ON-WALL SPEAKER REVIEWS

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Gary Altunian Posted: Dec 14, 2009 0 comments
Price: $5,281 At A Glance: Great visual complement for ultra-thin flat-panel TVs • Sealed enclosures for controlled performance • Smooth bass from vibration-canceling in-wall subwoofer

Thin Is the New In

If you’ve shopped for a flat-screen television lately, you know that thin is in. Flat screens that used to be 3 to 5 inches thick can hardly be called flat compared with the new models that barely exceed 1 inch in depth. And new display designs promise even thinner models in the future.

Gary Altunian Posted: Apr 27, 2009 0 comments
Price: $10,197 At A Glance: Great in-wall speaker for flat-panel displays • Excellent sonic coherence • In-wall speakers with an in-room sound quality

Transcend Music Reproduction

If you’re a home theater enthusiast or audio purist who follows the high-end speaker market, you’re probably familiar with Pioneer’s line of TAD loudspeakers and their reputation for exquisite sound reproduction. It all started with the TAD Model-1, which drew rave reviews with its concentrically aligned beryllium midrange and tweeter. Priced at $45,000 per pair, they were obtainable for only the wealthiest audiophiles.

Gary Altunian Posted: Jun 23, 2008 0 comments
High-resolution speakers for high-definition video.

When it comes to high-end loudspeakers, MartinLogan stands out as a clear favorite of music enthusiasts. Avid fans of MartinLogan’s electrostatic speakers listen with rapt attention to their superior clarity, transparency, and detail. I admit, I appreciate the same natural sound qualities.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: May 04, 2008 0 comments
The fine art of disguise.

No one likes to look at speakers. (You and I don’t count.) Thus the quest by many manufacturers to find the Holy Grail of speakers: the totally invisible wall-o’-sound. Unfortunately, the invisible stuff I’ve seen so far has been pretty uninspiring and by no means anything you could call close to high performance. At present, short of an acoustic miracle, we’re stuck with speakers that are going to be seen, be they in-wall, on-wall, floorstanding, or whatever.

Gary Altunian Posted: Nov 15, 2007 0 comments
Sophisticated sound, elegant solution.

To fully appreciate and enjoy a flat-panel television, you must team it with a speaker system of matching elegance and quality. Floorstanding speakers seem like old technology. In-wall speakers are an option to consider, but they involve more work to install and have fewer placement options. A better solution in many cases is on-wall speakers, such as the new Tribe III speakers from Totem Acoustic. They're easy to install and are designed to match the finish of many flat-panel displays. Indeed, the Tribe IIIs' black or gray finish gives them the appearance that they came with the television.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 15, 2007 0 comments
Flat meets flat.

The big trend is smallness. Flat is the new phat. Manufacturers who want space in your home compete most effectively by taking up less of it. And, in case you hadn't heard, less is more.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 15, 2007 0 comments
A new line from a champion.

The loudspeaker sat in his doctor's examining room. His weight was up, and the results of the cholesterol test were not good.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Dec 04, 2006 Published: Nov 04, 2006 0 comments
Getting Morel of a good thing.

Released from the boxes of thousands upon thousands of plasma and LCD TVs was a nasty disease that's induced feverish thoughts of flatness and smallness in the minds of otherwise good and decent people, making them forget how important audio is to a home theater system. (That rumbling sound is Paul Klipsch rolling over in his grave.) For these poor, deluded folks, speakers are not much more than a flat-panel-TV accessory.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Oct 24, 2006 Published: Oct 25, 2006 0 comments
Hang a blue ribbon on the wall for these planar-driver speakers.

To stand out from the crowd, a speaker (or any product) needs to have a gimmick. "Gimmick" is too harsh of a word, really. "Unique element of differentiation" is too clinical but more on the mark. Maybe I should say, "thingamajig." On-wall speakers used to stand out from the crowd by their ability not to stand out. They were slim, contemporary in style, and loosely matched the flatness of plasma TVs, plus, until recently, only a handful were on the market. In some cases, these speakers were even voiced to sound their best when mounted on a wall. (Imagine that.) But on-wall speakers are no longer unusual. They're everywhere, including in some HTIB systems. Differentiation is definitely different now—it's a heck of a lot harder to do.

