Integrator Voices | Designer-Friendly Speakers

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For Residential Systems March Integration Guide to Designer-Friendly Speakers, integrators were interviewed about selecting designer-friendly speakers and their customer requests for them. Here's what they had to say.

Michael Huber, Owner

Whitby Audio Video, Whitby, Ontario Canada

What is your number one consideration when choosing speakers for a designer-friendly space?

Typically, customers come in unsure of their options for creating music in the home without cluttering each room with tower speakers. Aesthetics is the number one consideration, however, performance is a concern as well. At Whitby Audio Video, we offer the ability to demo our architectural speakers, so clients can experience in-ceiling and in-wall speakers and choose between the different levels of performance. The Bryston speakers address both concerns—they look and sound fantastic.

What is your clients' most requested feature for designer-friendly speakers?

Our most requested feature is based upon a basic dilemma: How to get quality sound in the home without using obtrusive speakers. Our ability to provide an in-store demo of this product category has proven quite valuable. Architectural speakers come in a wide range of prices, and customers—especially those shopping for this type of product for the first time—benefit from being able to hear them in our store. We recently installed a pair of the Bryston TOW on-wall speakers as part of a home theater where strong dynamic capability was important. The TOWs are a true three-way design, which is hard to find in the architectural category and brings real value to the customer seeking high performance.

Michael Wilson, Owner/Director of Sales

Bethesda Systems, Bethesda, MD

What is your number one consideration when choosing speakers for a designer-friendly space?

Looks! This gets tricky when the client wants high-quality sound as well. My recent go-to has been the Meridian DSP 520s or DSP 640s. Not only do they go in-wall, but also they sound amazing, and because they are powered, it saves rack space.

What is your clients' most requested feature for designer-friendly speakers?

They seem to want the opposite of the spectrum. They either want them to disappear, i.e., in-wall paint matched like an in-wall DSP 520, or stand out and be part of the design, like a custom pair of purple DSP8000s.

Bob Servos, Owner

Deluxe Audio Video, Naperville, IL

What is your number one consideration when choosing speakers for a designer-friendly space?

They have to sound good. Why? That's my reputation. I sell better sounding systems, better video, better control systems, better service and support. Otherwise, I'm out of business. There are many choices for in-ceiling/in-wall and soundbar speaker products out there, but only a few from real performance audio companies that focus on making only great sounding speakers.

What is your clients' most requested feature for designer-friendly speakers?

They don't want to see it. In my experience, this means either in-wall or in-ceiling, or lately, a soundbar. I used to try and dissuade people from buying soundbars because all the ones I had seen were low-fidelity options and/or too inexpensive for my business model. The solution for us was the high-end passive soundbars from GoldenEar, which meets the consumer's need for the category and meets my need for real high-end performance (and price range). Plus I get to sell the consumer a complete system, usually with install and other things, turning the soundbar into a real worthwhile category for us.

Ben Rosner, President

e-home, New York, NY

What is your number one consideration when choosing speakers for a designer-friendly space?

The designer’s ultimate goal is to see no speakers or speaker grilles at all. Bay Audio’s Live-Wall solution enables me to provide my clients with a décor-friendly invisible loudspeaker that also delivers quality audio into their living environment. Live-Wall has been a valuable asset when trying to merge the requirements of the designer along with our objective to deliver superb sound throughout the home.

What is your clients' most requested feature for designer-friendly speakers?

Again, invisibility is our most common request and having the capability to deliver great sound via Live-Wall has enabled us to meet both criteria for new construction and retrofit installations. The versatility, compact form factor and high performance of Live-Wall have won over many of our most discerning clients and their designers as well.

Michael Small, CI Division Manager

Dimensional AV, Mount Vernon, WA

What is your number one consideration when choosing speakers for a designer-friendly space?

The first consideration when recommending speakers to a client is to find out what purpose they are to be used for and the design goals of the owner. Most people care more about look and do not want to see devices, while a very small number of more technical clients may want their technology visibly on display. I look to proper performance first, and then fit my speaker solution to the designer’s or owner’s visual needs. I may propose a completely different type of speaker for a room to be used mostly for television and/or movie viewing than for casual background music listening. When recommending an in-wall or in-ceiling speaker, the other considerations include the size and configuration of the space, ceiling heights and wall space, and the type of wall or ceiling finishes to be used for the project.

