There are two things worth noting about the packaging of Atlantic Technology’s AT-3 loudspeaker right up front. Thing the first: I’m pretty sure the only things left after the upcoming nuclear apocalypse will be cockroaches and unopened AT-3 speakers. I’m seriously considering turning the crates into a makeshift storm shelter if this autumn’s tornado season gets too squirrely for comfort.
Thing the second: how is a doofus like me supposed to know which end to open first? Without clear labeling or IKEA-style “open this side” cartoon instructions, I’m left to my own devices. My brain tells me I should open from the bottom, as that’s the norm with most speakers. My heart, though, says the top might be the right point of entry.
It appears my heart was correct. Opening up the top of the box reveals a handy instruction manual and (you can’t see them in this photo, but they’re there) a pair of white gloves that are almost certainly human-sized and, as such, useless with my big Wookiee paws.
It was obvious at a glance that the endcap for the AT-3 is expanded polyethylene instead of brittle, breakable EPS, which is a good sign. What I didn’t realize at first is just how hefty that endcap is. This chunk of sculpted foam is thicker than molasses in January and not only provides good shock absorption for the speaker itself; it’s also reusable, in case you need to pack the speakers up for repairs or resale or your next move.
When I rule the world, electronics manufacturers, especially those making more upscale products, will be required by law to use polyethylene instead of polystyrene in their packaging materials.
I’ll definitely need to learn to rule with my head instead of my heart, though. It appears I should have opened the box from the bottom instead of the top. Peeking into the carton, I can see an accessories box way down there at the other end. No doubt, I’ll need that.
While we’re here, though, check out that center support. That’s pretty neat. Instead of putting an EPS girdle around the speaker, Atlantic Technology has created a cardboard sleeve with expanded polyethylene supports on each side. Not only is that a better shock absorber; it also means that when I pack the speakers back up to ship them to Canada for measurements at the NRC, I can plop the speaker into its endcap and then slide the sleeve down around the middle of the speaker, rather than dressing the speaker first and then trying to get it into the box and into the endcap. Little touches like that warm my heart.
The most noteworthy contents of the accessories box are no doubt the massive and dangerous-looking carpet spikes. You’ll also find the expected bolts and washers, as well as something perhaps not quite so expected: a couple of brackets with the Atlantic Technology logo printed on. At this point, I’m really not sure what purpose those serve, which means I might have to dip into the instruction manual, but hopefully not. I’m pretty sure that would be the last strike on my Man Card, at which point the thing would be revoked forever.
By the way, you can also replace the tips of the spikes with softer rubber ends obviously intended for hardwood floors. I’m going to use them, though, because I don’t like spikes. Each of the rounded tips is basically a screw with a half-dome rubber cap. They twist on by hand without much effort.
Under the endcap that houses the accessories box, you’ll also find a pair of outriggers. They don’t have chirality, but there’s a definitive top and bottom. The side that faces away from the speaker has holes for the spikes. So on the side that faces the floor you’ll see four bolt holes on each outrigger, and on the side that faces the bottom of the speaker you’ll see only two.
There’s also an Allen key in the box so you can install the outriggers. I do wish the bolts were countersunk so I could try the outriggers without the spikes, but then again, maybe Atlantic Technology doesn’t want me using the outriggers without the spikes.
Take a look at the back of the speaker, and those mysterious brackets start to make sense. Given that the AT-3 is effectively a two-way bookshelf speaker sitting atop and integrated into a bass-loading cabinet that’s sort of a mix between a bass-reflex and transmission-line design with a bass trap built in, there’s really no reason for the crossover and binding posts to be near the bottom of the speaker. But since the speaker-level connections are so high, Atlantic Technology has included cable management in the design. There are two of these brackets on each speaker—one toward the middle of the cabinet and one closer to the bottom.
With the speaker upright and rotated to face forward, and with the grille removed (no easy feat—the magnets on this thing have the grip of a coconut crab), you can see the 1″ silk-dome tweeter and 6.5″ concave fiberglass-dome woofer—the speaker’s only drivers. You’ll notice the foam window surrounding the tweeter, a not-uncommon hack in the DIY world that should help with baffle diffraction. Notice, too, that the grille is solid except in front of the drivers.
Moving down the front of the speaker, you can see where the H-PAS ports out at the bottom. I won’t dig too much into H-PAS here and what makes it different from bass-reflex or transmission-line designs, since I need to save some technical yadda yadda for my full review. (Also, full disclosure: I still need to read the white paper for this thing.) That said, the front-firing port might make the speakers a little easier to place. On the other hand, it might make any resonances or chuffing easier to hear. We’ll see. Or hear, I guess.
Lastly, it should be pointed out that merely repositioning the speaker just a scootch to put the lighting where I wanted it for that last photo ripped the rubber balls off the ends of the carpet-spike screws. It was an easy fix—simply remove the screws and put the rubber hemispheres back on the ends. That does mean I’ll need to be a little more careful when positioning the speakers. Or perhaps I’ll just remove the ball ends altogether, since I don’t have any hardwood to protect.
How much of an issue that ends up being, I’ll discuss in my full review, coming soon to the pages of SoundStage! Access.
. . . Dennis Burger