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Sonance Visual Performance Series In-Wall Speakers

The year was 1982 when Sonance co-founders Scott Struthers and Geoff Spencer asked a client where she wanted her speakers installed, and instead of pointing to a shelf or cabinet, she pointed to a spot in the middle of a wall.

Sonance’s Level 8 series (VP48 and VP88) incorporate the line-up’s flagship ceramic dome tweeters and carbon fiber bonded to Rohacell drivers. The round Level 6 (VP66R) features a powder-coated aluminum dome tweeter and Kevlar and Nomex bass driver, pictured here with an optional square grille. The year was 1982 when Sonance co-founders Scott Struthers and Geoff Spencer asked a client where she wanted her speakers installed, and instead of pointing to a shelf or cabinet, she pointed to a spot in the middle of a wall. And like that, the architectural audio industry was born, and custom installers were given one of their primary missions in life: delivering great sound in any room in a client’s home while remaining discreet.

This year marks Sonance’s 30th anniversary in business, and they are “celebrating” by reinventing the brand according to Ari Supran, CEO of Dana Innovations, Sonance’s parent company. That reinvention comes in the form of a total redesign of its Visual Performance (VP) Series with more than 50 new models.

Originally released in 2007, the VP Series introduced cosmetic design improvements, such as the micro-bezel and magnetic grilles for easy install and sleek look. The new models retain this cleaner aesthetic but have been sonically redesigned with the latest modeling and testing software to achieve ideal linearity and a consistent frequency response at all listening levels, with lower distortion at high volumes. Additional improvements allow for nearly three times further woofer excursion (11mm travel versus 4mm) for better bass performance, as well as bringing the woofers 50-percent further forward to reduce mid-bass coloration.

What really piqued my interest in the new VP series was Sonance’s demonstration at CEDIA where they directly compared their new models to similarly priced speakers from Bowers and Wilkins and Revel. To say the VP’s held their own would be an understatement. So I was anxious to get some in my home to subject them to more lengthy listening sessions and see how they held up to a variety of material.

Sonance sent me three different models, two pairs from the Level 8 series, (VP48 and VP88) incorporating the line-up’s flagship ceramic dome tweeters and carbon fiber bonded to Rohacell drivers, and a pair of round Level 6s (VP66R) featuring a powder-coated aluminum dome tweeter and Kevlar and Nomex bass driver. I installed the rectangles in a new testing wall I built (nearly 7 feet tall, with 16-inch on center studs stuffed with insulation) and put the VP66Rs in my bedroom ceiling replacing some older Sonance Symphony 623TR speakers I own.

I started with the VP48s, the 4 5/8 x 8-inch cut out looking downright tiny in my wall. The speakers deliver terrific clarity and detail, especially on things like fine brush strokes or piano. Bass-shy tracks like She & Him’s “Sentimental Heart” or the acoustic version of “Shake It Out” by Florence + The Machine sounded wonderful and played to the VP48’s performance wheelhouse. With a 4.5-inch driver, bass is a bit thin, and these speakers would certainly benefit being paired with a subwoofer. Despite their size, they handled high volume with aplomb and would be a great solution in a smaller room or where a client wouldn’t tolerate a “normal-sized” speaker.

I noticed the sonic improvement of the VP66Rs over my older 623TRs immediately. They delivered far more bass, producing notes that had a surprising amount of depth and weight. For example, Paul Chambers’ opening double bass notes on Miles Davis’ “So What” were far more present from the VP66R’s 6.5-inch driver than the VP48s. I also appreciated the wider dispersion, as they did a better job filling my room with sound and delivering better performance well off-axis as I moved around the bedroom.

I saved the three-way, VP88s for later, and it was definitely a case of saving the best for last. Even before installing them, the speaker’s weight and stiffness tells you that it’s packing some serious build quality, and its 8.5 14.5-inch cut out makes an impressive statement in the wall. One of my favorite tracks for bass depth and detail is The Crystal Method’s “High Roller” from Vegas. At 1:07 into the song, the drums really start pounding with notes that are sonically similar to the T-Rex footsteps in Jurassic Park. While the VP88’s 8-inch woofer couldn’t quite deliver seismic impact tremors, they delivered bass that I could feel in my seat, easily filling the room with huge sound, and–unlike my wife –they never complained about the volume levels.

Many tracks on Dave Matthews Band’s Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King show off Carter Beauford’s drum work, but two that demonstrated the VP88’s ability to articulate each cymbal strike with detail and precision were “Why I Am” and “Spaceman.” The speakers also imaged really well, keeping Dave’s vocals locked-in-center and easily understood.

Sonance’s chief designer, Todd Ryan, said, “We performed extensive listening tests on every new model to get the sound I was looking for, which could be characterized as clean, honest and neutral,” and I think Ryan and team definitely met their goal. If your distributed audio speaker business has become based more on price than performance, you owe it to yourself and your clients to listen to Sonance’s new Visual Performance Series for yourself.


Sound even better than they look, with terrific detail and uncolored sound; many styles, sizes, price points to choose from

Bass-heads will likely want to add a sub

Product Specs
• Complete redesign of the series includes four different performance/ price levels (Level 2, 4, 6, 8) with varying driver and tweeter materials
• Level 8 speakers feature carbon fiber bonded to Rohacell bass driver with ceramic dome tweeter
• Up to +/- 60-degree off-axis listening performance for easier placement
• High excursion woofer design has nearly three-times the travel of similar speakers for extended bass
• 13-degree pivoting driver with 13-degree independently pivoting tweeter for optimal aiming of audio in a room
• All designs feature micro-bezel and magnetic grille

Micro Review: Kwikset’s SmartCode 914 Deadbolt Lock

by John Sciacca

The Z-Wave Alliance sponsored a demo at CEDIA 2013 where expedition climber Mariusz Malkowski unlocked a Kwikset Z-Wave enabled deadbolt using his satellite phone from 26,906 feet atop the summit of the world’s sixth highest mountain, Cho Oyu. “Cool,” I thought, “but I basically do the same thing every day, just without the sub 40-degree temps.” The Kwikset Smartcode Deadbolt easily installed in about 15 minutes, replacing my existing lock using just a screwdriver. With Kwikset’s “Smartkey” tech, I even “re-keyed” it to work with our existing physical keys in seconds. However, we never use physical keys anymore; rather we lock it with a button press and unlock it with a code, or by using the Control4 app on my iPhone/iPad, or by having the system automatically lock itself every night at 8 p.m. My wife feels more secure knowing its locked, and I no longer worry about being locked out without my keys. The lock can send an email when batteries are getting low and there are additional programming options like unique access codes with day/time restrictions, the ability to see when the lock was opened and by whom and tying it in with security system arms/disarms.