Expo 2000 Goes In-Depth In Custom In-Wall Speakers

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INDIANAPOLIS -- Installers going to the CEDIA Expo will find expanded custom-speaker selections from select suppliers, a growing selection of in-wall subwoofers, new ways of making custom speakers more installation-friendly, and new designs that give installers more flexibility in where they mount speakers.

Here's what some speaker suppliers plan to exhibit:

Atlantic Technology: A prototype expandable in-wall powered sub, the company's first-ever in-wall sub, features dual 8-inch drivers and separate single- or dual-channel amplifiers. Multiple sub modules can be mated to create sub systems for small or large rooms. Each subwoofer module is 90 inches tall, 14 inches wide, and 3.5 inches deep. Pricing and ship dates weren't available.

Boston Acoustics: The company is moving its custom-speaker line up in price and performance as part of a companywide up-market initiative. The new step-up VRi series is priced from $700 to $1,800/pair, complementing an existing series topping out at $500/pair.

VRi's in-wall and in-ceiling speakers are the company's first custom models to use acoustically dead cast-aluminum baffles, eyeball-mount pivoting tweeters, boundary-compensation switches to compensate acoustically for placement near corners or mid-wall, and wide trim pieces to mask gaps that would be revealed if an installer cuts the wrong-size hole.

In the three-way top-end model, the company uses a midrange/tweeter subassembly that can be rotated for horizontal or vertical mounting and pivoted 5 degrees.

Also at VRi: the company's first in-wall powered sub, which features two 8-inch drivers in a cast-aluminum baffle. It's powered by a dedicated outboard 200-watt high-current mono amp. For more SPLs, a companion pair of 8-inch drivers can be stacked on top of the original pair and driven by the same amp. Pricing hasn't been set.

Definitive Technology: Three new and three replacement in-wall and in-ceiling models will expand the company's custom selection to six SKUs from three in recognition that a "fairly large number" of SKUs is needed to satisfy an application-driven market, said president Sandy Gross.

Highlights include an in-ceiling UIW-94/A with 9-inch woofer and pivoting 1-inch tweeter at a suggested $399/pair; the UIW-BPZ/A in-wall bipolar speaker at $750/pair with two 6.5-inch woofers and two 1-inch tweeters; and the UIW-83/A in-ceiling with 8-inch woofer and 1-inch tweeter at a suggested $299/pair.

Klipsch: The company continues to expand its custom presence with the introduction of three speakers in the new Synergy indoor/outdoor series. Their introduction follows the introduction at last year's Expo of the Reference and Synergy custom in-door lines. Those lines deliver the same sonic attributes as their Reference and Synergy enclosed-speaker cousins, enabling installers to create a sonically matched mix-and-match system of enclosed and in-wall speakers.

The new all-weather speakers are priced at $429, $529, and $700/pair. They feature the company's horn-loaded tweeters to focus sounds to specific areas more accurately than direct-radiating speakers, delivering clarity and minimizing spillover of sound into a neighbor's yard, the company said. The Reference Custom series has just begun shipping.

MB Quart: Exhibiting offsite, the company will introduce two sconce-like on-wall speakers, returning MB Quart to a niche it introduced to the industry several years ago. They're priced at $499 and $399/pair.

Also new: a corner-mounted on-wall at $249/pair.

McIntosh: The company's first in-wall introduction since 1992 is the $2,500/pair WS320, a spokesman said. The two-way 8-inch video-shielded speaker features an aluminum back box to control backwaves that would otherwise propagate into the room behind. When installed, it protrudes only a half inch into the room.

Niles: The company is boosting its in-wall margins to 60-plus points from 55, depending on the model, while simplifying installation through the use of snap-in baffles and speaker connectors that accept unstripped wire.

The new models also get a new type of aimable-tweeter assembly said to offer more precise adjustment than traditional ball-and-socket designs. The tweeter sits in a bezel that rotates in 1 mm increments, then pivots up to 18 degrees. Because the tweeter sits in a molded horn, the tweeter won't fire into the back of the baffle as often occurs in traditional ball-and-socket designs, said sales VP Frank Sterns.

The new features appear in new models in the general-application Multipurpose in-wall series, in all models of a new high-value series called Performance, and in new models in the step-up High Definition series. The features are also included in new top-end Advanced Technology (AT) series models suitable for use in a customer's primary audio or home theater system.

Three new models expand the AT series to seven SKUs from four. They are two-way models at $500, $600 and $750/pair to complement current three-way models priced at $900 to $1,800/pair.

The company expanded its High Definition series by replacing three models with four new two-way models that add front-panel bass and treble controls at prices from $450 to $750/pair.

The first-ever Performance series of value-oriented models consists of two two-way models at $350 and $400/pair.

In outdoor speakers, Niles is expanding its selection to six SKUs from four. One model, the $280-each OS-10SI, is a single-cabinet model that plays in stereo through two opposing-angle tweeters and a single summing woofer. Multiple OS-10SI speakers can be used on a patio or in a yard.

Parasound: A new Precision Architectural Loudspeaker line of in-walls includes an in-wall 10-inch passive sub, four in-wall L-R pairs, and two in-ceiling models.

The top-end PAL-380 features 8-inch woofer and a pivoting sub-baffle for the 2-inch dome midrange and 1-inch tweeter. The sub-baffle pivots 15 degrees. Most models have one, two or three EQ controls to help custom installers adjust the acoustics to the environment.

Rockustics: The company will unveil what it said are the industry's first outdoor planter/speakers. Three molded-plastic planters incorporate coaxial speakers that fire downward into a dispersion plate. They'll be available by the end of the year at a targeted $300 to $600/pair with 5.25-, 6.5- and 8-inch drivers.

Sonance: The three-model Virtuoso series replaces the D series as the top-end series for distributed-audio and non-THX home theater applications.

The three three-way models, all with 8-inch woofers, are priced at suggested retails of $800, $1,400 and $2,700/pair. They're the industry's first in-walls to use concentrically mounted midrange and tweeter drivers in a sealed pivoting enclosure, said sales VP Mark Weisenberg.

The 4-inch cone midranges and 1-inch dome tweeters pivot by 17 degrees. By using a cone midrange rather than typical dome midrange, Sonance is able to cross the woofer at 400Hz rather than 1,000-1,200Hz to deliver more punch and less distortion.

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