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Technology Showcase: In-Ceiling Speakers

Ceiling speakers are certainly not a new technology. Anyone who's ever spent any time in office buildings or airports can attest to having seen their

Technology Showcase: In-Ceiling Speakers

Sep 1, 2004 12:00 PM,
By Daniel Keller

Community Professional Cloud 6

Ceiling speakers are certainly not a new technology. Anyone who’s ever spent any time in office buildings or airports can attest to having seen their ubiquitous grilles overhead. Most people tend to associate them with a lack of intelligibility and sonic response only slightly better than their telephone.

But plenum-mount technology has taken some quantum leaps in the recent past, and the speaker behind that grille today is likely to be a very different animal from even a few years ago. Although low-cost, low-fidelity transducers are still part of many budget installations, a growing number of today’s in-ceiling options boast features and fidelity on a par with many home stereo offerings. Acoustically tuned ported enclosures, dual drivers, and integrated crossovers are de rigueur on many of the speakers I looked at for this article.

To delineate my criteria for defining a professional ceiling speaker, I limited this article to include only complete systems meant primarily for commercial applications and equipped with baffle, back can, or other necessary components required for installation and operation.

EAW Commercial CIS 400


From its humble beginnings as a guitar and amp manufacturer, Peavey has grown to become an industry powerhouse covering the musical instrument, pro audio, and installed sound markets. Its Architectural Acoustics division offers a selection of ceiling- and wallmount speakers, including the WS502 and WS802 lines. Both models are full-range two-way systems ranging from 100W to 150W of power handling, and both are offered in T-series variations that include an integrated 70V transformer.

Altec Lansing has several in-ceiling options, including the SLC Series preassembled systems, which feature 8-inch, two-way Duplex drivers, 70V/100V transformers, and a preassembled quickmount package. Altec also manufactures a full line of premium ceiling speakers ranging from the 4-inch CF Series to the 8- and 12-inch offerings of the CD Duplex Series.

Armstrong (yes, the company that makes ceiling tiles) takes an interesting approach with the Applause, Privacy, and Essentials lines, which incorporate flat-plane speakers into actual ceiling tiles, making for an unobtrusive design for schools, offices, conference rooms, and so on. Aside from typical music and paging applications, the company claims its offerings are ideal for sound-masking purposes, helping to mask intruding noise from adjacent spaces and cut down on background din.

Electro-Voice EVID Series

Atlas Sound has a wide line of commercial- and professional-grade ceiling speakers. The company has a system for every need and every project, ranging from the FA Series Strategy line of 4-, 6-, and 8-inch coaxial systems, including the FAP42TC low-profile speakers, to the B Series line of commercial 4-inch voice-quality offerings with baffle and transformer.

Bogen has long been a player in the world of ceiling speakers, offering a range of models for all installation budgets. Its Orbit ceiling speaker (OCS1) and Orbit pendant speaker (OPS1) feature a spiderless, wide-dispersion coaxial driver, magnetic liquid suspension, and a low-resonance cabinet structure. The High-Fidelity ceiling loudspeaker (HFCS1) has a coaxial driver assembly with dual bass tuning vents built into a metal back can. Bogen also offers the CSD 1-by-2 drop-in ceiling speaker, which is a full-range speaker mounted to a 1-by-2-foot baffle for easy integration into acoustical tile ceilings.

Any discussion of speakers would not be complete without mentioning Bose, a company that has long been associated with consumer and commercial audio. Its FreeSpace Series contains several in-ceiling models designed for high fidelity and low visibility, from 8W to 32W of power handling.

Community Professional makes the Cloud Series high-performance plenum mounts in 4-, 6-, and 12-inch configurations. All models are two-way trapezoidal systems, and the Cloud 12-66 and 12-99 are also available with dual transformer options for 70V/100V operation.

Atlas Sound Strategy FAP42TC

Definitive Technology is known for its high-performance architectural speaker designs. The UIW series has single- and dual-woofer designs, all featuring low-diffraction baffling, aluminum-dome tweeters with silk surrounds, and nonresonant glass-filled frames.

Mackie’s EAW Commercial division is an offshoot of the legendary EAW brand founded by Ken Berger and Kenton Forsythe in the heyday of the ’70s concert sound. Bringing the EAW name to the commercial sound arena has resulted in the CIS Series of in-ceiling speakers, which use a two-way crossover and linear phase response.

Electro-Voice has manufactured loudspeakers of all forms for a long time, so it’s hardly surprising that it features an exceptionally wide array of ceiling speakers to choose from. Of particular note are the EP Series and EVID line, both of which feature high-bandwidth and aesthetically unobtrusive designs ranging from 4-inch models to the C10.1 compact subwoofer.

Based in Ontario, Canada, Enforcer offers its G Series, a self-contained coaxial bass-reflex system available in 4-, 6-, and 8-inch models. A G Series subwoofer is planned for later this year.

JBL Professional’s Control Contractor Series comprises three 4-inch models under the Control 24C banner, as well as the 6½-inch Control 26C and the beefy Control 19CS subwoofer. The two-way models offer multiple voltage taps, ultrawide coverage, and steel back-can construction.

QSC Audio AD-C Series

Toronto’s KDM Electronics provides a solution in its Octasound central speaker cluster, available in five eight-sided configurations for 360-degree coverage from a central cluster, or three more five-sided models for a 180-degree pattern.

