These subs were bought to compliment the s3's I bought. They do make an attractive
tower with very good sound. I found that the bass was very good, it just didn't go real low, and the subs could be made to distort at extreme and impractical levels.
If they are setup correctly, they give a very dynamic, natural sound. For the money I paid for them, they are a steal.
The prce I paid is CDN.
After living with two of these in the office system for almost a year, the '3's became a little long in the tooth. There is no doubt that they're attractive and can be placed in areas where others simply can't go. However, after having lived with mechanical and electrical resonance problems in two of the three units I've had; along with buying a Paradigm PW-2200 and comparing against the '3's - the '3's had to go.
For ~ $400.00 less, the '2200 beat the two P3's in any given parameter and in areas such as build quality, clarity, depth, loudness, and dynamics - the '2200 simply put itself in a much higher category. This is not to say that the P3's don't have their place, I gave mine to my girlfriend as a part of a HT Christmas present and she loves 'em! So for those who want a small attractive HT sub., and don't care too much about overall performance, it's a viable consideration.
But if you do care more about performance and have the room for a larger sub., then the P3's are not for you. If you need to stay around the $600.00 figure, the Hsu VTF-2 and the Polk PSW 650 will be much better considerations and can be had for less than the '3's asking price. If you can swing alittle more cash, then the '2200 (though I paid $535.00 new for mine), is a good place to start and a far better choice!
Ratings are for overall performance and what can be had for the money.
So you want a great sub. and there's only $600.00 USD (plus tax) in the budget. But like any self-respecting A/V enthusiast, you want it to do everything the "big boys" do without mortgaging your home, feeling frustrated by an under-achieving product, or embarrassed by the neighbor who just bought the latest Godzilla-in-a-box.
Well gentle readers, hope arises among a strong field of contenders in the best-bang-for-the-600-buck-sweepstakes, that'll make you glad a few companies have YOU very much in mind. After all, your suh-HERIOUS jonesin' has you wantin' - no, NEEDING a sub. that'll get you as close to an in-room 20Hz @ -3dB as possible, do it relatively cleanly, sound great with music AND movies, take some abuse without worry, AND do it on the cheap! You wont get the overall performance of say a properly setup Sunfire Signature, Linn 5150, Paradigm Servo 15, HGS 18 Velodyne, the larger M&K's and the like. However, you WILL get close enough to make many think the law of diminishing returns comes right after the $600.00 price point! And you WILL get close enough to make that neighbor second-guess the worth of his megabuck investment, once he hears what YOU'RE getting and how much you paid for it. To my knowledge, those products (when properly setup) are as follows: * Athena Technologies P3 * Hsu VTF-2 * PSB SubSonic 6 * Mirage FRx-S12 * Energy ES-12XL * Paradigm PS-1200 (better for movies but not bad for music)
Excellent, but say you have friends in a similar bass cravin'/money-tight-and-quality needin'/everyday livin'/real-world situation. Some with larger rooms who need a sub. to fill that area convincingly, some with small rooms who need one with a small footprint; and some operating under a high WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor). Well to do all of the above in any lone product is nearly impossible, but from the listed world-class budget contenders, there's but one that tries to do it all and you guessed it, it's the Athena Technologies' P3. If it can even come CLOSE to being the current hands-down "all subwoofer to all quality bass needin' money conscience people", then Athena Technologies will have pulled-off a near Herculean feat. Well I'm here to tell you that right out of the box, it strongly hints that it may!
A front-ported 10" down-firing woofer in a magnetically shielded cherry vinyl or black textured cabinet with 5-way binding posts on the back, and an internal auto on/off 150 watt RMS amp. with internal protection and anti-clipping circuits, and a red/green operations LED. Controls (conveniently located in front with an equally convenient cover to keep inquisitive minds away) comprise of a two-position phase switch, a three position blend switch for Athena's S2 or S3 satellites, or another manufacturer's offering. There are also variable controls for volume, and crossover frequency (between 50 - 150 Hz); a claimed response to 20 Hz (no limits given in their website or manual) and a very small ~ 12" x 14" foot print. And all of this is wrapped-up in one of the most elegant/utilitarian designs for the money - period.
