where it’ll be easier to access
if necessary, though you do have to remove
the grille to do so, so it’s not quite as easy as
they make out in the glossy brochure. More
about this volume control later. Underneath
this control is a small LED that I assumed was
supposed to ‘mirror’ the operation of the LED
on the rear panel. I say ‘assumed’ because the
LED on the front panel of my review sample
didn’t work at all, though the LED on the
rear panel worked fine. Maybe a wire had
worked loose…
The signal-sensing circuit on the 334SB
turns the subwoofer on instantly, but (quite
properly) has a very long turn-off delay
(around ten minutes), so you won’t be bothered by the sub switching itself on and off
while you’re listening to music or watching
a movie. (And you always have the option of
forcing it to stay on permanently, using the
rear-panel switch I mentioned previously.)
One (added cost) option that is available
for the 334SB, but which wasn’t supplied to
me, is Atlantic Technology’s WA-50 Wireless
Audio System. This is a transmitter system
that allows you to send audio signals wirelessly from your amplifier or AV receiver to
the 334SB, meaning that the only wire you’ll
need is a 240V power lead running from the
wall socket to the subwoofer. Perhaps more
importantly, using a WA-50 system makes
it really easy to set up a multiple-subwoofer
system (usually only two!). The primary
reason for using two subwoofers is to ‘smooth
out’ acoustic anomalies caused by the room
(usually particular points in the room where
there’s too much bass, or too little)… but you
could also use two subwoofers simply to get
additional volume, should you decide that
just one subwoofer is not enough! If you do
this way, you should be aware that the signal
to the subwoofer/s will be delayed
a little (Atlantic says that for the
WA-50, it’s less than 10mS) but you
should be able to compensate for
Brand: Atlantic Technology
Model: 334SB
Category: Powered Subwoofer
RRP: $1295
Warranty: Three Years
Distributor: Network Audio Visual Pty Ltd
Address: Unit 6B, 3–9 Kenneth Road
Manly Vale, NSW, 2093
(02) 9949 9349
(02) 9949 6972
• Front-mounted
volume control
• Wireless option
• Sealed cabinet
• Vinyl finish
• Volume control
Readers interested in a full technical
appraisal of the performance of the
Atlantic Technology 334SB Subwoofer
should continue on and read the
LABORATORY REPORT published on the
page 85. Readers should note that
the results mentioned in the report,
tabulated in performance charts and/
or displayed using graphs
and/or photographs should
be construed as applying only
to the specific sample tested.
Lab Report on page 85
Atlantic Technology 334SB Subwoofer
this in your AV receiver’s setup menu.
The Atlantic Technology 334SB stands
3840mm high, is 390mm wide and 417mm
deep (my measurement is different to Atlantic Technology’s specification because I’ve
included not only the depth of the grille, but
also the fact that you have to allow at least
32mm extra for the mains plug. I used a compact 90° angled one. A ‘straight’ plug would
require even more depth). It weighs 16kg.
The only available finish is a black vinyl
(with a slightly stippled surface) that covers
the front baffle, the top surface and the rear
of the subwoofer. The sides are finished in
a ‘satin black’ paint. (The top-line model in
the SB range apparently is also available in
a gloss black painted finish, but I haven’t
seen one.) For the record, I have to say that I
wasn’t overly keen on the vinyl finish, nor on
the overall cosmetic design of the subwoofer:
those ‘scallops’ on the side where the sides of
the subwoofer curve up and arch away from
the corner ‘skirts’ that hide the four rubber
feet looked a bit twee to me. However, that’s
just my personal opinion and I generally find
that most people place subwoofers where
they’re pretty much out of sight anyway!
