First, a little history. In 2011 Rockport introduced their Avior model, the first model with in-house designed drivers and a mould breaking loudspeaker it was too. The Avior went on to accumulate near legendary status and eventually evolve into Mk II form. The Atria though, was born three years later in 2014 almost as a baby Avior, with just a single 9” woofer as opposed to a pair and a smaller and more shallow cabinet. Then in 2017 the speaker was evolved into the Mk II Atria guise you see here with, re-voiced and blessed with a whole host of technological advancements.
So what does a not insignificant £31,000 for the Mk II actually get you ? Well firstly a gorgeous 110cm high, full range set of floor standers in deep black lacquered gloss with proprietary polished spiked feet and overlay fabric grills. Each cabinet weighs a whopping 68kg, triple laminated and up to 2.5 inches in places with a 4 inch thick front baffle and sloped and chamfered as to eliminate unwanted effects from cabinet diffraction. You will not be moving these beauties on your own.
The bass woofer and midrange units are custom designed and manufactured by Rockport themselves and utilise carbon fibre skins in a composite sandwich for high stiffness, low weight and ultimately the lowest levels of distortion possible. The tweeter is a 1 inch beryllium dome custom manufactured by Scan-speak. In the Atria II it is now waveguide mounted – trickle down technology from the top of the range products. Rockport quote 28 Hz – 30 KHz response and 87.5 dB sensitivity for the speaker and you can be certain of these figures because surprisingly, every single pair of Atria II that leave Maine are tested and measured individually and the crossover is then fine tuned.
You are looking at, listening to and one would also hope purchasing, a product that is cared about so profoundly by its creators and the fact that this is labelled their “entry” model is probably a complete misnomer. Most Loudspeaker manufacturers popular here in the UK have no product with this level of build and component quality anywhere in their entire range and much like Tidal loudspeakers, the extreme quality and performance and necessary technology is there from the get go, right at the bottom end of the portfolio. More money for the most part, buys you a bigger unit and more drivers rather than higher order fidelity.
Most Rockports benefit from high level professional setup and the Atria are no exception – careful positioning along both axis of the room with respect to the listening position and the listeners ears, and the correct degree of toe to suit room acoustics, the system and listening preferences. As high end speakers go though, I would say these are more on the tolerant side acoustically and will do well in our modest English houses that are so often space and layout constrained.
In the room the Atria II’s have a commanding and classy presence. Whilst they are a really nice size for your typical UK space and are compact compared to many large full range speakers, they have a strong sense of heft and physicality to them which visually marks out their premium quality and status as a piece of audio equipment. Similarly to a Tidal, pride of ownership factors very highly if you are so inclined.
I personally love their shape and form, the gentle slope and tapering toward the rear, the tasteful swoop of their curves, the substantial and beautifully chamfered bases and the tantalising glimmer of carbon fibre across the cones, a reminder that you are in the presence of something not just luxurious and elegant but infused with high level prowess and technology.
In a word, the Atrias look expensive. How do they sound ? In a word … EXPENSIVE ! Luxuriant, rich, dense, sumptuous, classy, grandiose, all powerful. In fact there are so many deeply impressive stand out properties but of the meaningful, longstanding variety rather than the initial and short lived. On first acquaintance the Atria II do not showboat and employ none of the designed in “hooks” that some loudspeaker manufacturers engender their products with. They are a departure from the regular crowd then and all the better for it and will likely begin their hypnotic seduction as you start listening properly, after a handful of tracks perhaps when you really start falling into the music.
Initially you might feel that the Atria lack some of the top end space and air of a typical high end floor stander. Instead of a prominent sparkle, a generous presence region or an overly expanded and almost skeletal like midrange they actually initially sound a touch dark, thick even, with a shy treble that maybe lacks a little bite and articulation of what you might be used to. But listen further, allow yourself to osmotically seep into their wonderful image, and you very quickly acclimatise and then understand that the Atrias are just supremely refined and highly sophisticated in the way they go about things. In the slightly darker balance of sound there is simply acres of extension and fine detail, an extremely nuanced treble totally free from hash or glare and all the musical expression and tonal shading one could ever wish for. And yes, there is fathoms of space, ambience and air all set in a very cohesively constructed stage but the team from Maine don’t have to augment or rely solely on midrange or the feeling of “openness” as their primary selling point.
You see a decent midrange is so much easier to create than world class performance in the bass or treble region so when a speaker at first impresses mainly in its midrange one is advised to tread with caution. The Rockports though, they start out by impressing you in the other parts of the frequency spectrum, the areas that are much harder to design in a completely neutral, linear and noiseless fashion. When you begin to understand this order of priorities, and you possess a modicum of insight into loudspeaker design and just how complicated it is, the respect and admiration for the Rockport in front of you starts to grow exponentially.
Across a broad range of music the Atria have a delectable weight, fullness and density that is all clad in a silky bewitching richness, and all of this just emanates forth from a feeling of titanic stability, radiating out from the upper bass and lower mids. This speaker has an unflappable feeling of calm, a solidity or grounding, and a supreme sense of confidence that is a pure intravenous injection of pleasure almost no matter what the musical choice. They recreate your artists in their own measured stride, simplifying, solidifying, iron cladding every instrument and every rhythm, always without strain and always with the sort of assured command of time that makes all your music seem so much easier to listen to. The sense of integration and interlinking of performers and instruments with one another is truly outstanding. The feeling of mother earth stability, coherency and heft never abandons you. And part of that of course, is due to the Rockport’s famed bass performance. The Atria has the kind of transparency and detail in the bass that we sometimes only ever witness in flagship models with enormous cabinets and a whole array of generously sized woofers. The bottom end sounds deep, opulent and dimensional; you can peer seemingly through, in between and around every single bass note, revelling in its pitch, it’s physical form and accompanying texture and harmonic. It is without question, a standout area of performance for the Atria.
