The Perfect Vision has not often done reviews of in-wall and in-ceiling speakers, largely because of the logistical hassles such reviews almost invariably entail, but the last time we mounted such a project one of the best sounding general purpose In-ceiling speakers we found was the Noble Fidelity L85—an 8-inch, 2-way design developed with every bit as much care as might go into a typical in-room speaker.
At CEDIA, we were delighted to encounter Noble Fidelity honcho Greg Ford who showed us his firm’s newly updated L85 MkII ($749/pair) in-celing speaker. If you’re not yet familiar with Noble Fidelity, it helps to know that these guys take their architectural speakers very seriously and therefore sweat small details that other manufacturers might not know or care about.
An example: Ford has always believed that in-ceiling speakers sound best with what might be called “driver forward” placement; that is, an arrangement where the driver is more or less placed flush with the adjoining ceiling surfaces—not recessed into a deep, flanged hole. At the same time, Ford is also aware that many interior designers favor architectural speakers whose grilles are vanishingly thin and seem to blend in with surrounding surfaces. The problem, of course, is that if drivers are pushed forward and grilles are pulled backward, they are bound to conflict (not good). To solve this problem, the L85 MkII comes with grilles that are ever-so-slightly dome-shaped, so that they appear to offer a nearly flush fit at their perimeter edges, yet gently bow outward to provide clearance room for the driver to move back and forth. And, since Noble always sweats the little details, the L-85 MkII speaker frame provides very subtly beveled surfaces with plenty of embedded magnets to support the dome-shaped grilles around their entire circumference. Cool, no?
Following a trend I saw from several manufacturers exhibiting at CEDIA, Onkyo opted to roll out a minimalist, low-cost, self-powered 2.1-channel speaker system design as a simple, add-on for modern flat panel TVs (whose built-in speaker systems leave much to be desired). The system is called the LS3100 Envision Cinema package ($499), and provides three basic inputs (one digital optical, one digital coax, and one stereo analog), plus an easy-to-use remote control.
Paradigm is well aware that many prospective customers are frustrated with the sound quality (or lack thereof) of modern flat panel TVs and may also be in need of high quality sound systems for music playback. With both requirements in mind, and with an eye toward pleasing customers who want to keep things as simple as possible, Paradigm announced not one but three new attractively priced, self-powered, audio systems.
Two of the systems are sat/sub systems: the Millenia CT and Millenia One CT—both of which leverage technologies originally created for Paradigm’s popular Millennia One system. The less expensive Millenia CT system ($699) consists of a pair of 2-way satellites (which are essentially cost-reduced versions of the considerably more exotic Millenia One sats), plus a shallow-profile subwoofer that incorporates a 3 x 80-watt amplifier, with one channel for the sub and two for the satellites. The more expensive, but also better performing, Millenia One CT system ($1199) at first glance appears superficially similar to the Millenia CT package, but its internal design more closely follows that of the original high-performance Millenia One system. Accordingly, Millenia One CT modules use better drivers, more rigid cast aluminum enclosures, and a bigger (3 x 100-watt) amplifier than those found in the Millenia CT system.