Most helpful positive review
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
For the price - excellent!
on 16 March 2013
REVIEW of the e-audio B410A loudspeakers
IN SUMMARY a pair of good speakers and amazing when you consider the price (under £30/pair). Unobtrusively attractive. Easy to install. Reasonably well built. Most importantly great sound quality.
CONSTRUCTION consists of white plastic chassis with a pressed steel speaker basket, perforated steel speaker grills and a cross-over attached to the back of the assembly. I have some other ceiling speakers, of exactly the same size, which, at retail, cost some ten times the price of these. As far as I can tell the materials and construction of these units does not appear to be in any significant way inferior. The grills are difficult to remove by hand but these units come with a handy removal tool - looking like a short lock-pick - which makes it easy but, on the downside, can also get easily lost. On the back there is a proper cross-over instead of the capacitor-in-series nominal attempts found in so many cheap speakers. You can swivel the tweeters to direct them to where the audience is concentrated but only by about 15 degrees - not a huge amount. This is inevitable given the flat design.
AESTHETICS for a ceiling mount speaker in my mind are simple. It should be as flat to the ceiling as possible and of a white colour that matches my pure white ceilings. These units tick both boxes. Whether the white will discolour over time I have no idea. The photo makes the speaker look more complex than it is as in normal light you can see no detail through the grills - to be frank they look a lot better than this picture. My wife, who I would rate as conservative when it comes to technology inserted in the ceiling, found these units completely acceptable.
INSTALLATION was very straightforward - really simple to do. I put four units in two ceilings in one day but that includes laying the wires up the wall, through the loft space and also the removal and re-laying of the insulation. Cutting the holes is a bit hard when it is over-your-head of course. I have a special plasterboard saw from Draper, which is an excellent tool by-the-way, that probably helped quite a bit here. I eschewed the supplied templates and used my daughter's school compasses to draw the circles on the ceiling - which worked well. The holes required are the 193mm claimed. The mounting system is pretty standard in these types of speaker with lugs that first swing around and then clamp down to the plasterboard allowing the units to be fitted in holes where no rear access is possible. With a normal thickness ceiling this means a lot of screwing which is hard work in an overhead position and so I used an electric screwdriver for the bulk of the work finishing off by hand. I would warn you to take great care though as these lugs should not be over-tightened. I have three issues with the installation however. First is that the gold-coloured speaker terminals are quite small. The maximum comfortable cable size is probably 40-50 strand and not the 70+ strand types (I am not being an audiophile here it is just that 73 strand is all I had lying around). The second point is not really an issue with installation but could be later. The lugs, while they attached easily, I reckon might be a challenge to undo as not all of them would swivel back for removal without sticking as they are supposed to. If you have a blind mounting to deal with this could be an issue later on. The third point is that there were no instructions and yet there was, included in the kit, some putty. I guess that this is to seal the speakers where they meet the ceiling. Two issues then - I do not know for sure if this is what the putty is for, and, I could not work out how you stretch the quantity they give you to make a leak-proof seal (leaks around a speaker will allow some of the bass to cancel-out and reduce its volume).
SOUND is what you buy these for of course. Let me start by saying that at the price these are amazing. I guess though I should explain that I have, in the past, worked in the audio business. My preference is for the neutral balance used when recording or post-producing music or speech. Ceiling speakers are always a compromise and if you wanted the ultimate listening experience you would not put your loudspeakers in the ceiling pointing downward. I am not using these for critical music listening and I doubt anyone would. For me these are for casual listening, watching television and for filling the room with sound. Up-front I will say that these are not as good as my ten-times-the-price units (mentioned above) but they are a lot, lot, closer than I expected. The treble is present and controlled although not going fully up to 20kHz they are more extended than I expected. The bass is not boomy in the way of most cheap speakers. OK so there is some tendency to a rising resonant mid-bottom end which is more noticeable as the volume increases meaning that if you push them the bass starts to muddy reducing clarity and swamping the mid and treble frequencies. To put this in perspective I find many people actually warm to some out of control honking in the bass (because I think it is often what we are used to) and while these lack purity for me others will probably be disappointed at quite how good they are - so be warned. The bigger issue for me is the standard problem with ceiling speakers. As I walk around my room there is a sweet spot directly under each speaker where the sound is at its best. Hence everywhere else in the room it is compromised in terms of the clarity and balance of the sound (the treble is increasingly attenuated as you get off-axis). What you get then, for this compromise, is a room-filling sound from discrete (almost hidden) speakers that will put many other solutions (like the TV's built-in speakers or sound bars and so on) to shame. I have to emphasize though that this sweet-spot issue is not a problem specific to these units - its a ceiling thing. Overall then I summarise their sound quality this way:
1. I have never heard anything better (or even close) at this price in a separate (box) speaker let alone a ceiling unit (traditionally good ceiling speakers were expensive even though they do not include the cost of a box).
2. These units give substantially better results than any of the built-in speakers on any of my televisions - none of which are bad examples.
3. Adding these has therefore meant a better sound than the TV's own output, a better stereo image (thanks to the increased separation), no obvious centre hole (which you can get with a two-speaker setup) and a room more full of sound.
4. For casual music listening these are again a bargain mixing reasonable quality with that room-filling ability.
5. You would not want to use these as your critical music listening speakers pricipally because of the problem of positioning yourself on-axis and getting right in that sweet spot.
6. These are reasonably neutral which suits my ears and is good for a mix of dialogue and music but that neutrality may not suit everybody's taste and especially if you are "bass hungry".
7. There is a slight forward flabby bass which gets worse with volume and is possibly linked to resonance in the ceiling plasterboard (and so will therefore vary by installation) but many may not notice and some will want more.
8. I would not use these as surround sound front speakers but simply because I would never use ceiling speakers in that role although I would, however, try these for the rear channels.