These days, entertainment seems entirely driven by fads. On television, we have the overabundance of crime dramas and the nightmare that is "reality" programming. At the movies, we have the sudden explosion of comic book films. Unfortunately, for every X2 and Spider-Man, we get a Hulk and LXG. (Of course, no comic book movie will ever touch the greatness that was Tim Burton's Batman, but I'm happy to watch them try.) Granted, all fads aren't bad. Some fads actually make sense and eventually become long-term trends. A perfect example of this is the current trend towards affordable high-end sound in the consumer electronics industry.
• Read high end AV Preamp reviews from brands like Krell, Meridian, Anthem, Arcam, Sunfire, NAD and many others.
• Read multi-channel audiophile amp reviews here.
High-quality pre/pro and amplifier combinations like those from Krell and Parasound can run you eight, nine, even ten thousand dollars. If, like me, you have BMW tastes on a Volkswagen budget, such luxuries remain a bit out of reach. Or do they? Atlantic Technology would like you to take a look at their first major foray into component hardware--the P-2000 preamplifier/surround processor and the A-2000 7-channel amplifier. I took a look, and a listen, and this tag team brought the house down around my theater! That being said, however, only one of these boxes is a screaming bargain. More on that later.
P-2000 pre/pro - As the popularity of multi-channel music formats like DVD-Audio and SACD continues to grow, 6-channel analog inputs on surround processors become very important. Sure, most new receivers and pre/pro units have these inputs, but many of them are subject to one irritating flaw--they lack bass management. While other processors may offer decoding for every surround format under the sun, most of them don't provide for subwoofer crossover on their 6-channel inputs. This means that for every channel, bass information continues unchecked to the speaker (however small it may be) and that hefty subwoofer of yours becomes an instant paperweight. Thankfully, this is not the case with the P-2000.
The P-2000 features a dedicated 80Hz high pass filter specifically for its multi-channel analog inputs. Once engaged (via a small toggle switch on the rear of the unit), all bass information below 80Hz is channeled away from your five main channels and over to your sub- woofer. Remember that this is purely for the multi-channel inputs; all other inputs are subject to the crossover frequency you establish in the system's configuration menu. While on the subject, the adjustable crossover is extremely flexible, allowing you to choose from 40, 60, 80, 100, 120, and even 150Hz. Atlantic gets major points in my book for the comprehensive crossover offerings on the P-2000.
In addition to the standard decoding options you would expect to find (DTS-ES, Dolby Digital EX, Pro Logic II, etc.), the P-2000 also boasts Cirrus Logic's "Extra Surround," which enhances Dolby Digital and Pro Logic II decoding by adding rear-surround information. This extra channel of sound helps complete the rear soundstage for soundtracks lacking Dolby Digital EX and DTS-ES encoding.
The Unique Features section is probably as good a place as any to mention that Atlantic's P-2000 is not entirely unique. More to the point, it has a nearly identical twin in the Outlaw Audio Model 950 (reviewed in our June 2003 issue). Separated at birth, these two machines share the same processing platform and internal hardware, differing only in areas of fit and finish. Specifically, the P-2000 adds gold-plated inputs out back, improved buttons up front and a brushed metal faceplate. At the time of this writing, Outlaw had just reduced the price of the Model 950 to an unbelievable $799. As much as I love the understated and refined appearance of the P-2000, it must be pointed out that it's literally twice the price of its nearly identical Outlaw cousin.
A-2000 Amplifier - Although the P-2000 is not entirely unique, the A-2000 is available only from Atlantic. Weighing in at a sobering 67 lbs., the A2000 is a powerhouse amplifier providing 120 watts to seven (yes, seven) channels. Seven-channel amplifiers are really the only way to fly nowadays with the increasing abundance of DTS-ES and Dolby Digital EX titles, so it's comforting to know the A-2000 will stave off that upgrade bug for a few years. Up front, there isn't too much to look at save a power button and LED displaying the current power status. The titanium faceplate on the A-2000 is a nice match for the P-2000, though it's a bit conservative considering the sound it's capable of generating. The back panel features gold-plated connectors and sturdy five-way binding posts. You'll also find a handy "DC Trigger" input so the amplifier can be turned on when your pre/pro is turned on.
The most impressive thing about the A-2000 is its ability to drive low-impedence speakers without breaking a sweat. I auditioned the A2000 through my 6-ohm Wharfedale Pacific Evolutions and some 8-ohm Axiom speakers I had lying around. After several A/B comparisons, the A-2000 didn't appear to care one way or the other about the load it was driving. The ability to drive difficult loads is always important when evaluating amplifiers and the A-2000 gets high marks in this category.
Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
Configuring your speakers and crossover settings is always the most time-consuming task with any processor, but the P-2000 made the experience quite painless. Menus are intuitive and very straightforward. Each input gets its own configuration screen where you can set its physical input and surround mode, as well as make adjustments for bass and treble. It would have been nice to assign a custom name to each input since "Video3" can be so nondescript, but perhaps I'm nitpicking.