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Integration Guide to Speakers — All Hear This

Interest in speakers is surging across the board — from full home theater systems to 2-channel listening rooms to wireless models.

Clients come in all stripes, and so do speakers. Whether your customer wants a 2-channel listening experience or a full-blown, whole-house entertainment system complete with the latest in home theater, audio is salient to project success. Beyond great sound, what other features are your customers looking for?

“A common feature requirement we hear from both our clients and design team professionals is that we need to provide excellent sound quality and performance with minimal visual impact to a particular space,” says Joe McNeill, iTEC Consultants, a KEF dealer. “And, if the speakers or subwoofers are going to be visible in the space, they want products that both perform well and are attractive. Or, they may want to go with a manufacturer they would be proud to name, such as KEF, a brand they could mention having throughout their home, much like when you hear people sharing information about their windows, cars, and stoves et cetera.”

At Audio Advice, a JBL integrator, founder/chairman Leon Shaw says that, on the residential side of the market, they are seeing an increase in clients with home theaters who want acoustically transparent widescreens where the speakers are installed directly behind the screen.

Speakers – KEF
Speakers – KEF - Close-Up
A discreet KEF speaker installation from iTEC Consultants, including one placed next to the top of the curtains (bottom).

“The new JBL Synthesis offerings are fantastic for this growing category,” he says. “That type of system also leads to a desire to hide all of the speakers, so there is increased demand for very high-performance, in-wall subwoofers. The new JBL models, such as the SSW-3 and SSW-4, help us fulfill those needs.”

Dolby Atmos is more popular than ever, Shaw adds, with customers asking about even larger home theater systems. The JBL processors with 15 channels or more enable the ability to offer these larger theaters, but can also work in more intimate applications. “In 2-channel stereo, there is increased demand for better speakers in a smaller package.  Some of the new offerings from JBL are also great for this segment.”

No Place Like Home

As the pandemic continues to perpetuate a shift in how and where we work, every aspect of the home entertainment system, including speakers, has become even more relevant and examined.

“As more people work from home, we’ve seen more of them wanting great systems for their offices,” Shaw says. “In new construction projects, people are paying more attention to ensuring that they have high-quality audio in every room in the house. ‘Just good enough’ is not something we are hearing as we used to for ancillary rooms. People want great sound everywhere now, and JBL can provide it.”

Just like the iTEC team members themselves, clients have been forced to spend a lot of home time during the pandemic, McNeill notes. “We work, bake, eat, sleep, and repeat! Having this newly increased time at home has really shone a light on the value of investing in a quality home entertainment system, whether that be a 2-channel listening space, a media room, or a dedicated theater system. We all need downtime; these entertainment spaces provide that and more. Plus, this gives us much-needed quality family time. This, in turn, creates fond memories while experiencing our favorite movies from when we were kids along with our kids, or concerts, gaming, and sporting events, enjoyed together.”

Speakers – Home Theater
The JBL Synthesis speakers in this home theater by Audio Advice are placed behind the acoustically transparent screen.

Coming Attractions

There are many great things coming up, including soon-to-be-released features for listeners, from smart speakers to custom installation solutions for various applications. “The best companies have the same mission: keep it simple and build it with quality and passion,” says McNeill. “KEF’s LSX and LS50 Wireless II speakers are great examples with superb performance and beautiful design. Our clients and their designers love the many color choices and materials these mighty speakers come in. They add some fun to serious spaces such as home libraries, wine tasting rooms, kitchens, and any space where you are looking for a small form factor, versatile functionality, and impactful, impressive results.”

And with people spending more and more time at home, they are looking for speakers that can be hidden in order to match their aesthetic, Shaw notes. “The biggest trend we have seen is far more home theater systems using acoustically transparent screens with the main speakers all hidden behind the screen. It is rare these days for us to do a serious home theater with exposed speakers. We use the entire gamut of JBL Synthesis products in our installations, from HDI to all of the SCL Line. The performance they offer for the cost is simply outstanding.”

As big fans, iTEC specifies the full KEF line, McNeill says. “Our clients love that they can have the KEF sound throughout their homes, whether it be in a small powder room, an expansive kitchen/breakfast family room all open to one another, for which we often go with the 8-inch Q series in-ceilings, or a massive theater, 44 feet long by 30 feet wide and 12 feet high, where we go with the top-of-the-line THX Certified in-wall loudspeakers and subwoofers.”

Related: Certifiably Excellent Sound

We all have choices, tons of them, he concludes. “There are so many options when it comes to selecting who you are going to do business with and recommend to your clients. Having had the opportunity to work with KEF over the past few years, I have been very impressed with how passionate they are at all levels. They produce great products, built under strict quality guidelines, and backed with great pride for doing a good job. In addition, they value our feedback and our clients, so it’s a win-win.”