Known for everything from racks and wallmounted volume controls to speaker systems, commercial audio company Lowell has a considerable range of in-ceiling products. Its standard CT Series comes in 4- and 8-inch assemblies in coaxial and dual-cone configurations, and the SB and CN lines of cosmetic speaker systems feature high-power 6½- and 8-inch drivers preloaded with transformers.

The IC-6T from Klipsch features a 6½-inch woofer and a swiveling high-frequency section that allows for aiming of high frequency to the intended coverage area. Also available is the IC-SW-8T in-ceiling subwoofer.

Maryland-based KSI’s Series III 2-by-2 grid ceilingmount speakers feature multiple configurations as well as their distinct 8081-CSD-SW that swivels the entire loudspeaker for aiming to a specific location.

OAP offers the CHI-1000 three-way “point source” system for use in low-ceiling application. The system features a 12-inch low-frequency driver and a coaxial 6½-inch midrange and 1-inch tweeter driver for mids and highs.

OWI has the all-in-one ICM6-730SET, a two-way system with a 6½-inch low-frequency driver and a 1-inch tweeter.

Paso Sound has the C15TABS and C16TABS wide-range dual cone models, at 10W and 15W respectively, and the C20CXT full-range coaxial model at 20W. Professional Audio Systems (PAS) offers its 360 Series for permanent installations. Designed for larger, high-ceiling venues like convention centers and arenas, the 8CX and 12CX two-way coaxial systems boast PAS’s trademarked Time-Offset Correction technology in both 4ž and 8ž and 70V distributed configurations.

Pro Acoustics creates a full line of in-ceiling products for both commercial and residential needs. Ranging from voice-quality single drivers and coaxial offerings to high-wattage omnidirectional dispersion systems, its ATC, JA, and WG lines cover a full spectrum of applications. The Quam-Nichols Company manufactures commercial speakers for varied applications, most available as complete packages, including baffle and back can. Offerings include light and heavy-duty 4- and 8-inch single-element designs to 8- and 12-inch coaxial speakers with foam surrounds.

One of the leading amplifier manufacturers, QSC Audio has been making a solid push into networked audio and speakers and receiving considerable acclaim for its new AcousticDesign speaker systems. The AD-C Series comprises two-way enclosures in sealed and shallow-can ported configurations, both incorporating a 5¼-inch low-distortion woofer, extended low-frequency response, ultrawide dispersion, and exceptionally high output capability.

Russound has a line of high-end audio products for the pro-audio and installed sound markets. In addition to its Contractor Series of single- and dual-voice coil in-ceiling speakers, the company’s Advantage line offers features such as single-point stereo models and audiophile-quality models with adjustable focus.

The SLS Loudspeakers PL6C features a high-frequency, PRD planar ribbon driver and a polycomposite woofer with Santoprene surround. The PL series is constructed of heavy-duty, paintable polycomposite and employs audio-grade polypropylene capacitors and audiophile-level connectors.

Tannoy CMS 12

Architectural audio firm Sonance creates an interesting array of in-ceiling designs, including the Ellipse Oval Series and Sonance 6½- and 8-inch coaxial models. The company’s offerings cover both commercial/industrial and home-theater applications. SoundTube Entertainment’s CM Series of 8ž and 70V/100V models feature ultrawide coverage patterns, four-point blindmount assemblies, and low-profile form factors. Its Broadbeam coverage technology claims wider coverage for overall cost savings.

Installed and residential specialist SpeakerCraft covers a range of speakers, amps, and control systems ranging from the elegant to the esoteric. The company boasts three lines of in-ceiling speakers, including the Dual Tweeter Series (in 6- and 8-inch models), the Custom Round Series (featuring the WavePlane tweeter baffle), and the patented AIM directional models. Audio/video manufacturer Speco Technologies has a selection of multiapplication commercial speakers, including the SP-5MA and SP-6MA models, featuring a preassembled design with mounted transformer and back can, quick-flip 25V or 70V selector switch, and multitap transformer settings for easy installation.

Tannoy is another company known for its speaker systems. Its line of ceiling monitors includes premount models like the CMS6 TDC and CMS8 TDC (with 6-and 8-inch drivers, respectively) and the CMS12 TDC, which boasts a 12-inch driver for extended low-frequency response. The company also has blindmount models, including the full-range CMS50, CMS60 ICT, and CMS60 TDC, all equipped with coincidently aligned dual concentric drivers and a range of selectable low-impedance settings.

TOA’s F-Series is a wide-dispersion lineup created for music and paging applications. Six models cover voice and music reproduction. Included in the series are three two-way coaxial models with built-in dome tweeter, quickmount hardware, integral back cans, and double-locking paintable grilles.

Daniel Kellerrecently discovered in-ceiling speakers when his long-suffering wife informed him she would no longer tolerate seven speaker stands in the living room.

For More Information

Altec Lansing

Architectural Acoustics/Peavey

Armstrong World Industries

Atlas Sound



Community Professional

Definitive Technology

EAW Commercial


Enforcer Sound Products

JBL Professional

KDM Electronics


KSI Professional

Lowell Manufacturing

OAP Audio


Professional Audio Systems

Paso Sound

Pro Acoustics


QSC Audio


SLS Loudspeakers


SoundTube Entertainment


Speco Technologies


TOA Electronics

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