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Ceiling/in-wall speakers -- brand/model guidance

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Frank Koenig:
I'm helping a friend plan a distributed background music system for his dwelling which is undergoing an extensive remodel. The walls and ceilings are opened up. He got a proposal from a professional installer that struck him as kind of expensive for what it was so I agreed to have a look. I found the proposal unnecessarily complex (too many speakers) and, unsurprisingly, too locked-in to the latest consumer technology.

I gave him my usual lecture about run-conduit-not-wire, technology changes fast, and that both he and the house have a long life ahead of them and should be able to adapt without tearing down walls. I also tried to get him interested in wall-bracket mounted speakers that open up a range of high-quality possibilities, and, significantly, can be aimed, but he wants a largely concealed system so ceiling (or maybe in-wall, in some places) speakers it is.

Rough requirements:

This is a residential background MUSIC system. No paging or life-safety. Emphasis is on sound quality.

Passive, direct connection to amplifier. As runs are short and speakers few, 70 V transformers are not required. (OK if they're included so long as they can be bypassed where needed.)

100 dB-A (slow) at 1 m on music while sounding decent.

Wide pattern suitable for low residential ceilings.

Usable response down to 70 Hz as no subs will be used.

Possible 6 in. depth limit (1/2 in Sheetrock + 2x6 in. stud depth) -- need to confirm, maybe negotiable.

Less than $200 each.

Prefer a brand I've heard of.

Having skimmed some past comments here and based on a little of my own listening Tannoy and JBL are at the top of the list. If anyone has a favorite (of any brand) that sounds especially good on music and that roughly fits the requirements I'd love to hear about it. Thank you for indulging me in one of these irritating what-gear? questions.

--Frank

Dennis Wiggins:

--- Quote from: Frank Koenig on November 30, 2020, 06:15:49 pm ---...distributed background ... The walls and ceilings are opened up ... Passive, direct connection to amplifier. As runs are short and speakers few, 70 V transformers are not required ...

--- End quote ---

I can't help with the speaker choice, but I can advise them to run speaker wires everywhere.  Leave a coil behind or above the drywall at each potential location.  Document the runs, bringing them all to a central "wiring closet" with plenty of extra length for future connection. 

Insulate interior walls.  This make a huge difference; especially around bedrooms and between floors. 

Don't forget the main bath/Jacuzzi and feeds to patio, garage, and basement.  Wire is cheap and insulation is cheaper.

-Dennis

<edit>Of course, local code may prohibit some, or all, of this.   ;)

Brian Jojade:

--- Quote from: Frank Koenig on November 30, 2020, 06:15:49 pm ---Prefer a brand I've heard of.

--- End quote ---

For specialty stuff here, you may end up dealing with brands you've never heard of. Instead, I'd prefer a brand that's been around for a while, even if I haven't heard of them yet.  And yes, in this space, there are a TON to choose from.

And I 100% agree with Dennis.  Wire (and preferably conduit) is WAY cheaper to install now than later.  If you have a pre-pulled wire nearby, getting it to where you need it in the future is much easier.

Home run everything if you can.  That gives you the greatest flexibility in the future if your needs change.

DOCUMENT EVERY WIRE. BOTH ENDS. And a map would be even better.  This type of install is so specialized that 5 years down the road when you want to do something, if it's not documented, it's a royal pain to figure out in the future.

Additionally, if it's a large house, having multiple access points that allow for an easy pull back to home run can be super handy for future upgrades.  Then essentially, you just need to figure out how to get a wire to that access point which then gets you back home easily enough.

Caleb Dueck:

--- Quote from: Frank Koenig on November 30, 2020, 06:15:49 pm ---Wide pattern suitable for low residential ceilings.
Usable response down to 70 Hz as no subs will be used.

--- End quote ---

Martin C8.1T, except they're over $200.  One of the better/best ceiling speakers that don't cost a fortune, and a nice wide pattern. 

The higher end Tannoy options are pretty good, but not in stock and cost more.

Community (Biamp) has some OK ones.  Same with EAW, JBL, EV, and everyone else. 

Stay away from Sonance and Bose and most of the general consumer brands.  The markup is insane!

If you can tweak the budget a bit - the 8" Martins would be my first choice out of the ones I've used/heard.  The 6" Martins have an even wider pattern, a bit less bass extension as expected, but they seem to distort too easily at higher SPL, where the 8" models are great.  If you can demo both of them - do it.  Make sure you can walk far off-axis. 

Another thought - if the SPL levels aren't high, use the Martin 6" models, but add a single small ceiling sub (Tannoy for example) to help with the low end.  Or hide a small-ish subwoofer (1Sound has some, or some small recessed options from various places - look close and the response graphs though) in the ceiling or wall somewhere.  This takes a lot of the stress off the speakers and works best overall.   

MikeHarris:
the Martin C8.1T is  a high ceiling speaker...the C6.8T is the right speaker   and i agree ...a small sub. 1Sound is really good looking...but well beyong budget

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