After reviewing a lot of stereo speakers, in-wall speakers and receivers, I've picked these speakers and components as my favorites. My list of top picks is presented in alphabetical order.
The Artcoustic Spitfire Monitors and Subwoofers create a true cinematic sound experience for a high-end home cinema system. They are based on the Artcoustic DF75-55 X2 home theater speakers and their slim profile and industrial appearance makes them ideal for placement behind a large cinema screen. The eight ten-inch subwoofers, driven by the 300-watt PA-300 amps (included) sound authoratative with excellent bass extension and depth. Dialog clarity is outstanding and the system sounds clean at all volume levels. If you're planning a home cinema system and want a no-compromise speaker system, check out the Artcoustic Spitfires. Monitors: $3600/pair, or $4140/pair with PA-300 amp. Subwoofers: $3380 each (includes one PA-300 amp).
Audio Physic may not a speaker brand that comes to mind, but this German company has hit a home run with their Sparks tower speaker. The Sparks are 2-1/2 way speakers with a six-inch woofer, a six-inch mid-bass driver and a one-inch soft dome tweeter in a rear ported enclosure. At 38" tall, the Sparks deliver great audio performance for movies and music, with excellent imaging and soundstage, quick, fast transient response and faithful audio reproduction. Bass performance was tight, although a subwoofer is a good idea for the deepest bass reproduction. Construction quality is excellent and they're available in several cabinet finishes. Audio Physic may not be a top-of-mind brand, but worth consideration for movies and music. $2999/pair.
Cabasse of France produces an entire line of speakers built around the point source or coincident source design and their latest offering is the Eole 5.1 channel subwoofer/satellite speaker system. Cabasse produces loudspeakers based on a design dubbed the Spatially Coherent System, which achieves a coherent sound quality using coincident sound sources, more commonly known as a coaxial speaker. The Eole Santorin powered subwoofer with an 8” woofer and a 250-watt amplifier is part of the system. Their sound quality, especially for movie and video sources truly belies their small size and they produce a large sonic image typically found only in larger speakers. They’re a great alternative to floor standing speakers or in-walls. Price $2395.
The Atlantic IWCB-626 is a two-way in-wall speaker with a 6” woofer and a 6” passive radiator in a back-box or sealed enclosure. A sealed enclosure removes the wall cavity as a variable, ensures more consistent performance, especially bass, it makes installation easier and brings the sound of in-wall speakers closer to in-room speakers. The construction quality of the speakers is very good. The smooth, coated MDF enclosures are also very solid and inert. The Atlantic 626 speakers offer excellent midrange presence and tight mid-bass sound quality. I have reviewed more in-wall speakers than any other audio component and I rank the Atlantic IWCB-626 high on my list of favorites. $950 each.
Monitor Audio is UK company known for their high-quality speakers. The Bronze Reference BR5 main speakers are 2-1/2 way mini-towers, with two 5.5” drivers, one each for bass and midrange, and a 1” tweeter. Each driver is isolated in a separate chamber and the enclosures are internally braced. The BR5s are bass reflex speakers with dual front and rear ports. The sound quality of the BR5 speakers was a visual disconnect from their short stature, only 33" tall. They have excellent tonal balance, outstanding midrange clarity and warm, yet articulate bass response, a nice combination of warmth and definition. The Monitor Audio Bronze Reference BR5s give new meaning to entry level performance. $599/pair.
Paradigm, a Canadian manufacturer, is well known for their line of floor standing speakers and now offers a full line of in-wall models. The Paradigm SA-35 v.2 is a beefed up version of the company’s SA-35 with an Aluminum bass/midrange cone, upgraded from Mica-Polymer for greater rigidity, and a Polypropylene cone woofer with stronger and lighter voice coils and formers. A few years ago I reviewed the original SA-35 and noted their well-balanced sound quality, good bass and mid-bass performance (although a sub is still needed for room-rattling bass) and a keen sense of acoustic space and presence. I would add transparency and detail to the descriptions of the SA-35 v.2 model, likely due to the upgrades noted above. $1,599/pair.
Triad Speakers is a highly respected loudspeaker manufacturer that serves the custom home theater market. They build speakers to order one at a time and have the ability to customize a speaker to meet the specific needs of each customer. System designers often encounter design challenges that require unique speaker sizes, colors and finishes and they turn to Triad for the solution. Audiophiles will appreciate the Triad’s natural, smooth sounding qualities. The Triad’s sonic signature is like a ‘window of sound’, a transparent, open quality that in many ways defies the existence of a speaker. Their detailed, unveiled sound is easy to listen to for long periods and are equally adept with movies and music. $2,050 each.
Sonance is a well-known and respected manufacturer of in-wall and in-ceiling speakers and electronics for the custom home theater market. The new Z8 is part of their new Archictectural Series speakers and are a unique departure from conventional in-wall speakers. They can be installed with a bezel (or frame) for a more traditional look or without a bezel for a truly custom appearance that is virtually invisible. Either way, the speaker is perfectly flush with the wall, including the grill. The Z8 is a three-way rectangular speaker with an 8” woofer, 4” midrange and a 1” dome tweeter. They offer excellent vocal clarity, transparent midrange presence and openness. $3,500/pair.