Heard but not seen

The old saying “time is money” is of particular importance to an integrator faced with a project requiring hundreds of ceiling speakers. Any features that can save time or effort are hugely sought after so what are manufacturers offering the market right now.

Essentially, ceiling speakers should be heard and not seen and one of their biggest selling points is no more interesting than lending themselves to rapid installation in large quantities. Furthermore not only do a multitude of companies sell these units, each manufacturer’s ceiling speaker line-ups can fill a weighty tome.

But, that said, they are an important, if not essential part of a huge variety of installations and as such deserve careful investigation. In fact the very prerequisites (discreet, cost-effective and easy to install) that can make them a fairly unglamorous product are the focus of a large amount of research and development designed to perfect these features.

TOA Corporation is one manufacturer that has put a lot of thought behind a system that allows quick and easy installation of its PC-series loudspeakers. Brett Downing, sales and marketing director of TOA Corporation Europe explained how an installer simply has to push an installation fitting into the ceiling, to pierce it, before rotating it to cut a hole. The fitting is placed in the hole and secured with screws in the two ceiling clamps. Next, one speaker spring can be secured to the fitting allowing easy connection of input cables to speaker terminals. Finally the whole unit can be popped into place using a simple spring catch mounting system.

The company has also designed extra-wide dispersion characteristics into its latest range of ceiling speakers. Not only does this create a more pleasurable listening experience, obviating noticeable hot spots, it means in some applications less speakers are needed to create the desired effect. This is an obvious benefit both in time taken to install the units and the overall cost of the project.

Evan MacKenzie, director of marketing and communications at QSC, says the company has four ceiling speakers in its AcousticDesign line. “All of the ADC ceiling speakers feature sealed integrated back cans for easy installation, even in blind-mount applications,” he explains. “All models ship with c-rings and tile rails for fast and safe mounting in drop ceilings,” he continues, adding: “The AD-Ci52ST and AD-C81TW also feature side access for conduit eliminating the need for extra clearance above the speaker for wiring.”

“Easy installation is an important feature for us,” says Nils Schaechtele, product manager of Dynacord at Bosch Communications Systems. “All DL Series speakers incorporate installation technologies based on springs. The Media Ceiling (MC) series speakers can be fixed by screws in the speaker front that activate (right turns) or deactivates (left turns) a fixing bracket. The HCS speakers do have several mounting points with which it is possible to fix eyebolds for hanging or screws directly at the speaker cabinet.”

Genelec’s dedicated in-ceiling product is the AIC25 and it is an active loudspeaker. Terho Savolainen, marketing manager at Genelec says: “We have tried to improve the install-ability from previous products so installation of the AIC25, using pre-construction brackets, is now quite easy. When you’re building you can just mark the spot for your loudspeaker and when you are installing, if the wires are in place, you just put the speaker in, turn a couple of screws and it holds in place – easy.”

Jason Baird, research and development director, of Martin Audio points out that it’s not just at the point of physical installation where manufacturers can make life easier for installers. “Planning,” says Baird “is an important consideration. Martin offers a free software application that anyone can request from us. You put in the dimensions of the room and you choose which ceiling speaker you want to use and it will tell you where to put them and how many to use. We also offer Ease data as well for acoustic calculations.”

And for physical installation, Martin has template that can be used to cut out ceiling tiles. “We’ve also got a paint mask,” continues Baird. “This is a plastic disk you use to put over the ceiling speaker if you’re going to paint around it. Installation is possible from the underside of so you don’t need access from above,” he concludes.

“One priority for us is definitely ease of install,” says Tannoy’s Mark Flanagan. “It’s a balance between audio performance and ergonomics. Obviously the main driver here is the old adage that time is money so most of the features, and the design of each product, aim to create speakers that are a one man fit, rather than a two man,” he continues.

“Whether you are looking at our CVS or CMS range, each of our models comes in a blind mount option. Here, the ceiling speaker comes with its whole back can pre-sealed. Furthermore the PI (pre-install) option allows the back can itself to be pre-installed during construction, so the installer can pop the speaker part in place afterwards.

“Our ceiling speakers are held in place with ‘dog-leg’ clamps,” continues Flanagan. “You put the speaker in the hole and turn little screws. These turn little latches or legs on the other side of the ceiling. We’ve spent years researching issues and problems with fixings because in the past if you went to unscrew the product, for example for maintenance reasons, and you turn the screw too much the leg would fall out and you would loose it. Now, we have a system where the ‘dog-legs’ are locked. You can over-screw and the ‘dog-leg’ will return to its original position.”

APart tackles issues with back cans by simply not including them on their products. Marketing manager, Filip Van Eetvelde, said this can provide better sound quality and makes mounting easier. The company also offers speakers in any RAL colour desired; this can be a great help for consultants trying to meet an architect’s plans and provides unobtrusive sound reinforcement.

SoundTube’s CM-EZ and CMi series products utilise the company’s proprietary full-metal SpeedWing mounting system which adapts to material thicknesses ranging from 0.9mm to 40.6 mm. Furthermore, the speakers are shipped with a tile bridge and paint mask designed to contribute to rapid installation. To ensure the right speaker is installed in the right location SoundTube offers colour-coded back can labels, tile bridges and pre-construction brackets - a useful feature when many installations require hundreds, or even thousands of speakers.

All ic audio DL range ceiling speakers incorporate three spring clamps with cropped leg spring to provide quick and easy installation. The company also offers an optional fire dome, which is designed for easy installation. The dome is fixed with screws or nails before the concrete is filled in. Mounting is then carried out quickly using two spring clamps. Adaptation with two hands is possible because the speaker has already been fixed with one of the two spring clamps.

There is such a huge range of products in the ceiling speaker marketplace it was important to narrow the focus to one topic, in this case features that can help often over-stretched integrators. But, when researching these units, what quickly became apparent is so many companies had actually put real time, effort and ingenuity into creating products that do all these things but sound great too. It seemed a shame to ignore those efforts but, that said, there’s plenty of material left to re-visit the topic in the future.

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