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Speakers' Future: The Writing Is On (And In) The Wall

10/09/2006 02:00:00 AM Eastern

In the speaker market, the writing is on the wall, in the wall and in the ceiling.

The custom installation channel is growing in influence and looking more like the audio specialty channel during its peak years, when thousands of independent retailers dominated the industry and turned to independent reps and distributors for product.

Acknowledging the channels' growth, more companies are expanding their selections of in-wall, on-wall and in-ceiling speakers. Those companies include Canton, Definitive, Meridian, Polk, PSB and Terra. Russound unveiled its first on-wall and Energy unveiled its first in-wall subwoofer and first outdoor rock speakers.

Other highlights include more in-ceiling speakers designed specifically for home theater, including models from Definitive Technology and Polk, whose new model is the industry's first THX-certified in-ceiling home theater speaker (TWICE, Sept. 25, p. 38); and on-wall LCRs from SpeakerCraft and Triad that combine left, center and right channels in one enclosure designed to complement flat-panel TVs.

Other companies with substantial architectural-speaker introductions include Klipsch and Sonance.

Here's a sampling of recently announced architectural-speaker introductions:

Artison: The on-wall Masterpiece LCR sits at the top of a three-speaker selection of LCRs that attach to the left and right of flat-panel TVs. All incorporate center-channel drivers to eliminate the need for a dedicated center channel speaker. At $2,500/pair, the Masterpiece features two front-firing tweeters, two 5.25-inch midrange/woofers, and one side-firing tweeter to expand the sound stage. It measures 27 inches by 6 inches by 3.5 inches and can be adjusted to match a screen's height.

Canton: In a significant expansion of its architectural line, the company is adding four in-wall and four in-ceiling speakers, all two-way models with woofers ranging from 5.25 to 8.25 inches. The newcomers include Canton's first in-wall LCR architectural speaker for home theaters and first single-speaker stereo model.

The in-walls range from $224 to $349 each. The in-ceilings range from $224 to $324 each.

Also new: the company's first active tower speaker, part of its flat-screen-friendly line, at $1,600 each. The CD 3200 is a 2.5-way, 200-watt speaker featuring four 4-inch mid/bass drivers, two above and two below a tweeter. The top two drivers reproduce bass and midrange, and the lower two reproduce only bass.

Energy: The brand unveiled its first in-wall subwoofer and first outdoor rock speaker. The sub featured dual 8-inch drivers and bracing system to control drywall resonances. It goes with a 500-watt subwoofer amp that drives up to two of the subs simultaneously and features a half-wall switch to compensate for lower wall volume.

Pricing was unavailable.

Klipsch: The company has revamped its Contractor series.

The four models in the Contractor series are priced like their predecessors but now feature a swing-out dog-leg mounting system, paintable white aluminum grilles for use in humid areas and acoustically transparent fabric scrim behind the grille to hide the drivers. All are two-way models. The 8-inch in-ceiling coaxial model is $125 each, and a 6.5-inch version is $110. A 6.5-inch single-speaker stereo model is $150 and a 6.5-inch in-wall is $126. Installation kits at $35 to $45/pair are extra.

MB Quart: The brand launched its first home products since its purchase last year by Maxxsonics from Rockford Fosgate. They comprise two architectural speaker series, two freestanding-speaker series, and two subwoofer series.

Meridian: Having entered the architectural speaker market with the DSP420 and M420 in-walls, the company is adding the 200 series of active in-ceiling two-way speakers and the 300 series of active two-way in-wall/on-walls. They are driven by Meridian's GP41 external crossover/amplifier, but they can also be connected to any brand of amplifier when used with optional passive crossovers.

The GP41 features 8x100-watt amplification and modular plug-in crossovers. A planned firmware upgrade for the company's G68 surround processor will integrate the speakers directly into the processor's set-up application.

The 200 series in-ceiling speaker is a round model, at $397, with pivoting tweeter and 8-inch woofer.

The 300 on-wall/in-wall series consists of three rectangular models, all with integrated enclosures and priced from $2,395 to $4,895 each. The 320, which can also be mounted in the ceiling, features a 6.5-inch woofer. The 330 adds a 6.5-inch bass radiator, and the 350 features dual bass drivers and dual passive radiators.

PSB: The company is expanding its custom speaker selection and extending its selection to lower price points, all in the CustomSound series.

The high-value models, priced from $249 to $479/pair, consist of four round coaxial models and two rectangular two-way in-wall models, all with 6.5-inch woofers. They are the CW28, CW26, CW80R, CW88R, CW60R and the CW50R.

A second group of five new models, ranging from $500 to $800/pair, is also being added to the series and includes an in-wall three-way with rotating midrange/tweeter assembly for horizontal or vertical placement, a surround with switchable bipole or dipole operation, two coaxial models and a two-way with pivotiwng tweeter. All feature 6-inch woofers. They are the CW363, CW262, CW260, CW160R and CW160S.

The speakers join other models priced from $1,500 to $4,500/pair with 8-inch woofers.

Russound: The company's first on-wall speaker, intended for masonry walls that can't accept in-walls, is the Complement C7LCR, whose slender extruded-aluminum cabinet can be mounted horizontally or vertically by flat-panel TVs. It uses a Super Bessel Array of six 3.5-inch mid/low drivers and a 1-inch tweeter to deliver a much wider sweet spot than most other on-wall speakers, the company said. It's due in the first quarter at an unannounced price.

Sonance: Besides launching its near-invisible series (TWICE, Sept. 11, p.29), the company is adding a fourth model to its ThinLine series, intended for walls or ceilings with only 3.03 inches of available mounting depth. The latest model is a single-speaker stereo model at $325. The other three models, priced from $300 to $450/pair, include two with pivoting tweeters. All four are two-way models with 6.5-inch woofers.

Terra: The company is complementing its 5.25-inch in-ceiling speakers with a 6.5-inch model and an 8-inch model, both for in-ceiling use. The two-way models with aimable 1-inch tweeters are weather-resistant and suitable for outdoor or pool house use. The company is also showing its recently released outdoor subwoofer.

Triad: The OnWall Mini LCR combines three front speakers in one cabinet at $1,250-$1,350 depending on color. The 6 by 42 by 5.63-inch enclosure, sized for a 42-inch display, houses two 4-inch midrange drivers and one tweeter per each of the three channels. It's available now.

Velodyne: A new subwoofer series called SubContractor consists of four freestanding in-room/in-cabinet models, an in-wall model, and an in-ceiling/in-floor model. Each can be driven by a 1,250-watt RMS (3,000 peak) subwoofer amp with DSP control and seven-band automatic room EQ. One amp can drive two subs.

The amp is $999, as is the in-wall sub. The in-ceiling/in-floor model is $799. The freestanding four are priced from $399 to $999.

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