Smooth sound, slick styling
Atlantic Technology's newest on-wall speakers sport tall, slim cabinets about as deep as the frame of a typical plasma TV. The front speakers in the FS-3200 system are particularly attractive and underscore the TV's modernistic style.
SETUP Instead of reinforcing the dual woofers in the FS-3200 LR and FS-3200 C speakers with plain ports on the back, Atlantic vents them on the front with two equal-size passive radiators (cones driven only by air pressure inside the cabinet rather than directly by the audio signal). This lets you mount all three of them flush to the wall - even right up against your flat-panel TV - using keyhole slots on the backs.
Straight and angled brackets that fit into threaded inserts are also supplied if you prefer to pull the speakers slightly out from the wall. The straight brackets aim the speakers directly forward, while the angled ones toe the FS-3200 LR speakers in slightly and aim the FS-3200 C center speaker up or down. The latter also comes with an adjustable rocker base for shelf mounting. I put the left/right front speakers about 18 inches away from the TV for better imaging.
MUSIC PERFORMANCE Of the three systems here, the FS-3200 came closest to matching the balance of my everyday speakers (not surprising, since their design is similar). The sound was smooth, accurate, and even, with virtually none of the problems that can make voices sound "honky," "cupped," or any of the dozens of other adjectives reviewers like me use in attempting to describe a speaker's sound.
The FS-3200 LRs produced respectably low bass in two-channel listening, avoiding the uneven, colored sound that's typical of box speakers placed on a wall. There was a little extra warmth in the upper bass even with the front speakers' Boundary Compensation switches on and their High Frequency Energy switches set to Average, which yielded the best balance.
With the system balanced and Dolby Pro Logic II engaged for 5.1-channel playback, Brian Wilson's slightly overdue (35 years!) album SMiLE sounded terrific. The CD's a cappella opening was arrestingly present and expansive, with outstanding vocal definition, you-are-there harmonies, and a gorgeous, enveloping spaciousness.
MOVIE PERFORMANCE The Bourne Supremacy is an exhausting enough whirlwind to watch without struggling to hear the DVD soundtrack's myriad details. Fortunately, the system's impressive definition kept all the breakneck busyness clear and clean. The 422 SB subwoofer ably handled the bass chores, producing plenty of floorboard-rattling volume well into the deep-bass region, with no evidence of the dreaded midbass thump.
You can switch the excellent little 2200 SR surrounds (shown below) between dipole and bipole modes to optimize the sense of depth for movies and music, respectively. But why, oh why did Atlantic Technology put the bipole/dipole switch on the back? Fat lotta good it'll do you there if you hang the surrounds on a wall.
The FS-3200 is one of the best on-wall systems I've heard in this price range. Atlantic Tech's similar-size, free-standing System 4200 cost a grand more when I reviewed it in May 2004 and sounded a shade or two better, as I recall (click to read the review online; the current version is the System 4200e). It was a little leaner and more controlled than the FS-3200, with a little more punch at high volumes. But the differences are small.
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