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Pretend You’re a Designer!

Life is all about space. It’s about the look, the feel, the vibe! Call it whatever you want, but it’s there, and whether you know it or not, you sense it. You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this, maybe thinking I posted to the wrong blog, tried to post to, and accidentally posted to SCN instead. Stick with me, you’ll get it soon enough.

Integrators always get stuck thinking only about the equipment. We walk into a project and never seem to consider the aesthetics. After all, that’s what the designer is there for. We’re just the AV integrator. However, we’re getting better at thinking about the ‘space’ in terms of the actual space as opposed to just the SPL level of the space. We now put most of our equipment into racks and lace our cables all pretty-like. We try to ensure that cable raceways are used and our touch panels are level. Look at us being all ‘designery’.

This topic came to mind because of something my company does on every job that seems to put us in the minority. We, like you, install speakers. We install all kinds of speakers: big ones, small ones, theatre speakers, PA speakers, in-wall speakers, in-ceiling speakers, line arrays... you get the point.

When it comes to any speaker, but specifically in-wall or in-ceiling, color matters. Not as much as the actual speaker specs, but it’s still important. You don’t specify a maple cabinet speaker in a room that’s full of dark walnut. It doesn’t fit, it doesn’t match, it looks silly, and in turn makes you look silly. And you don’t want to look silly, do you? Didn’t think so.

Now when it comes to in-ceiling and in-wall speakers, do we use the same logic? Kind of! I’m sure you always spec a white speaker and grill. Of course you do. Almost every in-wall/in-ceiling speaker comes out of the factory in wonderful white. So we spec white and have it installed. Job complete, get the check and get out, right? I sure hope not.

This is where my company seems to be the minority. All those white in-wall/in-ceiling speakers we install? Guess what—they all get painted. Yeah, you heard me. They get painted. Not by painters, but by us! Every single speaker, even speakers going into a white ceiling. (Think about the lovely yellowing patina that the white plastic gets after a couple of years. Doesn’t happen when we paint them. Wink, wink). If we can get the paint, we’ll paint it.

Why, you ask? Well this comes back to my first sentence. It’s all about the space! It’s about the look, the feel, the vibe. We have to think beyond just our gear and think about the entire package. Think about the entire room.

Take, for example, the five-star hotel I was at a few weeks ago in Niagara Falls, NY. Let me paint you a picture: Huge, beautiful ballroom with a decent lighting control system and decent AV system. Now tilt your head up toward the 20-foot ceiling—it’s a lovely shade of yellow, and guess what... every eight feet, a wonderfully white in-ceiling speaker looking completely out of place against the yellow backdrop of the ceiling.

When these speakers were installed, I’m sure the designer had already specified the ceiling color and I know that would have been noted in the project scope of work. Would it have been that hard to have these speakers sprayed before they left the warehouse?

You’re probably thinking I’m going a bit overboard, and maybe I am. It is only a white speaker on a yellow ceiling. But go ask your favorite interior designer—I think they’ll be in my corner on this one.

Even better, look at the restaurant we just finished some work in. We were just fixing a minor issue with their presentation system when the manager came over to introduce herself. The restaurant had undergone a full renovation about five years ago. During the reno, all new AV was installed and the interior underwent a major facelift. One of the key points of this facelift was the new slate grey ceiling. It looks great, very sleek and vibrant. Now picture 18 six-inch, white in-ceiling speakers obscuring that great new ceiling.

I asked the manager about the white speakers and if there was a reason they were still white and not matched to the slate grey ceiling. Her response should have surprised me, but it didn’t. She told me that the original integrator said they couldn’t be painted. Well you and I know that just isn’t true. That integrator just wasn’t thinking about the space at all. So we’ve now quoted painting all these speakers and looking forward to making the space look the way it should.

We as integrators need to realize that we can play a role in the actual design aspect of a project. We’ll see our systems become part of the space, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll quit fighting with the interior designer on every project.

I know from my personal experience that we have won bids not just because we paint speakers, but more so because of what it says to the client and designer about our attention to detail. Not only that, but we have designers who recommend us just because we paint speakers. I want to challenge you to pretend you’re a designer and think about the space!

Matt D. Scott is the president and founder of OMEGA Audio Video, in London, Ontario, Canada. Scott had his first encounter with Pro-Audio at age six when a PA loudspeaker fell, cracking his head, and leaving a scar to this day. After mopping up the blood, Scott started his AV career and has been working in pro AV, commercial AV, and residential AV ever since. Scott loves the industry and all things tech! A self-professed tech-head, Scott shares his opinions on social media, local radio,,, and through various publications.