Looking at the loudspeaker sound-quality “food chain”, I think it looks something like this: floor-standing, bookshelf, in-wall, then a toss up between outdoor and in-ceiling speakers. Typically for background music, they often tend to be cheap, small, and produce primarily midrange frequencies. Posh Speaker Systems is one company that is raising the bar in what to expect in a flush-mounted ceiling speaker. For review, they sent me a pair of Posh 928s.
The 928 features an 8" high-compliance woven fiberglass woofer cone with long-throw design, butyl rubber half-roll surround, Kapton voice-coil former, and a cast basket. The coaxially mounted tweeter (mounted in the center of the woofer) is a 25 mm ferrofluid-cooled sealed soft dome with a neodymium magnet.
The coaxial driver is mounted in Posh’s patented injection molded acoustic chamber, which is baffled with non-parallel sides to reduce internal standing waves. This design was given an award at the 1999 CES for innovation. One thing that is really nice about the acoustic chamber is that it has wings attached allowing for mounting directly to ceiling joists (16” on center). Then the speaker can be covered with sheetrock that has a hole cut for the driver, leaving a nice flush mount with only the included paintable grille for a nice clean installation.
Ceiling and in-wall speakers are rarely seen in reviews, and I think the reason is obvious: who wants to punch a hole in their wall or ceiling for a review? I was in a similar predicament and did not want to hire custom installers out of pocket to review the speaker, so I had to compromise. First I set the Posh 928s on top of my front speakers and aimed them slightly up and off-axis. One of the most important performance criteria for a ceiling speaker is going to be off-axis response and how well it matches on-axis response. With poor off-axis response, the speakers sound completely different depending on where you are standing, while with good off-axis response, the tonal quality will remain the same. I not only tested them in the ceiling, I also put them on the floor, and against the wall. (They are acoustic suspension designs, and are completely enclosed. Of course, they are designed to make use of the ceiling around the speaker to load the bass.)
When set up to replace my mains and given proper placement, the Posh 928s sounded much better than I was anticipating. What was especially surprising was the decent bass response. A friend came over and was interested in a pair of in-walls, so he looked the 928s over. I mentioned that the 928s are too deep for most standard construction home walls and are made for ceiling applications, where you have a lot more depth behind the studs. With only the Posh 928s in operation he asked if I had a sub on as well. To be fair he is not a home theater aficionado, but I was also surprised at the low end response of the relatively small enclosure. It’s not really a bass powerhouse, but when I checked the response with a frequency sweep at an 85 dB level, the 928s had solid output to about 65 Hz and should easily integrate with a sub using an 80 Hz crossover point. Posh has the 835-M/S in-wall subwoofer if you want to have your subwoofer out of the way.
Although there is no situation I can think of that the Posh 928s would be listened to on-axis (sitting directly underneath them) for home theater use, I felt compelled to at least give them a listen when they were set up this way. When compared to something like my reference Axiom M60tis, the Posh 928s were definitely more laid back. In addition, the imaging was not nearly as well defined, with some definite smearing. Also the upper bass and lower midrange were a bit chesty, and treble was veiled. However, the sound was fairly full with the decent low-end extension, and the acoustic bass on Norah Jones' Come Away with Me sounded particularly good.
Since off-axis is the only way 928s would likely be listened to, their performance in this setting was definitely the number one criteria I was grading these speakers on. Used full-range, they provided room filling sound, which was pleasing, and are light years beyond any of the standard ceiling speakers I have heard to date. In fact, if I were just using them for background music, I actually preferred them to the Axioms. With a laid back top-end and extremely smooth off-axis response they made for a very unobtrusive listening experience.\
Reviewing a pair of ceiling speakers was a fairly daunting task. On the one hand, the Posh 928s couldn’t really compete with a good pair of floor-standing speakers in sweet-spot on-axis response. Of course, they are not designed to. However, in their intended application, they sound wonderful, with a quality far beyond many in-ceiling speakers. If I were building a new home, the Posh 928s would definitely be on my short list of speakers for in-ceiling applications.
928 Flush Mount-Speaker