I set up the system as usual: front L/R speakers on stands, the center speaker on top of my TV, and the surrounds (set in their dipole mode, initially) on high, side-wall shelves. Though the 642 SB subwoofer has a 12-inch driver, it's barely smaller than my everyday 15-incher. I placed it in the best location in my room, which is to the left and slightly behind the front left speaker.
The 4200 LR front speakers are true satellites, not intended for use without a subwoofer, so I began with plain stereo, but with the subwoofer hooked up, too. What I initially heard was a "close," dry sound with a hint of male-voice chestiness - that gave me a chance to start trying out those C.O.R.E. controls.
A bit of experimentation told me that the 4200 LRs are sensitive to vertical placement. I adjusted the stands so that their tweeters were about even with my seated ear height and switched on the Boundary Compensation switches, since they stood only 18 inches to either side of my TV. The midrange became more open and relaxed, while the treble added significant air and life to the mix. And that touch of "hoo" caused by reflections from the screen disappeared almost entirely.
The Atlantic Tech system punched out multichannel music with finesse and impressive impact. The DVD-Audio mix of Donald Fagen's Kamakiriad solo album is an amazingly pristine production in both its recording and performance (almost antiseptic), and the System 4200 showed its virtues to a tee: preternatural clarity - especially noticeable on drums and guitars - and huge dynamic range.
The System 4200 also proved to be one of those speaker systems that sounds better the louder you play it. I found myself listening to Fagen's "Snowbound" repeatedly at ever-increasing volumes, reaching a level that audibly sweated the front-speaker trio some 10 dB above THX reference level - and that's loud.
|PLUS Outstanding multichannel performance.
Impressive bass, full-range dynamics.
Changeable side panels.
Center-speaker base a little too high.
One advantage of a system that's properly designed as a sub/sat layout from the ground up is that you don't have to fuss with crossover and level settings. I set the 642 SB subwoofer's Lowpass switch to Bypass, skipping its onboard crossover in favor of my preamp/processor's, which I set to 80 Hz. After I balanced levels, the system sounded perfectly integrated. The languid, but incredibly solid bass on "Snowbound" was deliciously rich and punchy, yet with the superb definition and "quickness" that only an excellent sub and an expertly matched sub/sat system can achieve.
The Fagen DVD also provided perfect test material for comparing the 4200 SR's bipole and dipole modes. The verdict: bipole wins. I still prefer dipole surrounds for movie sound and naturalistically recorded music, but with mixes that put discrete material in the surround channels - like a hand-percussion shaker in the right rear - bipole clearly sounded better.
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