On-Wall Speaker Reviews

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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.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  Jul 19, 2013  |  1 comments

W3 On-Wall Soundbar System
Build Quality

Subseries 200 Subwoofer
Build Quality
Price: $3,046 At A Glance: Adjustable-angle feet for tabletop or shelf mounting • Passive radiators augment bass output • W1s can be used vertically or horizontally

What do you say about a product when there’s nothing special to talk about? Let’s take, for instance, the hypothetical case of a passive LCR soundbar, a pair of matching on-wall speakers for the surrounds, and a powered subwoofer. Pretty staid and traditional stuff, that. After all, it’s a passive LCR, so there’s no extraordinary amplification technology involving cutting-edge DSP crossover and frequency manipulation in order to extract better sound out of embarrassingly small drivers than ever was possible (or desirable) before. There’s no wireless subwoofer connection to delve into, no HDMI connectivity, no onscreen display—hell, there’s not even a destined-to-disappear teeny-tiny remote control to complain about. Perhaps most disappointing from a reviewer’s perspective is the lack of any unique mess-with-your-mind faux-surround processing to wallow in the minutia of—no hyper-temporal, quasi-spatial, time-dilating series of intermodal cross-connections that takes a beautifully designed discrete multichannel soundtrack, scrambles all the elements together as if they were eggs destined for the warmed-over breakfast buffet line at Country Kitchen, but then presents it in a way that makes the end result appear (in your head) to be a delectable plate of fried eggs, sunny side up and steaming hot next to a couple of strips of crispy bacon fresh from the frying pan.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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  |  Dec 22, 2009  |  0 comments
Price: $5,250 At A Glance: Ingenious wall mount • Extruded aluminum enclosures maximize cabinet volume and extend bass • Sub has convenient top-mount volume control

Heavy Metal Is Good

In 1976, the United States of America celebrated its bicentennial, and Peter Snell founded the loudspeaker company that bears his name.

Gary Altunian  |  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  |  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  |  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  |  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  |  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  |  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.