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Expo Speakers: Form Follows Function

9/01/2003 02:00:00 AM Eastern

The adage "form follows function" has been embraced by the speaker-design community here at the CEDIA Expo, where multiple suppliers plan to launch their first speakers designed for placement next to flat-panel plasma and LCD displays.

Function is also paramount in the design of new speakers intended for placement in a cabinet or in the wall.

At the Expo, companies launching plasma- and LCD-friendly speakers will include Audio Products' Athena Technologies, B&W, Definitive Technology, Jamo, Paradigm and Sonance.

Also at the show, installers will find more in-wall subwoofers, with PSB and Snell introducing their first models and NHT re-entering the market.

For their part, Snell and PSB plan to show speakers whose voicing or crossover controls compensate for the deleterious sonic effects of placement in A/V cabinets. They will be PSB's first such speakers.

Here's what installers will find:

Athena: The first of several plasma-screen solutions is the Micra 6, consisting of five compact silver satellites and a compact 225-watt sub. It ships at the end of September at a suggested $549.

B&W: The company will launch its first three flat-panel speakers for pairing with flat-panel TVs.

Each of the three models in the Flat Panel Series are sized to match a particular screen size: 42-, 50- and 60-inch. Each can be mounted horizontally or vertically, thanks to drivers flanking a center tweeter. Each also uses a 2.5-way design in which one low-frequency driver covers only bass octaves while the second operates from bass to midrange regions for bass impact, improved midrange, and transient response. They ship in October with tabletop mount and optional hardware at $700, $750 and $900 each.

Also new: the 700 series, which incorporates multiple design elements of the top-end Nautilus series. It consists of two floorstanding pairs, a stand-mount pair, center channel, dipole/monopole surround and two powered subs. They're priced, respectively, at $3,000/pair, $2,200/pair, $1,500/pair, $750 each for the center and the surround, and $1,300 and $1,600 for the subs. The satellites deliver frequency response out to 50kHz.

Infinity: Three Total Solutions 5.1-channel home theater speaker packages are due in the fall at a suggested $449, $749 and $1,099 with contoured styling and two-way satellites. Two use extruded-aluminum enclosures and one features molded high-impact cabinet.

Jamo: The company's first two plasma-friendly speaker series are the A3 and D4. The A3 consists of three slim-speaker surround packages priced from a suggested $499 to $1,199. All are designed for wall- or stand-mounting and range in depth from 2.4 inches to 5 inches, including wall bracket.

The D4 series includes a 3.9-inch-deep D400 bookshelf/wall-mountable speaker at $798/pair, a matching wall-mountable center channel and non-wall-mount speakers.

JBL: The company is upgrading its Northridge series with the Northridge E series, which boasts improved sonic performance and more elegant appearance. A dozen models include eight LR speakers ranging in price from $179 to $998/pair. The LR speakers include the E10, which can be hung on a wall or placed in a bookshelf.

The Studio Series Mark II S36IIPM is a slim-profile, wall-mountable three-way speaker that can be mounted horizontally or vertically. It's not JBL's first wall-mountable speaker, but it's the first one with a silver finish to match plasma monitors.

NHT: The company will return to the in-wall sub market with a 12-inch model that doesn't protrude from the wall, thanks to a flat 12-inch subwoofer and a rigid 3.5-inch deep enclosure. It delivers bass down to 27Hz, said to be previously unattainable in an in-wall sub. The aluminum cone of the iWS acts as a heat sink. It ships in September at $1,150, including 250-watt amp and crossover/preamp.

Phase Technology: The new Velocity series uses Absolute Phase crossovers, said to give listeners the same soundstage no matter where they're sitting, even with speakers at different heights. Soundtracks and music will "maintain total clarity, imaging, accuracy and even tonal balance," the company said. They come in two finishes with paintable black-metal grilles.

The LR speakers in the series top out at $1,000/pair for a three-way floor standing model. Velocity speakers are also available in five home theater packages priced from $1,050 to $2,300.

The company's first two powered in-wall subs each come with a 200-watt outboard amp. The SUB 200 with dual 8-inch drivers also comes with its own in-wall enclosure. The SUB 100 has a 7-inch driver.

Paradigm: On-wall versions of the Monitor series are the company's first on-wall speakers intended for use with plasma TVs or in spots where in-wall mounting isn't feasible. Two bookshelf models are priced at $379 and $569/pair, and a center channel costs $369.

PSB: The company is taking its T8 Platinum tower speaker and reengineering it for in-wall mounting. Another reengineered T8 is intended for placement in a cabinet, thanks to crossovers to compensate for boundary issues and placement behind perforated screens.

RBH: Multiple new products include the company's most powerful subwoofer, the $2,299-suggested-retail 1212-SE. It features dual 12-inch aluminum drivers, 400-watt A/B amp, and a venting technology said to provide deeper bass than similarly sized sealed enclosures while shifting the vent tuning frequency down lower than a small vented enclosure could. It ships in the first quarter.

Snell: The company's first two in-wall subs and a speaker voiced for in-cabinet placement will be displayed.

The passive AMC Sub10 uses 10-inch enclosed driver for use in new construction, and the Sub88 features two 8-inch open-backed drivers for retrofitting. Both fit into standard 2-by-4 walls. Their suggested retails are $800 each.

The standalone ICS 400 LCR speaker at $550 each is voiced to compensate for cabinet boundaries and off-axis placement. It can be placed horizontally or vertically. Other Snell speakers intended for in-cabinet placement use boundary-compensation switches and are more expensive, including the new $3,000-each XA2500 LCR.

The XA2500 sits in the middle of Snell's high-end in-cabinet speakers incorporating eXpanding Array design, which delivers broad even vertical dispersion and constant directivity to tame floor and ceiling reflections and to deliver flat response regardless of seating position. The speaker features multi-position boundary-compensation switch for in-cabinet or under-screen placement and an upper treble switch to compensate for treble loss when the speaker is behind a perforated screen.

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