See No Evil, Hear No Evil Page 5
So, you've successfully negotiated with your significant other about putting a really good set of in-wall speakers in your home theater, but now it comes time to talk about the dreaded issue of a subwoofer. There's little likelihood that you'll hear the following statement: "Honey, we've got so much nice furniture in this room, let's go out and find a big, black box that won't match anything else in the room and put it right over here where everyone can see it. In fact, that's such a great idea, let's get two!" Relax. If the manipulative one in your life has already agreed to a couple of innocuous grilles up on the walls where everyone can see them, it's a shoe-in for you to get approval on one (or two) more that can go down low—in frequency and in the wall. SpeakerCraft and Triad are just two of the companies that offer in-wall or in-ceiling subwoofers that are easy to install and very effective at generating bass.
SpeakerCraft's latest model, the BassX powered in-ceiling sub, was so new that the company sent me traveling to G.W. Bush's previous hometown to hear one of the first demos of this uniquely invisible subwoofer. John Marshall and Brent Mastronardi, the head honchos of Audio Video Environments (a high-end custom-oriented shop in Austin, Texas), went out of their way to make sure the BassX was installed and operational on the morning (well, late morning by the time I corrected my map-reading error) I showed up.
The BassX enclosure is actually smaller than my office trash can, measuring 10 inches around by 10 inches deep. Inside the dampened-steel, acoustically coupled enclosure is a pair of 8-inch long-throw woofers that port out through the bottom. The entire assembly may be smaller, but it's also heavier than my office trash can, weighing in at 35 pounds. Amazingly, the BassX installation system was designed to allow for retrofit installations without having to crawl through the attic. The mounting hardware and sub enclosure fit through the cutout in the ceiling that will eventually be covered by the grille. (Obviously, you'll have to get speaker wire to the sub somehow, so you still may need to make the attic crawl, after all.) Once in place, the nondescript round grille blends in with the ceiling better than most speaker grilles. The BassX package ($1,800) includes a high-powered amplifier that sits in your equipment rack and connects directly to the subwoofer output of your receiver or processor. Polarity (0 to 360 degrees) and crossover (40 to 120 hertz) rotary controls on the front of the amp can be covered by a screw-down plate to keep curious fingers from tampering with the settings. There's also a large volume control to the far right of the front panel.
It's hard to accurately evaluate a brand-new speaker in a room you've never been in before, and this particular room—with its high ceilings and long wall of floor-to-ceiling glass windows—was a tough one in which to generate lots of bass. Even so, this relatively tiny marvel extended the output of the other SpeakerCraft in-walls used in the system down much deeper than they were able to go on their own. While its bass was never chest-pounding, the speaker was a solid performer—and few people would ever be able to guess where it was installed in the room.
To test Triad's in-wall subwoofer (one of several that they make, and custom-sized versions are available), I had only to travel to my living room. The company name sounds like some secret society of audiophiles out to eventually take over the free world, but they assure me they're actually a good bunch of folks. They sent me their InWall Bronze/6 sub ($1,400), a single 10-inch woofer with serious excursion and a 2-inch voice coil that sits in a fairly small (14.25 inches wide by 19 inches tall by 5.94 inches deep) cabinet that's denser than lead (or at least it feels that way).
This version is designed to fit flush in your wall using 6-inch studs, or it can extend 2 inches into a closet or other nonexposed space in the next room. Triad mentions that it can also be installed as an in-cabinet subwoofer; however, from my brief exposure to the InWall Bronze/6, I wouldn't recommend this. In fact, if you install this subwoofer anywhere in your home, you'd better remove all the glass, china, and jewelry, along with any false teeth, because this dude is a monster. Let me put it this way: If Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory made subwoofers, this is what would come out at the end of the production line. Bass floods out of this sub faster than water from a broken main. It's powerfully accurate and a heck of a lot of fun.
Back-to-back 12-decibel-per-octave low-pass filters (35 to 250 Hz) and a phase control (0 to -180 degrees), combined with a seriously gutsy amplifier, allow the InWall Bronze/6 to complement each of the speakers I sampled. In fact, it became a must-have with any recording that has even a modicum of bass. The sub infused the in-walls with amazing dynamic punch. They tell me Triad makes a 4-inch-deep version that will perform identically (for those of you who are stud-challenged), or Triad can custom-build a version if you have a particular installation problem that one of their regular models won't solve. If you need bass but can't allocate the space, find your local Triad dealer and check this one out.
Domestic harmony and a dynamite home theater can indeed go together. It just takes a willingness to think outside the box . . . and inside the wall.
BassX In-Ceiling Subwoofer $1,800
InWall Bronze/6 In-Wall Subwoofer $1,400