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New Styles Mark Speaker Debuts At Expo

Some new styles are coming to the custom speaker market here at CEDIA Expo, where at least one major electronics company — Pioneer — is making a major push into custom speakers.

In the Definitive and Boston Acoustics (see story on p. 40) booths, wide bezels are going the way of 1970’s neckties with the introduction of new custom speakers, and in the Polk booth, an outdoor sub/sat system features satellites that look like outdoor in-ground lighting fixtures that blend in with the landscaping.

Installers will also find the first THX Ultra2-certified in-wall subwoofer, new in-ceiling speakers with drivers that can be aimed, and an outdoor speakers designed for 70-volt systems to simplify installs on large properties.

Here’s what various suppliers are showing:

Artison: The company is giving installers more speaker options for flat-panel TVs with the shipment of in-wall versions of three speakers originally designed to attach to flat-panel displays.

The new and existing models feature DualMono Center Channel design, which integrates center-channel drivers into the upper portion of the right and left speakers. The design makes it unnecessary for installers to cut into a structural stud to install a center-channel speaker in the wall, the company said.

The three two-way in-wall models are the Masterpiece, Portrait and Sketch, all with all-aluminum closed-box enclosure with bass-reflex design at a suggested $2,800/pair, a suggested $2,000/pair and $1,350/pair, respectively.

BG Radia: The industry’s first THX Ultra2-certified in-wall subwoofer is at the BG Radia booth. Several in-wall subs have been available with the THX Ultra spec, but the spec was replaced by the more rigorous Ultra2 spec several years ago, THX said.

The $6,995-suggested BGX-4850, shipping in October, uses proprietary THX Balanced Bass-line technology, which delivers the total radiating area of two 18-inch drivers while looking less obtrusive. It comes with an outboard controller/amplifier incorporating 2,000-watt output and digital signal processor.

Similar to a 2007 SKU that was never shipped, the BGX-4850 consists of four separate in-wall modules, each containing 12 “micro-precision” woofers. The modules are arranged in balanced pairs, and each module fits between standard 2×4-inch studs spaced a standard 16 inches on center. For each module, only a 26.5-inch by 7-inch grille that can be painted is visible.

Definitive Technology: The “Disappearing In-Wall” series consists of six round in-ceiling speakers, two square in-wall models and one rectangular bipolar surround model, all said to offer near-invisibility because of their small diameters, hidden flanges and low-profile micro-perf grilles. They’ll ship in the first quarter of 2009 at suggested retails expected to range from $179 to $379 each.

Polk: The company’s first outdoor sub/sat system is designed to blend in with landscaping and remain outdoors year-round. It consists of the two-way $150-each Atrium Sat 30 satellite, which looks like an in-ground lighting fixture, and a $150 down-firing 10-inch Atrium Sub 10 subwoofer in a round terra-cotta-look enclosure with flat top. The company called the sound hi-fi and less expensive than rock speakers that don’t sound as good.

The subwoofer looks like a plant stand or pedestal table and is strong enough to be used for those purposes, the company said. Its color is embedded in its epoxy seal enclosure, but it can be painted.

The satellite drivers are incorporated in a sealed, mineral-filled polypropylene cabinet. The drivers are a 0.75-inch dome tweeter and 3.5-inch long-throw midrange driver with stainless-steel grille.

Proficient: A 70-volt outdoor speaker for large properties is in store from Proficient.

The 70-volt speaker, the $435 each single-point stereo AW8070W, is designed for 70-volt distributed-audio systems, typically used in large commercial installations but allowing for simpler installs on large properties. Such systems enable a single 70-volt amplifier to drive multiple speakers through long runs of speaker cable, and they enable speakers to be daisy-chained so that each speaker doesn’t need a separate run of cable to an amplifier.

The 9- by 16- by 9-inch AW8010 features ABS housing, two pivoting 1.25-inch aluminum-dome tweeters, 8-inch polypropylene woofer and a transformer tap switch to individually adjust the level of each speaker. A transformer bypass switch enables connection to typical residential outdoor systems.

Russound: The company is launching the Acclaim 5 and Acclaim 7 series to replace three series: Contractor, the midtier Atmosphere, and the top-line Advantage series. Russound is keeping the Ratio series, which is designed for lower power systems and is often sold with A-BUS systems, which incorporate low-power amps in in-wall keypads.

The two new series of in-wall and in-ceiling speakers cover the same price range as their three predecessors but with slightly fewer SKUs. As in the Atmosphere and Advantage series, the in-ceiling SKUs incorporate patented “twist-and-tilt” baffles that enable installers to position the baffles at 8- or 16-degree angles or parallel with the ceiling. The majority [of tilting-baffle] solutions are ball-and-pivot designs that are continuously adjustable,” said product management director Andy Lewis. But those solutions, he said, are larger and heavier than solutions that allow for three fixed positions. In-ceiling speakers with continuously adjusting baffles and 6-inch bass drivers “are as big as regular speakers with 8-inch drivers,” Lewis said.

In addition, all but one of the companies with a three-position solution require single-phase installation, whereas Russound offers a two-phase installation process. In a two-phase process, installers install a frame in the ceiling during the rough-in phase, them install the baffle with driver at a later date “to help with cash flow and reduce losses on the job,” said Lewis.

The Acclaim 5 series ships in September, followed by the 5 series in October.

Paradigm: The company is adding an in-wall dipolar surround to each of two in-wall speaker series for the first time. Both speakers use the company’s proprietary Adapted DiPole (ADP) design, first used in Paradigm’s in-room speakers, to deliver the bass response of a bipolar surround speaker with the spacious, non-localized soundfield of a dipolar speaker, the company said.

Both speakers, whose pricing was unavailable, are seven-driver, three-way models with Ultra-Rigid die-cast chassis/mounting bracket, which completely eliminates resonance or sonic degradations created by the wall or ceiling, the company said. They’re designed for pre-construction and retrofit applications.

SpeakerCraft: The company is launching a revamped rock-speaker line, new in-ceiling speakers with aimable drivers and new in-room subs.

The AIM 10 in-ceiling series, consisting of three models, are the company’s first pivoting three-way models, each with a 10-inch woofer whose size exceeds that of its predecessors to deliver deeper bass. The speakers also feature a1-inch dome tweeter and 3-inch midrange that pivot in tandem but independently of the pivoting woofer.

In outdoor speakers, the company is replacing its rock speakers with four new Rox-series models said to look more rock-like and deliver improved performance. They come in versions with 5-, 6-, and 8-inch woofer and in subwoofer versions.

Wisdom Audio: The planar-magnetic speaker maker is launching the S90i in-wall/in-ceiling Sage Series subwoofer to complement the company’s in-wall planar magnetic systems. Pricing and availability weren’t available at press time.

The 90- by 14- by 5.5-inch S90i subwoofer occupies a full 2- by 6-inch stud bay and can be mounted in-ceiling, in-wall, under risers, in closets, or in floors. It’s meant to connect to the rack-mountable Sage SA-1 amplifier, which incorporates infrasonic filter characteristics that optimize S90i response. Each SA-1 can drive two S90i subs, with more than 500 watts available for each sub. The sub can also be used with the company’s SC-1 room-correction system.