IN-WALL SPEAKER REVIEWS

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Gary Altunian Posted: Dec 31, 2006 0 comments
Logging on to wholehouse audio.

It seems that all new consumer electronics products are either digital, Web-based, or both. One of the last holdouts are loudspeakers, which still operate mainly in the analog domain with no Web-based functions. Polk Audio has broken from that mold with the LC265i-IP in-wall loudspeaker. The LC265i-IP is the first active in-wall speaker for home audio powered by digital amplifiers that you can control via an Internet Protocol (IP)–based system. The full package, including the speakers, resides on a local area network, similar to the way a PC resides on a larger network connected to the Internet. The IP control assigns a unique number, or address, to each component in the system. The speakers in my test sample were connected to a NetStreams DigiLinX audio distribution system, which distributes digital audio throughout a networked home. Although I used the DigiLinX system for the purpose of this review, Polk Audio designed the LC265i-IP speakers to be compatible with a variety of IP-capable audio distribution systems, which are certainly a growing trend in wholehouse audio and video systems.

Chris Lewis Posted: Jan 18, 2005 Published: Jan 19, 2005 0 comments
Polk's LSi Series in an out-of-sight, out -of-mind variety.

I've come to look at home theater's many worlds much like various animals of the same species—common bonds clearly exist, but, at the same time, differences abound. Home theater works the same way. You've got high end and entry level, hobbyist and mass market, retail and custom install, and so on. They're all similar but distinctly different—particularly custom-install components. Anyone familiar with custom A/V systems will tell you that, if you'll allow me a bad pun, they're a very different animal.

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.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jun 28, 2001 Published: Jun 29, 2001 0 comments
A tasty sampler of in-wall speakers that let you enjoy intoxicating performance without any of the headaches.

I love chocolate. No, I lust for chocolate. I'm incapable of walking down a candy aisle without lingering to look at the tight foil wrappings and the seductively enticing labels with their bold promises of the sinfully rich pleasure within. Sometimes, I stop, unable to control myself, and furtively fondle a bar of this darkly ambrosial substance that the Aztecs quite correctly considered the food of the gods. Certain no one is looking, I'll even bring a wrapped bar, more precious than its weight in gold, to my nostrils for a fleeting, stolen whiff of its wondrous scent. My mouth begins to water. My body shudders with excitement—an embarrassing moment of weakness in my struggle to remain pure.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Oct 01, 2003 0 comments
You can run wires, but you can't hide from the fact that today's in-walls sound better than ever.

If only Sheetrock dust were an aphrodisiac. After hacking and ripping my way through the installation of eight pairs of in-wall and in-ceiling speakers and one monumental pair of in-wall subwoofers, I'd be damn near the sexiest man alive. As it is, after the White Sands National Monument, my lungs are now the biggest repository of gypsum dust on the planet. Once again, I've risked life and limb to survey the state of the custom-install speaker industry and give you a feel for what your money can buy in terms of ease of installation, aesthetics, and—most importantly—sound quality.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Mar 21, 2011 0 comments
Price: $3,000 At A Glance: Extremely rigid back-box enclosure construction • 4-inch voice-coil flat woofer • Class D amp can power one or two woofers

Beaucoup Bass in a Box

Some days it’s just better not to defy the laws of physics or other important aspects of the universe. Gravity, the speed of light in a vacuum (but not in a Dyson), entropy, and Murphy’s Law are all there for good reasons. As my mother used to say (calmly petting the Schrödinger cat in her lap), “Pick another parallel universe out of the infinity of multiverses if you don’t like it here.”

Gary Altunian Posted: Sep 22, 2008 0 comments
Easy on the eyes and ears.

According to industry legend, Sonance got its start in the in-wall speaker business by installing a cabinet speaker in a wall and covering it with a custom grille. The customer was so pleased with the results that the founders of the company decided to design a true in-wall speaker, believing that others would want them too. As they say, the rest is history.

Gary Altunian Posted: Jun 16, 2005 0 comments
Fine art in my walls.