Since I’m having a whinge, I should also say
that if you’re looking at AT’s promotional
literature, you should have a salt-shaker
handy, because the company regularly goes
‘way over the top with hyperbole when
promoting its products. Read its literature
literally, for example, and you’d be forgiven
for thinking that Atlantic Technology is the
only subwoofer manufacturer that makes
subwoofers approved for use with both 110V
and 240V mains voltages! Another example is
the outrageous claim that: “other subwoofers,
regardless of their power ratings or limiters, can’t
match the sound of an Atlantic subwoofer for
detail and musical accuracy.” Mmmm…
In Use and Listening
There’s also much nonsense published about
positioning subwoofers, the most egregious
of which is the advice that you should not
place them in corners. In fact, this advice is
wrong, because a corner is one of the very
best places you can put a subwoofer! (You
should not place either the left or right channel speakers in corners, which is probably
how that furphy came about.) Probably the
best way to work out the best position for
your subwoofer is to place the subwoofer
where your head would normally be when
you’re listening to music (and/or watching the screen). I appreciate this may mean
some creative use of stacked milk crates and
furniture, and the temporary moving-aside
of a seat or couch, but it’s worth it. Once
the sub is in place, connect it to your system
(you’ll need a long extension lead, or one of
those WA-50s I mentioned earlier), then start
playing a DVD or CD with low bass. You can
turn up the volume of the subwoofer higher
than normal if you like. Then, crawl around
the floor (no, I’m not joking) with some
white electrical tape in your hand. As you
move around, you’ll hear the bass alternately
get stronger and weaker. In some point of the
room it might be so weak that you can barely
hear it at all. Mark all the spots where the
sound is strong by sticking some white tape
to the carpet. Once you’ve covered the entire
floor area, your carpet should be littered with
bits of white tape. Now, if someone usually
listens to music with you—or watches movies
with you—move the subwoofer to where their
head would be, and repeat the process, but
this time listening only at the spots you’ve
already taped. If the bass is still strong at a
point, put another piece of tape crosswise
Atlantic Technology’s
little 334SB ... not only
delivered deep bass,
but lots of it... and that
bass is deep, solid, and
very tight
across the first bit. When you’ve finished,
you’ll find that you can put the subwoofer
anywhere there’s a white cross on the floor
and be assured of getting good bass at the
listening position/s. Once the sub is in this
position, it is only then that you should
adjust the subwoofer’s volume, low-pass and
phase controls to fine-tune the sound at the
listening position.
Adjusting volume on the 334SB is supposed to be easy, because of the rotary control
on the front, but in fact, having to remove
the grille makes it a bit more inconvenient
that it would seem. And you can’t access it
by ‘pushing’ through the cloth on the grille,
because behind the cloth is a fairly solid
plastic grid to prevent you doing this. When
you do come to use the control, there’s a
‘click-stop’ at the extreme left-most setting of
the control that one would normally expect
would turn the subwoofer off—or at least do
something!—but in fact the click signifies
nothing at all, and doesn’t turn the subwoofer off, or to standby, but instead selects
a preset volume level that’s the equivalent of
rotating the control to about the ‘10 o’clock’
position. So, in order to ensure you start with
the volume at minimum, you have to wind
the control fully counter-clockwise until it
‘clicks’ and then ‘unclick’ it by winding it
very slightly clockwise.
Anyway, enough of the preamble, because
once I did have everything set up to my
satisfaction, and started playing music (I
started with the 334SB set-up with a pair of
stereo speakers in a sub/sat configuration) it
became clearly apparent very quickly that
Atlantic Technology’s little 334SB is a bit of
a ‘sleeper’ because it not only delivered deep
bass, but lots of it. And that bass is deep,
solid, and very tight. I decided to start with a
CD with such low bass that I knew it would
provide a benchmark for later sessions, and
sure enough, I found that the low-frequency
levels on Telarc’s Bachbusters (CD80123) were
just a little down compared to my reference
subwoofer (which is about four times the
size and has double the cone area!), which I
thought was an excellent result. Firing up my
favourite ‘bass’ CD (a favourite not so much
because the bass is really deep, but because I
really like the music on it, which makes it fun
to play when I’m ‘working’), the 35Hz bass
notes on Joan of Arc (from Jennifer Warnes’
album of Leonard Cohen songs, ‘Famous Blue
Raincoat’) was delivered at exactly the correct
volume, and with a tone so pure that the
impression that the sound was coming from
the main speakers, and not the 334SB, was
perfect. The sound was so good that I finished
listening to the entire album, even though it
wasn’t entirely necessary, after which I pulled
out an ‘even bigger gun’ in the shape of the
first track of Dark Side of the Moon (on SACD
this time) which chimes in at 27Hz. Again,
the 334SB rose to the occasion, the only
slight limitation being that if I turned the
volume too high, I did run into the subwoofer’s maximum output capability, with the end
of the voice coil reaching its physical limit.
