Niles Audio has a new series of DS (Directed Soundfield) Ceiling Mount Loudspeakers for a variety of applications. The DS product line helps custom installers select the right loudspeaker for the application. The PR (Performance) model being reviewed here finds the perfect blend balance of value and performance to
deliver high quality sound. The DS7PR (Street $270/each) features a 7-inch glass fiber woofer cone and a 1-inch fluid-cooled Teteron® dome tweeter design. The patented Directed
Soundfield™ technology directs the sound to the
listening area for optimum sound quality. The new patent-pending pivot mechanism is designed to hold
the loudspeaker woofer securely in position while being able to direct to the listener.
Out of the box the DS7PR is wrapped like a gem just like other high-end speakers we have reviewed. Personally, I like this and it protects the speaker from being scuffed during shipping. The speaker is rather large and much deeper than one might expect. This is typically not a problem since the speakers usually have adequate space behind them when placed in the ceiling. The depth requirement for this speaker is 5-5/16" using standard 5/8" drywall totaling about 6 full inches behind the mounting flange. However, this depth can be an issue for those with a floor just above the installation location.
To see just how well this speaker is built we removed the back cover to reveal the crossover network board. The components used for the crossover are mounted on a PCB (printed circuit board) under the protective cover around the bass driver. The large magnet structure of the woofer protrudes through the middle of the board. It was good to see heavy gauge wire used throughout the assembly especially on the woofer. We noticed that the screws that hold down the speaker terminals on the PCB were not as tight as they should be resulting in some variation in impedance measurements that I took. The variation was on the order of a few ohms across the frequency spectrum, so it would have likely gone unnoticed. Once tightened, the readings were much more consistent. The DS7PR uses an asymmetric 3-4th order 2-way Linkwitz-Riley crossover set at 2.8 kHz. The speaker has a frequency response of 52 Hz to 21 kHz ±3dB with a maximum SPL (Speaker Pressure Level) of 107 dB.
The DS7 speakers include a 7-inch hole template to help aid in the installation of the speakers. The template can also be used to make a speaker grill paint stand in the event you choose to paint the grill to match you decor. The speaker requires an 8-1/2-inch hole in the ceiling for the speaker to be mounted. Three built-in spring-loaded mounting clamps adjust for uneven mounting surfaces and automatically compensate for the expansion and contraction of building materials. These clamps are spaced 120 degrees apart and flip outward when turned clockwise to tighten down the speaker to the drywall. About one inch of space for clearance is required where the clamps move out and engage, so the 8-1/2-inch hole cannot be placed too close to a beam or other obstruction. Niles also offers the Rear Wave Enclosure (RWE7C) designed to work with all Niles 7-Inch DS Series Speakers. This enclosure, which covers the back of the speaker, provides superior-quality and predictable sound, while reducing sound transfer into adjacent rooms and spaces through the ceiling. It does however require an additional 2-inches of depth and 10-inches of clearance to one side of the speaker opening.
DS7PR has a nominal impedance rating of 8 ohms with a minimum of 6 ohms. We measured
the impedance of the DS7PR speaker to get a better idea of what the Sonos ZonePlayer might encounter with this speaker connector. Like many speakers we measure, the impedance of the DS7PR can vary significantly
as a function of frequency. Using a 1/3 octave sweep on our Sencore SP295 Audio
Analyzer, we found typical peaks and valleys in the impedance spectrum. We measured both the nominal settings as well as with the treble boost to see how these affect the impedance. Under the normal mode we measured
a maximum impedance of 33 ohms at 50 Hertz and a minimum of 7.2 ohms at 160 Hertz. We then set the Treble switch to "+" and took data again. This time we measured
the same maximum impedance of 33 ohms at 50 Hertz, but the minimum impedance now shifted to 5.1 ohms at 5 kHz.
Niles recommends an amplifier in the range of 10 - 130 Watts. It just so happens that our
Sonos ZonePlayer 100 is rated at 50W per channel, so this system was a good match. This gave
us adequate power output with good volume and plenty of headroom. The sound quality was quite good at the location we installed these units. The pivoting driver assembly with the smooth-action mechanism enables independent adjustment of the tweeter and woofer. The ability to direct the drivers within the housing optimized the sound quality since high frequencies tend to roll off rather quickly when off axis. The result is a great sounding speaker with lots of flexibility. The dialogue and treble switches provided additional enhancements to both vocal presence and high frequency response.
The Niles DS7PR Directed Soundfield™ loudspeakers provide great sound quality in convenient locations with the ability to adapt to various room environments. Build quality is something to consider when installing any speaker and these are designed to last with the rubber surround material that does not deteriorate like many foam-based surround designs. The spring-tensioned mounting clamps make it a snap to install and can accommodate expansion and contraction of building materials making them ideal in moist areas such as saunas, bathrooms, and outdoor patios under eaves. Best of all the speakers are backed by Niles' Lifetime Limited Warranty. If you are looking for ceiling mount speakers that offer value and performance, check out the DS7PR (or any of the DS7 line) speakers from Niles. Chances are they will have a speaker to fit your needs.