See No Evil, Hear No Evil Page 2
First out of the box is a pair of NHT 1.5 Ci in-walls ($600/pair), a two-way design with the same 1-inch aluminum-dome tweeter and 6.5-inch polypropylene woofer as NHT's well-regarded 1.5 bookshelf model. Each 1.5 Ci pair comes with eight foam inserts that fit snugly in a standard two-by-four wall to help dampen resonances and tighten up the bass. The mounting bracket uses snap-on mounting wings for new constructions. However, in a retrofit install, you simply slide the mounting bracket through the cutout, hold it in place on the inside of the wall, and screw in the speaker bezel (or flange) on the outside. The bezel and mounting bracket sandwich the wall between them, making for a snug, secure fit. Then, you screw the speaker baffle into the bezel and press the grille into place. The grille is very neutral in appearance, but reflection from the aluminum-dome tweeter is visible through it in virtually any room light. Technophiles will like this glint of high-performance behind the domestic facade, but technophobic fashion mavens will probably be aghast.
When listening to the 1.5 Ci in-walls, their rich, fully textured bass on cuts from Dido, Sade, and Jennifer Warnes was apparent. There was also a delightful smoothness in the trumpets in a Vivaldi cut that, depending on the speaker, often send me right out of the room. Vocals tended to be a little reserved, however. With the speakers mounted about 5 feet above the floor, you definitely sense that the soundstage is above your head when you're seated. Overall, though, the 1.5 Ci speakers are definitely worthy to grace the finest walls.
1.5 Ci In-Wall Speaker $600/pair
Now Hear This!
Canton Ergo 180
The perforations in the grilles on the Canton Ergo 180 in-walls ($600/pair) are slightly larger than most, but the grille itself is most notable for the way it angles slightly up from each edge toward the middle, giving the impression of a flattened pyramid. This bit of depth gives character and dimension to what would otherwise be just another grille on the wall. I like this effect a lot, although those who are seeking near-invisibility may disapprove of this subtle attempt to attract attention. More problematic, however, is the reflectivity of the aluminum-magnesium tweeter, which (like the NHT tweeter) shines noticeably when the room light is right.
Installing all of these in-walls was quite easy, but the Canton in-walls took a bit longer than the rest because the dog-legs that hold the extremely rigid flange in place have to be threaded by hand from behind by clamping down on the sheet rock. More than making up for that, however, is the Ergo 180's owner's manual—a whopping eight pages—which was the best of the bunch. Each step of the installation process, from using the included template to draw the opening for the cutout to placing the metal grille on the flange, was clearly described and nicely illustrated with color photographs.
A level adjustment to the right of the drivers allows for +/-2 decibels in the tweeter's output, but I found the 0-dB (flat) position to be just about right, generating a tight, snappy sound. The tautness of the bass and the precision of the upper frequencies blended together so well on a Leo Kottke guitar track that I found myself drifting off with the music and totally forgetting about the speakers.
Ergo 180 In-Wall Speaker $600/pair