Whether you’ll experience the same limitation will depend on how loudly you play
your music, what level you’ve set the sub for,
the size of your room and whether or not
you’ve positioned the subwoofer optimally,
but my opinion is that in small to averagesized rooms, so long as you don’t want the
earth to move, the 334SB will provide sterling
service. More sessions with the 334SB wired
up via LFE to perform the low-frequency
duties in a 5.1-channel home theatre system,
using very small two-way satellite speakers
as the main fronts and surrounds, more than
proved its potential in this type of set-up.
Indeed when watching movies, the sustained
low-frequency sound effects (continuous
rumblings et al) made the 334SB sound even
more impressive than it does with music,
such is the authenticity and quality of the
bass at very low frequencies.
Atlantic Technology may have cut a few corners on the cosmetics, and included only the
most basic inputs you’ll need on a subwoofer,
but since most people want to hide their subwoofers away anyway, and also require only
basic inputs, this corner-cutting has enabled
AT to deliver a small, impressively high-performance subwoofer at an impressively low
greg borrowman
Atlantic Technology 334SB Subwoofer
Test Results
its own accuracy). The fairly extended
high-frequency response with the low-pass
filter set to 160Hz indicates that you could
very satisfactorily integrate this subwoofer
with even the smallest pair of satellite/
bookshelf speakers. Indeed the low-frequency response of the satellite speakers
could roll off as high as 150Hz and the
integration would be excellent. Since the
response of most small bookshelf speakers
will extend at least down to 120Hz, this
will mean you’ll have to ‘back off’ the lowpass filter on the 334SB a little to achieve
an overall ‘flat’ response. Conversely, with
the low-pass filter set to 40Hz, the 334SB
will integrate almost-perfectly with most
large floor-standing loudspeakers and
extend response almost flat down to 30Hz,
after which low-frequency response rolls
off quite sharply.
Steve Holding
With the low pass filter set to either bypass
or 160Hz, the output of the 334SB peaks
at 70–80Hz, whereas with the filter set to
40Hz, it peaks at 40Hz. The best indicator
of the overall frequency response is Figure
2, which shows the Atlantic Technology
334SB’s performance in a room, using pink
noise as a test stimulus. You can see that
below 200Hz, the ‘Bypass’ and ‘160Hz’
traces are essentially identical. The slight
increase in level apparent on the 160Hz
trace at around 80–140Hz is no doubt due
to the inevitable shoulder effect of the
filter. Above 200Hz, the ‘Bypass’ trace rolls
off only leisurely, whereas the 160Hz trace
shows the effects of the low-pass filtering
by rolling off at around 12dB/octave. The
The 334SB’s frequency
response, with the
low-pass filter set to
maximum (160Hz),
extends from
26Hz to 220Hz ±3dB
frequency response with the low-pass filter
set to 40Hz extends from 18Hz to 86Hz ±3dB.
The frequency response, with the low-pass filter set to 160Hz, extends from 26Hz to 220Hz
±3dB. Without the filter, the high-frequency
response extends to 360Hz within the same
plus/minus decibel limits.
Figure 1 gives a better idea of the 334SB
low-pass filter’s crossover slope, because it’s a
near-field response using a sine stimulus. This
test’s inherent high-frequency limitations
mean that the best trace to examine is the
40Hz (red) one, and this shows a very neat,
clean 18dB/octave slope. There appears to be
a minor driver/cabinet resonance at 160Hz,
but it would be inaudible. Otherwise, the
traces are very smooth (the ‘glitch’ at 100Hz
on all the traces is caused by the lab’s measuring instrument switching ranges, to improve
Newport Test Labs
20 Hz
90 100
800 900
Figure 1: Nearfield sine frequency response of bass driver with crossover control set to
'Bypass' (Black Trace), 160Hz (Green Trace) and 40Hz (Red Trace). [Atlantic Tech 334SB]
Newport Test Labs
20 Hz
90 100
800 900 1K
Figure 2: Frequency Response. Pink noise at 2M, with crossover control set to 'Bypass'
(Black Trace), 160Hz (Blue Trace) and 40Hz (Red Trace). [Atlantic Technology 334SB]