I first came across Niles about twenty years ago when they made just a handful of products. One that I particularly liked was an on/off speaker switch that could be mounted in a wall. That may not seem like a big deal today, but at the time it was very cool. We started using them right away. It meant that we could finally place the switch in the same room as the speakers, (instead of back at the amplifier). Since then, Niles has completely focused on custom installation components, and the company has become an important part of this industry.
These days they offer products in four important catagories:
This is one of the hottest areas in today's audio scene. We can put speakers in any room of the house. And, using an in-wall keypad, we can now give you full control over the stereo - on/off, start/stop, change sources, jump to the next CD, change radio stations, you name it!
Multi-room simply means having music in several rooms. The music would be the same everywhere, but the volume could be adjusted on a room by room basis. This is usually the best solution for serving several adjacent rooms. In a multi-zone, multi-room system on the other hand, each room is unique. The music for each room can be selected and controlled independently, usually from a keypad mounted in the wall. This begins to make sense when a system is extended up to a bedroom, or out to a pool or patio.
The advantages of these systems go beyond simple convenience. Modern amplifiers have as many as twelve channels, so every room has a dedicated amplifier for plenty of clear, clean power. The audible improvement over systems with only one amplifier is easy to hear. And, since each room is fully independent, we can create a system that does several things at once. In other words while you listen to NPR in the kitchen, the kids could be downstairs listening to their music, or if they're younger children, watching their Barney video for the umteenth time!
Niles makes a range of products to make these systems work. Keypad controls fall into two catagories. The simpler ones use infra-red signals to send the commands, (even though you might be several rooms away from the stereo). These controls are designed to operate an amplifier from any manufacturer. They essentially mimic the remote control that came with your receiver.
More sophisticated keypads are engineered to work in conjunction with a matching preamplifier. These are specialized components which are specifically designed to be operated by a keypad. The result is an easier to use, faster, more intuitive, and more reliable system. Niles offers a broad selection of controls in both catagories. And they make multi-channel power amplifiers which sound great and are built to last. We've used their amplifiers in commercial installations where they run 18 hours a day, seven days a week, and we've used them in high-end residential installations where sound quality was critical.
Speaker selection and placement is as much an art as a science. Built-in speaker technology has come a long way in the past fifteen years, and some of the best ones now sound very good indeed. There are in-wall speakers that cost over two thousand dollars per pair! Now that we have such a wide range of choices, the real issue becomes where to place them and how to mount them in the room.
I've been installing in-wall speakers for over twenty years now. (In the early days I was using a/d/s/ car speakers!) Installing literally hundreds of pairs of speakers has built up a huge reservoir of experience and technique, and it allows me to lay out a room with confidence. If it's going to be built in to the walls, there's really no way to do it over! There's no substitute for getting it right the first time.
Ceiling speaker technology is one of the areas that has really progressed. Niles has a line of "Advanced Technology" ceiling speakers that really sound amazing. These speakers use high tech, carbon fiber construction. They have remarkably high quality crossover components, and the excellent tweeters can be aligned so that their coverage pattern matches the room layout. In many rooms wall space is at a real premium, and it's great to have some truly high-fidelity ceiling speakers in my bag of tricks!