• Out of sight sounds

    5 September 2013

    Cluttered ceilings are an aesthetic problem for  some of the finest boutiques and exclusive branded salons in Asia. Reducing the visual noise on the ceiling is important in retail spaces so that customers can focus on the products on display, so the ability to remove one of the largest visual polluters is an opportunity that designers and specifiers can’t ignore. Enter Stealth Acoustics.

    Lab3 in PRC 1Modern audio systems in the home and retail environments require large speakers to deliver the highest quality sound, as small, flat exposed ceiling loudspeakers don’t offer suitable sound quality for modern, high-end interiors. With these unsuitable speakers the result is visual clutter of unsightly grilles described by one hotelier as ‘pancakes stuck on the ceiling’.

    The clutter such speakers create pollutes the clean lines that consumers adore, particularly the big spenders at high-end fashion chains, and spoils the look that architects sweat blood trying to create. If lighting can be recessed to render it invisible, what’s the solution for speaker systems?

    Lab3 in PRC 7One company that understands the needs of designers and retailers in making the most of stunning spaces and integrating equally appealing, invisible sound systems is Lab3 Limited.

    A distributor of minimally obtrusive solutions for integrating technology into architecture, Lab3 has offices in Hong Kong and Auckland, working with dealers and specifiers throughout the Greater China region.

    A product Lab3 has worked with extensively is Stealth Acoustics, a United States-engineered and built loudspeaker system with an ingenious camouflage technology.

    Lab3 Managing Director, David Ivory, says the Stealth Acoustics range of products provides a balance between exceptional acoustic performance across all ranges and clean looks – so clean that the speakers are invisible. “This is a product that audio installers, specifiers and designers should all be considering for their projects to solve the inherent problem of visual clutter for their clients. While there are plenty of audio systems marketed as unobtrusive, they tend to produce either substandard sound or use complicated mathematics to trick the listener into believing they are hearing a full and accurate reproduction. The Stealth Acoustic system is real, high-fidelity sound, made truly invisible,” states Ivory.

    The drivers and diaphragms sit in an injection moulded frame that is recessed into walls and ceilings. A proprietary, layered membrane conceals the high-fidelity drivers leaving the flat face of the loudspeakers sitting flush with the ceiling surface, looking like a patch of gypsum plasterboard ready to be plastered and painted.

    Ivory continues, “One of the big advantages for specifiers of Stealth Acoustics loudspeakers is that they save the client from compromised acoustic performance when the loudspeaker’s size is reduced for visual aesthetics. Acoustic specialists know that good acoustics and smaller speakers just don’t go together. Instead of achieving the client’s needs by making these compromises, specifiers can now choose Stealth Acoustics speakers that are invisible.”

    Installation

    Lab3 in PRC 2Stealth Acoustics products have been selected by some the most preeminent retail brand in Asia including Gucci and The Peninsula Hotel Hong Kong. The businesses and all others required a high-specification audio system integrated with precise architectural requirements. While the commercial applications are clear, the system is also ideal for completely concealed multi-room audio set-ups and home theatres where they form the front LCR array and rear surround loudspeakers.

    “Installation is straightforward,” states Ivory. “The speaker units can be fitted into drywall in ceilings and walls in spaces as shallow as 75mm. The process is similar to installing a patch in a plasterboard ceiling so doesn’t require specialist tools or fittings and can be handled by any construction team, but says Ivory, professional installation and testing by competent audio installers will ensure premium-quality sound. “Designers should partner with qualified contractors to achieve the best performance from Stealth Acoustics invisible loudspeakers.”

    Lab3 in PRC 5There’s very little the Stealth Acoustics engineers haven’t thought of with these units. Speaker diaphragms are bonded to the frame of the units away from the mounting, creating a stable “outer rim” that attaches to the structure.

    The edges of the front panel are tapered to mimic gypsum plasterboard edges, leaving enough room for tape or filler compound to make a seamless join set with nothing more than screws and spackle making initial placement of the product straight forward for contractors.

    The invisible speaker fronts come pre-primed and ready to receive a finish. The fronts will hold finishes including paints, flat or textured finishes, wallpaper, fabric and light plastering. Cracked coatings are not normally a problem. Installed correctly, the tough membrane – even when coated – permits an amazingly responsive sound from the driver.

    Flexibility

    And that’s the core of this system’s appeal: there is no need for clients to make do with poor sound quality or for architects to compromise on aesthetics. That in turns makes the system incredibly flexible, pleasing everyone from the procurement team through to the tradesmen, and most importantly, the client!

    Lab3 in PRC 6From the architect’s perspective, the invisible speaker system saves hours of headaches in the painstaking work of matching elements that look great on a blueprint but just don’t work in real life. “Architects are always pushing the boundaries, looking at the smallest parts of a fit-out and working with tiny tolerances to create an innovative space. Then they have to deal with physical barriers like wiring in ceilings. There’s no need to align these loudspeakers visually with other ceiling elements. Installers put them where they are needed acoustically and make them invisible.”

    Ivory concludes, “The system comes into its own in retail spaces, where the carefully manicured environments are designed to increase sales. Here, even the most subtle distractions can hamper a sale. If fashion and luxury brands get the sound in their stores right, the customer won’t notice. But get it wrong and the distraction will diminish the whole in-store experience and could even cost sales.”

    It’s at the nexus of audio and visual that Stealth Acoustics delivers on the promise that “quality audio should be heard – not seen”. 

    Lab3 Limited is looking to qualify contractors and dealers and to assist specifiers interested in the range of Stealth Acoustics products for projects throughout the Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China.

    More information at: www.invisibles.hk.

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