Except for the Sonos Playbar, new soundbars don’t really make headlines (read our Playbar review here). Niles Audio changes that with Cynema Soundfield, arguably the first in-wall soundbar, with powerful speakers and amp that sit behind the wall and a grille that installs flush with the surface.
“To accommodate flat panel TVs getting thinner and thinner, sound bars have tried to go in the same direction, which has had a detrimental effect on performance,” says Jim Hardiman, VP engineering for Nortek’s Core Brands, which includes Niles Audio. “I found myself in the enviable position of being able to shed the challenges and compromises of ultra-thin transducer designs and do something that could be both acoustically and aesthetically pleasing, and most importantly simple to install.”
Very, very cool, especially for an increasingly boring category.
The new soundbars, revealed to dealers for the first time at the HTSA (Home Technology Specialists of America) spring conference earlier this month, come in four flavors including active and passive models.
- CSF65A: 65-inch active
- CSF55A: 55-inch active
- CSF48A: 48-inch active
- CSF48P: 48-inch passive
The active speakers come with an amplifier module that delivers 3 x 30W RMS and Dolby processing.
The concept is wildly clever. The mounting bracket is a strip of metal thinner than Sheetrock. The vertical bars within the bracket slide laterally to match the stud spacing, so the unit can be positioned precisely under a television.
Likewise, the speakers can snap into the bracket where ever they fit best, both physically and sonically.
With this configuration, Niles isn’t limited to wimpy little speakers and amps crammed into into slim on-wall boxes. They can pack some oomph into the audio because of all that space behind the drywall.
“The sound is amazing, with the size of our enclosures the quality of the drivers, amps and crossovers,” says Michael Strange, senior director of audio for Core Brands. “This is the best sounding Soundbar out there.”
To install the product, simply center the template underneath the television and cut the drywall to match. Slide the vertical bars onto the horizontal rails and position them over the studs. The speaker wire runs between the studs and the rails. Snap the speaker/amp modules into place, snap on the magnetic grille, paint. Bam!
Check out the slideshow for more images and an installation guide.
If that’s not simple enough, the speaker and amp modules have dog ears so they can dangle on the rail after you connect the speaker wires. When all the pieces are wired and positioned, simply fold in the ears, snap in the modules and slide them into place on the rail.
For power, simply run a low-voltage wire behind the wall to a Niles-supplied AC module and plug into a nearby outlet.
“No electrician is needed,” says Mitch Witten, audio brand manager for Core Brands.
An optional wireless subwoofer can be added to the system via Niles’ SW-T transmitter and SW-R wireless receiver.
The system is smart in other ways as well. If connected to a multiroom audio system, the soundbar participates in whole-house music scenes if the TV is off. When the TV is on, the TV sound takes priority, even when the multiroom audio is on.
“Cynema was designed with the custom installer in mind,” says Strange. “It’s perfect for a restaurant or bar where you want different audio than the TV.
He notes also that the soundbars have a mode that limits output so they can be tamed in the kids’ room, hotels and other spaces.
Niles gives installers everything they need in the Cynema box, including speaker wire.
“The only thing not in the box is HDMI cable,” Witten says. “We even have a Toslink in there for when the TV audio out for Dolby is only for Toslink.”
Conceived a few years ago when Mike “Sparky” Detmer was president of Niles, the in-wall soundbar is “another example of Niles helping CE professionals solve problems in the field by tailoring the form to follow the function,” he tells CE Pro in response to our outreach. “I’m so glad the Cynema speaker system has launched and wish the entire Niles team and dealer network success with it.”
The speakers will ship May 1.
Soundbars are among 5 Electronic Products to Add During a Home Renovation
Why soundbars might be perfect for any room: Soundbars Room by Room
Follow Electronic House
Julie Jacobson is co-founder of EH Publishing and currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro, mostly in the areas of home automation, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. She majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. Julie is a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player with the scars to prove it. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson.