See No Evil, Hear No Evil Page 4
Phase Technology, another veteran of the in-wall business, has roots that go back 50 years and is the company that patented the soft-dome tweeter. The two-way CI-60V speaker ($500/pair) uses one of their latest soft-dome tweeters—a 1-inch version in a pivoting mount—combined with a 6.5-inch RPF Solid Piston woofer. This woofer, being a solid cone, doesn't flex or exhibit the same breakup that a standard cone woofer does under stress. In addition, the flat surface of the woofer launches all frequencies from the same plane, automatically time-aligning the drivers. The most amazing part of the speaker, however, is the phase-aligned crossover, which aligns the phase of the drivers as closely as possible near the crossover frequencies. The result is a speaker that sounds the same when your ears are above or below the drivers as it does when you're directly in front of them. For an in-wall speaker that's used in a room where you might be sitting or standing at any given time, that's a definite plus.
Phase Technology uses the same flange mounting bracket for four of their five rectangular in-wall speakers, which means you can start out with their most basic model and upgrade later on without cutting any new holes. You can also have the mounting brackets installed during the prewire phase of building your home. Once you move in, the speaker baffles can be installed in a matter of minutes. The mounting bracket uses four dog-ears that fall into place with a turn of the screws that hold them in. The speaker baffle then quickly screws into the bracket. Everything on the CI-60V's baffle is black, with one exception: the gold Phase Tech logo. If this is a problem for you, the label can be gently pulled off the baffle. (Try doing that with a shiny aluminum tweeter!)
The effect of the phase-aligned crossovers was quite impressive. The output and tonal balance of the CI-60Vs remained the same whether I was standing or sitting. These aren't speakers that jump out of the wall at you. Rather, they bide their time and slowly envelope you in a warm embrace. The pivoting tweeters were very effective at bringing vocals down almost to ear level. The system not only played very loud without straining, it maintained good bass output even at low volume levels.
By far, the in-wall with the most punch in the bottom end was the Parasound PAL-380. Of course, you'd expect that, with its large (for an in-wall) 8-inch woofer, but this speaker really needs to ditch the yellow color. The Canton and NHT speakers were both sweet on the high end, but their lack of a pivoting tweeter limited their performance in installations where you're forced to place them high on the wall. The Sonance is certainly an installer's dream: The fast, easy flex-bars get you in the wall and listening to music in a hurry. The angled tweeter sometimes got a tad edgy for my taste.
Looking back, I'd have to say I liked the Phase Technology offering the best of this group because of its extremely smooth overall response—both horizontally and vertically—in the room. It's the kind of speaker that you can relax and listen to for long periods of time, but it can also rock the foundation when you want it to.
If you're at a spot on the path of life that allows you to use floorstanding or bookshelf speakers, take advantage of the opportunity. If you're not so fortunate, don't give up. You can feed your music and home theater addiction, keep your home life content, and savor the taste of these in-wall confections for years to come. Now, if I can just get into that chocoholics-anonymous program...
CI-60V In-Wall Speaker $500/pair