There's a common thread running through many of the home theater and media room installations shown in CEDIA's Inspiration Gallery: the apparent lack of speakers.
Amid the finely appointed and often striking interiors, more often than not you see a big video screen and plush seating but no speakers.
What gives? Even a basic surround-sound system has at least six speakers - three up front for left-, center- and right- channel sound, two in the back for surround effects and a subwoofer to reproduce the room-shaking bass we've come to expect from today's action/adventure movies.
Look a little closer and usually you'll find subtle evidence of speakers in the form of a "grille" cover that's painted to match the wall.
Clearly, the "stealth" approach is popular. But what if you don't mind seeing the speakers - or even like the idea of speakers that make a statement? Freestanding speakers designed for both the discerning eye and the audiophile ear present an option worth considering.
There are literally hundreds of speaker brands and models to choose from, including many that you won't find in the local big-box store. If you want to get away from the boring black box approach that defines so many speakers, you have to dig a little deeper and maybe consult a professional designer/installer or visit a specialty store where you will typically find a wider selection of shapes, sizes and finishes, some of which can be stunning.
In-Wall vs. Freestanding Speakers
There's no question that many of today's in-wall speakers offer surprisingly good sound. But with stand-alone speakers you can achieve a level of realism for music and movie soundtracks that is difficult to match with speakers that are recessed in the wall.
And with in-wall speakers, special measures have to be taken to minimize rattles and vibrations and to keep the sound from invading adjacent spaces. (Of course, if you like your music and movies loud, sound isolation will be an issue with freestanding speakers as well.) Other potential advantages of stand-alone speakers include:
- They become part of a room's décor, so you can choose speakers that either make a design statement or blend into the environment.
- You can move them around, not only to achieve the best possible sound, but to change the layout of the room.
- You can save some money on installation (although you may still want to conceal the speaker wires in the walls).
To learn more about speaker options and home-entertainment sound in general, consult a professional. Click here for a list of CEDIA-member home technology professionals in your area.