picture of a living room with in-ceiling speakers

Are In Wall Speakers Good For Home Theater?

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It is no secret that the advancement in home theaters has come a long way in the past 10 years. THX paved the way for sound quality in speakers, especially at the movies where the level of sound is just awesome. As movie theaters update and upgrade their equipment, the homeowner watching the new BlueRay and 4k movies also need to think about upgrading their systems as well. There are people though, that do not have a lot of room for floor standing speakers that really want that cinema quality experience, so a new form of technology has come out, in-wall, and in-ceiling speakers. These speakers are designed to fit right into your ceiling or wall, and almost be hidden until the movie starts. The days of having bulky speakers hanging from the corners of your ceiling, or having a floor standing speaker behind your couch are almost over unless that is what you like. Technology is giving us more options to “hide” our big stereo quality devices and give us more enjoyment to our living and family rooms. Some of these speakers are not enclosed like a normal speaker, so it makes us question whether or not they are actually as good as we want them to be.

Are in-wall speakers good for home theaters? Yes, they are just as good, if not better than your normal bookshelf or floor standing speaker. If you install your speaker right and get the right brand, these speakers are amazing and give the sound quality you could only find in a high-end media room. There are some differences though that you will have to get used to if you go with the in-ceiling option, and you might not like it. The sound from an in-ceiling speaker is not coming from in front of you like your typical front left, front right, and center would, it comes from above your head and in front of you, so this could take some getting used to. If you decide to go with in-ceiling speakers, you will want to spend more time picking the right one than you would if you were doing a straight in-wall. Most of the in-ceiling speakers can sound rough, and lo-fi, so you have to be careful.

What If I Want To Upgrade

Upgrading can be a big issue if you like to upgrade your stuff every few years because you are actually cutting out the drywall in either your wall or ceiling. If you are going to be getting ceiling speakers, they normally come in six, eight, or ten-inch diameter, so if you want to upgrade, all you have to do is buy the same size that you have now, or just cut a bigger hole in your ceiling. If you want to move from a round to a rectangle or vice versa, you may end up having to put new drywall, texture and paint on before you can cut new holes in your wall. Upgrading can be a pain if you like to try out new and different sizes of speakers, but if you know that you like the sound of an in-wall or in-ceiling speaker, do not let that stop you. Another factor is if you want to move something around because you will have to make sure there are no studs in your way. NEVER REMOVE wall studs or cut chunks out of them to get a speaker to fit without consulting a licensed contractor.

Sound Quality

As I said, the round speakers can be a bit lo-fi and rough sounding if you do not get the right kind. You have to keep in mind that the speaker is using the wall or ceiling and the space in between as the enclosure. When you get an in-ceiling speaker, you will see all of the wires and other electronic pieces exposed since it is going to fit tight inside the wall or ceiling. The insulation will also act as a sound barrier once up inside the wall, so if you have older walls that do not have good insulation or studs, you might find that the sound bounces off the older wood and gives you horrible sound quality

Is There An In-Wall Subwoofer?

Yes! You can get in-wall subwoofers, and they actually work very well. They have a lot of bass in them and sound great. There are a couple of issues with in-wall subs though, and that is they are very big, and they can rattle the walls and windows giving you less than desirable sound. The cut out for an in-wall subwoofer is 14.88 inches wide by 25.13 inches deep, so you are looking at a pretty decent sized hole in your wall, but they are flush, so it should be okay. Rattling the walls and windows is going to be a problem if you try to cut them in under a window, so you really need to be careful where you place them. I love Definitive Technology, and here is an example of their in-wall subwoofer HERE. Keep in mind that they are not all this expensive, but if you are going to be cutting holes in your house, you might as well get something that is going to be a great sound.

How Do I Wire Them

You would wire an in-wall speaker the same way you would a normal speaker, but you will have to run the wire into your ceiling, or down your walls. Some new houses come pre-wired for speakers, which will make your job a ton easier, but if not, you will have to run wires from where your receiver is, up the wall, across the ceiling, and down the wall to where your hole is cut. There are companies out there that will run low voltage wires, and for a spot that has an attic it can range from $100 to $300 dollars a speaker, but if they have to run anything that has two stories, they would have to cut drywall and patch it when they are done, and that can start to get expensive. I had a quote to do my two story house, and it was right around $1000 for five speakers. If you are comfortable with drywall, and possibly using a fish tape, you can do this yourself in about a weekend, less if you have attic access. When wiring the speakers up, make sure you get the proper connections and make sure they are secure so you do not have to take the speaker out because of a loose wire, this can also damage the speaker in the process. The less you have to move the speaker once it is in place, the better it will be on the life of it.

Can I install Them Myself

If you are a DIY person and have the tools and knowledge at your side, you can totally put these speakers in yourself. The main thing is making sure you are not going to be cutting into a wall stud and making sure there is no electrical running behind where you want to cut. Make sure that the part of the wall that you want to put the speaker on does not have an electrical outlet down from the hole area. If you are mounting speakers in the ceiling, make sure you go up into the attic and look for any lighting that might be there and any wires that might be run. To install them, you will need something to make a hole, usually a drill, and then either a Sawzall or a small hand-held drywall saw that you can pick up from any hardware store. Speakers will come with templates and mounting instructions, so make sure you follow them exactly. Wiring will be your most troublesome thing to run because you have to go up a wall, across your ceiling and then down another wall if you are doing wall mounts. There can be header boards that you may have to drill a small hole through to get the speaker wire through. Once you have cut all the holes, and run wire, it should just be as simple as connecting it to your receiver and speaker.

Is Dust and Insulation Bad

Because these speakers have no protective enclosure like a normal speaker, it is a good idea that you vacuum out the hole in your wall or ceiling before mounting the speaker into it. Dust can do bad things to electric parts, so you want to make sure that the speaker is as clean as you can possibly get it. Insulation is another thing that will make you lose sound quality in your speaker, so you want to make sure you have a gap between it and the speaker. If you have the normally rolled insulation with the paper on it, you can use a staple gun and staple the insulation to the back of the wall, but if you have blown insulation, you will either have to remove some of it or try to find a way to separate it between the speaker. There are many suggestions out there about how to go about making an empty space in your wall, like putting up plastic, or using a plastic container, and even using plastic tubing like you would see in outside drainage ditches. Keep in mind whatever you do, make it nice and tight because when the speaker fires up, it will rattle whatever is not secure, and you will have horrible sound quality. Speakers do not normally get that hot, but be careful about what you place behind it to give it the empty cavity it needs.

Is There A Difference Between In-Wall and In-Ceiling?

The difference between an In-Wall and an In-Ceiling speaker is that one gets mounted to your wall and faces outward, and the ceiling speaker gets mounted to the ceiling and faces downward. Both speakers usually have the same amount of watts, and they both should push out the same sound as long as they are the same brand. There are a few differences though that set them apart, like in-wall speakers are usually a rectangle, while in-ceiling speakers are typically round. In-ceiling speakers have been known to give off a completely different sound than in-wall speakers because they are mounted facing down above the listeners head instead of right in front of them. It does take some getting used to and the sound can be lo-fi sometimes, so if you are very serious about sound, look into it. You can always go to your local home audio store and they should have in-ceiling and wall speakers on display, my local BestBuy has a Magnolia room where you can go test out speakers and receivers, so that is a great way to see if you even like something. If you do go to a place to test, remember that they have everything set to high, so the sound can be a little deceiving.

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