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.
Even a quick glance at the home theater section of your local consumer electronics retailer reveals an overabundance of A/V receivers. They're a staple component in home theater. After you sift through all the ubiquitous brands, you'll come across Sunfire. The company is the creation of the venerable Bob Carver, also founder of Phase Linear and Carver Corporation. In a previous audio life, I sold many Phase Linear 400 and 700 power amplifiers, which were among the most popular and affordable high-powered stereo amps during the 1970s. Bob Carver has consistently reinvented himself and refined his product offerings, and one of his latest creations is the Sunfire Theater Grand TGR-3 A/V receiver from the company's XT Series. It's a component that borrows many features from Sunfire's high-end processors and amplifiers. And its straightforward operation, proprietary features, and impressive sound quality might earn it a place among the best high-end receivers. The TGR-3 is a great example of meticulous American design, albeit of Chinese construction.
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.
Wholehouse music distribution systems are rapidly gaining in popularity. Homes are increasing in size and number of rooms, and, for many homeowners, a wholehouse music system adds to the value and enjoyment of their homes. There is also no shortage of options for music distribution systems. A simple solution is a multiroom, single-source system: Each room has its own pair of stereo speakers that are connected to a receiver, and a multiple-speaker selector is installed in a central location. This is a good option if you want to listen to the same music in every room, but it is likely that each member of the household would prefer his or her choice of music. More elaborate systems provide multisource, multiroom capability, allowing different users to listen to their individual choices of entertainment in different rooms. Sonance's DAB1 Distributed Audio System may be the best choice if you're looking for ease of use and flexibility in a multiroom, multisource audio distribution system.
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.
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.
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.