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Ceiling Speakers

Jun 17, 2011 12:24 PM, By Bob McCarthy

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Audio Spotlight AS-16 in black

Here we are again with more reflection on ceiling speaker plans. Our journey will begin with the familiar shapes and styles of typical ceiling speaker types and progress to the more exotic and unusual. Before we are done here we will have covered invisible speakers that we can see, inaudible speakers that we can hear, talking rocks, and the Twisted-assister. Nothing highlights the glamorous side of our business more than ceiling speakers.

Audio Spotlight AS-16 in white

Most ceiling speaker applications favor a wide-angle speaker in order to maximize coverage with the lowest density of devices. In some cases, however, narrow coverage is desired to provide dedicated coverage to a small area with minimal spill into others. This can be useful for retail spaces, museums, galleries, and more. Directional control normally comes from either horns or arrays, both of which are large and impractical for ceiling applications. Audio Spotlight by Holosonics achieves these directional goals in a 1/2in.-thick flatpanel format by ultrasonic steering. The speaker is nearly impossible to spot since it looks like a simple ceiling panel, and you won't notice it is turned on until you are almost directly under it. The directional control is so tight that a speaker located on a 12ft. ceiling would cover less than +/- 2ft. at standing head height. This is not a rock and roll PA, but the power capability is more than sufficient for loud speech. The speaker system consists of the easily installed flatpanel and a small specialized controller. Just add line level audio and mix. Two versions are available in black and white or custom print finishes. The AS-16 provides the more narrow coverage while the AS-24 can be used at longer distances and has more angular spread.

Azden ACS-6.5

Azden ACS-6.5

Also present in the classroom is the Azden ACS-6.5 ceiling speaker. This 50W unit is optimized for voice as well as playback and music sources. Each flush-mountable speaker features a sealed-back enclosure and 6.5in. polypropylene woofer and coaxially-mounted 1in. polycarbonate tweeter.

Bogen MPS1

The search for unusual approaches to ceiling speakers continues with the Bogen MPS1 Mini Pendant speaker. This flying speaker could easily masquerade as a pendant light (with its bulb burned out) and therefore satisfies both aesthetic and acoustic concerns for many applications. Don't ask me why it is that folks have no problem with seeing lights all over the place but can't stand to see speakers. This solves that issue. From an acoustic perspective, we can get a far superior direct/reverb ratio in spaces with high or vaulted ceilings since the pendant mounting brings the speaker down much closer to the listeners. The speaker contains a wide dispersion 4-1/2in. driver and integral high-frequency radiator that can be driven as 70V or 16Ω system. Standard colors include white or black textured finish, but it can be easily painted to match theme decors. I am going with 1970's chrome!

The Bose 791 Virtually Invisible speakers can be found at the very high end of the ceiling speaker market. At a retail price of $599.95 each you will not likely see these in high-density commercial settings. Their Virtually Invisible feature is a welcome attribute for homeowners who wish to get the sound without the sight. Installation is easy and the flush-mount design blends seamlessly into the ceiling. The 791 uses a combination of two tweeters and a 7in. woofer, which provides full-range sound for music playback or for a rear-channel option in a home theater setup. The speakers are driven as an 8Ω load. Installing 791 speakers is easy—four clamp screws secure each speaker to the ceiling. The infinite baffle design eliminates the need for a separate speaker enclosure. The tweeters are strategically positioned to eliminate the need to aim the speakers into the room.

Califone CS308

Califone CS308

The 6in., two-way Califone CS308 ceiling speaker has been engineered for multimedia presentations in classrooms, houses of worship, conference rooms, and other areas where clear vocal reproduction and multimedia presentations are desired, creating whole room audio immersion with superior coverage. Each package includes two speakers and two brackets (one pair of each). The flush-mount installation and paintable grilles help blend the speakers into the architecture (indoor or outdoor installations), so they'll be heard but not noticed. Additional features include spring-loaded terminals for professional and fast installation; UL fire-rated ABS plastic for durability; polypropylene with mica cone; 6in. woofer with 1in. tweeter; included tile bridge made with 18 AWG steel for strength; fits standard 24"x24" or 24"x 48" panels; four tensioning points create a solid connection with the ring and bracket.

Community Professional Loudspeakers Distributed Design series

The new Distributed Design series from Community Professional Loudspeakers has a very handy feature: the ability to be installed with fewer hands. The Drop-Stop feature provides spring-loaded legs to support the back-can on the included rails and C-ring, so the installer no longer needs to hold the can against the tile while tightening the clamps. Twist-Assist performs a similar function for the baffle assembly: When the loudspeaker back-cans are pre-installed into a conduit system for later termination, a simple twist of the baffle into the back-can brings the Twist-Assist clips together, supporting the baffle assembly while the installer fastens the screws. Check out the video on the company's website to see an animation of the Drop-Stop and Twist-Assist in action. The series comprises six full-range products, ranging from a 60W, 4.5in. model to a 10in., 200W model and finishes with a 10in. subwoofer. All of the full-range speakers are centered coaxial designs boasting uniform coverage in all directions without HF beaming even up to 16kHz.

The Extron Electronics FF 220T is a speaker that gives the term “a flat response” a whole new meaning. In this case, “flat” refers to the shape of the polar response rather than the frequency response. This speaker sends more energy at 60 degrees off axis than it does directly below it. Why would we want that? Because in ceiling speaker applications we are usually much closer to the speaker when we are under it—and farther from the speaker as we move off axis. Extron's patented Flat Field Technology reduces beaming of mid and high frequencies directly under the speaker, thereby delivering consistent sound levels over the flat plane of our listeners, and thereby reducing the number of speakers required. The FF 220T offers an extraordinarily wide dispersion area of 170 degrees, providing a very wide room coverage pattern. This can be is especially useful for rooms with low ceilings which otherwise have hotspots underneath the speakers. Installation requires minimal effort and time without any pre-installation procedures necessary for the typical round speaker, such as cutting holes through ceiling tiles and mounting supporting hardware. The Extron FF 220T is a full-range ceiling tile speaker for 70V/100V systems. The enclosure is a quickly installed, plenum rated, 2'x2' (61cm x 61cm) by 3.25in. (8.3cm) deep aluminized composite enclosure that drops into standard suspended ceilings. With a low-profile enclosure, this speaker is an excellent choice for ceiling installations with tight above-the-ceiling space issues.

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