Wall-to-Wall Sound Page 2

Elan MP-650W
Elan Home Systems is a major supplier of distributed audio and home automation components for custom installation. They also manufacture a line of in-wall loudspeakers; featured here is the MP-650W, with a 6.5-inch woven-glass-fiber woofer and 0.75-inch aluminum-magnesium composite dome tweeter. The speaker frame, or basket, is made of the same glass-fiber compound.

The mounting system uses six clamps to secure the mounting bracket and speaker baffle to the wall, or you can attach the mounting bracket directly to wall studs using drywall screws. The baffle is contoured around the woofer and tweeter to minimize edge diffraction. The speaker baffle also has a knock-out plug for an IR receiver. Tone controls permit bass and treble adjustment of +/–3 dB, and the MP-650W has a pivoting tweeter to direct high frequencies toward the listening area.

Aesthetically, the MP-650W has a tall, narrow shape with a slim profile when installed in the wall. You can paint the grille and frame to match your interior décor.

The Elan has a balanced sound quality, with excellent midrange presence and very detailed high-end response. My newly acquired DVD-Audio version of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours revealed a rather punchy-sounding midbass with good dynamic range, and the speaker reproduced all of the detail in Acoustic Alchemy's "One for the Road" with excellent clarity. I especially enjoyed Jane Monheit's vocals in the Session #55 DVD-Audio, which demonstrated the MP-650W's exceptional imaging and soundstaging capabilities, most likely due in part to the pivoting tweeter.

At A Glance: Elan MP-650W

Tweeter (size in inches, type): 0.75, aluminum-magnesium dome
Woofer (size in inches, type): 6.5, woven glass fiber
Cutout Dimensions (inches): 7.125 wide by 12.25 high
Mounting Depth (inches): 3.813
Available Finishes: white (paintable)
Price: $550/pair

Ratings: Elan MP-650W
Build Quality: 92
Value: 93
Features: 93
Performance: 92
Ergonomics: 94
Overall Rating: 93

General information
MP-650W In-Wall Speaker, $550/pair
Elan Home Systems
(859) 269-7760
Dealer Locator Code ELA

Parasound C 265
In addition to manufacturing high-end audio components, Parasound offers in-wall and in-ceiling speakers for the custom-install market. The C 265 falls in the middle of their product assortment and has a 6.5-inch Kevlar cone woofer and a 1-inch aluminum dome tweeter.

Kevlar is an ultra-strong material (also used in bulletproof vests) that provides two important advantages in woofer design: It's rigid and lightweight. The dome tweeter uses Ferrofluid, a combination of iron particles and lubricant that enhances voice-coil heat conduction and dampens peaks in the tweeter's impedance.

The C-265 uses a mounting system with six dogleg clamps to secure the speaker to the wall, and the baffle has a knock-out plug for an IR receiver. There's also a three-position treble control that lets you adjust the treble +/–3 dB. The speaker terminal is a spring-loaded push-type terminal that accepts up to 10-gauge wire. As with the other speakers featured here, you can paint the speaker baffle and grille.

The Parasound had a smooth, natural, and well-balanced sound quality with a very detailed and delicate high end. Vocals, such as those of Clydene Jackson Edwards in "Come on In," were liquid and lush. The speaker's midrange qualities were excellent, especially the piano in Adam Makowicz's "Ab Elegy." There was plenty of mid- and low-bass response in Steely Dan's Everything Must Go DVD-Audio, even without a subwoofer.

Overall, the C 265 was pleasant to listen to. It also handled a lot of power without being overdriven. This is a great-sounding speaker and a real value at its price point.

At A Glance: Parasound C 265

Tweeter (size in inches, type): 1, aluminum dome
Woofer (size in inches, type): 6.5, Kevlar cone
Cutout Dimensions (inches): 7.375 wide by 10.75 high
Mounting Depth (inches): 3.25
Available Finishes: white (paintable)
Price: $435/pair

Ratings: Parasound C 265
Build Quality: 92
Value: 96
Features: 93
Performance: 95
Ergonomics: 92
Overall Rating: 94

General information
C 265 In-Wall Speaker, $435/pair
Parasound Products
(415) 397-7100
Dealer Locator Code PAR

Phase Technology CI-60
The Phase Technology brand was started in 1978 after the company spent many years building loudspeakers for other manufacturers. They now build floorstanding, bookshelf, in-wall, and in-ceiling speakers, as well as in-wall and floorstanding subs. The CI-60 comes from their Custom Installation Series of in-wall speakers.

The CI-60 features a 6.5-inch woofer and 1-inch tweeter that have some unusual features. Phase Tech calls the woofer design a Solid Piston Driver with RPF (which stands for Rigid Polymer Foam); the driver has a flat surface that outputs all frequencies from the same plane simultaneously. The woofer also uses a large 1.5-inch voice coil to increase power-handling capability. The soft-dome pivoting tweeter is adjustable to enable the listener to aim it right at the listening area. Phase Tech employs a crossover technology that they call Absolute Phase, which ensures that the drivers are acoustically and electrically in-phase. The company also strives to create in-walls with good vertical dispersion.

The two-piece installation system consists of a separate mounting bracket and speaker assembly, which makes installation a little easier. According to Phase Tech, it also permits upgrading to a better model in the future because all of the speakers in their line use the same mounting bracket. You can also attach the speakers directly to studs with a slotted post on the mounting frame. The back of the woofer is covered with cloth to prevent drywall dust from entering the speaker's voice coil, and the baffle features a knock-out plug for an IR receiver.

I would describe the CI-60's sound as dynamic and musical. Pat Coil's "Sierra Highways" sounded rich and full at all volume levels. The piano in Airto Moreira and the Gods of Jazz's "Nevermind" jumped out of the speaker and into the room. Bass was full enough without a subwoofer, and mids and highs were pleasing and well balanced. Overall, this is a great speaker with a pleasing sound quality that was easy to listen to.

At A Glance: Phase Technology CI-60

Tweeter (size in inches, type): 1, soft dome
Woofer (size in inches, type): 6.5, Solid Piston Driver with RPF
Cutout Dimensions (inches): 7.5 wide by 10.75 high
Mounting Depth (inches): 3.5
Available Finishes: white (paintable)
Price: $600/pair

Ratings: Phase Technology CI-60
Build Quality: 90
Value: 95
Features: 93
Performance: 95
Ergonomics: 94
Overall Rating: 94

General information
CI-60 In-Wall Speaker, $600/pair
Phase Technology
(888) 742-7385
Dealer Locator Code PHA