Review: Flatwire

Flatwire Photoset
Originally uploaded by seangraham

In college, and I split the cost of a surround sound setup. Jon purchased the receiver and I purchased a set of speakers to complete the 5.1 setup. After I graduated I lost the use of Jon’s receiver, so I bought my own, which I used for the first few years living in Boston. After my retreat to New Jersey and subsequent return, Corinna and I decided that the living room in her old condo was simply too small, and the walls too fragile, to mount all the speakers to. So my glorious surround sound setup collected dust for several years.

Having moved into a new, larger, house and having bought a ridiculously large television, it only seemed to make sense to have a nice sound system.. Unfortunately, there were a few problems with this plan:

  • There are condos above and below us, so there was no access from above or below.
  • Corinna and I had no interest in unsightly wires running around the living room.
  • I don’t trust wireless speaker setups, and besides, I already have 5 perfectly good speakers.
  • We didn’t want to rip the walls down solely to run speaker wire.

Given all that, I assumed that others would likely have this problem, so I began searching around for a solution. After some research I settled on Flatwire. Basically, you glue Flatwire to the wall, tape over it with joint tape, then feather joint compound over the whole kit and caboodle to conceal it. I was somewhat skeptical, but after reading some good words I decided to take a bit of a leap of faith and shell out a few hundred bucks on the gear. I got 100′ of flat speaker wire, 8 wall boxes, the spray adhesive and extra-wide joint tape.

We found pages and pages of illustrated installation instructions on the company’s site, and they were a little intimidating.. Fortunately, Corinna and I sat down and carefully read them, making sure we understood each step before any installation started. Once we invested this time it became clear that this installation really wasn’t as complicated as it seemed at first. The instructions are just very detailed.. After understanding all the steps, all it takes is some solid patience…

We used a chalk line to snap out all 4 routes around the living room.. What became apparent quickly was that while it may seem that keeping the wires level would be really important, in a 100 year old home which isn’t terribly level anywhere else, what really mattered was keeping the lines a consistent distance from the ceiling. We took time to make sure we had enough space along the entire runs to account for any sags in the ceiling. Once we were confident in all of the chalk lines, we began the first run. It seemed logical to start with the shortest run, which was the front right speaker. We measured the length of the run, and then measured out and cut the appropriate length of wire. The instructions advised us to test this length of cable before proceeding, so we connected two of the wall boxes to either end and hooked up the stereo and a speaker. Everything worked great, so we disassembled the whole setup and began gluing the wire to the walls. First, we mounted the first wall box to the wall and connected the wire to that box as a kind of anchor while we glued. The glue is really, really sticky, and didn’t necessarily spray straight out of the nozzle, so it took a little practice to shoot straight.. Fortunately, any misfiring would be covered up by the spackle anyway, so I wasn’t too worried. After getting this first run glued to the wall we mounted the second wall box and connected the other end of the wire to it. After reconnecting the speaker and stereo to this first run, we successfully tested this first run. The instructions advised testing each run 3 times: Before gluing, after gluing, and after spackling. This would have taken us forever, so after this first run we only tested after gluing (and obviously after painting).

After this first run, we glued the remaining 3 runs to the wall and mounted all of the wall boxes, testing all of them successfully. With each run we became faster and faster as we became more familiar with the process. We started this process around 11am and finished gluing and testing around 4pm, just in time to jump in the shower quickly and catch The Police at Fenway. The next day Corinna began taping and feathering the wires.. This took her a few days, mostly because of the amount of spackle needed to really hide the wire combined with drying time. She may correct me, but I believe it took three passes to really smooth it out. After getting the paint on the walls Thursday night I mounted the speakers Friday and we took the system for a test-drive.

While I’m no audiophile, I do appreciate good sound, and as far as I can tell, the Flatwire doesn’t color or distort the audio in any perceivable way. The stereo sounds wonderful and bass and treble response seem identical to the traditional speaker wire I replaced. To be honest, I can’t really find any flaws in the system. It’s expensive, and it requires spackling finesse which may be beyond some (including myself), but if you are in a similar bind to me, it seems like a perfect solution.

6 thoughts on “Review: Flatwire

  1. That’s absolutely awesome! I think the company that developed it went public with Flat Wire in 2005. I remember seeing it at CES or one of the trade shows that year. I’m glad to hear another positive review for it, and this time from someone I know.

  2. Flatwire

    I am hooked on this flatwire product. Not only did I hook up all my speakers with it, I also purchased the s-video and component video cables and was able make all my wire dissapear. I heard the original company Decorp is now owned by a company called Southwire, and that they are working on a flat 120 volt wire.
    Tom C

    1. Re: Flatwire

      Yeah, it’s great stuff. My entire AV setup is self-contained in my TV stand, so I have no video cables to hide, but I would definitely give it a swing if I had the need.

  3. Speaker connector

    Thanks so much for the review and especially the pics. Did you happen to take any of the actual connection from the connector to the speaker itself? I’ve reviewed the instructions and tried to judge from the pics you posted but I’m still a little confused about how exactly they actually connect from the box to the speaker.

    Many Thanks!

    1. Re: Speaker connector

      I didn’t take any pictures of the box, but you can see a closeup of it here:

      Each box has two standard “Banana” style connectors on it. This is the more popular speaker connection you see on the backs of amplifiers. You can either screw the connector up to directly connect speaker wire and then screw it back down, or you can attach a “banana” connector to the end of your speaker wire and plug it into the back of the connector.

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