Product Review (December 2006)
Phase Technology
CI-20 VII In-Wall Systems

By Kevin Nakano


The demand for in-wall speakers has increased over the years with both new and older homes taking advantage of distributed audio systems. Home owners no longer have to put up with poor sounding in-wall speakers with inferior designs. Some of the latest models from a variety of manufacturers rival the sound quality found in some of the better boxed speakers. Phase Technology has a new Custom Installation (CI) series of in-wall designs that will please both the interior decorator as well as the audiophile. Having reviewed Phase Technology's V-10 5.1 home theater speaker system a couple of years back, we were excited to see and hear what their technology could do for in-wall speaker designs. We received a pair of their CI-20VII full-range speakers that features a 6.5-inch injection-molded polypropylene woofer and a 1" soft dome tweeter. The tweeter is designed to pivot so that the high frequencies can be directed into the listening area. This is a nice feature since high frequencies typically roll of rapidly as you get off-axis. Just below the tweeter is a 3-position switch that adjusts the high frequency level ±3dB. So now it is time to tackle the installation of these speakers.

Installation
The CI-20VII speaker uses a two-piece system that allows the flange to be mounted before the speaker baffle assembly. This is a wise approach that makes the installation easier to manage and avoids potential damage to the speakers when attaching it to the wall. Possible upgrades can also be made with minimal effort since most of the CI speaker line uses the same type of mounting flange. The flange requires a cutout of 10.75" x 7.5" in the wall and can be mounted directly to drywall using the four dog-leg clamps that automatically flip into position when the screws are tightened. We mounted the speakers horizontally, close to studs in the wall above a closet opening. This required us to use screws to hold down the flange rather than benefit from the dog-leg clamps. Either way, the frame is held secure in the opening and is ready to be mated with the speaker baffle. A set of seals are included that attach to the rim of the frame and provide both dampening and a seal for the speaker. We added some acoustic foam into the wall behind the baffle to help reduce any coloration the wall might add to the sound. The speaker has a Quick Mount system that uses metal clips on each corner of the baffle that locks the assembly into place. The design firmly attaches the speaker baffle to the frame.

The CI-20VII woofer has a large magnet designed with a high temperature voice coil for maximum performance and long term reliability. For those needing IR control of their system, the front baffle also includes an IR window for a convenient location for the IR repeater to be installed. The color of both the frame and the grill closely matched our wall color, allowing it to blend seamlessly into our decor. However, if you and have less benign colors in your room, the frame and speaker grill can easily be painted to match the surroundings.

The gold-plated terminal posts located on the main crossover board assembly make it easy to attach the speaker wires. The spring-loaded and color-coded posts accept stripped wire that get firmly pinched when inserted. In our installation we used 14-gauge Tributaries wires connected to our ZP100 Zone Player, part of the Sonos Digital Music system. On the back of the speaker assembly, the woofer has an acoustically transparent material covering the basket to prevent debris from getting into the woofer cone area. This is a great idea that few in-wall speakers manufactures have used. The potential problem of buzzing debris is alleviated with this design. This can be even more of an issue with speakers that are mounted in the ceiling where gravity forces loose material right onto the speaker assembly.

Performance
Our intent was to use these speakers for listening to music in a typical bedroom setting. They stood alone on their own without any other speaker complementing or altering their sonic character. What we found was the detail and clarity of these speakers was better than many in-walls we have heard and they played surprisingly loud without the typical fatigue one gets from prolonged listening. Deep bass response was inherently limited with its single 6.5-inch bass driver, but this bass can be easily complemented with a subwoofer such as Phase Technologies' IW 200 in-wall sub. This subwoofer comes with an outboard power amplifier, called the P200 and offers the bass extension some are looking for. However, even without a subwoofer, the CI-20VII speakers produced very tight and well controlled bass and certainly satisfied the requirements for a bedroom speaker system.

Conclusion
The Phase Technology CI-20VII in-wall speakers are a quality product from a design, construction and performance standpoint. We played a variety of music through the speakers and were always impressed with the sonic experience we received. The CI-20VII design is based on a 6.5-inch woofer, yet they sounded as good as many of the 8-inch models in our opinion. While bass extension can certainly be limited with these smaller in-wall speakers, these little gems produced tight bass with excellent detail. The Phase Technology CI-20VII are definitely worth an audition and their small size have additional advantages.

- Kevin Nakano




OPPO BDP-103 Blu-ray Player




Review System

Music System : Sonos Digital Music System with a ZP100 Zone Player
Cables: Tributaries 14-gauge wire


Review - At a Glance

Phase Technology - CI-20 VII In-Wall Systems

CI-20 VII Owner's Manual

CI-20VII In-Wall Speaker
Specifications:
Tweeter

1" user-adjustable soft dome

Woofer

6-1/2" polypropylene cone

Frequency Response

48 Hz - 20 kHz (± 3 dB)

Sensitivity

90 dB

Impedance

8 Ohms

Mounting Depth

3-1/4"

Recommended Amplifier Power10-120 Watts
Cutout Dimensions

10-3/4" (H) x 7-1/2" (W)

Outside Dimensions11-13/16" (H) x 8-5/8" (W) with flange
Shipping Weight4.25 pounds


Company Information
Phase Technology Corporation
6400 Youngerman Circle
Jacksonville, FL 32244
Tel: 904 777 0700
Fax: 904 771 7793
Support: 888-742-7385

Source: Manufacture supplied
MSRP: $225 each

Warranty: 10 years

URL: www.phasetech.com

Any comments or questions regarding the LAAF Web Site should be forwarded to webmaster@laaudiofile.com

Copyright © 1985-2007 L.A. Audio File.