Scott Schumer is an executive in the fields of consumer electronics, commercial audio, video, and IoT who has a passion for custom AV installation, smart home, affordable AV equipment, and high-performance headphones.
He formerly served as sales, marketing and product development at Sennheiser / Neumann USA; Harman; Loud Technologies; and Blue Microphones; and is currently managing North American sales for Peavey Commercial Audio.
Atlantic Technology is a Norwood, Massachusetts-based designer and manufacturer of home theater loudspeakers since 1989. The LCR3 compact loudspeaker ($275 each) is designed for use as a left, right, or center-channel speaker, as well as a left or right surround. Since Atlantic Technology makes many other speakers, including dedicated dipole/bipole surrounds (like the 1400 SRz), in-wall, and in-ceiling models, why send me five of the same speaker (along with the 224 SB subwoofer for $600) to complete a 5.1 surround system? Well, because they can ...
Atlantic Technology has obviously taken great care in designing the LCR3 to handle dialogue (center channel) and provide very smooth transitional audio from the front right to front left channel without compromise. Since the center channel is typically placed on its side while the left and right speakers are vertically oriented, the company placed the middle of the tweeter above the center point of the dual 3.5-inch woofers and beveled the grille--which, along with careful consideration of the materials used in the construction of the tweeter and woofers, as well as roll-off frequency response decisions, results in great sound and a beautiful, unified aesthetic.
I connected all five LCR3s and the 224 SB sub to my Onkyo TX-NR636 AV receiver for this review. Don't let the LCR3's six-ohm rating worry you, as these speakers get plenty loud well before getting to 75 percent on the volume wheel. I located the speakers very close to where my existing speakers and sub are in my home theater. I ran the Onkyo's AccuEQ calibration and watched (and listened to) a few of my reference movies and music tracks, then I went in and tweaked frequency crossover points and adjusted levels a bit and watched/listened again until I was ready to sit back and begin the evaluation.
Atlantic Technology's design philosophy, as stated on its website, includes four things a home theater system must provide:
1) Intelligible dialogue and clear onscreen effects. "Huh? What'd he say?" is never acceptable.
2) Realistic directional pans across the front stage.
3) Convincing, enveloping surround effects, without being able to localize (locate the origin of the sound by ear) the surround speakers.
4) Powerful, dramatic bass effects with wide dynamic range (the ability of a sound system to go from very soft to very loud without sounding strained or distorted).
How well did the five LCR3s meet these expectations? Check, check, check, and check! For video content, I choose Edge of Tomorrow, Hugo, and the HBO series Westworld. The audio from these three selections ranged from subtle, quiet dialogue passages to powerful explosions and sound effects designed to thrill, stimulate, and even scare you a bit. If the LCR3s excel at one thing over another, it would be the clarity of dialogue. The front left and right performance wasn't the best I've ever heard, but for the price it was more than acceptable. I did not notice any frequency shift when sound panned across the front soundfield, so kudos to the tuning team.
Rear surrounds aren't really asked to do all that much, and the LCR3s were fine performers in this respect--with the caveat that, although they can be easily stand-mounted or wall-mounted via the integrated dual four-way keyhole brackets, the larger 4.75- by 11.25- x 5-inch form factor may not be preferable to other smaller surround options, even the aforementioned 1400 SRz. It's nice that the speakers all match, and the fit and finish are top notch--but sometimes smaller is better, and sometimes dedicated-to-purpose choices perform better.
I have not talked at all about the sub yet, and I should--even though this review is technically about the LCR3. The 224 SB is the smallest in this range; there are 334 and 444 models available, as well. All I can say is that the "baby" does a very good job moving some air and creating impact when called upon. This 10-inch baby delivers! Rated at 180 watts RMS, I have no problem believing the 102-dB SPL peak output spec listed in the manual. The size is approximately a 15-inch cube. The design is front-firing in a sealed enclosure, with a stated frequency range of 25 to 150 Hz. All expected connections are present, including daisy-chaining to a second 224 SB.
• The LCR3 is beautiful and nicely sized for resting on the cabinet under your HDTV for the front left, center, and right duties. It's available in gloss black or gloss white and finished on all sides (except the back), in case you choose to stand- or wall-mount it.
• Dialogue clarity from the center is exceptional, and the localization and smooth frequency response from the front right and front left is excellent.
• These are competitively priced at $275 each.
• I would have liked a little more detail and "air" across the entire surround soundfield during movies, especially during quiet to soaring musical segments. This also came into play when listening to music in "all stereo" mode.
• A smaller rear surround option might be preferable for some.
Comparison and Competition
Comparing apples to apples is at best difficult and, in this specific case, extremely hard. I looked for speakers that have a similar bookshelf form factor and dual woofer/tweeter design. The Paradigm Cinema 200 ($249 each) is slightly less expensive and can be mounted on-wall or placed on a table/shelf; it's available only in gloss black. Measuring 19.875 by 6.3 by 4 inches, it is quite a bit larger. These have the detail and musicality I missed with the Atlantic Technology LCR3s; but, for movie and TV surround sound, they had no real advantage. So, depending on what you will be doing with the speakers, the look and gloss-white option may make the decision for you.
Definitive Technology's StudioMonitor 65 comes in at $449 each, which is appreciably more. But if you use two of them for front right and left and go with the company's CS9060 ($699) for the center channel (which includes a powered sub), the total price difference is just $172 compared with Atlantic Technology's LCR3/224 SB combo. These are the largest of the group, measuring 16.75 by 8 by 15 inches; so again, if you want to match all five, the size (and price) may be a deal breaker for you. They have a very nice high-gloss black finish (the only option available). The sound is impressive, my favorite of the bunch--but only slightly and again, mostly apparent when listening to music in "all stereo" mode, which I do fairly frequently. If that's not really what you do in your home theater, then your choice may well bring you back to the Atlantic Technology LCR3s.
Focusing in on Atlantic Technology's LCR3 as a surround sound solution where everything matches both sonically and aesthetically, this is a great-sounding option at a terrific price. The high-gloss black and equally high-gloss white finishes are simply beautiful. The clarity of the center channel will bring the dialogue to you, while the front soundstage remains natural and smooth. I highly recommend it.
• Check out our Bookshelf Speaker category page to review similar reviews.
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• Visit the Atlantic Technology website for more product information.