As an audiophile by nature and curriculum Development/ Teaching Consultant by practice, I have conducted business all over North America and parts of Europe, while helping friends with A/V systems integration. Coincidentally, after reading a favorable review of the P3 by Sam Tellig in the 4/2000 issue of Stereophile, a business trip to Ontario availed itself to apply the finishing touch to a budget system I'm putting together for a friend of mine - Terry.
His particular situation was about as challenging as it gets: small-to-medium room (pouring into the kitchen, foyer, down and up stairs - it's a tri-level) tightly furnished, a young child, another on the way, a rambunctious golden retriever, limited budget, and a stringent WAF. On top of that, he wanted the impossible with (get this) a clean/ powerful sub. with a tight footprint, the ability to hit a believable 20Hz, firing width-wise into the confined but open room while being impervious to a child's fingers, dog's tail, wife's veto power, and do it all for $750.00 CAD... Right! Yep boys and girls, this is as close to the classic "yo' backside aint BIG ENOUGH to have swine flyin' out even if THEY COULD!" scenario as it gets. Frankly, before Sam's review I would've relayed something very similar, but now my proposed solution was clear and all I had to do was find it.
Located in a mall somewhere outside Hamilton Ontario, there it was in a store amongst one of the worst "audio displays" possible. Perched on top of a resonant raised wooden baffle, nexta all the TV's, underneath the store's active wind tunnel generator, sat the P3 and the lone Athena Technologies display. If one never knew of Athena Technologies or its lineage (API: home of Mirage, Energy, Sound Dynamics, many favorable reviews, and even more admirers), that single display would be the greatest excuse for passing them by. Hopefully this review will turn that possibility around. With selections in hand from "CJ's Baker's Dozen" (if you want I'll send it - it's too long to include here) to resolve some of its bass performance, I along with Terry and our friend Dennis, "demo'd" the P3/S3 combination. Despite the store setup as an A/V irritant along with various consumers mulling about the latest Kerwin-Vaaguh mud flappers, the P3 showed promise. Enough in fact, that when asked by Terry if he should get it, I naturally told him "yes".
While back at Terry's house enjoying Rickards Red and integrating the P3 into the system (Sony DVD, Dennon AVR1800, and B&W DM302's), the sub. didn't appear to integrate well with the '302's. Terry assured me he connected "the wire" tightly to the correct output of his receiver so I temporarily put this aside as a possible culprit. On top of that, the sub's. volume control was on "8", 2 marks away from maximum, so I suspected a manufacturing flaw... But it was late so I politely asked if he wouldn't mind my taking the sub. and interconnect to Dennis' whose system I helped build (Sony DVP 600, Dennon AVR1800, four B&W 602-S2's, and a Paradigm PS-1200) in an acoustic with which I am more familiar. As their receivers are the same, this would help me shoot trouble to the sub., interconnect, receiver, source, or acoustic and just as important, do a side-by-side comparison!
Level matched at 31.5Hz via the Stereophile Test CD and my untrustworthy Radio Shack analog dB meter, and using interconnects interchangeably, I began comparing the thoroughly broken-in '1200 (with ports facing the listening area) to the fresh out of the box P3. Between them, the P3 (positioned 3' from the right wall 1.5' from the front wall) excelled in every category except three (dynamic shading, the lack of a variable phase control, and at some VERY loud low bass passages - port noise). Right out of the box it went a few Hz lower than the '1200 (rated for an in-room 23Hz @ -3dB response), had a more stable representation across its operating range, was cleaner, and provided a more seamless match to the 602's. This is without being broken-in; and the general rule of thumb goes: "it only gets better from here"! This time the volume control was on "6", where the '1200 was one below its halfway point, oh well...
Instruments (their associated attack, fundamentals, harmonics, sustain, and decay) sounded more true-to-life through the P3 as it took a lot less work for the ear/brain to resolve what was going on. As far as what it didn't do well, the lack of better dynamic shading may be attributed to it not being broken-in. That's not to say it isn't punchy on kick drums, explosions, etc. ('cause it is!), but it is to say that its dynamic delineation should get better with time. As far as port turbulence goes, most people may never even push the sub. to where they'll hear it anyway. To that end, I've heard far worse from more expensive subwoofers, but this one being the gem that it is - deserves a better port.
