CEPro May 2012 Speaker Review


In-Wall Speakers Fit the Bill

rarcher  By Robert Archer, Senior Editor

NORTH CAROLINA-BASED GTL Sound Labs was founded by Gary T. Little more than 35 years ago, and since then the company has been producing high quality loudspeakers for a wide array of applications.

For those not familiar with this small company, GTL primarily focuses on in-wall and ceiling speakers for home theater, but the company also offers custom-designed, one-off speakers for unique applications. The company's flagship is the AE963 in-wall speaker, which uses a sealed enclosure that includes an ABS plastic shell lined with Iambs' wool.

The speaker mounts through six specially designed Phillips screws that pull the heavy duty outriggers to the studs for proper mounting in the wall. Internally the speaker is outfitted with a 9-inch woven carbon fiber woofer, a 5.25-inch midrange speaker and a 3-inch titanium silk dome tweeter.

The 9-inch woofer utilizes a 2-inch voice coil, 40-ounce vented magnet and butyl rubber surrounds. The 5.25-inch midrange unit employs a poly paper cone with a 1 .5-inch voice coil and a 25-ounce vented magnet. The 3-inch tweeter uses a 1-inch voice coil and a 12.7-ounce magnet.

The company states the 8-ohm speaker is 90dB efficient and that it produces a frequency response of 26Hz to 20kHz. In this review of the system, I opted not to wall mount the speakers so performance would not be affected being outside of a wall-stud cavity environment (the result of a sealed enclosure design). Placing the speakers eight feet apart and connecting them to a run-of-the-mill 5.1 channel Sony receiver I used 16-gauge Monster XP cables and connected the speakers via their bottom mounted two-way binding posts, which can accept banana posts and bare wire.

To test the speakers as a stereo pair I used an Apple Mac Mini, which had AAC, Apple Lossless and MP3 files, and a Technics turntable to spin some vinyl. Listening to a variety of tracks like "Pannonica" by Thelonious Monk, the Grateful Dead's "Morning Dew" and Buckethead's "Jordan," I thought the speakers performed solidly.

The AE963s provided clear and crisp imaging among their highlights.

The clarity of the saxophone in John Coltrane's "I Got It Bad," for instance, really brought out the musicality of the speakers and the song. In general, everything I played through the AE963s sounded excellent. The speakers offered more bass and punch than I expected, and their midrange and top-end were coherent to produce a well-rounded listening experience that would do well in a home theater or whole-house audio setup.

MSRP $2.500 per pair, www.gtlsoundlabs.com