All about the Monitor Audio CI (Custom Install) in ceiling and wall loudspeaker systems.
Are you in the process of planning or building and wanting to have great sound in your new home? Want to find ways to have built in music in your existing home? Or do you want to have a built in system that needs to be fixed or improved?
With so many new home systems we have seen over the years, there are quite simply too many speakers and control is often needlessly complex. The promise of home automation systems was simplicity but the reality is that tying together multiple aspects – music and entertainment, telecoms and IT, climate control, lighting and security gets hopelessly complicated, compromised and costly.
Fewer, but better quality speakers will give you much better sound where you really want it, dramatically reduce installation and cabling costs, and give you a simpler to use system that everyone will enjoy.
‘Less is more’ – a phrase adopted by 1947 by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is as true today, when applied to quality home music systems.
As the home owner you can easily regain control and ensure that you get sound quality and reliability that you deserve.
While any new home or renovation project can be challenging, it need not be as complicated or daunting as many might suggest. The design and installation of a quality music system should be simpler and with over 30 years in the game, we’re here to help you.
The vast majority of speakers that are presently built into houses have been made by a few US based companies that are primarily focused on selling to installers and electricians. While they work, the standard of sound quality falls far short of what you’ll hear from even a modestly priced pair of new shelf mount speakers. Which, given the overall cost of installation, is less than ideal.
Given the average Auckland or Queenstown house is now priced at over $1 millon and many new builds will be well in excess of this, it makes real sense to make sure that the sound you build in is of the same high standard. And if you’re paying close attention to budget, it’s even more important to get it right.
Let’s talk about a better breed of speaker. Monitor Audio are now the largest UK owned loudspeaker design and manufacturing company with over 40 years of experience and a comprehensive new range of award winning models. While best known for their floor standing and smaller shelf or stand mount models, they have been applying the same unique technologies and expertise to in-built speaker models.
To better understand what makes a superior in-built speaker system, we’re going to walk you through the design of our favourite in-ceiling model – the Monitor Audio CP-CT380IDC .The model name is a bit of a mouthful but neatly describes the key features of this speaker that make it sound so good.
‘CP’ stands for Controlled Performance – all of the CP series speakers are fully enclosed with an optimally proportioned back cover. This means that they work in the same way as a speaker built in a cabinet rather than leaking noise into the ceiling cavity. So every installed speaker sounds exactly as intended. The speaker is also protected from everything that may be happening in the ceiling cavity – dust and debris, moisture and extremes of temperature.
‘CT’ designates the Ceiling mount, with a magnetically attached trim-less cover that looks great and speeds installation.
‘380’ tells you that this speaker incorporates a higher level of driver technology – Monitor Audio’s unique C-CAM (Ceramic coated aluminium magnesium alloy) drivers with an 8″ (162mm) bass driver. The golf-ball like dimpling (RST) on the cone that you can see gives a significant performance improvement and is directly derived from the design of the domestic Gold and Silver 6G series speakers.
‘IDC’ is really cool – Inverted Dual Concentric might be another hefty acronym but what this combination midrange and tweeter does is very special. The first important thing to note is that because we have bass, midrange and high frequency drivers, this speaker is a full 3 way system. It’s right up there with Monitor Audio’s best floor standing speakers in terms of fidelity and quality.
The midrange, rather being dished inwards like conventional drivers is an inverted C-CAM hemisphere with the gold metal domed tweeter centrally mounted. The whole assembly is securely suspended in front of the bass driver and can be pivoted. This arrangement gives a far greater spread of sound than any other inbuilt speaker.
As a piece of music producing technology, this Monitor Audio model is built to a higher standard than most conventional speakers of any type – the sound is at once clearer, richer and room filling.
So – if you can, specify this model for your in ceiling speaker –
Monitor Audio CP-CT380IDC NZ$650 each*.
*Note that with all in ceiling speakers we price per unit – this is because they will often be used in home cinema arrays and in several rooms.
Download the full CP range catalogue here.
For smaller rooms, surround installations with subwoofer and secondary use, the Monitor Audio C265IDC at NZ$460 each is the next best option.
There will be situations where internal ceiling space is restricted and the depth of these models might be an issue – talk to us about alternatives as Monitor Audio have some very nice slim-fit options. Every home design is unique and you might be wondering about the alternative of building in-wall. There may be practical or aesthetic reasons to do this but you’ll be pleased to learn that none of these factors need compromise quality.
The in-wall option – Monitor Audio CP-W380IDC at NZ$750 each – is essentially the same speaker but in a rectangular cabinet with the bass driver below the IDC unit – this allows a slimmer profile to fit in any conventional wall space. It’s even more beneficial having the CP – Controlled Performance – sealed enclosure in this situation to reduce any noise bleeding through to the next room. Good as this speaker is, if you’re wanting in wall performance that is more akin to the best floor standers rather than shelf mount, we have the answer for you…
The Monitor Audio CP IW460X is the star of the show in built-in speakers. Directly derived from the magnificent Gold series 200 floor standing speakers with the same bass drivers, an additional midrange and the same ribbon tweeter, this speaker delivers everything you could want with exceptional power and dynamics and response up to an astonishing 60kHz. The ribbon tweeter is crystal clear and gives exceptional horizontal dispersion so you get great balanced sound throughout the room – not just in an idealised listening position.
While the furniture quality cabinet in the Gold series speakers makes an obvious contribution to the sound quality and aesthetics, in the case of the in-wall option of what is effectively the same speaker, we can make a very significant cost saving with the CP enclosure as it is hidden within the wall – so the in-wall option gives you an effective 1/3 advantage in price.
