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CEA Speaker Guide Helps Installers

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)-developed speaker-installation guide complements multiroom-audio system-design standards released last year to give installers all the information they need to design and install multi-room-audio and custom home theaters, with the exception of installation techniques proprietary to a specific manufacturer’s products.

That is according to Walt Zerbe, chairman of the CEA group that developed both documents.

Among other things, last year’s ANSI-approved CEA-2030 standards defined common system architectures, including systems that distribute speaker-level audio from a central amplifier and systems that distribute preamp-level signal to local amplifiers in each room. The standards also cover minimum cable requirements, including gauge and type of conductor; recommended locations of key electronics components; and the types of audio controls installed in a wall.

Those standards were developed to help installers go to builders to increase their understanding of multiroom audio, raise their comfort level and increase sales of multiroom audio systems, the CEA said. During that document’s development, however, “lots of good installation tips and practices came up that were worthy of inclusion in an additional document,” said Zerbe, chairman of the multiroom-standards subcommittee of CEA’s audio systems committee.

The resulting document, CEA-CEB17, is titled “A Floor-to-Ceiling Guide for Residential Speaker Systems: Planning, Selection and Installation for Optimum Performance.” It’s available for sale before member discount.

CEB17 guides installers through the selection, placement and installation of all types of speakers, including in-wall and in-ceiling models, surface-mount models, outdoor speakers, single-speaker stereo models and freestanding box speakers that might be custom-mounted in home theater cabinets.

Installers can also use the document to guide the correct placement of freestanding home theater speakers, Zerbe said. The document’s focus, however, is mainly on multiroom-audio systems.

The document, for example, outlines when in-ceiling speakers are appropriate for a given application instead of in-wall speakers, and it explains how to choose a specific spot in the wall or ceiling to install the speaker. In-ceiling speakers, the document points out, “generally are not used for critical listening applications but do afford the ultimate flexibility in mounting and placement options.” Some can be used for surround-sound applications, and some models with pivoting drivers that help direct the sound to the desired location “are very effective for in-ceiling home theater installations and applications of multiroom audio that side towards the more critical listening.”

In-ceiling single speakers “are a great choice when used individually to cover small rooms or, when used in multiples, to cover large, narrow areas (such as hallways), where the stereo soundstage created by using separate left and right speakers would not,” the document states.

The document also guides installers in selecting the gauge of speaker-level cable needed to distribute speaker-level signal for varying distances, and it specifies the amplifier wattage needed to drive a pair of custom speakers to create specific sound-pressure levels at specific distances from the speakers, taking into account different speaker’s sensitivity ratings.

It also recommends specific speaker sizes for varying size rooms, such as 8-inch speakers for large rooms, absorptive rooms, spaces that serve more than one room in an open floor plan, and rooms where background noise is likely to be high. Five-inch speakers could be used in small, quiet rooms with hard surfaces or where the listeners will be very close to the speakers, including bathrooms, saunas and dressing rooms.

To reduce unwanted sound transmission from the back of a speaker into an adjacent room, the documents specifies such techniques as using double Sheetrock or staggered studs with heavy insulation in between. Also, Sheetrock could be set off the studs using soundboard, resilient channel or other similar isolation hardware.

To minimize the deleterious acoustical effects of in-cabinet placement, the document offers up such tips as using speakers with only front-firing drivers or ports, and keeping the speakers as far forward as possible in the cabinet to avoid the creation of early reflections in the cabinet itself.