10 Speakers to Be Heard, Not Seen

hidden speakers

These hidden speakers fulfill your home's surround sound needs - without upsetting the spouse.

Apr. 25, 2008 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

The hidden speaker keeps the walls, ceilings, and outdoor spaces of our homes looking unblemished and tidy. With wires tucked neatly away and blend-in designs made to fool even the most scrupulous investigation, it’s no wonder that these wonders of the modern home theatre and whole home audio have nestled their way into wallboards across America. Of the many on the market, we’ve selected 10 speakers and custom speaker solutions that stand out by doing precisely the opposite.

1. SolidDrive (View image)
The Induction Dynamics SolidDrive product can’t really be considered a speaker. Rather it is a sound transducer that turns the wall (or ceiling) itself into the speaker. It installs behind the wall or ceiling and transmits acoustical energy through the surface (which can be glass, drywall, granite, wood, metal, ceramics, composite, or laminate), turning the surface itself into one big speaker. There is no speaker panel or grill to cover or paint over, because the wall itself broadcasts the sound. 

The SolidDrive looks like a 2-inch chrome cylinder that is fixed to the backside of the wall or ceiling with an adhesive to ensure contact. It is held in place by a mounting bracket the attaches directly to wall studs or ceiling joists. This is truly an invisible speaker. One does wonder, however, how the artwork on the wall will take to the vibrations. The answer: just fine. “Vibration is at 2-3000th of inch,” says Kevin Morrissey, audio specialist for Induction Dynamics. “And placement of the driver behind the drywall doesn’t matter. You can pretty much put it anywhere within the cavity to turn the cavity into a speaker.” True concealment, flexible placement, quality sound. What more can you want?

2. Stealth Acoustics STX8 (View image)
The STX8 by Stealth Acoustic is a two-way, full-range two channel stereo loudspeaker system designed for in-wall application. The system’s rigid frame attaches directly to the structural framing – a perfect solution for new home or remodeling jobs. The speaker’s panel face is pre-primed and ready for finishing products, and the panel edges are tapered to match gypsum board edges, making room for the necessary taping and joint compound to integrate the system into the wall. Covering options include paint, fabrics, light wallpaper, and limited textured coatings. 

“The STX8 is building off the success of our FX8 product, and basically turning it into a true dual-channel configuration,” says Steve Olszewski, Vice President of Stealth Acoustics. “We believe in invisible without compromise.” Stealth Acoustic has earned a reputation as a leader in the invisible speaker market, with a growing list of awards to prove it. 

3. Sound Advance SA2R (View image)
The SA2R from Sound Advance is an invisible In-Wall/In-Ceiling extended bandwidth, wide dispersion loudspeaker system. A properly installed SA2R allows the patented Planar Diaphragm Technology™ to radiate 140-degrees of hemispherical sound. The unit’s flat, rigid, one-and-a-half-inch thick diaphragm installs into the wall cavity, replacing the gypsum board. Once in place, the unit is covered in a thin layer of compound, velum, and another thin layer of compound that, once dried, can be brushed, rolled, or sprayed with a water-soluble paint or covered using wallpaper, vinyl covering or certain textured coatings. 

“Our engineered layering that replaces the drywall results in an extremely good sound,” says Mark Pickard, Director of Marketing. “The bonded layers operate as a speaker diaphragm, which is critical to the performance.”

4. Kef Ci200QT (View image)
What if you want to see your speakers when it’s time to use them? Then consider the Kef Ci200QT, a remote controlled in-ceiling speaker that drops from the ceiling at the push of a button to better disperse sound for an enhanced home theatre experience. Push the button again the speakers recess into the ceiling. An 8” driver array includes an 8-in. bass/mid driver with a co-incident mounted 1-in. tweeter. Five pre-set tilt positions allow for flexible sound configuration, and a surround sound solution of Ci200QTs could see one master unit controlling the remaining slave units for easier manipulation. Even better: the units have a “music sensing” mode that activates the drop-down feature when music or sound is detected. The grill can be painted or covered with fabric to match the décor of the room.

The speakers can be controlled using a relay from systems like Crestron, AMX, or Lexicon, and they can also be wired for control through an ordinary light switch. The units come with installation and control options for a more customized solution.

5. StereoStone Omni Planter (View image)
If you really want your speakers to be hidden, check out some of StereoStone’s products, like the Omni Planter, a 360-degree dispersing speaker system hidden in a planter. This surreptitious little beauty houses an 8-in. two-way woofer with a 1-in. Neodymium-titanium tweeter all within a functional 11.7 gallon container. StereoStone has a slew of planters and stone speakers suitable for outdoor application. The planters would work well indoors, too. The unit has a built-in junction box for easy wiring and set-up.

