There’s a joke at our integration company that goes back to our first CEDIA EXPO in the late ’90s. Our lead installer took a class on “installing architectural speakers” where he hoped to learn some new installation tricks. But when the instructor began the class with, “OK, there are two types of speakers; round and square,” our guy immediately stood up and walked out.
Fortunately, a lot has changed over the past 15 years. Fueled by the housing boom, distributed audio systems became a huge part of a custom installer’s business, and manufacturers responded by delivering architectural speaker designs in a wide array of price, performance, and size options.
Niles has been in this business since 1988 and understands the changing needs of both the installer and the marketplace and recently revamped its entire speaker line. One of the new models is the CM4PR, a speaker designed to deliver high performance in smaller rooms/areas. Like all of Niles speakers, the CM4PRs include a limited lifetime warranty, which is a powerful sales tool. If you install speakers in porches, patios, or other outdoor living areas where wet, humid, hot, cold, or otherwise unmerciful environments are likely, being able to stand behind your installed equipment forever is tres awesome. Niles sent two pairs of these new speakers for testing along with its new SW8 compact subwoofer and a C5-A2 analog audio over Cat-5 balun for testing.
Though small, the speakers have a decent heft and some real build quality to them, with the beefy, 1-inch Teteron dome tweeter taking up a large percentage of the driver area. This is my first experience with a speaker using Niles’ Rear Wave Enclosure, which is said to maximize “air volume for deep bass” while reducing “unwanted sound from bleeding into adjacent areas and rooms.” It comes pre-attached to the back of the speaker and extends off to the side, making the install about five percent more difficult as it needs to be finessed up and into the speaker hole cutout.
The sub features several cool custom install features. First, it comes ready to accept an OmniMount wall-mount, making it a perfect option for commercial installs like restaurants or bars where big bass is needed. I’m not sure why more manufacturers don’t include this provision, but Niles does, and it’s awesome. Second, the sub can receive bass signals in two innovative ways; either beamed wirelessly using Niles’ SW-R wireless transmitter or connecting Cat-5 via the RJ45 connector when using a balun. For maximum flexibility, I would have liked to see high/speaker level inputs as well. It also has a trigger and signal sense turn-on modes, along with level, phase, and crossover adjustments for blending the sub to the room/speakers.
Like all Niles speakers, the CM4PR in-ceilings include a limited lifetime warranty, which is a powerful sales tool. The SW8 sub’s controls allow one to tailor the bass to suit the room, placement, and personal taste.
I really appreciated Niles new design when installing the speakers. Beyond the push-down, spring-loaded binding post for the speaker wiring, the unique tri-mount clip mechanism made installation fast and easy. Simply pull the tabs down, and slide the speaker into the hole, and gently press it up into place. No screws or drill are needed. Same goes for the magnetized microperf grille. (Round grilles are included, but square grilles are available, meaning you only need to stock one type of speakers for inventory.)
Since my kitchen ceiling is already a bit crowded– six can lights and a HVAC vent–kitchen ceiling, I was concerned how installing four speakers would look. (The sub sits on top of my cabinetry.) But once I laid out the locations and they were installed, I was surprised by how tiny they looked compared to the typical, 7-inch woofer speaker normally installed into a ceiling. Also, with the microperf grille, the speakers virtually disappeared after installation. This smaller footprint is a perfect companion to the new LED and fluorescent and smaller spot canlights that are being used these days.
The speakers sound quite good at low volume listening, delivering clear, detailed audio, and having four of them provided terrific fill. I listened to them for a bit without the sub, and it is quickly apparent that in my kitchen, they sound incredibly thin. Though, what do you expect from a 3.5-inch woofer? Without the underlying bass support, they sounded tinny and anemic, like if you dialed the bass dial back to -12 dB. Adding the SW8 sub to the mix made all the difference, delivering full range audio that sounded like a real, high-performance audio system in my kitchen. The sub’s controls also allowed me to tailor the bass to suit the room, placement, and my taste, making it easily the second-best sounding room in my home.
The CM4PR will definitely find use in application-specific installs–small areas like closets and guest baths, where they offer a great way to add audio in a discrete footprint. In larger rooms, or for discerning listeners, multiple pairs can be employed for more even coverage, though adding a subwoofer will likely still be a must. Fortunately Niles offers a terrific custom subwoofer solution in the form of the SW8, which mates wonderfully with these speakers. Together this is a dynamic duo that delivers serious sound sure to satisfy any listener.
Speaker form-factor has a nearinvisible aesthetic that will appeal to homeowners and are a breeze to install, which will appeal to installers. Sub is amazingly custom install friendly.
Small driver size and lack of bass almost requires a sub; highlevel/ speaker-level inputs on sub would have been even more custom-friendly.
CM4PR ceiling mount speakers
• 3.5-inch mineral filled polypropylene woofer and 1-inch Teteron dome tweeter
• Hole cut-out dimensions: 4.625-inches; frame dimensions with grille: 5.5 inches
• Frequency Response: rated 70 Hz to 21 kHz +/-3 dB
• Amplifier power: 1,200 watts (dynamic), 300 watts (RMS)
• Frequency Response: rated 36 to 200 Hz
• Wireless ready (with optional SW-R wireless receiver)
• Dimensions: (with grille) 10.75 x 10.5 x 12.125-in (WxHxD); 16.5 pounds