Geoffrey Morrison Posted: Oct 24, 2006 Published: Oct 25, 2006 0 comments
Monocromaticness.

It's a fact of life that not all people can fit speakers into their living rooms. This could be for size reasons or, shall we say, more personal reasons. This fact has not gone unnoticed in the speaker world, which has been struggling for years with a declining market for big traditional speakers. In-walls have been a choice, but even the best in-walls have to make compromises that often end up being audible. On-walls are a newer choice that manufacturers hope will take out some of the concessions inherent in in-wall mountings. More recently, several companies have begun offering "sound bars" that give you multiple channels of sound from one long speaker that you can mount under your plasma or LCD. Leon is one such company that custom builds all of their speakers. Before they can build you one, though, you have to choose a plasma.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 14, 2006 0 comments
Speak of the devil.

In the Faustian struggle for the soul of the audio industry, Mephistopheles mans the sales floor, giving the public what it wants, namely on-wall speakers. The beckoning demon's proposition is irresistible. If you're hanging a flat-panel display, why not hang speakers there, too? All other things being equal, on-walls are at a sonic disadvantage when it comes to soundstage depth. But, as any competent demon knows, all things are rarely equal. So, let's restate the proposition: If on-walls are what you want, why not buy the best-sounding ones you can find? If they sound good in the space and look good on the wall, you might find yourself handing the demon your credit card.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Sep 14, 2006 0 comments
The sweet sounds of success.

Neil Young was on NPR chatting about his new movie, Heart of Gold, when he uttered a line that stuck with me: "The art of singing is making a sound that comes from your heart." Thanks Neil, I'm co-opting the idea to describe what distinguishes great home theater systems—their sound touches your heart. Yeah, that's it. While components are getting better all the time, many lack that special something. There's nothing obviously out of whack, it's just that their sound doesn't connect on an emotional level. Sometimes the individual components are all top notch, but, if they're not well matched to each other, the sound suffers. When everything clicks, you know it. That was certainly the case when I hooked up Marantz's SR8500 A/V receiver with a set of PSB's VisionSound VS300 speakers and SubSeries 5i subwoofer. They're all charmers.

Shane Buettner Posted: Sep 13, 2006 0 comments
  • $2,395-$4,895/ea. Depending on configuration
  • 320: Two-way with one 6.5" bass driver and one ribbon tweeter
  • 330: Two-way with one 6.5" bass driver, one 8" passive radiator, and one ribbon tweeter
  • 350: Two-way with two 6.5" bass drivers, two 8" passive radiators, and one ribbon tweeter
Meridian's 300 Series in-wall/on-wall speakers use 6.5" bass drivers and ribbon tweeters and rigid, non-resonant cabinets and a white paintable grille and frame with rough-in boxes. And they come in a few different flavors. The 320 includes just a single bass driver and ribbon, while the 330 adds an 8" passive radiator and the 350 has two bass drivers and two passive radiators to complement the ribbon. Like the 200 Series these speakers are configurable as conventional passive designs set up for bi-wiring/bi-amping, or as "remote active" units that operate with Meridian's proprietary powered crossover/amplifiers.
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Mar 17, 2006 0 comments
Flattery will get you everywhere.

Just when I thought speaker designers could focus 100 percent of their talents on creating the best-sounding speakers, flat-screen TVs came along and created a burgeoning market for ultrasvelte plasma-friendly speakers. Anything other than the most demure designs now elicit comments like, "They're too big," "I think they're ugly," or the perennial, "Not in my living room!" from reticent shoppers. This just goes to show that, for some customers, style and size are the dominant factors when picking out a set of speakers. Maybe I'm overstating the case, but it's starting to look like colossal towers and even fairly small monitor speakers' days are numbered. Skinny on-walls are what's happening now.

Chris Lewis Posted: Oct 15, 2004 Published: Oct 01, 2004 0 comments
Custom sound for those who care about sound.

To the casual observer, the home theater world probably looks relatively homogenous. After all, home theater isn't big enough, established enough, or varied enough to break itself into endless sub-categories yet, is it? The truth is, categorization has been a part of home theater from the beginning, and the gap between its two main sub-categories—let's call them conventional products and custom-install products—is wide. When it comes to speakers, the gap is only getting wider.

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