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Which company delivers the best speaker/light combo
IAVHT’s Lightspeaker ($330/pair) are very different from the rest of this pack; in fact, speaker manufacturer Klipsch distributed them at one time. For one thing, they’re not designed to be screwed into a lamp socket; they’re meant to replace an existing a recessed lighting fixture. While you don’t need to deal with electrical wiring, you will need to disassemble your existing ceiling cans. LightSpeakers will replace them. Don’t buy these if you don’t have recessed lighting.
Before you install the lights, you use small switches on the back to set each one to be either the right or left channel, and to be in one of two possible zones. You can configure multiple zones to play the same or different music in different parts of your house, with independent volume control for each zone. IAV also offers an outdoor rock speaker (a battery-powered wireless speaker inside an enclosure that looks like a boulder) that can work with the same controller if you want to take the music outside. Each controller can support up to 16 LightSpeakers of any type.
Once you get the lights working—and at 480 lumens, they’re good and bright—you wirelessly pair them with the base unit. One set of buttons on the base controls the dimmer and another adjusts the volume. If the lights are controlled by a wall switch or dimmer, you can also control the lights that way. Other buttons on the base let you select which of the two zones your commands affect, and which of two possible sources you’re playing from.
The base unit has two sets of RCA inputs, making this the only speaker/light in this roundup compatible with traditional audio gear or a home-theater PC. The downside is that your audio source must be hardwired to the base unit (the audio signal travels wirelessly to the speakers). I used an 1/8-inch-to-RCA Y cable to connect my smartphone’s headphone jack to one of the base unit’s inputs.
Once everything was connected and I fired up the speakers, one of my companions immediately said, “Now we’re talking!” This is the system I mentioned that sounds like a good pair of speakers, rather than a light that happens to also make sound. The sound is full, loud, detailed, and rich.
Even though the LightSpeakers cost more than twice as much as the next most expensive system, they also deliver the best price/performance ratio. The lights are bright and can be dimmed from the base unit, even if you don’t have a dimmer switch on the wall. They can accommodate two audio sources (albeit those sources must be hardwired). And the base unit can support two different zones. The biggest downside is that the system can’t be controlled from a mobile device.
The LightSpeakers are high-quality speakers combined with bright recessed light fixtures, but they must be hardwired to an audio source.