IN-WALL SPEAKER REVIEWS

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Oct 28, 2011 0 comments
Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $6,003 At A Glance: Discrete center-channel drivers built into main speakers • Grilles custom-sized to match flat panel • Can also be mounted on the wall

One of the more interesting things I overheard during this year’s CEDIA Expo in Indianapolis was an offhanded comment that “the sound quality of TVs today is worse than it was with TVs 20 years ago.” Think about that for a minute. A new, George Jetson–style, 50-inch flat-panel HDTV hanging on the wall makes one of those old, 50-inch, three-CRT, rear-projection (analog) TVs look like something even Fred Flintstone would pass on. But put those two sets side by side, close your eyes, and give a good, long listen to a movie, a football game, or even the nightly news running on each one of them. Despite the 20 years of technological “improvements” between them, my highly educated (I am a professional, after all) guess is that most people will pick that hulking behemoth 50-inch console rear-projection TV as the one they’d rather have if sound quality were the only concern.

Gary Altunian Posted: Sep 23, 2007 0 comments
In-wall speakers without the in-wall sound.

In-wall loudspeakers, specifically those with open backs, can yield unpredictable results because their sound quality is highly dependent upon the wall cavity in which you install them. Typically, the wall cavity's volume doesn't load the woofer correctly. Plus, the wall can introduce rattles and vibrations, which obviously degrades sonic performance (and can be very annoying). Critics cite these problems as reasons to reject in-wall models for serious consideration as high-end speakers. Increasingly, manufacturers are seeking to overcome these performance issues by designing in-wall speakers that include enclosures—sort of like a bookshelf speaker in a wall. Atlantic Technology is one of them. Their new IWCB-626 speaker comes in a closed-back enclosure. An enclosure eliminates the wall cavity as a variable and ensures more consistent performance. It also makes installation easier and brings the sound of in-wall speakers closer to that of freestanding speakers. In-wall speakers are popular with homeowners because they are less visible and don't take up floor space—many homeowners want audio without speakers and wires cluttering the room. But homeowners also demand good audio performance, and a sealed-box in-wall speaker can potentially come closer to achieving both goals.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Nov 30, 2009 1 comments
Price: $6,995 At A Glance: THX Ultra2 certified • Fits in a standard 2-by-4 wall • Easy to install in existing construction • Separate amplifier with remote control

It’s What You Don’t See

A bottle of vodka can’t make a speaker sound any better than it actually does. But it can make me think I sound better (smarter, and of course funnier). It might even make suggestible friends agree if you pass the bottle around the room. However, it still can’t change a subwoofer’s performance. Vodka, after all, isn’t a room treatment product—although enough (empty) bottles spread throughout the room might be just the thing.

Gary Altunian Posted: Mar 29, 2011 0 comments
Price: $17,800 At A Glance: Excellent clarity and transparency • Great system value • Awesome bass

Pure Magic

As a contributing writer for Home Theater magazine, I’m often the go-to guy for reviewing large in-wall speaker systems that other writers can’t or won’t review, usually for lack of adequate space. I have enough space, and I enjoy listening to new speakers, especially high-end types. It’s a lot of work and it disrupts an otherwise orderly living room, but I’m not complaining.

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.

Gary Altunian Posted: Jul 05, 2006 0 comments
Extreme audio: a new standard in transparency, definition, and detail.

I've reviewed many excel- lent in-wall speakers, but none quite like the new Radia R-800 in-wall speaker from BG. With 24 drivers in each speaker, this giant stands almost 7 feet tall and is clearly designed for extreme listening—extremely satisfying listening, that is. Each speaker has two 8-inch woofers mounted at the top and bottom, six Neo10 planar-ribbon midrange panels, and 16 Neo3PDR planar-ribbon tweeters in a vertical-line array pattern. An outboard amplifier, the BGA-2500, which is included with a pair of Radia R-800s, powers the two woofers.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Feb 07, 2011 0 comments
Price: $6,190 At A Glance: Fully enclosed in-ceiling speakers • 45-degree angled baffle • Pivoting tweeter with catenary-shaped dome

Hitting the Class Ceiling

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with the ability to watch any movie they want (even Avatar in 2D), and that they should never, ever use in-ceiling speakers for a home theater. After all, you want Sigourney Weaver’s gravelly, “Where’s my god damn cigarette?” to sound like it’s coming from the screen, not the light fixtures above your head, right?

Bruce Fordyce Posted: Oct 28, 2000 Published: Oct 29, 2000 0 comments
Installing a multiroom in-ceiling speaker system. Let's face it, gang: Many of us spend our lives swinging through the work week like modern-day Jedi Knights, slicing through red tape and stupidity only to languish for 45 minutes inching through vicious gridlock to get home. The only thing keeping yours truly from eating the business end of a Browning pistol is knowing that, when I get home to my suburban stucco castle, I can slip into a nice sixer of Harp lager and listen to the soothing melodies of classic Dead Kennedys.
Shane Buettner Posted: Sep 13, 2006 0 comments
  • $397/ea.
  • Two-way with an 8" bass driver and pivoting tweeter, configurable as passive design powered by a conventional amplifier or as a "remote active" system driven by a proprietary Meridian crossover/amplifier
How about Meridian sound for your ceiling for about 400 bucks a pop? The new 200 Series in-ceiling speakers offer yet another option for high quality sound minus the room clutter. As we've come to expect from Meridian this system offer terrific flexibility being configurable as traditional passive speakers or as a "remote active" self-amplified speaker working in conjunction with Meridian controllers.
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.
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: Mar 27, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,547

AT A GLANCE
Plus
A 55-inch horizontal soundbar that can be installed without modifying the wall studs
Can learn volume and mute IR codes from your TV’s remote
Excellent simulated
surround and music
processing
Minus
Really needs a subwoofer
Only one HDMI input

THE VERDICT
The Niles CSF55A is more expensive than a similarly performing active soundbar, but it’s well worth it for the person who wants the gear to disappear without giving up any sound quality.

It’s either the craziest flippin’ idea ever, or it’s absolutely brilliant. I mean, in-wall speakers are one thing. Soundbars, though, especially active soundbars, are completely different creatures. But somebody at Niles—whether inspired by an offhanded joke, an improbable Frankenstein-like engineering experiment, or an alcohol-infused haze after a tedious sales meeting—decided that what the world needs is an active, in-wall soundbar system to complement wall-mounted flat-panel TVs.

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.

Shane Buettner Posted: Sep 13, 2006 0 comments
  • $2,900/pr.
  • Active, 200-Watt two-way, with one 6.5" polypropylene woofer, one 6.5" polypropylene mid/woofer, and one 1" ring radiator tweeter, built-in DSP room correction and IP (Internet Protocol) ready for networked systems
Polk is calling the LC-265i-IP the "world's first active IP addressable loudspeaker." OK, sure. What's that? These three-driver in-walls carry onboard amplification for each driver, and work in networked systems, which we assume is a way to move your iTunes library around the house. In addition to being fully powered, these advanced speakers also have DSP-based room correction built-in. Got your attention yet? Look us up in December for the verdict, just in time for Xmas!

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