If you are sceptical of brighter speakers where resolving power is worn ostentatiously like a badge of honour and the tonal balance is midrange centric then the Atria are an utter tonic. The complete inverse of those aspirations actually. My test systems are always very high on refinement and low on noise but even in a mediocre system and with poor recordings the Atrias are never going to sound bright or coarse and never lean either, almost no matter what the room acoustics. To return to my original statement, they just sound very very expensive. In fact if the phrase “high end” conjures up a type of sound to the uninitiated then THIS would be it. They sound exactly how you would imagine the best speakers in the world to sound – rich, refined, sophisticated, muscular and so completely effortless.
Let’s talk about noise. Rockport talk a lot about residual noise in a loudspeaker and the absence of it in their own designs and rightly so because as we know, engineering out distortion is really the whole point of any good high end system. These Atrias though, you can instantly appraise their total lack of noise as you are sitting there. When you hear instruments played through them, it actually sounds very much like the system has already had the noise floor lowered with Entreq grounding equipment. Pat Metheny’s soft cascading guitar progressions, Matthew Halsall’s floating painterly trumpet, Matt Monro’s immaculate velvet voice, all these instruments sound like ripened fruit, peeled back pure and fresh, carefully removed from all the skin and pith, manicured and fully formed in 3d above and outward from a sea of absolute nothingness. With the Atrias realism and tangibility is a whole step on from what you are normally accustomed to. It’s truly magical, so much inner detail and expression actually precipitated in solid form into the room.
By now you can tell that I like these speakers, a lot. Everything they do thus far is deeply impressive. But perhaps for many, the trump card is actually yet to be revealed here. Remember that the Rockports are fundamentally American loudspeakers, and in America they have and like big things. This much is well known. And this of course would include big houses and big rooms too in which an impotent half-hearted speaker would simply not do. And those Americans, they also have a strong penchant for a particular type of music which you may have come across at some point or other ….. known as ‘Rock’.
It’s certainly true that the Atria will completely bewitch you on all the more restful, emotive and reflective music, and I probably wouldn’t sell then to you if they didn’t because much of my own music is of this variety. With their dextrous and diaphanous portrayal of inner detail and note micro-expression, they are as convincing and suitable here as any other of the best speakers I have ever heard and if this was all you ever played then you might quite rightly surmise that they actually have a slightly romantic and warm leaning in their overall rendering and were built for jazz, vocals and acoustic material. But that would be so wrong and would be to completely miss half the story and so completely underestimate the design team over in Maine. If you also enjoy driving rhythms, crescendos, energetic intensity, precision, congestion, slam and sheer kinetic energy, the kind that hits you square in the face, then the Rockports truly hold all the aces. This is a power house rock and pop or electronica speaker as much as it is a beauty speaker and the kick and authority they deliver to the room also greatly serves classical music too. If all you ever listened to was large orchestral symphonies then they would make a superlative choice too. Explosive, heavyweight, invincible – the people from Rockport understand that reduced to simplest terms, music equals energy.
Does the Atria have any weak areas ? Honestly speaking, these floor standers are nothing short of exemplary in all areas with no weaknesses of which to speak. They will not go as deep as some of the bigger speakers of course but then you have the Avior and beyond for that, as we touched on before the actual quality of the bass in this entry model is not reduced or tailored in any way to its lower price point. As for their slightly darker, richer and more solid sound, some people may prefer a slightly different balance of properties (when they hear it) but then that is why we have 2 or 3 of the very best other alternatives at this price level.
Customers who like a slightly bigger and more open sounding stage with more treble energy and a little more bite and air at the top end may well choose the Vimberg Mino Diamond. The speaker from Koln also has an almost valve-like lustre to its midrange as well which many people adore. But then the Vimberg, for all its delectable sense of calm, it’s generous weight and fullness, cannot quite match the Thor-like stability and density of the Atria nor its final level of musical integration and blackness, nor it’s abilty in the bass. The Avalon PM2 again is another beast altogether to those two. It possesses that hallmark Avalon geographical architecture to the sound, the way in which music is very specifically sculpted holographically into the room and some will select it for this alone. It is also unquestionably a lighter and more detailed sounding voicing to either the Mino or the Rockport. And then of course you have the Tidal Piano, another price category up really at £41,000, but whilst less weighty than all the above, has a purity and clarity that can only ever come from the Tidal factory. They are completely unsurpassed in this respect, unless going up against a bigger Tidal.
So something for everyone then and the very last speaker demo I undertook around a week ago now, the customer personally chose and purchased Atria but also said that if they didn’t exist, he could happily live with the Mino or the Avalon. One thing is certain, if you are shopping in this price range then you will not be leaving empty handed. For now though, me personally, I am very much enjoying the Rockports as the daily “go to” in the demo room.
Soon we will look at the Atria’s big brother, the £46,000 Avior II. It’s a Rockport sweet spot and one of their most popular models. Everything we love about the Atria but supercharged, turbocharged and fed on a diet of steroids. So stay tuned and as ever, simply email or pick up the phone if there are any questions or you would like to experience Rockport speakers in person.