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Custom, Flat Speakers Are Growth Catalysts

Dealers looking to tap into the growth segments of a flat speaker market found more choices in custom-installed speakers, and in flat speakers intended for use next to flat-panel video displays.

Dealers also found a host of traditional enclosed speakers, home-theater speaker packages and new powered subwoofers, some using DSP to compensate for the deleterious effects of their acoustical environment.

Here’s what select suppliers showed:

Acoustic Research: A dozen new products included three towers, five bookshelf speakers, two center channels, a home theater speaker package and the brand’s first home theater in a box (HTiB).

The ARHC55 5.1 speaker package retails for a suggested $399. The ARDVR5 HTiB includes receiver and five-disc DVD changer at a suggested $399. The towers are priced at $249 to $699 each. The bookshelf speakers range up to $349 per pair.

Advent:The brand’s first speaker package for use with flat-panel displays is the $599-suggested APL1, which features slim enclosures that can be wall- or pedestal-mounted.

The six-SKU Heritage series of bookshelf and tower speakers and a center channel feature slim profile, compact footprint and wood-grain finish. Towers are a suggested $199 each.

Also new is the brand’s first HTiB system, the $349-suggested AVR50 with five-disc DVD-Audio/Video changer, video up-conversion and 5×50-watt amplification.

Atlantic Technology: The company plans November shipments of its first two speakers intended for use with flat-panel video displays. They are the FS-3200LR, intended for left and right channels at a suggested $900 a pair, and the center-channel FS-3200C at $500 each. The two-way speakers are available with optional floor stands.

A rear-panel boundary-compensation switch adjusts response to offset the sound colorations created when speakers are mounted on a wall or placed on a shelf. A three-way high-frequency adjustment compensates for the coloration that can be caused by rooms with lots of reflective or absorptive surfaces.

Canton:The company’s first two speakers designed for use alongside flat-panel displays include one wall-mountable model, the $800-each CD 360F. It is 23.5 inches wide, 4 inches deep and designed for horizontal or vertical mounting. The $2,000/pair CD 300 floorstanding tower is 48 inches by 5 inches by 6 inches.

Both 2.5-way models feature extruded-aluminum enclosures and are available.

Infinity:The brand is expanding its TS (Total Solutions) series of home theater speaker packages with the first package for flat-panel displays, and it’s extending its architectural-speaker presence into slightly lower price points.

The new TS package, dubbed the TSS-4000, consists of a three-way satellite at a suggested $549 each, a three-way center channel at $549 each, and the $1,249 12-inch powered 400-watt subwoofer that compensates for room acoustics problems. The satellites and center channel can be flush-mounted with an optional kit. The satellites come with shelf stands, and the center channel has a base for set-top or shelf-top installation. Optional floor stand are available for the satellites. They ship in November.

In tapping new opening-price points for architectural speakers, Infinity showed the entry-level CS series of five SKUs retailing at $149 to $179 each, including a $179 dual-tweeter, single-woofer model for delivering stereo from a single speaker. The high-sensitivity models feature pivoting tweeter.

JBL:The brand is tapping separate market segments with two new home theater speaker packages at a suggested $49 and $349, respectively, and the $80,000 Synthesis-series Hercules Junior THX Ultra-certified home theater audio system.

Hercules Junior is a 7.1-channel system consisting of three front speakers, two subwoofers, six multipolar in-wall surround speakers, a three-zone surround processor/preamp, digital equalizer with 83-band digital parametric EQ to correct room-acoustics problems, two seven-channel power amps and two bridgeable stereo amps.

The Synthesis series starts at $40,000 and tops out with the $120,000 Hercules.

Jensen: The Champion series of tower, bookshelf and center-channel speakers were displayed alongside the brand’s first two HTiB systems. Pricing of the five-SKU Champion series was unavailable.

The JHT 350 HTiB includes a progressive-scan DVD player at a suggested $149. The JHT 140 delivers less power, at a price that hasn’t been determined.

JL Audio: Gotham and Fathom are the names of two powered subwoofers that mark the car audio company’s entry into the home market. Both models feature Automatic Room Optimization (ARO) and will ship in the first quarter. Additional home speakers are planned at an unannounced date.

Klipsch: In its biggest introduction ever, the company overhauled its architectural speaker selection with 31 new models and four installation kits, all due in late summer and fall.

Highlights include in-ceiling models with the company’s first-ever woofer/tweeter combos that can be aimed at the listening position, and a broadened selection of in-wall models with pivoting or rotating horn tweeters.

Many in-wall models feature a Tractrix horn tweeter that pivots and can be removed and remounted 90 degrees for horizontal or vertical mounting. Some in-walls feature pivoting Tractrix horns to direct high-frequency sound to listeners. Among in-ceiling speakers, many new models feature tweeter/woofer combinations that can be aimed. Other in-ceiling models feature rotating Tractrix horn tweeters for horizontal and vertical mounting.

Mirage:The company expanded its Omnipolar technology to in-ceiling and outdoor speakers for the first time and introduce its smallest Omnipolar speaker. Omnipolar technology’s 360-degree dispersion pattern is designed to widen the soundstage and the sweet spot.

Niles:A revamped series of indoor/outdoor speakers, two new powered subwoofers and the brand’s first on-wall speakers for use with flat-panel displays took center stage.

The on-wall PHD speakers consists of three models priced from $450 to $900 each and sized for flat-panel displays with screen sizes of 30 inches or more, 42 inches or more, and 60 inches or more, respectively. They feature extruded-aluminum chassis, integrated wall mounts and optional table- and floor-mount stands. The two tallest models feature a tweeter/midrange pod that pivots left and right and, for horizontal mounting, rotates 90 degrees.

The revamped indoor/outdoor series consists of eight models. Prices range from a suggested $229 to $649 per pair, while the stereo-input models are at $249 and $439. They feature an enhanced version of the company’s integrated woofers-baffle technology, which delivers more cone area and thus greater bass output.

The indoor/outdoor and wall-hanging speakers ship in January.

Polk: The new RM series of four home-theater speaker packages use the company’s first slim speakers designed specifically to complement flat-panel and thin-DLP displays. Four systems priced from a suggested $899 to $2,499 and feature slim-line subwoofers and extruded-aluminum satellites that can be wall-, shelf- or stand-mounted.

Two systems shipped in August, and the other two ship in November.

Thiel: Four SmartSub powered subwoofers are designed to mate with a SmartSub Integrator, whose microprocessor automatically calculates the subwoofers’ ideal crossover frequency, level and phase after the user enters main-speaker information.

The $4,000-suggested Integrator can be used with four different SmartSubs, which deliver 10Hz bass. Three feature 1,000-watt switching-mode amp, and one features a 500-watt switching amp. Prices range from $2,900 to $8,900.