On-Wall Speaker Reviews

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Mark Fleischmann  |  Jun 28, 2010  |  0 comments
Price: $2,396 At A Glance: Left and right speakers include concealed phantom center • Flat-panel form factor is ideal for wall mounting • Fabric wrap comes in black, gray, or cream

Hide the Center

What’s wrong with this word picture? A sexy flat-panel TV hangs on the wall. On either side of it are some almost equally sexy on-wall speakers, and the screen has a center speaker below it. Let’s assume that surround speakers and a subwoofer are elsewhere in the room. Surely this is a recipe for great audiovisual entertainment.

Mark Fleischmann  |  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.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  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.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  Oct 28, 2011  |  0 comments
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.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  Oct 24, 2006  |  First 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.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  Aug 23, 2010  |  1 comments
Price: $3,912 At A Glance: Less than 2 inches thick, including the wall mount • Catenary-geometry-derived aluminum-dome woofers • Aluminum enclosure

How Perfect Can Perfect Get?

It’s always a big deal when Definitive Technology introduces a new speaker. Why? Well, as I’ve written in the past, the company has hit as many home runs as Mark McGwire—without the engineers taking any banned steroids, testosterone supplements, male-enhancement products, or vitamins. (That last part about the vitamins probably isn’t true. I’ll leave it to your imagination about the rest.) In the same way fans watched with anticipation and cameras flashed every time McGwire came up to bat, those of us who are lucky enough to do this sort of thing for a living eagerly await the chance to get our remote-control-stained hands on any new Definitive Technology speakers. Unlike with McGwire, it would be big news for the Definitive Technology team to strike out. None of us sitting in the press box really expect that to happen, though. We’re most interested in finding out how good the new speakers are going to be.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  Oct 11, 2011  |  3 comments
Build Quality
Price: $1,975 At A Glance: Only 1.75 inches deep • Woofer frame is part of the steel speaker cabinet itself • Planar magnetic tweeter

As I sit in my theater room writing this, there’s an interesting juxtaposition in front of me. On the wall are three FineLine LCR-21 speakers neatly mounted around my Samsung plasma HDTV. Now that I’m finished with my listening tests of the FineLines, I’ve hauled my next set of review speakers (a MartinLogan ElectroMotion system) into the room in order to finish burning them in. The main MartinLogan EM-ESLs are floorstanding speakers that need to be positioned out from the wall to sound best. So there it is: small, svelte, unobtrusive panels on the wall versus slender, 52-inch-tall towers (plus associated speaker wires and power cables on the floor) that are unmistakably part of an audio system.

Geoffrey Morrison  |  Oct 24, 2006  |  First Published: Oct 25, 2006  |  0 comments

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.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  Sep 16, 2011  |  0 comments

Build Quality
Price: $2,000 At A Glance: Super-slim on-wall mounting • Twin-layered flat-diaphragm bass drivers • Tangerine waveguide to control high-frequency dispersion

According to a recent (and somewhat controversial) translation of a Dead Sea Scroll fragment, “Thou shalt not alloweth the tail to waggeth thy dog” was the eleventh commandment. Evidently, Moses ran out of room on the tablets and was understandably a little reluctant to ask the Big Guy to “hold that thought” while he scrounged around for another flat rock to chisel on. I think Moses was banking on the fact that he could always make a note in the margins later, but then there was that unfortunate idol-worshiping and throwing-of-the-tablets incident at the bottom of Mt. Sinai. When all was said and done, Moses completely forgot about adding that final admonition.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Dec 16, 2011  |  1 comments
Build Quality
Price: $2,745 At A Glance: Horn-loaded tweeters • Shallow-depth enclosures • Clear, focused sound

Traditional home theater is the union of big-screen television and surround sound. I never tire of reiterating that statement—but I must admit, this is the first time I’ve qualified it with the term traditional. For many if not all consumers today, home theater is the union of flat-screen television and slimmed-down surround sound, with loudspeakers losing cabinet depth to complement the more compact form factor of LCD and plasma HDTVs. Don’t get me wrong: I love my flat-panel HDTV, and the mere thought of going back to an unsightly direct-view or awkward rearprojection set makes me shudder. But the flattening trend that makes 21st-century HDTVs so much more appealing isn’t a recipe for great sound.

Gary Altunian  |  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.

Shane Buettner  |  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.
Brent Butterworth  |  Nov 20, 2012  |  0 comments

The dirty little secret about on-wall speakers is that many aren’t tuned for on-wall use. Most come with a foot that allows them to be used atop a table or stand.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  Dec 04, 2006  |  First 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  |  Aug 09, 2013  |  0 comments
Build Quality
Price: $4,747 as reviewed ($2,499/pair) At A Glance: Transmits digital audio and power over 18-gauge wire • 24-volt DC low-voltage wiring • Can be used vertically or horizontally

I worked at an A/V shop back in the Middle Ages when customers actually drove to a local store and spoke with a salesperson face to face about the gear they were interested in. Every now and then during that golden era, a speaker manufacturer would come along with the “revolutionary” idea of building an amplifier(s) into a speaker. With all the benefits that came with such a design, it seemed like such a no-brainer.