Loudspeakers packed Essential Install Live South, the UK home-technology expo. Some, like Phase Technology's dARTS digital audio speakers, were brand new to Europe. Others, like Definitive Technology's BP9040 tower with built-in Atmos module, were just brand new. Period.
“These are the only two in Europe right now,” said Simon Schino, account manager for Pulse Cinemas, distributor for Definitive Technology in the UK.
Below are glimpses of just a few of the loudspeaker revelations at the show.
Earlier this year Totem Acoustic, best known for big honkin’ towers, introduced its first little sealed speakers, the KIN Mini Flex ($395 each) – billed as a soundbar alternative for discriminating listeners.
Bram Verellen, sales director for Totem’s European distributor Joenit, says, “Totem has always been strong in Europe” but he was “a little bit skeptical” about the new KINs.
“I wasn’t sure it was right for our market,” he says, but he found: “If you put these small babies next to the wall, it’s stunning. Especially if you put it with a small Rega amplifier … spot on!”
Oh, Joenit distributes Rega as well.
Artison is famous for designing speakers that perfectly match any given TV. But did you know the company also prints custom speaker grilles? The customer’s design can help speakers blend into the background or make a statement.
Prices vary, but Martin Morecraft of the European distributor Redline says the most a consumer might pay for custom grilles is about £200 ($260). Artison offers stock images or they can print a specific Pantone color or, as Morecraft suggests, “Take a picture of the wall paper and we can match that.”
He says dealers can use custom designs to elevate a project “from a good job to a really special job.”
Artison also prints custom grilles for its pint-sized Nano-1 subwoofers.
Genesis recently brought on the line – part of the MSE Audio empire that includes Rockustics and Induction Dynamics – because “there’s no one else that combines the performance and history of Phase at this price point.”
Genesis demonstrated Phase’s Audyssey-enabled dARTS (Digital Audio Reference Theater System) with a Barco projector at EI Live.
Barco also is new to Genesis, but we’ll have more on that later.
The folks at DLS Audio have a point: In-wall speakers have really improved in quality over the years, but if you invest in a good-sounding speaker, maybe you want to show it off a bit?
With its Swedish roots, DLS Audio features speaker designs that are both understated and conversation-worthy.
“It’s a bit of a talking point,” says Stephen Pitt, product manager of NWX Ltd., which distributes DLS and Anthony Gallo in the UK.
DLS’s Flatbox on-wall line includes a subwoofer that could double as a shelf in an Ikea living room. In a good way. Its D-ONE on-wall speaker ships with seven round grilles in different colors, rather, colours.
“If it’s a happy day, put the happy colours on,” Pitt suggests.
The new speaker ($899 each) features an eight-inch powered subwoofer and built-in Atmos module for optional upward-firing channels. Simply remove the very heavy steel cover that hides the module and plop in an extra speaker.
At EI Live, Pulse demonstrated the speakers with an AVR-7, the new Atmos-enabled receiver from AudioControl, which is a new line for the distributor.
Pulse also demonstrated Definitive Technology's new Studio Micro slim 3.1 soundbar with wireless subwoofer.
Can anything be simpler than installing a wireless loudspeaker along a track-lighting rail? Sonab's CLS powered speaker line, with class D amplification looks like most commercial-oriented lights and sits right next to them on a 117V to 230V rail, getting power from the track. According to the company, the CLS can deliver full power to the speakers even if the lighting track is dimmed down to 25 percent.
“It looks sexy and sounds great,” says Leighton Castle of the distributor Monacor International, which carries the line.
He grimmaces when dealers use Sonos in commercial settings, saying Sonab is “made for commercial.”
Today, the line is mainly distributed in Sonab's home country of Sweden, but Monacor is bringing the product to the U.K. this fall. next in the lineup: outdoor models and smaller speakers.
Origin Acoustics is only a couple of years old, but the California-based company founded by Jeremy Burkhardt is already snapping up awards in the UK.
Origin’s Director Collection was named Loudspeaker of the Year during Essential Install Live’s Smart Building Awards. The speaker brand is distributed by Invision UK, which was named Distributor of the Year.
UK managing director Steve Beahan with Origin Acoustics award