What is your clients' most requested feature for designer-friendly speakers?

Most clients want to know what the speakers we recommend will look like. With projects that include a lot of speakers in main living areas, many clients do not want to see a bunch of round or rectangle speaker grills on the ceilings or walls, even if they are painted to match. We solve this issue by proposing Stealth Acoustics “invisible” speakers. These speakers come in different performance levels and enable us to provide our clients great sound quality without the challenge of installing speakers to be “symmetrical” with the can lights or window frames, etc. The wide dispersion feature of these speakers allow us place them in spots that a conventional speakers wouldn’t work, and even though the choice was made to hide things, every client is amazed at the sound quality when we first demo their new system.

Nick DeClemente, President

Elevated Integration, Armonk NY

What is your number one consideration when choosing speakers for a designer-friendly space?

There really are three things I consider going into a project: the aesthetics of the speaker as part of the finished space; how the speaker sounds; and, if there are other integrators bidding on the project, will they likely be planning to use the same speaker? Speaker companies offer a broader range of sizes, shapes, and performance levels to pick from than ever, which are all important to keep in mind, but the aesthetics are what ultimately tie it all together. I like to tell a story of a product, because there’s real value there for the customer. This is a primary reason for why I bid KEF’s products as my main line of speakers. They consistently maintain a well thought out collection of beautifully styled products that you know will perform.

What is your clients' most requested feature for designer-friendly speakers?

My clients ultimately seek my best recommendations based on their overall needs and layout. They want something to look and sound spectacular, but also don’t want to spend $1 Million. Budget tends to be a primary driver, so I start there. Some expect their sound system to consist of statement pieces, while others would rather the speakers be tucked away into the ceiling. I give them my recommendation for both scenarios and what can be expected from each, allowing them to decide. Traditionally, clients looking for a home theater room would request 5.1 systems, often consisting of bulky, floor-standing models. However today, clients are looking more for a system that combines clean aesthetics with top-notch performance in a single package—another reason why it’s easy for me to spec KEF in for projects.

Bryan Arnold, Sales Manager

Macauley Technologies, Austin TX

What is your number one consideration when choosing speakers for a designer-friendly space?

Audio quality is always my first criterion, but aesthetically it has to fit within the room. This is why I like the Induction Dynamic line of speakers. With Induction Dynamics I get to have my cake and eat it too, so to speak. If the client will allow free standing box type speakers, Induction Dynamics has a custom paint department that will allow the speaker to be much more appealing in its environment. They also offer almost their complete line of speakers as an on-wall and in-wall versions, as well. I need to have this flexibility to be able to offer my client exactly what they want.

What is your clients' most requested feature for designer-friendly speakers? How do you fill this brief?

This really depends on the client, their environment, and what the application is. Clients, designers, and architects typically don’t want to see the speakers. The Induction line of speakers gives me many more options to draw upon to give the client what they want with the performance they expect.

Dane Burgess, President/Owner

One Source Innovation, Ft. Smith, AR

What is your number one consideration when choosing speakers for a designer-friendly space?

The number one consideration when choosing speakers for a designer friendly space is the aesthetics of the speaker itself and how it blends or disappears into its surroundings.

What is your clients' most requested feature for designer-friendly speakers?

The client’s most requested feature for a designer-friendly speaker is a paintable grill, until we show them a Solid Drive. The client then will choose the solid drive if the budget allows. If not, the client will choose a speaker with a frameless grill.

Anthony Petrone, Owner

Petrone Technology Group, Wellington, FL

What is your number one consideration when choosing speakers for a designer-friendly space?

Quality. Quality in all aspects. Design, sound, and aesthetics all play a huge role. Quality resonates with TruAudio.

What is your clients' most requested feature for designer-friendly speakers?

Our clients want a speaker that is accurate and precise and disappears into the surroundings; a speaker that is heard and not seen. Our most popular speaker is the TruAudio GG6. The design is perfect. The bezel-free design allows it to have a minimal presence while the sound quality rivals that of speakers double the cost.

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