Respected AV reviewer Richard Stevenson is Essential Install’s trade focused reviewer, here he puts Monitor Audio’s CPIW460X, the company’s latest in-wall loudspeaker, through its paces.

Sitting at the top of Monitor Audio’s Controlled Performance custom install loudspeaker range, the CP-IW260X and CP-IW460X are large, three-way, five driver in-wall models. The CP-IW260X uses MA’s 25mm dome tweeter while the CP-IW460X tested here boasts an audiophile spec ribbon HF unit derived from the brand’s flagship Platinum series Hi-Fi speakers.

It also features MA’s premium underhung voice coil drivers with dimpled ‘RST’ mid and bass cones. The closed cabinet, with separate cup-enclosures for the mid drivers, is a key part of the ‘controlled’ series name. The sealed box design, robust polymer cabinet and die-cast alloy baffle make the speaker performance far less sensitive to the wall construction or the size of the void behind.

That has allowed MA to create a wide bandwidth, high efficiency in-wall loudspeaker promising audiophile sound irrespective of the installation. The five-driver complement is arranged in d’appolito configuration with the 4in mid drivers and 6.5in bass units symmetrically flanking the tweeter. When the line of drivers is arranged vertically the design gives an extremely wide horizontal dispersion, albeit at the expense of some output above and below the mid axis.

The ribbon tweeter also produces its output in a wide horizontal arc, giving the CP-IW460X a smooth frequency response across multiple listening positions. That benefit is not lost if the speaker is installed horizontally, as the whole tweeter pod can be rotated through 90°. Audio trims are front mounted and cover +/-1dB MF, +/-1dB HF and a boundary gain compensation switch.

Mounting

The CW460X is a big speaker with an 878 x 228mm cut out and weighs over 12kg. Each unit is supplied with a crisp installation card template, neatly printed with details such as precise driver position.

Given the limited vertical dispersion it would be prudent to mount these speakers with the tweeter at the listener’s approximate ear height when seated. The cabinet’s 12mm baffle edge extending beyond the cut-out is pre-fitted with a thin sealing tape. This was slightly bunched-up on the radiused corners so didn’t create a fully air-tight seal.

That’s not a major issue with the closed-cabinet CP-IW460X, but might require extra sealing if open backed speakers are installed in the same wall. Monitor Audio offers a Pre-Construction Bracket that can be banded to joists and studs prior to installing plasterboard. You can locate the metal frame with a stud finder and the design gives extra support to the speaker’s mounting lugs. The lugs are a traditional cam-lock design and there are 10 of them, creating a very secure fit. They will handle substrates up to 40mm thick.

The speaker’s minimal 96mm mounting depth is nicely shallow, making it ideal for false wall installs. The full-cover grill has a paintable white finish. It latches on to 24 magnets around the speaker perimeter and another 10 around the central tweeter and MF driver baffle. The grille is seriously secure and small rubber buffers on the baffle ensure it doesn’t vibrate in use.

Installation

Without the benefit of the optional WB12 Pre- Construction Bracket, I personally considered installing such a large, weighty speaker in unsupported 12.5mm plasterboard was a bit ‘risky’.

So, the test wall was built with a 9mm ply and faced with plasterboard, creating a more solid 21+mm substrate. The cut-out template was accurate but do be aware that getting it properly vertical is critical. Just a degree out and the speaker will look wonky. Given the height there isn’t a great deal of wiggle room to retrim the hole either.

By balancing the speaker in the bottom of the cut-out you can connect cables to the gold-plated spring terminals with the other hand. The 10 cam-lugs are secured with a pozi screwdriver and MA has sensibly made the driver bolts Allen sockets to differentiate the two.

With all 10 lugs tightened, the speaker pulled up very snug and secure. The grille popped on with equal solidity.

Be aware that the fixing screws are not captive in the lugs. If removing the speaker there is every danger of over loosening the screw and the plastic lug falling into the wall void. Once again, we make the mistakes so you don’t have too.

Performance

The CP-IW460X delivers high 89dB/W efficiency, 150W power handling and a smooth frequency response from around 80Hz (-10dB) up. The LF extension as installed doesn’t quite live up to MA’s claim of 50Hz but is still low enough to keep any attached sub below 100Hz. The ribbon tweeter offers very smooth and even HF response, extending near flat out to well above 20kHz. The installed speaker frequency response shows a gentle slope gain from 250Hz to 2.5kHz.

That gives the speaker a lively sound and adds to its sense of projecting music and movies spaciously into the room. Using the -1dB MF and HF trims reduced the upper half gain a little but the effect is subtle. Most install speakers usually offer +/- 2 or 3dB trims.

The boundary gain compensation switch trims LF response to counteract the wall-gain but it is equally subtle. Given that the HF lift from 2.5kHz anyway, we would leave BDC off and use the wall-gain to balance overall sound. As predicted the dispersion pattern is supremely wide with barely any HF roll off even at 45° off axis.

That makes these speakers ideal for covering a wide area of the room and across multiple seating positions. Equally predictably, HF response fell off a cliff much above or below the tweeter axis, so do make sure you rotate that tweeter pod if installing the speaker horizontally.

With careful installation, particularly achieving correct tweeter height and orientation, MA’s CP-IW460X is an outstanding in-wall loudspeaker. Installation is straightforward, the mounting is very secure, and the grille is excellent.

Sonic performance is everything you would expect from MA’s premium design and Hi-Fi heritage, with superb imaging, smooth extended frequency response and a lively, engaging sound.

This review first appeared in the pages of Essential Install Magazine. Check out a new review every month. Register here

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