Athena AS-B1.2 Main / Stereo Speakers

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Athena AS-B1 Main/Stereo Speaker - Good Bass and Excellent Imaging for the Price

Sep 21, 2004 (Updated Sep 28, 2004)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

  • Ease of Use:
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  • Imaging:
  • Overall Sound:

Pros:Price, construction, good bass for size, excellent frequency response, imaging

Cons:Need speaker stands (sold separately), do not look very impressive

The Bottom Line: For the money, the Athena AS-B1 is an excellent choice for movies and music alike. They can be used as stereo speakers or speakers in a 5.1-7.1...


Choosing speakers is probably the most difficult task in choosing audio/video equipment. Other components can be easily quantified and the specifications are clear. When you chose a DVD player, you can see its features, you know its capacity, you suspect what you can expect from it in terms of picture and sound.

Not so with speakers. Specifications don’t mean much for sound quality. Size doesn’t mean much other than indicate the bass the speaker may produce. Weight does not directly translate to the sound quality neither does the price (aside from the fact that you cannot get good sound for less than certain amount). Neither does the number of drivers directly translate to the sound quality.

Many manufacturers state the “frequency response”, which is highly misleading. You can see it from my review of a large 3-way KLH speaker, which was supposed to provide 50 Hz-20 KHz frequency response, but in reality sounded muffled, had very uneven frequency response and had fuzzy treble.

Thus, it is critical to go to the store and listen. And I highly recommend that you listen to the Athena AS-B1 speakers.

Pricing

Being the most inexpensive speaker in the Athena's Audition line, the AS-B1 are sold in pairs for about $150 per pair.

Construction

The AS-B1 speaker is a 2-way design with a 1” Teteron Dome tweeter and a 5.5” Injection Molded Polypropylene woofer with rubber surround. The speakers weigh 14 lbs each and are sold in pairs.

The construction is solid and sturdy. The outside of the speaker has black ash finish with the front panel being silver and covered with a removable grille. The speakers are magnetically shielded and should not harm your TV.

Setup

The speakers need stands, which can be purchased separately, unless you already have something on which you are going to place them. The terminals are sturdy five-way binding posts (all-metal and gold-plated). As usual with Athena speakers, you have to set your receiver’s speaker settings to “Large”, thus outputting the entire sonic (frequency) range to the speakers. If you make a mistake and select “Small” speakers and a “Filter” point of above 60-80 Hz, you will not get the full range of bass these speakers are capable of.

Also, make sure that your subwoofer’s control is set appropriately (below 70 Hz; try 65 Hz). And, by the way, the speakers are 8-Ohm compatible, so they will not overload your receiver.

Break-In

The manual recommend the break-in period of 50-100 hours. You have to use a CD with full range of sounds (frequencies) and run it for 50-100 hours in repeat mode at normal listening level. You can do it when you leave for work (that’s what I do), just make sure it is not too loud. And don’t judge the sound before the break-in period – it will definitely get better after break-in.

Sound Quality

Athena’s speakers use the same 1” Teteron Dome tweeters and have crossover point at 2 KHz. The difference lies in the construction and the size of the woofer. The 5.5” woofer in the AS-B1 model can, according to Athena, go as low as 60 Hz (they claim frequency response of 60 Hz-20 KHz at +/- 3db).

As I said earlier, you cannot rely on the stated frequency response numbers. But in this case, the speakers provide pretty good bass for their size, combined with good treble and midrange. It is difficult to say if they really go as low as 60 Hz at – 3db, but at the normal listening position (I tired at about 3 meters with speakers 2 meters apart), the bass seems to go somewhat below 70 Hz. This is where the subwoofer’s crossover had to be set to avoid too much bass.

You will still need a subwoofer if you use these speakers for main (front left and right) speakers, but the subwoofer crossover will have to be set lower than with some other, less capable speakers. I could feel improvement in the bass area in comparison to my Athena S.5 speakers (same construction, but 4.5" woofers). The speakers produce good bass with no “boominess” or congestion.

The sound quality of these speakers (B1) is amazing for their price and size. Although, there is a slight over-emphasis in the treble area, the speakers seem to have excellent frequency response with no apparent dips. Furthermore, they feature excellent instrument and special separation and they don’t get overwhelmed with complex music the way lesser speakers do.

The speakers are rated to up to 125 Watts of power. I don’t listen to very loud music, but even at lower volumes, the speakers keep their linear frequency response and spacial imaging (on and off-axis).

The B1s definitely excel in reproducing string instruments. Guitars sound excellent and violins sound even better. The drums sound “tight” too. Obviously, the complex music is more difficult for speakers to deal with. The B1s do a very good job with likes of Pearl Jam (at least for the price).

For movies, the B1 definitely provide enough (or even more than enough) special imagining, frequency response and, supplemented with a decent subwoofer, bass.

For the price, these speakers are very difficult, if not impossible, to beat. In fact, they sound better than some floor-standing speakers. But I decided to spend more on the front speakers (to get better sound with more bass) and picked up the floor-standing Athena AS-F1 towers (which I was able to purchase at an employee price).

Conclusion

For the money, the Athena AS-B1 is an excellent choice for movies and music alike. They can be used as stereo speakers or speakers in a 5.1-7.1 home theatre system. If you want better speakers, you will have to spend more money (more than twice as much), e.g. floor-standing Athena AS-F1 or AS-F2.


Recommend this product? Yes


Amount Paid (US$): 150/pair

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