An essential component of a home theater is one's ability to enjoy it. Nothing facilitates that better than a product with a high wife-acceptance factor. Enter In-walls. Stealth speakers are more frequently finding their way into home theaters, and for good reason. The list of compromises is rapidly shrinking, paving the way for a growing number of sonically un-compromised in-wall speakers. What started out as a small niche market has now grown into a core offering for many high-end speaker manufacturers.
The selection from Niles is extensive, but their Stage Front series is touted as their "superior sonic" series. The IW770FX ($2,399.95 a pair) has a dual-firing one-inch tweeter and four-inch driver set-up, wedged in a 45-degree angle, which creates the broad dispersion pattern ideally suited for surround effects. A seven-inch driver assists in bringing the frequency response down to the 70Hz region. If desired, a more direct sound-field can be created with the turn of a knob, or better yet, a 12-volt trigger.
Removable magnetic grilles allow access to user controls for making a selection between dipole and bipole. The level of effects can then be fine-tuned for more direct sound for multi-channel music reproduction, or more diffused sound for movie sound effects.
The case is a solid, ported cabinet, cross-braced for extra rigidity. The unit is secured into place by screw-driven locking tabs for easy installation. The finish is standard white, but both trim and grilles can be easily painted to match any décor.
• The IW770FX design achieves a well-implemented, recessed dual-firing application for an in-wall. It creates a large, dispersed sound-field for an enveloping surround effect.
• These surrounds have smooth highs without excessive brightness or shril treble often found in surrounds.
• Easily accessible, adjustable dipole or bipole selector with effects level control allows for fine-tuning. A 12-volt trigger facilitates the switch between dipole and bipole, a very welcome addition for a high-end custom theater.
• The Stage Front series is custom-install friendly, with self-locking tabs and a magnetic front grille that locks in easily.
• Since these in-walls are designed to create realistic sound effects, the low-frequency extension is going to be a limiting factor. They do go down to 70Hz, which is adequate for an 80Hz crossover configuration, but they will need a subwoofer to handle any full-range dips. Factor this into the budget.
• Careful placement is required to fully benefit from the design. The center of the 45-degree wedge should ideally be a null zone, positioned directly in line with the ear in both side and rear configurations.
As I age gracefully like a fine bottle of wine, my tastes have also changed. In my younger years, every component I owned was proudly showcased as a central focal point for visitors. Imposing tower speakers ominously took their place as monoliths in a room full of curious college students who inevitably gravitated towards them in awe to poke and prod them. Fortunately, Niles has taken away the prodding and left the awe. The IW770FX retains the ability to create a realistic acoustic envelope while disappearing from plain sight. When careful consideration is given to placement, the Niles IW770FX offers a smooth presentation with seamless panning, adding to the overall presentation of an immersive movie, without detracting from the main soundstage. Now this is something we can all enjoy. Wives included.