Being Frugal for Equipment in my 4.1 setup

In one of my recent blog posts, I gave a high-level overview of what I was trying to accomplish and outlined what I did for wiring in a new 4.1 home theater setup in a multi-use family room.  Overall, I was very happy with the way I planned out the wiring.  Now, it was time to talk about equipment.

This is a secondary room that is primarily used for TV, movies, and ambient background music listening.  I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on speakers but at the same time, I didn’t want poor quality or inferior equipment.  I’ve been a big fan of Revel speakers and ideally would have wanted Revel architectural speakers.  I couldn’t, however, find anything in my price range.  I didn’t want to spend more than $1,000 total for the speakers.  I was hoping for $400 for the fronts, $200 for the rears, and $400 for the sub.

I looked everywhere and finally came across a closeout special on Atlantic Technology speakers at about 75% off!  I’d read about Atlantic Technology in many of the trade magazines (Home Theater and Sound and Vision) and they constantly got great reviews.  In this case, Audioholics must have purchased some remaining stock of Atlantic speakers and was having a blow-out deal on their in-wall speakers.  Atlantic was coming out with new models and liquidating their IWCB-52 current models from $600 each to only $150 each and included the grille kit (an extra $60 value)!  That’s a $1,200  plus value for only $300! Needless to say, I purchased two pairs of them–one for the bedroom and one for the 4.1 setup.

Atlantic Technology in-wall IWCB-52 speaker along with its larger siblings, the 525 and 626

When I got the speakers, I saw that the electronics on the rear of the speakers were not exposed.  They had a backplate–a built-in cover for the back to ensure proper voicing.  Thus, you didn’t need use insulation in the hollow cavity of the wall and run into the acoustic issues that this often presents in affecting the voicing of the speakers.

Atlantic Technology IWTS-28 sub has an open back and needs a thick sheet rock wall with insulation to sound best.
Front of the IWTS-28 sub has the ability to discreetly hide an IR sensor in the upper right corner.

I decided to match the sub and picked up an Atlantic Technology IWTS-28 sub.  I was able to get the sub for below the retail price (I think it was $500 retail) plus the grille kit. When I installed the sub, I made sure that the sub was installed in a wall that had 3/4″ sheetrock and soundboard.  This makes for almost a 1″ thick wall.  Because the IWTS-28 doesn’t have cancellation with its woofers, it’s going to vibrate and shake and you need to make sure that you have a thick enough wall to mount it into.  The instructions were well laid out so getting the proper specs was easy.

Then, for the surrounds, things got interesting.  I needed to go in-ceiling; however because the ceiling isn’t too high and the speakers would be directly overhead, I needed either angled speakers or to go with a dipole setup.  The only dipoles Atlantic makes are in-wall not in-ceiling; however, I came across a pair of $1050 IWTS-14SR Surround speakers for only a few hundred dollars that were being sold.  They were for an installation that didn’t happen so they were being liquidated!

The Atlantic Technology dipole speakers are THX certified.  I used them in my ceiling since I didn’t have a wall on either side.

So, for well under $1,000 I was able to get brand new, fantastic sounding, Atlantic Technology speakers in a full 4.1 setup plus I was able to do an audio installation in my bedroom.

There were two main questions about the dipoles that needed answering:

  1. The IWTS14-SR dipole speakers are in-wall not in-ceiling and they are pretty heavy.  The last thing that I wanted to happen was compromise the safety of someone sitting underneath those speakers.  
  2. What should the proper orientation of the NULL spot be?  Should the speakers be pointing with the line of the NULL perpendicular to the TV (the speakers firing to the left and right) or should the null be parallel to the TV with the speakers firing front and back?
I decided to call Atlantic Technology and I’m glad I did!  They had a great recommendation to tie the dipoles with some fishing wire or regular wire to a beam or post.  That way, in case there was ever a leak and the ceiling sheet rock should ever become soft or water logged, then the speakers wouldn’t fall through and hit someone.  That was a great suggestion and I fastened the speakers with some wiring to a large beam.
With regards to the positioning, they suggested that I pretend that the speakers are on the wall, then I simply move that image up to the ceiling and that is how the orientation should be.  Bingo!  The answer was that the speaker null spot should be parallel to the TV and thus firing front and back.  
I finished the installation of the fronts, sub, and the in-ceiling speakers and the results are fantastic!  I don’t miss a center channel speaker at all in this setup.  The front speakers are also mounted higher than ear level because of the piano underneath.  A cool byproduct of the Atlantic Technology in-walls is the ability to direct the tweeter down 20 degrees by flipping a switch.  There is also a boundary compensation switch if the speaker is mounted close to a wall to help out the acoustics. 
I powered all the speakers using a 7-year old Marantz 7.1 receiver without any room correction and without HDMI connectivity.  Even with that vintage receiver, the audio results are simply amazing.  By waiting for the right opportunity to commence with the project, I was able to have easy access to the space and save hundreds of dollars–all while getting great quality speakers!  
I can’t speak highly enough about the folks at Atlantic Technology’s tech support.  That’s a great company that makes some great equipment. 

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