Wall-to-Wall Sound Page 3

PSB M6x1
PSB focuses all of their design and engineering efforts on building in-room, in-cabinet, and in-wall loudspeakers. The M6x1 has a 6.5-inch polypropylene woofer and 1-inch aluminum dome tweeter and, at 15 inches high and 9.375 wide, is larger than the other speakers in this roundup. You can adjust the midrange and high frequencies independently with two baffle-mounted switches, and you can pivot the tweeter toward the primary listening area. PSB also provides a knock-out plug for an IR receiver.

The M6x1 has a unique mounting system that clamps the speaker around the cutout's entire perimeter. The mounting system is comprised of two pieces: A back frame is installed behind the wall cutout and attaches to the front, finished frame with six screws. You then insert the speaker baffle into the frames. This design makes a lot of sense because the frames and speaker are in solid contact with the wall around the entire perimeter, about 47 inches total—which ensures a tight mechanical connection between wall and speaker and provides a cosmetically tight fit, avoiding gaps between the frame and the wall. The M6x1 also has connections for bi-amping or bi-wiring the woofer and tweeter separately.

Overall, the M6x1 sounded very open in the midrange, especially with vocals. Bass can be difficult for an in-wall speaker to reproduce accurately, particularly when the speaker is installed near an adjacent wall. PSB's solution to optimizing overall balance is to provide midrange and tweeter attenuation (or boost) relative to mid- and upper-bass response. These controls are effective; however, I found it necessary to adjust the controls for various software selections to suit my listening preferences. Low bass was lean and would benefit from a sub.

At A Glance: PSB M6x1

Tweeter (size in inches, type): 1, aluminum dome
Woofer (size in inches, type): 6.5, polypropylene
Cutout Dimensions (inches): 9.375 wide by 15 high
Mounting Depth (inches): 3.5
Available Finishes: white (paintable)
Price: $550/pair

Ratings: PSB M6x1
Build Quality: 92
Value: 94
Features: 95
Performance: 93
Ergonomics: 90
Overall Rating: 93

General information
M6x1 In-Wall Speaker, $550/pair
PSB Speakers of America
(888) 772-0000
Dealer Locator Code PSB

Sonance Symphony XT
In addition to manufacturing electronics for the custom-installation market, Sonance is one of the pioneers of modern in-wall loudspeakers and has been making them since 1983, before most consumers knew that you could buy an in-wall speaker. The company makes numerous models for different applications; the Symphony XT (for eXTreme) is a weather-resistant speaker that's designed for indoor or outdoor use. It's tolerant to temperature and humidity extremes (–30 to 220 degrees Fahrenheit), so you can use it around a pool or Jacuzzi area, on a patio, on a boat, or even in your shower. According to Sonance, the Symphony XT is resistant to salt corrosion and is watertight, so you can even hose it down if you like.

The Symphony XT is also very shallow (2.5 inches), so it'll fit in spaces where depth is a problem. The 6.5-inch woofer is made of black, anodized aluminum with a rubber surround, and the 1-inch tweeter is a polyurethane material. The removable grille is made of stainless steel that's powder-coated to prevent corrosion. Both the baffle and the grille are a neutral white color that you can paint to match the mounting surface. Sonance employs a patented mounting system called RotoLock that uses six angled clamps to secure the speaker to the wall and prevent vibrations.

Like its construction, the Symphony XT's sound quality makes it suitable for use in your living room or outdoors. The bass is prominent enough that a subwoofer isn't mandatory, and the mid and high frequencies have ample presence without sounding exaggerated. The speaker also handles adequate power, and you can play it at higher volumes without distortion—a requirement for a good pool party. Best of all, it won't be damaged if someone splashes a little beer on it.

Linda Ronstadt's dynamic vocals on the What's New DVD-Audio were clean and crisp, even at high volume levels, and James Taylor's Hourglass SACD revealed adequate bass even without a subwoofer.

At A Glance: Sonance Symphony XT

Tweeter (size in inches, type): 1, polyurethane
Woofer (size in inches, type): 6.5, anodized aluminum
Cutout Dimensions (inches): 6.75 wide by 10.875 high
Mounting Depth (inches): 2.5
Available Finishes: white (paintable)
Price: $600/pair

Ratings: Sonance Symphony XT
Build Quality: 90
Value: 92
Features: 91
Performance: 94
Ergonomics: 90
Overall Rating: 92

General information
Symphony XT In-Wall Speaker, $600/pair
(800) 582-0772
Dealer Locator Code SON

SpeakerCraft MT6 Three
SpeakerCraft began as a retailer and evolved into a supplier of custom-installation products, including in-wall speakers. The MT6 Three comes from their Mirror-Image Technology Series, which features a tweeter that is offset from the baffle to minimize diffraction and improve imaging. The pivoting tweeter can also be pointed toward or away from the primary listening area, aka the sweet spot, to suit your listening tastes. Speaker placement is an important consideration with any in-wall; unfortunately, when placing this kind of speaker in a room, people often put more emphasis on aesthetics than on sound quality, so these features are always valuable inclusions.

The MT6 Three also has two tone switches for bass and treble that you can set to +/–3 dB or leave in the flat position. The controls made a noticeable difference in the speaker's tonal character, which could be very helpful depending on your room acoustics. A 1-inch aluminum tweeter complements the 6.5-inch aluminum cone woofer. The removable grille is lined with cloth on the inside, which prevents you from being able to see the silver woofer and tweeter through the grille. During my listening tests, the cloth didn't seem to affect the sound quality. You can paint the speakers and grilles.

SpeakerCraft's mounting system is known as I-Beam and features two U-shaped clamps that fasten the speaker to the wall at the top and bottom only, not the sides, which makes it easier to install the speaker if the cutout is close to a wall stud.

The MT6 Three has a rock-'n'-roll sound quality: very musical, good with vocals, and a very detailed and prominent high end. Basia's "Cruising for Bruising," which has a lot of dynamic shifts, sounded so good that it made me want to turn up the MT6 Threes. They handled the volume, but only with the tone controls in the neutral position. Basia's vocals came through clearly, as did the bass.

At A Glance: SpeakerCraft MT6 Three

Tweeter (size in inches, type): 1, aluminum
Woofer (size in inches, type): 6.5, aluminum cone
Cutout Dimensions (inches): 6.75 wide by 10.75 high
Mounting Depth (inches): 3.125
Available Finishes: white (paintable)
Price: $500/pair

Ratings: SpeakerCraft MT6 Three
Build Quality: 89
Value: 90
Features: 91
Performance: 92
Ergonomics: 90
Overall Rating: 91

General information
MT6 Three In-Wall Speaker, $500/pair
(800) 448-0976
Dealer Locator Code SPE