There are few categories in consumer electronics as competitive as the loudspeaker category. Anyone entering the category knows that having the best product doesn’t really matter, because ultimately the success will likely come down to two simple factors: reliability and functionality. Bringing those attributes into the market through its new Saga Luxury Edition with Speedlock loudspeakers is the distributor Skywalker AV.
That’s right … Skywalker AV, the Midwest-based national distributor. Skywalker, like a growing number of distributors, offers a line of speakers developed in-house that is exclusive to its branches.
Sending CE Pro a pair of in-wall LCR (SAG0255IW) and 6.5-inch in-ceiling (SAG0250IC) samples, the St. Louis, Mo.-based company says it has designed a line of products that is affordable, sounds good and—most importantly to integrators—is easy to install through its innovative Speedlock mounting system.
Skywalker 6.5-inch In-Ceiling Speaker Install
Pulling the two pairs of speakers from a single large box, the speakers are packaged as sets in very nice, elegant packaging. Starting with the in-ceiling speakers, I cut the drywall using the template that ships with the 6.5-inch speakers.
Inserting the speakers into the cut holes, I positioned the dog-leg mounting clamps out of the way. Once I slide the speakers through the holes the mounting clamps engaged to affix the speakers to the drywall. Many companies claim to have toolless install systems, but Skywalker’s system really works. What really caught me by surprise is how instantaneous the mechanism works and how securely it locks the speaker in once it engages.
Finishing up the install, I was initially going to run 12/2 Transparent Audio in-wall speaker cable, but I ended up using 16/2 Monster in-wall cabling because it was a better fit with the speakers’ binding posts.
Using an Integra receiver, along with a Toshiba disc player and my iPhone as sources, I started with a mix CD I created for myself with songs from Stevie Ray Vaughn, Susan Tedeschi, Pink Floyd, Ozzy and the Aristocrats. My first thoughts were the speakers were bright coming fresh from their box. Using the boundary compensation switch, I dropped the tweeter’s output from the +3dB setting to 0dB or flat after trying the flat and -3dB increments.
Following my adjustments using the compensation switch, I thought the in-ceiling speakers threw a nice wide soundstage that included a solid image, but the midrange sounded a bit compressed.
After break-in, I concluded the speaker’s midrange could open up.
Getting back to the installation for a moment, the speaker is definitely easier to install than the typical speaker in which you climb a ladder with a drill gun and hold the speaker and drill awkwardly. Saga Luxury Edition eliminates a large part of the potential hazards involved with climbing a ladder and installing a speaker.
Once to the point where I felt comfortable playing the speakers, which I would say was the 30-hour point I listened to a variety of content from my iPhone and CD. Listening to artists such as AWOL Nation, Alice in Chains, AC/DC and Billy Squier, I found myself thinking the speakers would really benefit from having a sub to augment its lower midrange and bass capabilities.
The lack of bottom end extension isn’t unique to the Skywalker speakers. It’s a normal occurrence with many small architectural speakers, especially open-back designs. I would estimate the speaker’s usable extension is down to 100Hz.
Confirming the speaker’s bottom end capabilities, I was able to get the speaker’s usable extension to play down to 80Hz.
Over time I put more playing hours on the in-ceiling speaker to expedite the break-in process.
Skywalker In-Wall LCR Install
Moving onto the in-wall speaker, I followed a similar install process of using the template to aid my cutting of the drywall. Having gained some experience with the Saga in-ceiling product I had a better idea of what to expect with the in-wall model.
Some of that experience included making sure I set the dog-leg mechanisms in a position where they wouldn’t prematurely engage. Inserting the speakers into the drywall cutouts the speakers snapped into place just like the in-ceiling models. The snap did feel more “violent” than the in-ceiling products. Perhaps this feeling is due to the more direct handling of the in-wall model versus the tweeter housing of the in-ceiling absorbing some of that “snap” because I used the tweeter housing as a handle.
Maybe the only problematic aspect of the in-wall speakers that integrators in the field could run into involves the location of the speakers’ binding posts. The binding posts are located near the dog-leg mechanisms, and I found it did require some maneuvering of the speaker cables to secure them to the binding posts. Depending on the install environment the cable connections could be tricky.
Before snapping the speakers’ magnetic grilles into place (both the in-wall and in-ceiling models utilize edgeless magnetic grilles) I made sure the speakers’ boundary compensation switches were in the +3dB in order to make the install experience as close to the in-ceilings as I could (the volume level on the receiver was also set at the same level).
Ultimately once I started my listening and checking the various positions of the boundary compensation switches I settled for the flat 0dB setting because I thought it sounded the best.
Starting with some guitar-based music — Lee Ritenour’s “Six String Theory” and Jeff Beck’s “Performing This Week: Live at Ronnie Scott’s” I thought the in-walls offered more bottom-end extension than the in-ceiling model. I did detect a little upper midrange emphasis around 1kHz to 2kHz, but I did like the sound quality of the in-wall model.
Letting the in-wall speakers break-in I wanted to confirm the low-frequency extension of the in-wall model, and my findings discovered the speaker played comfortably down to 63Hz.
Beyond extension, another differentiator between the in-wall and in-ceiling models is the level of resolution the speakers provided. I found the in-wall model to offer more resolution, which aided with me hearing detail such as more space between instruments in various recordings, like the stripped down version of Ozzy’s “Goodbye to Romance” in which I could hear greater separation in Ozzy’s doubled vocal tracks.
Assessing Skywalker’s new Saga Luxury Edition Speedlock speakers, it’s clear they put a lot of effort into designing the speakers’ mounting systems. From an install perspective Skywalker met its goals — I did not use tools to install the speakers.
Addressing the sound quality — the speakers performed as expected, which means they sounded good. I could see the in-ceiling speakers used for systems such as whole-house audio; as object-based surround height speakers, and as rear surrounds in a home theater.
I thought the in-walls provided a step up in dynamics, smoothness and detail. I can see dealers using the in-walls for higher-end whole-house installations, and for left, center, right, surround speakers in multichannel home theaters.
Adding it all up, there’s a lot to like when looking at Skywalker AV’s new Saga Luxury Edition Speedlock speakers.
CE Pro Verdict
- Speedlock mounting system works as advertised
- Saga Luxury Edition offers plenty of product choices
- Features such as the boundary compensation controls increase room integration flexibility
- Speedlock activation “feels more violent” with the in-wall model
- On the in-wall model the binding post location is near the Speedlock dog-leg mechanism, which required a little maneuvering to connect speaker cabling