“The Omni Planter utilizes our most expensive speaker,” says Alan Rottner, VP of Sales for StereoStone. “And considering you can pay $600 for a planter alone, the Omni comes at a good price.”

6. Speaker Project #1: C&S Builder’s Colonial Village in Rutland, MA. (View image)
In this hidden speaker scenario, designer and company president Rick Ford of Wachusett AV, was tasked with designing home entertainment solutions for eight luxury homes within the Colonial Village project in Rutland, MA. Ford split the project into two phases: Phase One dealt with wiring and speaker rough-ins, and Phase Two saw installation of the speakers, TV, and A/V equipment. 

“The builder required a high-quality speaker for his client at a fair price,” says Ford. “We were able to provide some very high quality, low cost speakers in the NXG and OEM brands that met his budget expectations.”

Specifically, Ford used the NXG NX-PRO803I’s for in-wall speakers, a NXG NX-PRO552I for the center channel, and an OEM SE-10SW as the in-wall subwoofer. “The only challenge posed was the additional wood trim that was added to the surface of the drywall,” says Ford. “This made installing the speakers difficult because the speaker tabs could not clear the rough-in kits. We overcame this issue by removing the plastic rough-in kits which minimized the required depth.” 

7. TIC WRS010 Outdoor Wireless Rock Speakers (View image)
To call the outdoor rock speaker a novelty is to do it great injustice. Manufacturers of outdoor hidden speakers have gone to great lengths to balance design, weather-resistance, and audio quality in a product that has to fill the great outdoors (or backyard) with tunes. TIC Corporation has taken things one step farther, implementing wireless technology in the WRS010 , a pair of outdoor wireless rock speakers. Using 2.4 gHz technology, these 9V or 6x AA battery-powered speakers can be place 300 feet from the broadcast unit, and come with an 80-ft. remote that can individually balance each channel. Each rock contains a 5-in. injection molded PP cone woofer and a 1-in. stamped aluminum tweeter.

8. Acoustic Research SAT510
Acoustic Research is one company that has combined a quality speaker with a number of speaker covers designed to truly blend in with a room’s décor. In-wall and in-ceiling speakers can be covered with light wallpaper or painted, but often they are still detectable. Acoustic Research completely hides their speakers within tasteful accent pieces like trunks, candle holders, and vases. Customers can piece together a speaker with a cover, or select a comprehensive speaker cover package. Décor speakers include the HD510, a 5.1 surround sound home theatre package, the SAT510, a satellite speaker, and the SUB510, the décor 5.1 sub-woofer.

The SAT510 features a 3.5-in. magnetically shielded woofer and a 1-in. Teteron tweeter. The extruded aluminum finish looks nice, but it’s not going to be seen once you’ve picked out a matching speaker cover from among the long list available. 

9. DNA Sonic Décor (View image)
Donald North Audio set out to design a slender concealed speaker that, like our televisions, could hang neatly on the walls of our homes. Their DNA Sonic Décor line was the achievement, and the product has been receiving accolades since its release. With over 80 color combinations available for the speaker’s cabinet, grille, and trim panel, the 4.25”-deep unit is sure to blend in with the aesthetics in any room. 

The Model 100 left/right pair of speakers employ a 5.75-in. Peerless nomex paper cone woofer and a 1-in. Vifa textile dome tweeter, both offset for a smoother frequency response. The wood cabinets are rigidly braced and made of damped wood. A specifically tuned crossover, hand-wired with high quality audiophile components help make these speakers acoustically tuned for on-wall or near-wall placement. 

10. Décor Audio SoundUnseen (View image)
One issue that has always faced hidden speakers is sacrificing sound quality for concealment. A completely covered, truly hidden speaker just isn’t going to sound as good. Décor Audio’s SoundUnseen line of speakers claims to preserve audio quality in a product that, once installed, cannot be distinguished from the rest of the wall. Sound quality is maintained by using an aerospace-grade material for the speaker panels, which consists of a multi-layer resin core sealed with a durable brown coating. The coating bonds with the drywall compound that is applied once the speaker is installed. Once the compound dries, it is painted to match the rest of the wall. The panel is driven by a proprietary LEAR™ (linear exciter array) transducer and mounted on a high-strength, anodized aluminum sub-frame to isolate panel vibrations. The finished product is a completely invisible, quality in-wall speaker system.

Check out this related slideshow: 40 Outdoor Speakers.

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