For Beemer Smart Home in the Seattle area, custom integration started as more of a side business for several years until a project for a customer who was an architect spurred referral success into high-end residential and high-rise/MDU markets, as Beemer CEO Håkan Olsson recalls.
Olsson, who was enjoying a corporate career at Microsoft, began going full throttle into the integration business several ago and has leveraged relationships with architects and builders (and yes, potential clients from the Microsoft world) to continue expanding Beemer Smart Home’s reach and solutions portfolio.
With the heavy architect influence on Beemer Smart Home’s prospective customers, it’s no surprise that Olsson relies on architectural loudspeakers, and invisible speakers in particular. Olsson outfitted a new home four years with all sorts of integration technology to use as a showroom for the Kirkland, Wash.-based company, and was excited to showcase good/better/best invisible speakers from Stealth Acoustics for distributed audio throughout the house.
Musician & Sound Engineer Audiophile Perspective on Stealth Sound Quality
Alongside traditional loudspeakers also in the home, the array of Stealth Acoustics products also enabled Olsson to let customers compare the sound quality of invisible speakers versus freestanding ones. He came to his own conclusion about the sound quality five years ago when first listening to Stealth at a visit to the manufacturer’s nearby Mount Vernon, Wash., facility.
“I was absolutely blown away by the richness of the midrange,” says Olsson, whose audiophile ears and sonic preferences developed long ago from his background as both a classical musician and sound engineer in Sweden.
“It’s the closest and the best I’ve heard if I compare them to the Quad Electrostatics,” which Olsson used for years during his sound engineer days. Meanwhile, the warmth of the speakers also grabbed him, as a listener who loves the sound of acoustical music. “At that point it was the LR6, LR8 and LR3 speakers and it was just before we started building the house we were going to use as a show home, and after hearing them I decided that that’s what we were going to go for – partly for the invisibility, but also the richness of the sound, there’s nothing else I’ve heard that sound as natural.”
So in addition to the multiroom audio, he used a full suite of Stealth speakers to provide the immersive surround sound in his home theater. The combination of wow factor and sound quality began to sell itself, says Olsson.
“Actually, before this COVID happened we had a couple over, they were 75 years old and they were building a new beautiful house and they were not going to have a theater,” Olsson says of one particular homeowner couple. “But they were interested in music, and I took them down to the theater … and [after seeing and hearing it] they just looked at each other and said, ‘OK, we are going to have a theater now!’”
And that was before Olsson spent this year renovating the theater to update the Stealth array, which now includes 11 invisible Stealth speakers plus James Loudspeaker subwoofers:
- 3 LRX85 speakers as LCR in bi-amp mode (one amplifier for the low-frequency panel and one for the high-frequency panel)
- 2 Stealth LR8 as surround speakers
- 2 Stealth LR6 as back surround speakers
- 3 Stealth LR6 in the ceiling as Atmos front/rear speakers
- 2 James Loudspeaker QX1020 subwoofers in the front wall
Regarding the installation of the front LCRs, they and the subwoofers sit behind an acoustically transparent screen that’s mounted directly on the fabric-covered acoustical paneling on the constructed front wall, he explains. The sound treatment panels have been custom cut where the speakers are located with just the acoustically transparent fabric in front of it.
Theater Enhanced by Heftier LCR Speakers & LED Lights
Changing the James subwoofers from what were originally James floorstanding models was one reason that led to the theater renovation – after all, if the rest of the audio was invisible, the subwoofers should be as well, he notes. The new subs are in-wall models that went into the newly built fake front wall that would also accommodate new LCRs (bumping up from LR3 models).
“Stealth came out with this new model, the LRX85, which is a two-panel solution with the midrange and bass in one panel and the higher midrange and treble in the smaller panel above, which is absolutely amazing,” he enthuses. “It takes the Stealth to the next level of detail and resolution of the sound.”
Olsson suggests room acoustical treatments are important when doing a full Stealth Acoustics theater, since their speakers have wide 170-degree dispersion – which is a big asset when installing invisible speakers for multiroom audio as they help eliminate dead spots, but needs to be tamed more in home theater settings.
The other recent home theater upgrades, Olsson notes, include the Ketra lighting with two D3 fixtures as downlights over the seating as well as 10 feet of G2 linear Ketra lighting for wall washing behind the seating. And above the ceiling cove there is 46 feet of Trulux RBG+TW LED strip lighting. The room’s AV and lighting (via Lutron scenes) is all controlled through Control4.
In terms of demo content, when Olsson can demo the upgraded theater (keeping in mind the current COVID situation), a couple of his favorite pieces include the Swedish opera singer’s performance in “The Greatest Showman” as well as “Eric Clapton – Slowhand at 70 Live at the Royal Albert Hall,” which he plays through Kaleidescape.
“It’s an incredibly well done recording from an engineering perspective – and I can say that because I used to do that when I was a sound engineer,” he chuckles about the Clapton concert. “And I can tell you that after we upgraded to the LRX85s, I have never heard an acoustical guitar from Eric Clapton sound so real and so rich – it’s absolutely mind-blowing.”