|Paradigm SA-35/SA-15R In-wall/ceiling Speakers|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers In-wall Loudspeakers|
|Written by Bryan Southard|
|Wednesday, 01 September 2004|
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There’s often a division between what men and their wives feel is important. The book “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” clearly pointed out these idiosyncrasies. This separation of priority is never more magnified than with that of audio/video gear, which has proven to be a focal point of tension in many homes. Men typically want big, bad and powerful. Women are typically less interested in performance but rather opt for modern elegance, void of large annoying speakers and unsightly cables.
There is a popular belief that you cannot achieve high performance from anything other than large floor-standing speakers. In many cases, these large speakers are at their best when set several feet off from the wall. Another option, originally made popular by Bose, is small cube speakers placed in the corner of the room’s ceiling. This made for a much more concealed look, but at a huge expense in performance, although companies have since developed much higher-performing mini-speaker options. Another option is in-wall speakers. This yields a very concealed look but the question remains, is this even an option for those who care about the sound of their home AV?
The Paradigm Reference SA-35 In-Wall speakers are an ultra high-performing two-and-a-half-way, three-driver in-wall speaker system that is designed to mount flush to your wall. They come in a standard white finish and are paintable, allowing you to match your wall color or any other desired look, and have a retail price of $1,400 per pair. The SA-35s measure 20-1/16 inches in height, nine-and-one-sixteenth inches in width and weigh a stout 14 pounds per speaker.
With hundreds of in-wall speakers to choose from, Paradigm set out to produce a speaker that would perform at a high enough level that discerning consumers could consider ditching their large box speakers for a sleeker and more elegantly finished look. The SA-35s were designed to leverage the technology and advancements found in Paradigm’s Studio Series loudspeakers. The drivers use the same materials as that of their critically acclaimed Studio 80s and 100s. Paradigm started out with a one-piece, die-cast baffle that is infinitely rigid for a less colored sound. The baffle employs ridges to draw heat away from the speaker and avoid dynamic compression and other negative anomalies. For drivers, Paradigm used a one-inch ferro-fluidic aluminum dome tweeter housed in a die-cast heatsink chassis. It uses an eight-inch mid-bass driver constructed of mica-polymer and is housed in its own die-cast chassis. For low-frequency spank, the SA-35 uses a similar eight-inch driver, positioned at the bottom of the speaker baffle. The SA-35 has a rated frequency response of 35Hz to 22kHz and an extremely efficient sensitivity rating of 95dB, making this speaker very easy to drive. It can be pushed to huge volume levels with even the lowest powered receivers.
I have long maintained two theater systems in my home. I have a dedicated reference theater on the bottom floor of my tri-level home that is outfitted with the biggest, baddest and craziest gear I can afford or sucker top manufacturers to lend me. This room is equipped with a large-scale eight-inch projector from Vidikron and a rack full of the industry’s best electronics from Meridian, Linn, Transparent and many others. Upstairs, I have my living room set-up with Revel F30s and electronics to match. In most cases, movies and HDTV are watched in the big theater with casual TV being watched in the living room. For the record, my wife differentiates the two by calling them “his theater” and “my theater.” Although she sometimes gets annoyed by the look of large speakers six feet away from the wall, she also understands that my audiophile placement (thanks to a Bob Hodas set-up) is necessary to achieve the mastering studio quality sound that I lust for from my music and theater system. This summer, we set out to renovate the living room of our home where “her theater” lives. Part of this change would necessitate a cleaner-looking AV system. Trying to find a streamlined speaker option, we agreed to give the Paradigm SA-35s a try so that we could eliminate much of the clutter that had plagued the room.
Mounting the SA-35s proved to be pretty achievable task, considering my trepidation before the project. I used the provided templates to cut the holes in the sheetrock, ran the cabling through the wall and beneath the house and mounted the speakers. The SA-35s are outfitted with a hugely rigid cast bracket that has a unique split design, making it relatively easy to maneuver into the cutout. I placed the recommended fiberglass insulation behind the speaker, tightened the screws and we were ready for action. The SA-35 mounting was extremely rigid, providing little (if any) possibility for resonate vibration. Within a few hours, I was ready to listen. Sure, in-walls take longer to install and create more of a mess, but that is a small price to pay to make speakers disappear.