Despite the fact that most customers use their fireplaces just a handful of times per year, while they use their televisions for several hours per day, we still routinely see many room designs where the fireplace is the primary focal point of the room, leaving no other place to install a TV except for high up over the mantel. And even though this almost always puts the TV too high for comfortable viewing, there is often no other location for the TV that makes any logical sense based on the room layout. So, with a resigned, “Well, it will be kind of high, but we could use a tilt mount…” we go ahead and mount the TV.
One solution to this is offered by MantelMount, a company whose sole raison d’être since 2014 has been in addressing this problem. These mounts allow you to pull the TV down over two feet from its mounting location, lowering the set until it’s at an ideal viewing position.
I reviewed one of the company’s early offerings — the MM540 — over two years ago and my installation company even specified them on a few projects. But, while I liked how easy the mount adjusted and how it solved the TV-too-high problem, customers didn’t love how the mount held the TV screen nearly seven inches off the wall when pushed flat and often voiced comments like, “Wow, I didn’t realize it was going to be so big.” (To be fair, MantelMount does offer an optional recessed in-wall mounting kit that reduces this space considerably.)
Also, even though adjusting the mount was easy, it still meant the customer getting up out of their seat, walking over to the TV, reaching up, and pulling it down into position. And that “pain point” often meant the mount didn’t get as much use as it could.
The perfect solution to all of these criticisms is MantelMount’s new MM860, an automated and motorized mount that takes everything that made earlier MantelMount offerings great and improves them in every way.
You’ll realize what a serious piece of kit the MM860 is when it arrives in its near 100-pound box. And regardless of how many sets you’ve wall mounted so far, the MM860 will likely be slightly intimidating at first, what with its large array of parts and pieces, and multiple measurements and calculations required to make sure that you set the mounting enclosure high enough that the bottom of the TV (or soundbar if attached using the included mounting rails) clears the mantel when lowered. Fortunately, the 20-page installation manual does a thorough job of identifying all the included parts and guiding you through each step. Even so, I’d allot a fair bit of extra time for your first go ‘round — especially if stud removal will be required.
Step one is measuring the depth of the mantel, which determines how high you’ll need to mount the MM860’s enclosure as well as the bottom of the TV or soundbar. The mount lowers the TV in an arc, coming out and down as it reaches its maximum extension, so deeper mantels will require the bottom of the set to be installed higher in order to clear. Thankfully the install manual details the measurements needed to ensure you correctly nail the location, but this is not a case where the homeowner will likely be able to go from a 65-inch to a 75-inch down the road without some serious remounting.
There are two options for mounting the MM860’s lift enclosure: surface or recessed. Surface mounting is easier, but holds the whole assembly and TV much further off the wall and — let’s be honest — doesn’t look nearly as sexy. (MantelMount does offer a surface mount trim kit to give the sides of the enclosure a more finished look.)
The second option is recessing the mounting enclosure, which a customer spending two-grand on a mount is probably gonna want. And you’re a custom installer, so put on your big boy shoes and let’s get to work recessing, which is where the real “fun” begins.
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In a perfect world, you’d use the included template to mark out where the enclosure needs to mount, you’d cut in the 28.75 H x 13.3 W (inches) hole, and there you’d find a beautifully open bay to drop it into. (If possible, you’ll save yourself a lot of time if you can get the MM860 specified into a job early enough and work with the framer to have a stud opening right where you need it.)
Shockingly, this is actually how it worked out in our showroom, where we installed a fireplace mantel on a wall and centered the mount over it. The MM860 comes with some wide horizontal braces that can be used to secure the mount to studs on both sides, but this detracts a bit from the cleanness of the finished look. My lead installer, Tom, instead carefully drilled some holes on the sides of the enclosure and then lag bolted it into the studs, which we feel looks better.