Anyway, while conducting my experiments at Casa Dennis, I lightly touched the P3 woofer while putting it through some loudness abuse tests. It certainly achieves some very respectable dBs for very little cone movement. Meaning, once its surround and amplifier get worked-in, the protection circuitry will have quite a bit of headroom to play with! Which translates to: if the unit was properly designed for the long haul, the P3 should take quite a bit of loud deep bass passages without wimpin' out!
In addition, the subwoofer doesn't seem to posses an external heat sink of any sort. As a general rule, the more heat an electrical component generates or is exposed to - the shorter its life span will be. Therefore, if heat cannot be transferred efficiently from the enclosure, it's a detriment to the design, unless the associated componentry is very efficient and doesn't need conventional heat sinking. Ah here we go, the manual directs (to paraphrase) "not to cover any cabinet 'openings' to ensure reliable operation and prevent overheating. Therefore it shouldn't be placed on a bed or sofa". The only "openings" I've seen, is the port in front and threaded ends for the feat on the bottom... Nonetheless, the first leg of the experiment was a huge success: the P3 integrated EXTREMELY well with the 602's (coming across as THE budget sub. that doesn't want to perform like a budget sub!), along with that, Terry's interconnect was fine. Moreover, after all the experimentation was through, I came away with one very important observation: the 602/P3 combination was a match made in audio heaven!
Round two took us back to the store to compare against the floor model for loudness settings. They were indeed the same therefore, we surmised that we didn't receive a sample variation (unless the store received an improperly set lot from the factory) so Terry's sub. was performing as designed.
The final round had us back at Casa Terry, where Dennis and I properly connected the P3 back into the system (making sure it was right). After which, I spent the next hour using "CJ's Baker's Dozen" to make sure that it integrated properly with the '302's and helping Terry know what to listen for. Success, the original problem was the poor connection to the receiver and now taken care of. Back in its new home a.k.a. "the impossible scenario", the P3 sounded like an overachieving sub. should: very musical, very articulate, and VERY capable. Looked like an overachieving sub. should: more like nicely crafted furniture in comparison with the ungainly black boxes out there. And thanks to a very small footprint, performed these duties while operating unobtrusively in a very confined space that no other sub. in its price/performance class can go. With the audio portion of their home theater complete, the family now takes pleasure in a world-class full-range budget system outperforming many costlier systems. The Mrs. enjoys a rekindled love for music while the young daughter dances, where Mr. finds the advent of the Sony and A.T. brings the added pleasure of "EVERYTHING sounds MUCH MORE life-like!" Ah, another proper birth into the high-end: family and system doing nicely...
The P3 is 10 - 34 lbs. lighter than its competition, so it's easier to move while helping to save your back when finding its sweet-spot. Plus, for those with very little room and/or a significant other who wants to see as little A/V gear as possible, it can even be placed (here goes...) behind a couch thanks to the somewhat thin/short tower design. Just make sure there are stops behind the couch so it doesn't impinge on the sub. On top of that, it makes a GREAT subwoofer for the Study or Home Office, as it can be placed unobtrusively in more locations and look good at the same time!
All of the above of course brings me to this, the P3 is without a doubt an incredibly overachieving subwoofer! To my knowledge - one without peer in this price range for all the things that it does so remarkably well! Actually after experiencing the stunning size/fidelity/value ratio of the P3/602-S2 combo, I purchased a pair of each for an office system. I had an old Adcom 555, and Counterpoint preamp lying around so "why not?!". Seeing that 602's just happen to fit perfectly atop of P3's (except the satellite docking rails, which can be worked around). Plus P3's just happen to bring 602's to about the perfect height, and together they just HAPPEN to look like they were made for each other (in a sort of wood w/black accent motif). It makes 'em THE prime candidate for the po' man's WATT/Puppy! If you can afford just a bit more than the P3 and have the room, see my Paradigm PW-2200 review. It's one of the best under $1,200.00 USD subwoofers period, but just too big for the office. However, if you want low, loud, clean, flexible, size, looks, AND keep it around $600.00 USD? The P3 is it!