In the competitive world of speaker manufacturing, it’s difficult for companies to set themselves apart from the competition. Sonance has managed to do so by establishing a reputation for addressing the sensitive balance between technological performance and aesthetic appeal. One of the company’s latest developments is the Sonance Ellipse 1.0 LCR, a ceiling speaker configured in an elliptical shape.
Home designs are providing less and less useable wall space, so a lot of the home theater and distributed audio equipment is migrating to the ceiling,” observed Sonance’s director of sales, Buzz Delano. “At Sonance, we spend a lot of time talking to customers and listening to their ideas about new products and ways we can help them improve their businesses. There has been an overwhelming request from dealers to have a direct in-ceiling home theater application that offers truly superior acoustic performance, not like many of the compromising attempts at the solution. We wanted to develop an in-ceiling LCR product that would maximize performance from the ceiling.”
Equipped with Sonance’s Sonic Eye technology, the Ellipse measures 10 1/2 inches x 15 3/8 inches x 5 7/8 inches, and performs to a frequency response of 50 Hz to 20 kHz. The Sonic Eye can pivot up to 20 degrees, and the 4 1/2-inch dome tweeters also pivot.
The Sonance Ellipse was created at the company’s in-house research and development facilities, which are comprised of complete acoustic and electronics design labs; an anechoic chamber used for speaker performance analysis; a Stereo Lithography Apparatus (SLA), which is a CAD-file controlled, optical laser prototyping and modeling machine; and a tuned acoustic listening room.
“One of the biggest challenges that we encountered was trying to achieve a really nice aesthetic appearance for the speaker,” Delano said. “A traditional design would require a speaker that dropped down or protruded from the ceiling.” One of Sonance’s key goals was to get the performance they required from the speaker and achieve the right dispersion angles, while having a flush-mounted ceiling speaker without a protruding grille or a motorized speaker that tilted down. The product needed to be truly architectural and truly flush-mounted in the ceiling.
“The reason that the speaker pivots is because its highly controlled directivity, and a concentric array gives you precise control over the sound,” Delano said. “The fact that you can rotate it allows us to focus that image, when we want to, around the room.”
To achieve this goal and maintain aesthetic appeal, the Sonance team was forced to get creative. “The biggest challenge was getting the mid-range and tweeter to face down to the listening position at that angle without making the speaker very obtrusive,” Sonance engineer, Todd Ryan noted. “We had to get the mid-range and tweeter at the correct angle and keep the grille flat. This is a real ‘form follows function’ kind of design.”
After tossing out their more conventional ideas, the development team decided that the speaker would perform best if it were elliptical. “We asked ourselves: Who says the speaker needs to be round? What if we changed the rules and designed the speaker so its shape gives us even more ability to rotate the driver and gain the imaging at the distances we want?” Ryan recalled. “We discovered that an elliptical shape worked perfectly with the design.”
The executives at Sonance believe that the sleekness of the Ellipse will address a consumer base that is conditioned to appreciate the slick product design that, for example, the company’s high-end Silhouette speaker series represents. “Many home dcor and entertainment products are highly styled,” Delano said. “The critical issue on the custom side of the business is that the consumer wants the product to be as unobtrusive as possible–especially speakers. That, to some degree, is an art form. You want it so that when the customer looks up at the ceiling, they don’t see something that is offensive. For speakers, we want to make them so they blend in.”
As an increasing number of home theaters are installed into multipurpose living spaces, the need for ceiling speakers over in-wall speakers is there, according to Delano. “While this particular product is ideal for a dedicated home theater, we see a more frequent product application for our installers in the family room or the ‘great room’ home theater, where you don’t often have three or four parallel walls to work with,” he said. “More and more people want to build home theaters into the family rooms of their homes. The only place you can go is in the ceiling for an LCR array. Many more people want family room home theaters that sound a lot better than they used to, and yet they don’t have the ability to have a flat wall around the television.”
As the years have gone by, the trend has evolved more toward in-ceiling speakers, Ryan concurred. “I think it’s the fact that the ceiling is probably the most logical place in most people’s minds, when they are looking for a place to put the speakers,” he said. “You have to make a real conscious decision when you put them in the wall, in terms of where you are going to locate the speakers. With the ceiling, it gives you much more flexibility because most people don’t even look at the ceiling. You can pretty much put the speakers anywhere you like, and I think that appeals to people.”
For more information, contact Sonance at 800.582.7777 or visit www.sonance.com.
Carolyn Heinze ([email protected]) is based in Vancouver, Canada.