In the real world, however, after you cut that big hole in the wall, you’re likely to find some studding in the way. Don’t panic! MantelMount totally expects this and includes four 2×4 stud brackets for you to cut that stud out and then brace it. Since the MM860 will generally be going over a fireplace that often has a decent void space, cutting and bracing shouldn’t be too difficult. (Famous last words…) But if you’re working in a standard 2×4 wall, cutting out that stud could cause damage to the wall behind the mount, so, obviously, tread cautiously.
The motorized lift enclosure requires power and there is provision for a threaded fitting for standard 1/2-inch aluminum conduit in the back of the enclosure. It would have been nice if there would have also been some knockouts on the sides and bottom for dropping in a J-box to connect the MM860’s power cord. Tying the MM860 into an automation system (Control4, URC, RTI, Crestron, or Savant) requires an Ethernet cable connected to the network.
Once the enclosure is installed, powered, and wired, the hard work is done, with the rest of the installation pretty similar to a traditional mount. After lowering the mount halfway, attach the TV frame and then hang and secure the TV onto the frame. MantelMount includes a large variety of different screws and spacers to support virtually any TV from VESA 200×200 up to 600×600.
The MM860 includes a power connection for the TV, which greatly simplifies things. This outlet also includes ALPS (Auto Lowering Power Sensor) that monitors the TV’s power and automatically lowers the TV to the preferred position when it powers on, and returning it flat to the wall when it turns off. This provides some real automation even if a control system — or network connection — isn’t available. Also, a built-in heat sensor will automatically retract the TV if it reaches temps above 130 degrees. Smart!
There are both “hard” (physical bolts and locknuts) and “soft” (programming in the motor) stop adjustments to make sure no part of the TV or mount hits into the wall or mantel for both the bottom travel and side-to-side swivel. There are also post-install adjustments to correct for any tilt.
After all this is completed, you’re ready to stand back and marvel at the glory that is the MM860 gracefully transporting your TV from too high to just right! The electronic actuators used to power the motors are incredibly quiet in operation; far less noisy than a traditional motorized projection screen. And the included RF remote makes no-point operation simple, letting users easily navigate the mount through its full range of motion, as well as set two presets for instant recall.
Connecting to the mount over the network (or directly via a PC) gives access to some nice diagnostic info, as well as the ability to update firmware, adjust network settings, and more. There is a “Smooth Start” mode with four settings that adjusts how the actuators work with initially lowering the TV, optimizing the mount for different TV weights. Another great feature is the ability to monitor and adjust the sensitivity range of the ALPS operation, ensuring the mount “sees” when the TV is actually on or off; a great feature with TVs having widely different power draw levels.
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The one area where the MM860 is a tad wanting compared to a traditional arm mount is in horizontal swivel. While it offers up to 25-degrees of left or right swivel, for rooms with really off-angle seating, this likely won’t be enough. Also, you can’t swivel the mount at all until it has lowered roughly halfway. But, since this is likely being installed over a fireplace that is also likely the focal point of the room, this probably won’t be an issue.
The MantelMount MM860 is one of those rare products where a 30-second demo gives customers an immediate grasp of its benefits. They already know the TV is going to be too high; this shows them exactly how to fix the problem. Want proof? Within two weeks of installing the MM860 in our showroom I have sold three of them. Available only to Preferred Pro Series dealers, the MantelMount MM860 offers a way to truly differentiate your TV installs.
Kudos: Solid build quality; quiet and smooth operation; ALPS function delivers instant automation; just frickin’ cool!
Concerns: Recessed install can be tricky; would like more side swivel range.
- Supports TVs from 30-125 pounds, 55-100 inches; VESA mounting up to 200x200mm–600x600mm
- Includes RF remote control with automation drivers for Crestron, Control4, RTI, Savant, and URC (IR codes available for Harmony)
- Integrated power sensor can automatically lower to TV preset position when turned on and returns to retracted position when powered off
- Heat sensor automatically raises TV when temperature exceeds 130-degrees F
- Lowers TV up to 30 inches with 20.5 inches of extension from the wall; 25 degrees left and right swivel; holds TV 1.8 inches from wall in retracted state (when recessed mounted)
- Includes hardware for mounting soundbar below TV