Ahead of the full introduction at ISE 2017, CE Pro Eu was invited to a special preview of the brand new Amina Edge series; has the company changed the game for invisible speakers?
The new offering, made up of the Edge5 and Edge7 (although it seems clear that more will be added) is designed to offer a major upgrade in terms of installation ease and flexibility, as well as sound reproduction.
The new design delivers an eyebrow-raising efficiency of 93dB, 1W/1m on the top product of the Edge7, meaning very little power is needed to drive the speakers effectively.
The speakers also features a unique tapered perimeter, meaning the products can be used when a dry-wall/drylining construction approach for new build or retrofit applications is being used. Dry-wall is of course very popular in the US, however is becoming more popular in the UK and Europe. The new products can of course still be used with conventional plasterboard construction, but the plasterer does not need to cover the face of the speaker as with the manufacturer’s other models.
Advanced Material Technology
The key to Amina’s success has always rested with the material used to create its flat drivers, which are installed into the wall. To deliver the performance needed, the material has to deliver a challenging combination of properties. The panel has to be stiff enough and light enough to be acoustically efficient, but also has to have enough damping to allow it to reproduce extended low frequency energy too. The material also needs to exhibit enough ‘hardness,’ otherwise the high frequency parts of a recording will suffer.
For this new project, PVC was considered, but rejected as it did not offer the sound quality Amina wanted and can cause cracking in the wall finish due to shrinkage post installation. Instead, Amina has worked for four years with a composite specialist based in Europe to create a material that could take what it had already achieved and build on it. Amina explains that the new panel uses a high-performance glass-filled core making it stiff, light and damped – all the qualities needed to offer high-performance sound.
Managing director, Richard Newlove explains: “The material also has excellent fire-retardant and low smoke and fume properties which are becoming an increasingly important requirement within the built environment.”
Known for its products which are installed into the wall and then plastered over, this new series takes a different approach. The new speakers use the same back-box as before, but to be compatible with dry wall techniques, it is imperative that the perimeter edge of the panel has to be shaped and tapered to allow joint tape and filler to be used in exactly the same way as drywall gypsum boards have a tapered edge and are finished. Those installing and finishing the wall can just finish around the speaker in exactly the same way they would when finishing around the edges of two boards.
The manufacturer adds that this new form factor provides plenty of depth to place joint tape around the boundary without any danger of ‘sanding’ joint filler away to expose the scrim.
Its rounded corners allow for a smooth application of drywall compound avoiding a sharp change in direction of the drywall blade used to finish the wall. Once installed, both products can be covered by paint, fabric or lightweight wallpaper.
For conventional plasterboard construction, the speakers can be fitted as the wall goes up, or later on, retro-fitted. The edge of the speaker is made flush with the edge of the existing plaster and then the gap is filled and the edge feathered in using British Gypsym Easyfil or similar fast drying compound. The raised front of the speaker is not plastered over, but Amina says it’s not a problem if a small amount is on the front – plus it can be sanded down. Full installation instruction are available direct from Amina.
Living on the Edge
Launching with two products, the Amina Edge7 represents the top of the performance curve and is capable of handling an impressive 75W of continuous power. That’s a peak power handling of 150W which combined with 93dB 1W/1m efficiency, is designed to provide a high-performance listening experience with zero visual intrusion. Maximum achievable peak Sound Pressure Level (SPL) is just under 115dB at 1m and the Edge7 can go all the way down to 45Hz at the low-end.
The Amina Edge5 is a simpler product and can handle 50W continuous power, 100W peak. This product has been created for higher volume installs or areas and is best suited to projects such as MDUs, commercial and lower cost residential properties.
Keen to show the new products off, the Amina team headed for its main demo room, furnished with all of its products, including the new Edge series.
CE Pro Eu has to confess at this point it has always been a fan of the company and of invisible speakers in general. Yes, it has been possible in the past to argue that the sound can be a ‘compromise’ and plenty of people have done so. However, CE Pro Eu has always felt the aesthetic advantages and options provided gave installers something impressive and unique; something that end users could simply not get anywhere else.
Listening to the new speakers, that potential objection about loss of sound quality, for this listener at least, is over. There will still be clients that might ‘prefer’ the sound or look of a conventional speaker, however with this new series and in particular the Edge7, Amina can claim that for the price point (retail ex VAT, Edge5 around £700, Edge7 around £1,100), its speakers sound as good as anything else out there.
In particular, lower frequencies and depth have been really improved, delivering a genuinely rich sound stage. Another impressive ability is to maintain the same volume a long way away from the speaker. Leaving the demo room, the listener can make it all the way down to the bottom of the corridor opposite and still clearly hear what is being played.
The advances are not just restricted to music listening: upstairs in the Amina cinema – freshly fitted with the ability to deliver Dolby Atmos and soon Auro 3D configurations – the sound again really impresses. Perhaps with a little less grunt than some set-ups, however the Amina approach really does deliver an enveloping experience in Dolby Atmos with plenty of detail, particularly when music is involved. If you have the time, Ce Pro Eu recommends getting up to Amina HQ to have a listen. The speakers can also be heard at Redline Distribution in Wickford Essex.
Richard concludes: “The appeal of an invisibly reproduced sound stage is increasingly attracting the attention of designers, architects and clients, allowing for the total preservation of the interior aesthetic whilst accessing the benefits of audiophile reproduction for music or cinema in the home or the commercial setting.”
The products will be on demo at ISE Hall 1 Stand N18, so if you are the show, check them out.