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Speaker Makers Go For Custom Gold

With traditional speaker sales on the decline, speaker suppliers here at CES will get more aggressive in the ever-growing custom-installation market.

OnQ, Polk and PSB, for example, will expand their custom selections to fill price/performance gaps, Pioneer will reenter the in-wall speaker market, and Monitor will enter the market.

Some new models at the show, including new PSB and Polk models, are designed to sonically match freestanding speakers to improve the performance of a home theater system created out of a combination of architectural and freestanding speakers.

Other new models provide flexible placement options to meet potential aesthetic objections without compromising sound quality or imaging. Polk, for example, is including a boundary-compensation switch in new in-ceiling and in-wall models to permit flexible placement.

Here what these and other suppliers plan to show:

Clark Synthesis: The $599 AQ339 portable pool speaker floats on the water and transmits acoustic energy above and below the waterline. It measures 11 inches in diameter and 8 inches tall and connects to an amplification source via a 25-foot underwater cable. It floats into the market in February.

Definitive Technology: The company’s first in-wall sub, based on technology derived from its SuperCube subs, was designed to deliver tight, high-impact bass response extending from 16Hz–200Hz without protruding from a standard-size wall. The retrofittable sub, the IWSub10/10, fits into a standard 4-inch-deep wall. A long-excursion active 10-inch driver is coupled to a pressure-driven 10-inch infrasonic radiator in a 14.2 by 19.6 by 3.8-inch sealed medite enclosure.

The accompanying outboard SubAmp 300 is a high-current 300+ watt amp capable of driving one or two of the subs. It features a volume control, fully adjustable phase control (0-180°), fully adjustable low-pass crossover control (40-150Hz), and left, right and LFE line level inputs. It also features built-in speaker-level high-pass crossover and a signal-sensing auto on/off circuit.

The amp and sub will be packaged separately, but the combined retails will be less than $1200. It ships in late spring.

Mission: The company is embedding a Thin Film Transistor (TFT) display behind a mirror, and using NXT’s SurfaceSound flat-panel speaker technology to turn the mirror itself into a speaker. The result is ViSound, which can be used as a bathroom mirror in home or commercial applications or at hair-cutting stations in beauty salons.

The 4:3 TFT 163mm-diagonal screen provides a viewing angle of 110 degrees horizontal and 60 degrees vertical. The upper portion of the mirror does double-duty as a speaker.

Price and ship dates were unavailable.

Monitor Audio: The speaker company’s first in-wall and in-ceiling speakers ship in February.

Marketed by Kevro of Pickering, Ontario, Monitor CP-series architectural speakers are fitted with rigid enclosures for consistent sound quality. The CP series consists of a good/better/best selection of Bronze, Silver and Gold speakers. In-walls range from $300 to $550 each, and the in-ceilings range from $250 to $500 each.

The Silver series in-ceiling models feature pivoting tweeter and extended frequency response to 30kHz. An additional high-frequency control offers a fine-tuning option to compensate for room acoustics.

OnQ: The Middletown, Pa., company will expand its architectural speaker lineup with the new OnQ Gold and Blue lines of in-wall and in-ceiling speakers.

Their drivers are efficient enough to take advantage of low-power distribution systems such as OnQ’s A-Bus distributed-audio system.

The in-ceiling models feature dual-voice-coil drivers that accept a right and left amplifier output for use in small spaces where two speakers aren’t feasible. The in-wall speakers feature a tweeter-level adjustment switch and half-inch IR knockout hole.

The budget-oriented Blue Line includes distributed-audio speakers designed for home-builder budgets. The Blue Line’s home theater series features high-power handling capability for home theater-quality audio distribution.

The step-up Gold Line multiroom speakers can be used with distributed audio and home theater systems. They use advanced driver materials such as glass fiber and offer custom features that include pivoting 1-inch aluminum-dome tweeter and a three-position tweeter-level switch.

Pioneer: Three in-wall speakers will mark the company’s reentry into the custom-speaker market. Details were unavailable.

PSB: An expanded selection of architectural speakers will be displayed along with its first enclosed speakers designed for concealed placement in an A/V cabinet.

To complement its 6-inch series of in-wall speakers, PSB will show higher performance 8-inch models. Two 8-inch coax models — the round in-ceiling CW180R and in-wall CW180S at a suggested $750 each — feature a tweeter that can be tilted 30 degrees left or right. The tweeter’s SonicGuide assembly can be turned 90 degrees to provide constant directivity to the listening area. With the SonicGuide, tweeter response is said to be smooth at any angle, and reflections from the woofer are greatly reduced.

The $1,000-suggested CW383 uses an 8-inch woofer in a three-way design. Its midrange and tweeter assembly rotates so that the speaker can be mounted horizontally or vertically.

A fourth model, the $1,800 CWS8, is a dual 8-inch subwoofer that shares the same mounting frame and visually mates well with the CW383.

The company will also roll out in-wall and in-cabinet counterparts to its T8 Platinum Tower loudspeaker. The $4,500/pair CW800E is an in-wall speaker that comes with its own 3.75-inch-deep enclosure and “effectively captures most of the performance of the T8,” PSB said.

A second Platinum spin-off is the $5,000/pair CHS80, essentially a T8 tower optimized physically and sonically for installation inside an A/V cabinet.

All models are shipping.