tSc NTIW26 & NTIW25 Build Quality
We don't talk much about in-wall speakers here at Audioholics because it is so hard to do a review. It's a rare occasion when you can find someone that will let you tear up their room just to install dedicated speakers. Heck, we have a hard enough time convincing people to buy speakers at all. When the rare occasion arises, we jump. The Speaker Company jumped with us and agreed to provide their brand new NT line of speakers. We chose a pair of the 6.5" NTIW26 for the fronts and a duo of 5.25" NTIW25's for the rears. Because of the shape of the room, a center channel was not feasible. In the world of home theater, you've got to expect a few issues. In the grand scheme of things, running a phantom center isn't so bad.
First Impressions and Build Quality
The speakers arrived double
boxed (of sorts). Basically, every one of the speakers was wrapped in
bubble-wrap and stuck in a box surrounded by foam packing peanuts. All four of
the boxes were then boxed together in a single larger box. The problem with
this packing method was that the bevels on the speakers, while rounded, are quite
thin and sharp. On three of the boxes one corner of the bevel pierced the side
of the box despite the bubble-wrap and peanuts. Since there were also some
packing peanuts in the larger box, only one of these edges pierced all the way
through. While there was no damage to the bevels of any of the speakers, it was
a little disconcerting. As you can tell from many of the pictures, the speakers
had no branding on the front and one was actually missing any sort of branding.
These were pre-production speakers and probably the first batch of speakers they received. It's a
testament to how rare in-wall speaker reviews are that they would offer up
their earliest speakers.The Speaker Company (tSc) has assured me that they will pack these speakers in 5-ply brown cardboard boxes with custom molded styro inserts, a manual and mounting templates. The packaging is designed to survive a “two way” trip should someone decide to return them.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with an in-wall or in-ceiling speaker without a backbox, I pretty much universally prefer one. To me, it makes placement much easier as sonically the size of the air gap behind the speaker becomes moot. Open back speakers must make some assumptions about the size/shape of the wall in which they are installed - and how do they know whether I have 8 or 10 foot high walls? Additionally, if they assume a well insulated wall, then that provides one sort of "box" for the speaker. If they assume an interior wall without insulation, that provides a different box. I'm not big on assumptions and having a backbox makes them moot. The NT series of in-wall speakers all come with dedicated backboxes.
Each of the speakers are an
MTM (Midrange-Tweeter-Midrange) design with the tweeter slightly offset to help
reduce lobing effects. The speakers are all white except for a gold aluminum
phase plug and a few black screws. Personally, I'd preferred if the NT speakers
had all white hardware (namely the black screws and the two black adjustment
switches) as they are gorgeous to look at without the grills on. Of course,
being an Audioholic, I'm one of the few that would actually do that so I'm not
going to hold that against them. In-wall speakers are made to disappear in the
room. Also included was an acoustically transparent foam layer that is meant to
be placed between the grill and the drivers. This helps the speaker blend into
the room as the white baffle can be seen behind the grill under direct light.
In the room in which they were installed, this wasn't an issue so we decided to
leave it off. For those of you keeping score, these speakers look remarkably similar to the MB Quart Alexxa series sold in the Audioholics E-store for more than 2x the price.
The tweeters are titanium domes with the woofers being titanium wet powder coated poly cone. The tweeters swivel slightly with a firm push for fine tuning. With swiveling tweeters I rarely see any sort of mechanism to let you know when they have been reoriented straight forward. The NTs are no different. This is a feature that I believe should be standard on such speakers as it is easy to move them and not be sure that they are orientated the same direction. In addition, there are two "tuning" switches that will either boost or cut your highs or mids by 3dB. This is the sort of feature that is absolutely essential to in-wall speakers as placement options are often extremely limited and sonic distortion may very well occur based on that placement. The drivers also feature butyl rubber driver surrounds which are moisture resistant and suitable for use in bathrooms, kitchens, saunas, and even under outdoor eves. All of the speakers are magnetically shielded.
The backs of the speakers sport dual spring-clip binding posts that pretty much only accept bare wire. I suppose you could use pins but that would be a waste. I generally don't like this sort of connection as they tend to be weak but these were higher quality than others I'd seen. It took a good deal of force to depress the spring and I was very confident that the wires were being held securely. I wouldn't be surprised if on the unimaginable chance that the speakers actually fell out of the wall, you'd find them dangling on the end of the speaker wires! They were that secure.
The installation method is very straightforward. There is a beveled lip (the ones that pierced the boxes) that sits on top of the drywall. Behind that there are six clips that turn and compress as you tighten a screw from the front. These are meant to grip the drywall and are similar to "old work" electrical boxes you may have installed at one time or another. You'll want to try and give yourself about an inch of clearance on either side of the speaker opening in order to give the clips enough drywall to grip. The mounting hardware does not give you enough room to grab on to a 2x4 if one is available (at least on the 4" side) so you don't want to cut either of your edges right up against a stud. In this case, a studfinder is definitely your friend. The clips run down little tracks and are held in place by a sort of ring at the top. On one of the speakers, the ring was broken and missing and the clip kept popping out of the channel. Luckily, this was a wall that I had direct access to from behind (see below) and I literally held it in place while it was installed. Honestly, six connection points is probably two to many so I don't think missing one would have been a problem. Also, it was traveling down toward the drywall, it was just really, really hard to screw. With enough elbow grease, I might have gotten in down anyhow.
I like the review too. Just because I'm a drywaller I chuckle when I see what normal people do to cut holes. Hey, drywallers don't have many opportunities to feel superior.
Glad I could be of service!
I feel the same way when i go to other people's homes and see how they calibrated their TV or setup their speakers. There is nothing like seeing the surround speakers placed in front of the couch to give me great AV Rant material.
These seem to be very similar to the MB Quart Alexxa in-walls. Are the two companies related? If this was previously discussed, I apologize.
tSc does some of their own design work such as the TSAT system I just finished reviewing and will post tomorrow.
But many of their designs are open tooled in china and you would be surprised how many speaker brands run on the same lines!
If you are thinking about getting the MB Quarts from the Audioholics E-store or elsewhere, I'd suggest you save your money and buy the tSc versions Tom reviewed
What caught my attention in this was that The Complex is in DTS. I have a DVD video that is in Dolby Digital. I think I may try to blow up my subs tomorrow listening to the piano smasher. Great name for it.
I'm not sure about any relation but I agree (and mentioned it in the review). That being said, the MB Quart speakers sell for over 2x's more.
That's good to hear; looking forward to it.
Any info on who makes their drivers in the TST2's and TST3's?
Looking forward that review.
I believe those speakers are rebadged Saphires but I'm not sure where they sourced their drivers from.