The LCR8 is the first in-wall I’ve tried that can’t be used in a resonant (hollow) stud bay. Neither can it be driven full range (unless you order the speaker with its optional back box enclosure). To do either or both is to invite severe droning bass notes and heavy coloration of the midrange. The speaker is specifically designed for damped enclosures, and the owner’s manual cautions users to fill stud bays with dense fiberglass insulation to within one foot, top and bottom, of the LCR8. That doesn’t sound like such a daunting task until you realize that the cutout for the frame is only 7 inches wide, hardly an accommodating orifice for inserting bulky batt insulation. You can do it by cutting the insulation into smaller chunks and stuffing it up and down as far as your arm will reach in the wall. Wear gloves and long sleeves if you have to do this.
Even with the wall fully damped, you’ll want to set your speakers to SMALL in your processor’s set-up menu. Despite the LCR8’s surfeit of drivers and claimed 45Hz low-frequency cutoff point, it doesn’t do well with anything below the THX standard lowfrequency cutoff of 80Hz. The effect of trying to work below its optimum range is immediately obvious with any recording combining vocal with bass— almost every jazz and pop song. However, if you let your subwoofer handle the low bass, which is how most owners are likely to use this speaker, the LCR8 does a lot of things right. Very well, in fact: it delivers the authentic bite of cymbals and sax, and has a midrange that’s almost disturbingly revealing—so much so that you can hear microphone artifacts in vocals, and peculiarities of pronunciation that you might have overlooked with other loudspeakers. Why does Norah Jones pronounce couldn’t as cou-dent in “Wild Horses” from Tim Ries’s The Rolling Stones Project [Concord], and what sort of hideous accent (dence for dance, keer for care) is Jane Monheit aping in “Cheek to Cheek” on her CD In the Sun [Encoded Music]?
Too much information is the Devil’s bargain with a good loudspeaker. It’s also a great blessing. The LCR8 is one of the few in-walls I’ve tried (the MartinLogan Voyage, DALI Euphonia, and Angstrom Ambienti AV-6.5 are the others) that made me forget about critical listening and instead enjoy the music for its own sake. I especially got off on well-recorded rock with these speakers—guitarist Johnny A’s Sometime Tuesday Morning [Favored Nations], for example, or Benoit’s juicy cover of “I Put a Spell on You.” The LCR8 consistently delivered the goods with music of all kinds, with good dynamics and tonal balance, and even, surprisingly, the ability to cast a pretty deep image.
The LCR8 gets two thumbs up, with this caveat. The old adage says a wise man knows his limits. He also knows the limits of his equipment. Properly installed and set up, the B&W CWM LCR8 can be a wonderfully surprising performer. Just don’t try to make it do things it isn’t meant to do.