Cool Homes
Big Sound in a Weird Place
The owners of this Nebraska home wanted great sounds, but they also wanted all the electronics hidden.
Two Wilson Audio speakers are hidden in the soffits
Two Wilson Audio speakers are hidden in the soffits on either side of the fireplace. Two Parasound Halo JC 1 monoblock amps are also tucked into the soffit area.
August 01, 2006 by EH Staff

If we told you about a stereo system that uses two center-channel speakers, each hanging upside down in a soffit, with their amplifiers also hidden in the soffit, you might think that:

  • We’re loony for writing about it.
  • The electronics installer may need some help.
  • As in professional help.
  • Of perhaps the neurological kind.

Now, what if we were to tell you that this was a very high-end audio system? And that the speakers were chosen and set up to create the best possible sound in a room? Well, you might still think all the people involved with this project could use a few hours of counseling, but there is a method to the madness.

The owners of this Nebraska home wanted great sounds, but they also wanted all the electronics hidden. To do that and still hear the [ ADA] Suite 16 whole house audio system, they needed invisible Sound Advance speakers that could sit behind thin coats of wall plaster in several rooms. That type of setup would be fine for background music, as there’s a compromise when sound comes through even the thinnest coat of plaster. In this great room, though, there could be no major compromises.

The homeowners wanted a high-end stereo system in this two-story space, so custom electronics company The Sound Environment of Omaha, NE, chose Wilson Audio for the speakers. Wilson is known for building tremendously powerful and accurate high-fidelity loudspeakers. But remember: Everything had to be hidden, so instead of mega 7-foot-tall towers, the installers chose two horizontally oriented Wilson Audio Watch center-channel speakers to fit better inside the soffit areas on either side of the fireplace.

The highly sensitive and responsive Watch center channels, explains The Sound Environment’s Charles Santmire, do a great job of producing stereo sound in the room. Now, about that idea of hanging them upside down?

Santmire says the speakers were placed that way and tilted a little so they would sound correct while firing above the listeners. Their positioning also aimed the sound better and helped the units achieve correct time alignment so there’s no sound delay.

OK, maybe they’re not so insane. But why put the amplifiers up in the soffit with the speakers? Two Parasound Halo JC 1 monoblock amps—monoblock meaning each only serves one channel or speaker—are hidden in the soffit to get them out of the rack space and to better ventilate them, as big amps get hot. And their stealth locations only require short lengths of speaker wire run from the amps to the speakers. This isn’t just an economical savings, because any audiophile can expound well into the night about shorter runs of speaker cable—even the good stuff used here from Transparent Audio—producing a purer sound with minimal signal loss.

A Wilson Watch Dog subwoofer is also hidden away in the corner. And on the right side of fireplace, a wood panel door opens to reveal a 61-inch Runco high-def plasma screen that has its own speakers. When the TV comes on, the Wilson speakers (except for the subwoofer) shut off.

And just think: Each of those Parasound amps pumps out 400 watts of sweet music to those speakers. That’s prodigious—and you’ve got to admit, not bad for two center-channel speakers hanging upside down. Now who’s crazy?

Systems Design: The Sound Environment, Omaha, NE,

More Photos


A 61-inch Runco plasma monitor swings out from the cabinet on an articulating arm. Sound comes from a pair of Aerial Acoustics’ Model 5b bookshelf speakers on the shelves above. Credit: “Ray” (c) Universal Pictures Photo


These Sound Advance speakers are mounted in a wall cavity and have a thin coat of plaster applied over them, so you’ll never even see the speaker grilles.

Systems Design
The Sound Environment
Omaha, NE

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