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Custom Speakers Moving Up In Performance, Flexibility

Architectural speakers, particularly round in-ceiling models, will continue to head up in price point and performance at this year’s CEDIA Expo, where installers will encounter a greater variety of designs intended to compensate for the sonic drawbacks of less-than-optimum mounting locations.

Installers will also find:

  • More suppliers building architectural speakers to sonically and cosmetically match their enclosed bookshelf and floor standing speakers. They include Energy and Mirage, which cite a growing number of home theater systems that use a mix of enclosed and installed speakers.
    In a related development, Niles will unveil ceiling-mount speakers that match the voicing, performance and features of the speakers in each of its four in-wall series, allowing for mixing and matching in-wall and in-ceiling speakers in a home theater system.
  • At least three brands markedly stepping up the performance and pricing of their architectural speakers. They are Energy, Infinity and Mirage.
  • A greater selection of single architectural speakers that deliver stereo in hallways or rooms where space is at a premium. Russound will have its first two in-wall models. Niles will expand its selection to four in-ceiling models from two. Sonance will offer its first outdoor model to complement two in-ceiling models. And Boston Acoustics will have its first model, an in-ceiling model. They join Definitive Technology in this market.
  • Powered in-ceiling subwoofers from at least one more supplier. Sonance will join SpeakerCraft in this segment.
    To compensate for less-than-optimum mounting locations in ceilings, including cathedral and vaulted ceilings, suppliers are adopting differing strategies:
  • Niles will launch its first five in-ceiling speakers with tweeter and woofer that independently pivot and rotate to direct sound to listening locations. Previous in-ceiling models featured pivoting, rotating tweeters.
  • And NHT will offer its second in-ceiling speaker with three-tweeter array to disperse sound more evenly.

To compensate for less-than-optimal in-wall placement, Infinity’s CAS speakers feature a Listening Window switch, which boosts output from 10kHz-20kHz, with progressively higher boosts at higher frequencies, to reduce perceived high-frequency loss and deliver smoother power response to listeners sitting 30 degrees or more off the vertical or horizontal axis.

In another development, Niles will launch ceiling-mount speakers that match the voicing, performance and features of the speakers in each of its four in-wall series: MP, PR, HD and HT, allowing for mixing and matching in-wall and in-ceiling speakers in a home theater system.

Here are the details on these and other new architectural and enclosed speakers: Boston Acoustics: The company’s first single stereo speaker is on tap along with an expanded selection of flush-mount speakers suitable for indoor and outdoor mounting.

The single stereo speaker, in the Designer Series, is a $200-suggested round model with dual-voice-coil 6-inch woofer and two 0.75-inch tweeters that are angle-mounted to increase separation. It’s due in the fourth quarter.

In indoor/outdoor flush-mount speakers, the company expands its selection to three from two. The models are rectangular but promoted for in-wall and in-ceiling applications. Their weather-resistance, enhanced over the previous models, makes them suitable for moist environments such as bathrooms and luxury yachts and for a home’s outdoor overhangs. Due in the first quarter of 2002, they retail for a suggested $300, $400 and $500 per pair. The latter features 8-inch woofer.

The flexible-placement Bravo is the shape of a quarter cylinder for vertical mounting in the corner of two walls or horizontal mounting where wall and ceiling meet. It’s due in the third quarter at a suggested $199 each.

Canton: The company’s smallest speaker wide side-firing woofer is the $850-each Karat M30DC three-way at 15.4×6.75×15.

Clark Synthesis: The company’s first piece of furniture is a reclining theater seat with built-in transducer that vibrates the chair to deliver what the company calls the “natural percussive impact” of sounds. Suggested retail is $2,495.

Definitive Technology: The company’s smallest powered sub is a 14-inch cube delivering 1,500 watts via a Class D amplifier, a 10-inch active driver and two 10-inch passive radiators. It ships in fall at a suggested $1,199.

Two dual-channel in-walls, the UIW DCS 5 at $259 each and the DCS 6 at $379 each, features two woofer-tweeter combinations, each combination on a angled baffle, to deliver stereo sound from a single speaker. They were shown as prototypes at CES.

Energy and Mirage: The Audio Products companies are repositioning their custom lines by migrating the brands’ enclosed-speaker technologies to architectural speakers and significantly raising performance and price points.

Both brands previously marketed architectural speakers at $500 per pair and less, but the new lines will range from about $500 to $2,000 per pair. Each brand will offer four in-walls and two in-ceiling models. Pricing was unavailable.

The Energy Custom Veritas series, based on enclosed Veritas speakers, will include a three-way 8-inch round model and an in-wall with two 6.5-inch woofers, 2-inch dome mid and 1-inch tweeter.

The Mirage Incognita series will be based on Mirage’s High Definition Theater (HDT) enclosed speakers.

MB Quart: The company will reprise its on-wall solutions, including two sconce-like speakers and a corner-mounted speaker.

Niles: Twenty-four new architectural speakers include five Adjustable Imaging (AI) series in-ceiling two-way speakers ranging in price from $275 to $675 each. The AI models feature tweeters and woofers that independently pivot and rotate to direct sound to listening locations. Each driver has its own ball-and-socket mount that adjusts up to 18 degrees up/down and left/right.

The company will expand its selection of stereo input (SI) in-ceiling speakers to four from two with the launch of four new models, each delivering stereo output from as single speaker. Suggested retails range from $100 to $280 each.

Also, the company will unveil in-ceiling speakers designed to match the performance and voicing of in-wall models in four in-wall series. Additional details were unavailable.

All models are targeted to ship between the fourth quarter and the first quarter of 2002.

PSB: The company’s first Alpha-series bipole will join the Image series bipole. The Alpha S, due in September at a suggested $399 per pair, uses two baffles angled at 90 degrees, each baffle with a 3.5-inch woofer and 0.75-inch tweeter.

Russound: The company is shipping its first two single speakers that deliver stereo. They use twin tweeters and single woofer. The square-shape SP622.1, at a suggested $150 each, can be mounted in-wall or in-ceiling. The round SP522.1 is $120. They use moisture-resistant materials for bathrooms and saunas. Sonance: The company will launch its first in-ceiling subwoofer, a decorative column that houses an outdoor speaker, and its first Mariner outdoor speaker to deliver stereo sound from a single enclosure.

The in-ceiling 8-inch sub comes with separate 150-watt amp at a suggested $799. Also available is an in-wall version of the in-ceiling sub at $799, a new opening price.

The suggested-$200 two-way Mariner SST delivers stereo from a single speaker. The company already offers in-ceiling models using the same technology.

The SST, or any other Mariner speaker, can be placed inside the new 30 x 13 x 13-inch column, which is available in white or terra cotta and supports a planter or statue. Pricing was unavailable.

Snell: THX Ultra2 certification is pending for a trio of enclosed speakers, and the company will expand its architectural-speaker selection to seven from five by introducing three new models.

The speakers with pending Ultra2 designation are a powered subwoofer and two current three-way models: the in-wall AMC900 dipole at a suggested $1,000 each and a direct-radiating enclosed LCR, the XA1900 at a suggested $1,500 each. Subwoofer details were unavailable.

New in-walls, which expand the company’s selection down in price, retail for a suggested $450, $550 and $650 per pair, the latter for a switchable bipole/dipole model.