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Its best quality is to be discreet

In terms of sound when one of the requirements for an installation is that it be discreet, undoubtedly reference must be made to the in wall speakers. Here's a look at these teams analyzing their pros and cons.

By: Héctor Gómez Pérez

When entering a restaurant or commercial store, one knows of their existence because one hears the music or the messages that come out through them, but not because one sees them hanging from a column or placed on the floor in some corner. These are the in wall speakers, those sound systems whose greatest quality is precisely that they become invisible to the user, which results in discretion and optimization of spaces.

For this note we rely on the experience of John Powell, sales director for Canada and Mexico of Harman Professional Group and the brothers Alejandro Arena, commercial director and Gabriel Arena, technical director of Soundtec, an Argentine company specialized in sound, video, lighting and videoconferencing.

Uses and region

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Although this type of equipment is widely used around the world as sound alternatives in residential facilities, commercial establishments, restaurants, music stores, reception areas, airports and meeting rooms, in Latin America its use is not widespread. Why? Simply because of the type of construction used in our countries in which brick and cement prevail that prevents the installation of equipment. Basically, the use of this equipment has been wider in Brazil, as far as South America is concerned.

"In Argentina its use has not been very widespread because until very recently there were no good quality products that could be taken as a reference. In-wall speakers were chosen when there was no other alternative or when there was some architectural conditioning," explained Alejandro Arena.

On the demands that customers have been making for this technology, Powell said that "in commercial applications what they ask for most are input transformers to be able to work as distributed systems of 70 volts. Typically this type of speaker is worked with an impedance of four or eight ohms, so the ability to use them in 70V greatly reduces the cost of amplification since an amplifier of this type can impact many speakers. "

On novelties and the research topic, the Arena brothers mentioned the SolidDrive product from Soundtube, a company they represent in Argentina, which is a dynamic transducer that is coupled to a rigid material that can reproduce vibration (glass plate, plaster, wood, for example) and that is coupled to the partition through mechanical adaptations.

"The resulting product is that you get sound in a room that comes from the wall, apparently, because you see absolutely nothing. There is no baffle in sight, no perforations; despite what one might imagine, the frequency response is very good and is suitable for meeting rooms and ambient music, for example. This is really an in wall because it's inside the wall," said Gabriel Arena.
For his part, John Powell said that Harman's research topics for these equipment currently aim to find a way to control the dispersion and improvement of frequency diffusers so that a better sound is produced.

A solution with pros and cons

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"They're a good option when the aesthetics of a place don't allow anything in sight or in situations where there's a strong chance of theft or physical damage," Powell said.

For his part, Gabriel Arena said in this regard that "these systems are more oriented to ambient or functional music systems in offices, hotels, transit places, residential solutions and construction situations that allow it. For a typical meeting room the baffle in wall, unless there is a particular arrangement of the auditorium, is not appropriate because the baffle is behind the backs of the people."

He also said that it is a suitable solution for temples and places of worship because it solves the problem of amplification, without aesthetic setbacks and helping to prevent the theft of equipment, something that is very much in line with what Powell said.

An aspect that can be against this type of systems is that it is not possible to orient them because they have a fixed location on the wall, a fact that causes the frequencies that the baffle can reproduce are not in accordance with the sound requirement that an installation has.

"These are systems that require that the audio has been foreseen at the time of making the design. It is easier to add a ceiling baffle if it was not planned when the project was in the design and construction stage, if this is not possible there is the option of a surface baffle. An in wall speaker is very difficult to install if the structure is already built," said Alejandro Arena.

Today's economy

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As commented by the guest of Harman Professional Group, overall sales of speakers for distributed sound have improved despite the crisis, as many governments and institutions are investing to help their economies.

Something special about which the commercial director of Soundtec emphasized, is that in architectural projects the audiovisual aspect is often not contemplated as an integral part of a project, as if it were done with telephony and data networks, something that has taken root with the financial crisis. "At first the client says let's go for the basics and no sound, on the fly he realizes that the budget reached him and he wants to incorporate it. At this point the in wall speaker is discarded of rennet, although at first it was a good acoustic solution for the place, because you can not break the walls again for costs and other aspects, "said Arena.

Ultimately if what is needed is discretion and an aesthetically pleasing solution, the in wall speakers are called to be included in the audio project. In the case of manufacturers, the brand to be chosen must have equipment that complies with a wide angle of sound dispersion throughout the frequency range and that the issue of assembly is resolved: accessories, anchoring systems, among others. They must also offer good solutions on the subject of connections.

Richard Santa, RAVT
Author: Richard Santa, RAVT
Periodista de la Universidad de Antioquia (2010), con experiencia en temas sobre tecnología y economía. Editor de las revistas TVyVideo+Radio y AVI Latinoamérica. Coordinador académico de TecnoTelevisión&Radio.

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