Floor space is at an increasing premium in today's luxury home market. In the 1970's, other than the car a man drove - no one other conspicuous item represented his social status more than his speakers. And make no mistake - bigger was better. Today a more in-touch-with-his-feelings or afraid-of-enacting-the-prenup man still longs for booming audio but the days of parking coffin-sized transducers in the living room have for the most part ended. This is the era of the audiophile in-wall loudspeaker.
Aesthetically, in-wall speakers nearly always look better than floorstanding speakers but I won't lie to you, as in-wall speakers can't do everything that a freestanding speaker can, specifically when it comes to the depth of the soundstage. That's just physics but for nearly every other audio category - today's top level in-wall speakers need to have some serious chops to woo even the audiophile critic with a rack full of Meridian, Krell and Levinson in his "listening room."
The PSB CW800E isn't your stereotypical in-wall speaker. Priced at $3,000 each, these D'Appolito array speakers are expensive as well they should be, as they are the in-wall version of PSB's Platinum T8 loudspeakers, which represent one of, if not their best floorstanding speaker. When installed by extremists, myself included, the addition of a pair of 10 inch in-wall subwoofers by the name of the PSB CSW10s priced at $3,000 each, will get you the extreme low frequency punch that an audiophile or movie enthusiast demands without using up one square inch of carpet space. The driver compliment in the PSB CW800E's includes a one-inch aluminum dome tweeter, two four and a half inch woven fiberglass midrange drivers and two eight inch bass drivers. The fully enclosed CW800E isolates the sound as to not annoy other people in your home or even next-door. It has an overall measurement of 14 inches wide by 38.5 high yet is only four and three quarters inches deep.
The PSB CW800E's are 89 dB efficient and are best driven by a large receiver or a mid to large power amp. The rim of the speakers are made of aluminum and painted white, though they could be easily painted another color if desired. The CWS10 subwoofers are unpowered (PSB offers the CWA-1 300 watt subwoofer amplifier) and have two 10-inch drivers each in a 14 inch wide by 38.5 inch high by 4.75 inch deep cabinet. You don't need two unless you want to take your system over the top. Ok, that's a stupid point. You need two, or at least I did.
Installing this reference level PSB in-wall speaker system can be done by the adventurous do-it-yourself consumers but I feel it's best left to the professional installer. You are paying serious money for a reference level speakers system and should have someone complete the installation who has poked a few holes in drywall before.
It's important to note that you need some depth to get these suckers in the wall. Make sure your contractor is made aware of what speakers you plan to install, as these aren't your typical puny in-wall speakers. This is a beefy system that can take up a lot of real estate. You will want to perfectly space out where your HDTV is installed. In my case, I framed a 50-inch Panasonic Professional plasma between the two PSB CW800E speakers with the subwoofers installed in-wall but below them and slightly to the inside.
I had a bitch of a time with the grills when we painted them, in trying to get them to perfectly blend into a very modern installation. Not all decors will suffer from this issue but in an ultra-modern installation - you might want to do as I did and consider a fabric wall. While it cost me $850 more, the overall installation (see image above) came out looking really good.
Regarding power, the PSB CW800E speakers take it and run with it. While not power pigs - they also can't be powered by some skimpy power amp. It wouldn't be crazy to put a Krell integrated amp or an NAD product on such speakers. A full feature, high-powered receiver will also do the job. I wouldn't recommend a mid-sized receiver unless you don't plan to ever really crank the PSB CW800E's up very loudly. And even at low levels, they will benefit from the resolution of detail from a better power amp.
I have a dedicated theater room right around the corner from my PSB CW800E installation, yet I listen to my PSBs ten times more than my RPG treated, light-controlled audiophile room complete with Revel Salon2's, Mark Levinson amps, Classe electronics and Transparent Reference Cables. I am not saying that the Reference system doesn't sound better because it does - without question. What I am saying is that in my life, I am listening more and more to music from playlists on my ReQuest server (lossless) and AppleTV and I want to sit in the living room with my wife and Jack the Dog where there is a little ambient light. My days of audiophile listening sessions are not over but they are much fewer and far between. It's a lot more social to sip a Walter Hansel Chardonnay (2007 Cuvee Alyce is a favorite these days) and enjoy the view from our property and talk with my wife and/or guests than it is to stay laser-focused on a demo of Dark Side on SACD in the big theater.
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