I finished the 88 Specials. Cabinets are all assembled and glued. Crossovers are installed. Everything works like a charm. I used Duratex to finish the speakers and I love it. Here they are sitting in front of the screen. Obviously, that's not their final home. I moved them back behind the screen right after that picture was taken.
I had some real physical challenges to overcome in replacing the in-walls. There's a small alcove behind the screen that's a bit over 6 feet wide and 12 inches deep. So depth was definitely a challenge, as was the ability to toe the speakers in properly. The 88 Specials are only 9 inches deep, so depth is no problem at all. They fit perfectly in the alcove and are completely hidden by the screen. With only a few inches between the left, center, and right speakers, I was worried about the soundstage and imaging. But so far, I'm more than happy with them.
As for how they sound, there's just one word: FANTASTIC! I started by connecting just the right speaker, leaving the left and center channels to be served by the Monoprice in-walls. I knew that speakers with a proper enclosure would have significantly more low end. So I expected increased mid-bass. But I was surprised at how muffled the in-walls sounded in comparison to the 88 special. The SEOS waveguide and compression driver make a world of difference. The mid-bass I was lacking is there now. Highs are clearer. Voices pop off the screen. They integrated just fine with the Lilwrecker.
With all three speakers in place, I calibrated with Audyssey on the Denon. The resulting adjustments to levels show that the Special 88's go pretty far in keeping up with the Lilwrecker setting in the cabinet beneath them. My surrounds need upgrading at some point, but that will wait. I haven't run a lot of movies yet, but the little bit of video content I watched was much more enjoyable with the 88 specials.
I'm just as happy with them for music. So far I've tested them with some jazz, rock, blues, electronic, and even some dubstep. Everything improved. As expected, bad recordings sound horrible. As they should. But good recordings sound remarkably realistic. For the first time, I find myself switching the Denon to Pure Direct mode to eliminate any of the adjustments made by Audyssey. The speakers sound excellent without adjustments on a lot of material.
I wish I had room for a full set of 1099s, but I don't. The 88 Specials are just about perfectly suited to the space limitations of my theater. The moral of the story: If you don't have room for the big guys, I highly recommend looking at the 88 Specials.