The speakers in my walls are probably more expensive than the paintings many art lovers have on theirs. That's because good sound is important to me. Fine art is wonderful, but I get as much pleasure from accurate loudspeakers as an art lover gets from an exceptional painting or object d'art. So it doesn't bother me that the SpeakerCraft Starlet 4 in-wall speakers cost close to $4,000 per pair. I'll gladly spend more to get the performance I want.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Mar 22, 2007 Published: Feb 22, 2007 0 comments
Moving speakers for moving pictures.

I've had the good fortune of being able to bring some extremely cool gear into my house: a 50-inch plasma HDTV (way back when 50 inches was big for a plasma), a $40,000 Kaleidescape multiroom movie server, and, last but not least, five gorgeous Legacy Audio Harmony in-wall speakers (each one weighing 54 pounds). So, when something arrives and causes more than one member of my family to say, "That's the coolest thing you have ever reviewed," I know there's something special about it.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Oct 11, 2013 0 comments
Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,150

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Totally invisible installation
Can be covered with paint, wallpaper, or select specialized wall treatments
Good value
250-watt amplifier with low-pass filter
Outstanding build quality
Minus
More involved installation due to drywall finishing
Soft bass compared with traditional subs

THE VERDICT
Not the first choice for sheer sonic impact, but if aesthetics absolutely demand that no subwoofer or grille be visible, the B30G will get the job done.

Stealth Acoustics’ B30G subwoofer system is unlike nearly any other you’ll ever hold in your hands—or install in your walls. While “invisible” speakers are not a new thing, they’re still uncommon or, for most people, totally unheard of. A speaker that’s an integral part of your wall, one that can be painted, covered with wallpaper, or even done up with special wall treatments is such a seductive idea that it’s a wonder it’s not wildly popular as an architectural speaker design.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Oct 11, 2013 0 comments
Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,700

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Stillbass anti-shake technology keeps vibration in the box and out of the wall
520-watt amplifier with DSP equalization
Outstanding build quality
Minus
Flangeless grille looks less than elegant
Output drops off fast below 30 Hz

THE VERDICT
A solid, albeit pricey, choice for an in-wall sub.

Sunfire is no stranger to the small-box, high-output subwoofer concept, dating all the way back to 1996 with company founder Bob Carver’s original True Subwoofer—an 11.5-inch cube with one active driver and one passive radiator powered by a (claimed) 2,700-watt internal amplifier.

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.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jun 07, 2010 0 comments
Price: $3,400 At A Glance: Totally invisible speakers • Extremely diffuse dispersion • Must be used with a subwoofer

Invisible or Invisibull?

It’s a terrible disease in which your brain gets eaten away from the inside out—yet you won’t see those little donation boxes at checkout counters begging for your loose change to find a cure. In fact, most people aren’t aware that it even exists, although they certainly see its debilitating effects every day. It’s called Chronic Euphemism Syndrome (CES), and it runs rampant throughout consumer electronics companies’ marketing departments. Salespeople suffer mightily from it, too. The entire profession is tainted with images of the truth being throttled to within inches of its life in the back room where the salesperson heads after he says, “Let me ask my manager.”

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Oct 11, 2013 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,400

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Installer setup over IP
Options for wide, narrow, and frameless grilles
Six-band parametric EQ
Minus
Installation may be tricky for the uninitiated

THE VERDICT
Extensive tuning capabilities make for true high-end performance at an affordable price.

When it comes to architectural speakers, there are few companies I can think of that do things in a more focused, more insightful, and—most important when it comes to custom installations—more useful way than Triad. The company stands out in another way, too, in that most of Triad’s speakers are built to order in the U.S. (Portland, Oregon, to be specific) and are usually less than two weeks old by the time they arrive at the dealer’s warehouse door.

Gary Altunian Posted: Oct 15, 2004 Published: Oct 01, 2004 0 comments
We evaluate eight similarly designed and priced in-walls.

I think I've purchased enough drywall to finish the interior of a three-bedroom house. My local home-improvement warehouse now stocks extra inventory just for my in-wall speaker reviews. You see, I hate to cut holes in my living-room walls, and I'm not very skilled at patching them. So, for this review, I made some portable walls in which to test eight different in-wall loudspeakers, also known as architectural speakers, priced between $435 and $600 per pair. In fact, I made several walls and simply swapped drywall to accommodate the various models. That's why my home-improvement store likes me so much.

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