Running wires through existing construction sucks, whether those wires are needed for telephones, PCs, cameras, or speakers. Clambering around the attic, basement, or crawlspace; drilling holes; fishing wire; installing junction boxes—it all adds up to misery.
Sometimes you just don’t have a choice. But if you’re looking to install speakers in your home’s ceiling, and your ceiling has existing recessed-lighting fixtures, Klipsch’s LightSpeaker is an ingenious solution: The speaker half of the equation features a 20-watt digital amplifier, a 2.5-inch micro-cellulose polymer speaker cone, a wireless 2.4GHz receiver, and an LED light source that fits inside most any five- or six-inch ceiling can.
The amp and the receiver draw power from the existing Edison-style light-bulb socket inside the can, so there’s no need to run additional wiring to the device (Klipsch has a version that will work in pendant and torch-style lamps, too). If your lighting fixtures use fluorescent or halogen light sources, this solution won’t work for you.
The LightSpeaker starter kit consists of two LightSpeakers, a 2.4GHz wireless transmitter, and an RF remote control.
A small LED in the speaker glows green when the system is receiving power and is synched to the transmitter (or red if the transmitter is switched off), which we found a bit annoying since the cans are directly over the head of our bed. You can cut power to the LightSpeakers altogether using the switch that controlled your original lighting, but this could be a problem if that switch controls not just the Klipsch devices but a room full of recessed lighting. Fortunately, that was not the case in our situation.
The other half of the LightSpeaker kit is a tabletop wireless transmitter that can not only accommodate two analog audio sources (there are two 1/8-inch stereo inputs and two pair of stereo RCA inputs), but that can also stream audio to two independent zones. Membrane buttons on the transmitter and on the RF remote control switch between the two audio sources and zones, control or mute the volume, and dim or turn off the LED. The LED, by the way, produces the same amount of light as a 65-watt incandescent bulb while consuming just 10 watts of power.
The LightSpeaker fits inside a five- or six-inch speaker can, but the speaker itself is just 2.5 inches.
Each transmitter can support up to eight LightSpeakers, and you can run two transmitters in a single home (although the two must be at least 25 feet apart). If you’d like take your tunes outside, Klipsch recently shipped a compatible water-resistant wireless speaker, the AudioRock, which resembles a rock in order to blend into your landscaping (the battery-operated AudioRock does not include lighting. We’ll have a review of that product soon.) The dual-zone feature is important because the volume adjustment for a given zone will necessarily impact all the speakers assigned to that zone. If you install one set of speakers in a living room and a second set in small bedroom or a bathroom, you’ll want to assign them to different zones. The same goes for the rock speaker: With independent zones, you can produce enough volume for an outdoor space, while maintaining indoor levels that don’t overwhelm conversation.
The 25-watt digital amps and the speakers aren’t remotely audiophile quality—the system crossed over into the land of distortion when we pushed it too hard—but it easily filled our 14-by-28-foot master bedroom. The speakers are perfectly acceptable for atmospheric audio and casual listening, though; they produce reasonably crisp and well-defined highs, but they lack the deep bass response you need to feel a groove in your bones. We wouldn’t recommend using them as the surround channels for a home-theater setup for this same reason, even if your A/V receiver has the necessary pre-amp outputs for such a configuration to work.
The LightSpeaker system is a little pricey at $600, but it’s not outrageously expensive when you consider the conventional alternative.