Are In-Wall or In-Ceiling Speakers Any Good?

Seven Things to Consider Before Installing In-Wall or In-Ceiling Speakers

In-wall or in-ceiling speakers have one obvious benefit:  You can listen to music without the clutter of box speakers around a room or clashing with your style of décor.

But are in-wall or in-ceiling speakers the best option? Audio technology today is only getting smaller and easier, which can’t be said of embedded speaker systems, even if they are out of sight.

While freeing up shelf or floor space in your home is important and more aesthetically pleasing, there are a number of factors to consider before installing in-wall or in-ceiling speakers.

Speaker Placement

Once your in-wall or in-ceiling speakers have been installed they cannot be moved around, so they must be situated to produce the best quality sound throughout the room.

Because optimized sound placement and wiring to those locations can be complicated, you may want to have a professional handle the installation. Get it wrong, and you could be dealing with a sub-par sound audio experience for a long time.

Wiring Capabilities

Outfitting your home with in-wall or in-ceiling speakers requires running wires from an audio system in one part of the room to each speaker location.

The wiring must not interfere with plumbing, ventilation or heating and cooling systems. Before making any holes, always check to make sure your speaker locations will work and aren’t obstructed by studs, piping or other wires. Also, familiarize yourself with local building and fire codes before you get started.

Unless you are comfortable with wiring configurations, this step is also best handled by a professional.

Sound Quality

In-wall speakers essentially are black box speakers for your walls, so the cone design produces good sound quality and projection. However, with overhead in-ceiling speakers, you can lose this standard stereo projection.

In-ceiling speakers don’t have a normal dispersion of the audio signal; instead, they tend to isolate a signal in the area closest to you.

Another issue with the sound quality of in-wall and in-ceiling speakers has to do with the length and thickness of the wire running to it. The concept is simple: the thicker the wire, and the shorter the length, the better the sound. A signal can be significantly degraded by a thin wire and long runs.

A professional can overcome these aspects of embedded speaker installation. If you choose to do it yourself, be aware of your wire length and thickness.

Climate

Indoor speakers cannot be used outdoors because they can be damaged by moisture and humidity. Similarly, if indoor speakers are going to be installed in an area that tends to be very hot or humid, you must use speakers that can handle those conditions. 

Longevity

Audio technology is always evolving. But when you’ve installed in-wall or in-ceiling speakers, you won’t be able to simply swap them for the latest sound equipment. If you consider yourself someone who likes to be on the cutting edge of audio trends, you may not want to commit to speakers that can’t be easily replaced or upgraded.

In-Wall Versus In-Ceiling – What’s Better?

If a wall-mounted or embedded in-wall or in-ceiling speaker is the best option for you, the choice ultimately comes down to sound quality.

Many audio experts say in-wall and wall-mounted speakers are better because they produce sound at ear-level, while in-ceiling speakers only project the sound down on top of your head.

However, depending on the layout of the room where the speakers will be installed, in-ceiling might be the best option.

This buying guide suggests that if you do use an in-ceiling setup, to use in-wall speakers for the front speakers if possible. Surround sound and rear speakers can be in-ceiling if necessary.

Alternatives

For anyone with space to spare, floor speakers and standing speakers are the traditional option. Box speakers offer good sound quality, and can also be moved around with little difficulty. However, many simply can’t fit box speakers in their living space without it looking messy and cluttered, or compromising the décor. In these cases, there are many smaller, portable speakers that are designed to better fit the aesthetic of a room. These can be placed on shelves or tables, and many offer wireless connectivity for an easier experience all-around.