Like it or not, Sonos and Bose are wildly popular consumer brands and integrators today are doing good business with the lines. But it’s hard to make those and other box speakers look custom; they’re just bulky things that sit on a shelf.
Now they can be installed in a ceiling, appearing like any other architectural speaker, with the new Concealer housing from Vanco, a major supplier of low-voltage solutions for integrators.
The patent-pending product is the brainchild of integrator, Sonos dealer and CE Pro contributor Joe Whitaker.
Asked why he created the product, he explains: “Architectural speakers are a keystone and they’re the centre of just about every room.”
Joe has numerous Sonos speakers in the home and in tight spaces like bathrooms he had nowhere to place them.
There was also nothing on the market that could help him, he comments: “So I went into the garage and started building something.”
Launching at CEDIA Expo 2015, the Concealer is made to fit the Sonos Play:1 speaker in a 6.5in footprint, but the universal box can accommodate other speakers as well, like the little Bose cubes.
“The footprint is a big deal to me because I feel a 6.5in in a normal room looks nice,” Joe notes.
“An 8in looks like some big saucer plate on the ceiling.”
The Vanco Concealer
Inside the housing is an electrical box for power and a mounting bracket for screwing in the speaker.
The bracket can be removed and re-inserted for easy access to the speaker.
A zero-edge grille snaps into place via magnets.
Joe says both the housing and the mounting bar are solid: “They can’t vibrate loose down the road.”
But a few big questions come up with regard to Sonos: What about the power requirements of the speaker, potential for overheating and of course wireless audio quality?
“Power is the easy one,” says Joe, who notes that it’s much easier to find or run electrical wire in the ceiling than it is to run dedicated speaker wire.
“This isn’t a DIY project.”
Furthermore, Sonos speakers in Concealer housings would work well in commercial applications, “where electrical outlets are readily available above drop ceilings,” Joe adds.
“And it’s so much easier to ‘daisy chain’ music with a mesh network than 70v speakers.”
Joe comments: “There’s no problem with heat from the Sonos amp.”
How will ductwork, pipes, wires and other potentially sound-sapping obstacles in the ceiling affect Sonos’s wireless performance?
“It’s absolutely fine,” Joe says assuringly, “interference is almost nil.”
He concedes that wireless interference is of course possible, but on the other hand, “you’re basically placing the wireless unit six feet higher than usual, which is beneficial for RF. That’s why in-ceiling WAPs [wireless access points] are so popular.”
The Bonus Round: Sonos Trueplay Room EQ
While Joe and Vanco were working on the Concealer, Sonos was preparing its new Trueplay room EQ solution, which makes Sonos speakers sound better in any given space, regardless of their positioning.
“Now that Sonos has announced Trueplay,” says Joe, “the combination of a Play:1 and the Concealer makes the world’s first architectural speaker that can be room EQ’d. And from an iPhone at that!”
The Vanco Way
Vanco supplies a large number of low-voltage products for integrators, including cables, IR kits, mounts, and complete A/V distribution systems.
When suitable, the company collaborates with other vendors and inventors like Joe.
Joe has worked with Vanco before. In 2013 he invented the HDBaseT Boost, which takes old HDMI cables and turns them into HDBaseT solutions, supporting newer video formats such as 3D and 4K Ultra HD and delivering Ethernet data and two-way control over the single cable.
The Concealer will ship in early 2016, with pricing to be revealed later this year.
The Concealer will be demonstrated at the Vanco booth (#4750) at CEDIA Expo 2015.