If you have drilled down into the specification, you will see that the floor standing model does offer a better bass response. This is because of it’s larger cabinet volume and porting which would be incompatible with a built in model. The answer to this one possible issue with the CP IW460X can be easily solved with the IWS-10 in-wall subwoofer. Combined with it’s matched amplifier and back box, the total end cost is still less than the floor standers and suddenly bass response is even better, right down to a floor shaking 28hz.
Monitor Audio CP IW460X in wall speaker system $4000 pair.
IWS-10 in-wall subwoofer, back box, 250watt stereo power amplifier $1650
Want something even better? Let’s talk about Platinum. I was in two minds about including these – The Gold equivalent IW460X model detailed above is already well ahead of all other built in options and would test many budgets. But then I considered my own comparsion of the Gold and Platinum ranges detailed here and thought that if we’re looking at building in for the long term, then why not do it properly. Having listened, there is no doubt in my mind that the Platinum range is demonstrably better.
I’d also made an assumption about pricing without checking first and that’s a classic mistake – the saving on the IW460 relative to its floor standing analogue is compelling but it’s even more so with the Platinums. So what makes them so good?
Monitor Audio’s premium range provides a real challenge to replicate in an in-wall or ceiling setting. The performance of the Platinum drivers warrant a no-compromise approach to the enclosure in order to fulfil the promise delivered by the shelf and floor standing models. And the installation of these speakers, cabling and accompanying electronics demand planning and attention to detail. But the end result will be as good as it gets.
The drivers used are key to the quality. The design and construction of the Platinum II bass drivers is a full level above that used in the Gold series and also newer. The ribbon tweeter has a micropleated element which delivers a frequency response and speed far in excess of the Gold unit (100 kHz vs 60kHz).
The bass and mid drivers use a far more sophisticated composite cone and the DCF coupling between voice coil and cone further extends their advantages.
There is no Gold equivalent in ceiling model, so the new Platinum PLIC II is where you look to improve upon the CP-CT380-IDC that we detailed at the start of this article. The PLIC II is designed to work in a 24L volume – Monitor Audio produce a back box which can be easily fitted in most ceilings and provides optimal performance. Not to mention some serious bass for an in ceiling model. Like the ‘380 IDC, this is a 3 way model but uses two mid-range drivers set either side of the ribbon to give optimal dispersion.
At $3200 a pair at the time of writing, these in-ceiling speakers are less than half the cost of the entry level Platinum 100 II shelf mount speaker but are bringing you to the same standard of quality. This is the comparison you should be making rather than looking at conventional in ceiling models. Combined with an appropriate amplifier such as one of the NuPrime Integrated models and making the most of modern digital sources, you’ll enjoy a staggering high level of sound quality in a system that is effectively invisible.
The in-wall version is a completely distinct design that starts with the floorstanding PL-200-II and is re-engineered to work in-wall. It’s a fully boxed speaker with a rigid cabinet construction made from 25 mm MDF and steel back. As with the floorstanders the drivers are bolted through from behind which greating improves performance. The entire midgrange and ribbon assembly can be rotated allowing the speaker to be aligned vertically for left and right but also horizontally for centre channel use.
At 27kg each, this is by far the most substantial in-wall speaker we know of. This is well over twice the mass of the CP IW460X which is as good an indication as any of what has gone into this design.
Just how good could this sound? You can make the direct comparison with the floorstanding Platinum models which use exactly the same components – ‘Monitor Audio has always been known for the solid quality and value of their speakers; with the Platinum PL300 II, they’ve hit one out of the park. It’s my new reference.’ – Stereophile.
‘I’ve not heard any other speaker that delivers the broad basket of qualities, especially the silky smooth extension and detail directly attributable to the unique ribbon tweeter. The PL-200-II is a revelation in the best sense – these speakers will show you just how good music can sound in the context of almost any system or room. If you can find a way to afford them you’ll be well rewarded with a lifetime of enjoyment.’ More.
Monitor Audio Platinum In-wall II $9600 the pair
Monitor Platinum In Ceiling $3200 the pair
The design and building process – a quick guide.
Now – how do I get these into my house? If you’re in the planning stage that’s great – have a good think about how good a sound you want and which rooms you’ll want to listen in. Specify that your architect or designer include speaker placements in the plans – all the information on cutout sizes and clearances is easily found on the Monitor Audio website.
For most rooms, a well placed pair of speakers will be ideal for music listening – either in ceiling or wall. For rooms where a screen will be a focal point, there are more choices to be made and this is where we should be consulting with you. In smaller areas such as studies, or bathrooms, a single – but still stereo – Dual Tweeter speaker is a great option.
With all speakers there will need to be a cable connection (‘wireless’ speakers still need power). Kimber Kwik speaker cable is designed for performance, reliability and safety. We supply this cable by the roll and you simply pay for what you use and return what’s left on the roll for the next person. We do not reccomend cheaper generic speaker cables simply because they will not sound as good, especially when you have deliberately made the the choice to build in quality speakers. The longer a cable, the more obvious this becomes.
Speaker cable runs should be kept as short as possible for both cost and performance reasons – traditional installers love the idea of a central system with multiple long cable runs all coming back to the same place. It looks impressive and daunting – as does the invoice.
A far better solution is to intelligently use wireless and network technology. This means that you can have the appropriate system components close to the speaker in each room. This is where we come into the picture as we’ve got the experience to find the best sounding and simplest solution for you.
The actual installation of most Monitor Audio in-built speakers is amazingly easy when you see it done – two coloured coded wires clipped in, 3 screws tightened and they’re in. But as with all things, you get out what you put in. Where possible, we’ll be doing this for you. But we’re also expert at guiding people through this process – either yourself or your electrician.
The electronics to make these speakers sing is a whole other story – suffice to say, we regard any of the Monitor Audio models as serious speakers comparable with any similarly priced shelf or floorstanding model and so suggest you match them appropriately – start here.