Up until this point I had been playing using my computer speakers and I was interested in getting something that could potentially be louder and more portable in a form factor that actually makes sense for guitar. After almost 6 months after first sending the email out to get on the waiting list my Atomic CLR (powered cab) is finally here today!
I set it up how I had planned to use it, flat on the ground, but since I'd be sitting at least 6 feet away on a fairly low stool anyway I figured this wouldn't be a problem, as many reviewers rave about the wide projection the atomic offers. The first thing I noticed is that the sound pretty drastically changes if you're than about 15 off axis. Not a good start! I grabbed some shit I had laying around to propped up the front to angle more towards my head.
Sound quality wise I was pretty immediately underwhelmed. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it sounds bad, I had a bad FR amp before the CLR and I know what bad sounds like, but I guess with all the hype surrounding it I was just expecting more. My computer speakers (Logitech Z-2300s, the legendary original version) that I've been using for such a long time have completely ruined me. Because of the popularity of the Z-2300s people have done all kinds of graphs and analysis on them, and I knew the frequency response of that system was supposed to be pretty flat with the speaker grills removed, so I was expecting a similar sound out of the CLR, but alas, no dice.
Before everyone gets their pitchforks and tears me a new asshole with the obvious complaint that the Atomic CLR sounds correct and it's the Z-2300s that are wrong, or colored, or incorrect somehow, let me explain a bit further. Like I said the Atomic CLR doesn't sound bad, but to me the best way to discern how much detail and accuracy and clarity there is in a speaker is to listen to different tones through it and determine how distinct they sound from each other. The flatter the frequency response of the speaker, the less the characteristic formants of that speaker are entangled with the FR of the tone and the more distinct it will sound compared to other tones through the same speaker. If different tones tend to sound similar and less distinct, what you are hearing are the formants of the speaker moreso than the formants of the tone.
In my testing I was using high quality TAF profiles and I wasn't making any judgements at all was to which speakers I thought sounded "better" whatsoever, I was simply checking for distinctness from each other and the Z-2300s won hands down. If there was a game you could play called Name That Profile! where you listen to listen to a random profile on your Kemper and had to guess which one it was, I would do substantially better on the Z-2300s, and if I WAS making judgements about which sound better, I think the Z-2300s would also win that as well. On the Atomic CLR a Fender Bassman might not be mistaken for a Marshall, but it sounds more similar than it should.
Has anyone else used Z-2300s with their Kemper? I'm honestly considering trying to find a set on Ebay and building a custom cab for them because god damnit if a $1K speaker can't sound better than I don't know what to even do.
On an unrelated note: Anyone want to buy an Atomic CLR powered cab?