Picture this—a family, one member, we’ll call him “Dad,” likes big sound, strong bass and an overall killer sound experience to go with the TV the size of a kitchen table. Half of the family, we’ll call them “Lazy Slackers” don’t want to bother with a receiver, speakers, sound modes, universal remote or any of that fun stuff that Dad thinks is important. Dad is tempted to cancel the cell phone services of the Lazy Slackers if they don’t stop whining, but then someone else, we’ll call her “Mom,” would make Dad sleep in the shed, and there are mice in the shed.
Mom can also be trouble, because she doesn’t like remotes, speakers or wires, and her opinion counts more than the Lazy Slackers, so our family finds itself at an impasse.
Hey, that’s why soundbars were invented, right? Soundbars are family problem solvers, crisis control devices that allow Dad (Ok, we’re talking about me) to enjoy better audio for the TV but without the complications that full surround sound systems introduce –my wife says basements were invented for surround sound. I think they were invented for storing potatoes and the ladder I “borrowed” from the neighbor, but we’re getting off topic.
Anyway, the soundbar market has gotten a bit bloated lately. Every company that knows how to stick a brand on a box offers a home theater soundbar. Unfortunately most of them aren’t much better than the TV speakers they’re supposed to replace. Real innovation in a soundbar means taking a look at the speaker concept from scratch and 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 is one of the companies that did just that. They 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, thereby eliminating the need for a subwoofer. The system first debuted in tower speakers, but a soundbar is a perfect application.
The PowerBar 235 is actually a bit bulkier than a lot of the soundbars you’ll find on the market. Most current soundbars are just a few inches deep, while the PowerBar is 6.5 inches deep. The size issue partially explains why so many of the other soundbars sound so anemic. The PowerBar requires the large cavity for the H-PAS system to work. 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.
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. He's also the author of the book The Trouble with Rivers
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.