CEDIA Scoop: Vanco Concealer Turns Sonos into In-Ceiling Speaker
Integrator Joe Whitaker teams with Vanco to launch in-ceiling housing for Sonos Play:1, Bose and other third-party speakers. Patent-pending Concealer debuts at CEDIA Expo 2015.
Julie Jacobson · October 9, 2015
Like it or not, Sonos and Bose are wildly popular consumer brands, and integrators today are doing good business with the lines. But it’s hard to make those and other box speakers look “custom.” They’re just bulky things that sit on a shelf our crop out of a wall.
Now they can be installed in a ceiling, appearing like any other architectural speaker, with the new Concealer housing from Vanco, a major supplier of low-voltage solutions for integrators.
The patent-pending product is the brainchild of integrator, Sonos dealer and CE Pro contributor Joe Whitaker, who developed the Concealer because “architectural speakers are a keystone,” he tells CE Pro. “They’re the center of just about every room.”
Whitaker himself has numerous Sonos speakers in the home, and in tight spaces like bathrooms, “there’s no places to put them,” he says. “So I went into the garage and started building something.”
Launching at CEDIA Expo 2015, the Concealer is made to fit the Sonos Play:1 speaker in a 6.5-inch footprint. But the universal box can accommodate other speakers as well, like the little Bose cubes so common in today’s living rooms.
The footprint is “a big deal to me because I feel a 6.5-inch in a normal room looks nice,” says Whitaker. “An 8-inch looks like some big saucer plate on the ceiling.”
The Vanco Concealer
Inside the housing is an electrical box for power and a mounting bracket for screwing in the speaker. The bracket can be removed and re-inserted for easy access to the speaker. A zero-edge grille snaps into place via magnets.
Whitaker says both the housing and the mounting bar are solid: “They can’t vibrate loose down the road.”
But a few big questions come up with regard to Sonos: What about the power requirements of the speaker, potential for overheating and of course wireless audio quality?
Power. Power is the easy one, says Whitaker, who notes that it’s much easier to find or run electrical wire in the ceiling than it is to run dedicated speaker wire.
He reminds us, “This isn’t a DIY project.”
Furthermore, Sonos speakers in Concealer housings would work well in commercial applications, “where electrical outlets are readily available above drop ceilings,” Whitaker says. “And it’s so much easier to ‘daisy chain’ music with a mesh network than 70v speakers.”
Overheating. Whitaker says, “There’s no problem with heat from the Sonos amp.”
Wireless. How will ductwork, pipes, wires and other potentially sound-sapping obstacles in the ceiling affect Sonos’s wireless performance?
“It’s absolutely fine,” Whitaker assures us. “Interference is almost nil.”
He concedes that wireless interference is of course possible, but on the other hand, “you’re basically placing the wireless unit six feet higher than usual, which is beneficial for RF. That’s why in-ceiling WAPs [wireless access points] are so popular.”
The Bonus Round: Sonos Trueplay Room EQ
While Whitaker and Vanco were working on the Concealer, Sonos was preparing its new Trueplay room EQ solution, which makes Sonos speakers sound better in any given space, regardless of their positioning.
“Now that Sonos has announced Trueplay,” says Whitaker, “the combination of a Play:1 and the Concealer makes the world’s first architectural speaker that can be room EQ'd. And from an iPhone at that!”
The Vanco Way
Vanco supplies a large number of low-voltage products for integrators, including cables, IR kits, mounts, and complete A/V distribution systems. When suitable, the company collaborates with other vendors and inventors like Whataker.
Whitaker has worked with Vanco before. In 2013 he invented the HDBaseT Boost, which takes old HDMI cables and turns them into HDBaseT solutions, supporting newer video formats such as 3D and 4K Ultra HD, and delivering Ethernet data and two-way control over the single cable.
A 2013 CE Pro BEST award winner, Boost is sold exclusively through Vanco.
“We have worked very hard to find products to feed through our distribution channel,” says Vanco owner Brad Corbin. “We have the distribution partners in place so we’re looking for products that are unique and leading-edge.”
Vanco’s success with Boost, “shows that we listen to integrators,” Corbin says. “We are not afraid to partner with someone like Joe that has great ideas.”
As for the Concealer product, Corbin explains, “Wireless speakers for retrofit are a home run. Being able to hide the speakers in the wall is really big.”
It’s certainly big for dealers, Whitaker says: “At the end of the day it's all about how to take products like Sonos, Heos by Denon, Bose and others and make them truly custom as we know custom. Concealer is the difference between a product being picked up at Best Buy and the same product being provided by a home technology professional.”
The Concealer will ship in early 2016, with pricing to be revealed later this year.
The Concealer will be demonstrated at the Vanco booth (#4750) at CEDIA Expo 2015.
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Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org
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