The PowerBar sets up easily. Hook up your 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 (more on this later) 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 PowerBar comes with a very small remote—about the size of something you’d expect to see with a boombox, but it offers 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 easily lost in the depths of sofa cushions. I think we’ve misplaced pets that way. Most users will want to port all their IR controls onto a universal remote anyway, since juggling TV, speakers, cable and Blu-ray remotes gets old fast. The PowerBar uses remote codes for Marantz receivers.
I used the PowerBar for a week with a variety of media, from Blu-ray movies, to TV shows and even streaming music. In short, it sounds impressive. Atlantic Technology recommends that uses skip a subwoofer and only use the soundbar, and 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. The unit’s subwoofer output jack (mentioned earlier) may come in handy for very large rooms, but I didn’t need it in my 15- by 21-foot room.
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. I wasn’t so impressed with the surround modes, but on any system, virtual surround is usually heavier on the virtual then the surround. Still, the idea is to be a replacement for your wimpy TV speakers, and the PowerBar does that. 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. Particularly notable was the range between the high nasals and the deep bass in Sumus Vicinae.
I like this speaker a lot—it sounds impressive and is easy to use, still, I’d like to see it do a little more. Specifically I’d like to see some wireless connectivity for smart phones. Adding either Bluetooth or AirPlay would make using the PowerBar with my iPhone much easier than plugging into the front mini jack. I’d also like to see HDMI inputs. This would cut down on the wires, which is something soundbar users would appreciate.
So is this the kind of system that will satisfy the family in my opening scenario? Yes. It offers very good audio performance without unnecessary complications or clutter.
Atlantic Technology H-Pas PowerBar 235
Simple to use
No HDMI input
No wireless connection
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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.