Home Theater Lifts Speaker Mfgs.

Old-school two-channel hi-fi may be in the doldrums—a phenomenon of concern only to those manufacturers still solely mining that niche. Those who have caught the home-theater wave are working overtime developing and producing great-sounding new equipment for use with surround-sound systems, flat-panel televisions, and custom installation, according to reports from the CEDIA Expo held earlier this month in Indianapolis.

Among the companies demonstrating speakers intended to mate with flat-panel displays were Advent, Artison, Atlantic Technology, Boston Acoustics, Canton, Infinity, Klipsch, Niles, and PSB. Market research supports their efforts: According to a report from NPD Intelect, dealer sales of in-wall and in-ceiling speakers rose 21.6% to $87.8 million for the year-long period ending March 31. Similarly, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) reported in May that 58% of purchasers of flat-panel TVs use separate loudspeakers, roughly divided between on-wall and in-wall models.

Several audiophile loudspeaker companies have made the move to flat-panel partner speakers. Among them is Ontario-based PSB Speakers, which demonstrated its line of "CustomSound" products at CEDIA, including the new CW800E, CW383, CWS8, CW180R, and CW180S models, as well as the CWA-1, a dedicated power amplifier for in-wall subwoofers.

The CW800E uses components from the PSB Platinum T8 in a 3 ¾" deep enclosure, effectively capturing most of the performance of the T8, less a few Hertz of bass extension. The specialized woofer design, along with some novel crossover circuitry, allows the woofer to perform exceedingly well with restricted air volume. The enclosure of the CW800E mates to the wall with an aluminum extrusion–based flange and easy to use "dog leg" mounting clamps.

PSB's CW383 is an 8" three-way design with a midrange and tweeter assembly that rotates so that the system can be used horizontally or vertically. It cosmetically mates to the CWS8, a dual 8" subwoofer. Looking extensively at the in-wall environment, PSB came up with a subwoofer design that works surprisingly well with the unknown volume each wall presents and the typically less-than-rigid wall construction. It features high-excursion woofers "for the output levels that movie lovers demand," the company stated.