Speakers for a "Over the Fireplace" setup: In-Wall or In-Ceiling? - AVS | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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Old 03-05-2013, 09:51 PM - Thread Starter
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Please pardon my question... I know it's been asked a thousand times before but I can't seem to get the right answer. I have had 3 different installers come out to give me quotes (mostly for wiring purposes) and they all seem to have different opinions.

I have a room that is open to the kitchen and family dining table. Separating the kitchen is a small bar. I have photos and a diagram attached. Since the room is small and not very deep, the couch will be a corner couch and up against the back corner. We have not purchased this yet but plan on it.... so in the photos just ignore the existing couch. The new one is roughly identified in the drawing as the teal color.

The house is a single-story with a raised ceiling that slopes down from left to right (if you are facing the fireplace) at a starting height of 136" and slopes down to 108".

Lastly, the TV is a 50" Panny Plasma (TH800U) which will get mounted above the fireplace and I have a brand new Yamaha RX473 I will be using as the receiver.

I am considering a bookshelf center since everyone seems to recommend spending more money on a good center. The problem is that my mantle is only 8.5" deep. and it seems most bookshelf centers are pretty deep.

As for speakers, I have been mostly considering Polk's RC85i's for in-walls (front L/R) and I'm on the fence (wall/ceiling) about the rears. One installer mentioned Sonance VP65's in-ceiling speakers and he says he swears by them.

That said, what I'm looking for is your recommendations on a 5.1 speaker system, either in-wall or in-ceiling. What are the pro's/con's of each? With my raised/sloped ceiling, what ceiling speakers can be tilted toward the seating area? Aesthetics is more important to my wife, not to me so much.

As for budget, I would like to keep costs down to $600-$1000 for speakers (not counting sub, and if you recommend a bookshelf center, then I think I can wait on buying that for now).

Thank you very much in advance!



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Old 03-06-2013, 06:52 AM - Thread Starter
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Old 03-06-2013, 08:32 AM
 
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I think with thew angle of your ceiling and that the fireplace wall is not very wide I'd consider a sound bar for the Left/Center/Right speakers. You'll have better height placement and a cohesive front sound stage.
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Old 03-06-2013, 11:23 AM
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Originally Posted by BobL View Post

I think with thew angle of your ceiling and that the fireplace wall is not very wide I'd consider a sound bar for the Left/Center/Right speakers.

I was thinking that there aren't many good places to put the left & right front speakers, even in-walls. Actually, towers or bookshelf speakers on stands would work better because they could be brought forward to clear the acoustical mess waiting to happen. The only decent place that in-walls could go is above the fireplace on each side of the TV, if there is room for them. A soundbar on the mantel would be the simplest solution, but instead of an actual soundbar, what about three of the following placed on the mantel and oriented horizontally (they're designed to have good dispersion when used in this manner):
http://www.ascendacoustics.com/pages/products/speakers/htm200/htm200.html

This should sound better than any soundbar in that price range, and it's not real visually intrusive, in my opinion.

As for the surrounds, a couple more of these speakers could be mounted on the back wall (turned to face inward, as they should), or you could go with in-ceiling speakers (I personally always prefer bookshelf speakers, and these are fairly compact). The total cost for five HTM-200 SEs, should you choose to go with this option, comes to $722 (shipped).
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Old 03-06-2013, 06:52 PM
 
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Three speakers would definitely be better and you can angle them slightly downward too face you which you would not get with in walls. Those speakers will work better than a regular center which isn't raised up but a speaker with the tweeter above the woofer will still work better. If you like Ascend their small bookshelf would be a better bet and only an inch taller.
http://www.ascendacoustics.com/pages/products/speakers/cbm170/cbm170.html

If you want something a little smaller something like this may work well.
http://paradigm.com/products/products-by-category/bookshelf/paradigm-reference/milleniaone-2-0-system/milleniaone-2-0-system
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Old 03-06-2013, 10:21 PM
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I would Get 5 of those HTM-200's and call it Done..or one for the Center two on Stands in front and wall mount Rears on Swivel Brackets.. you got the room to mount them ..In walls are nice and EZ but once you go in Wall you cant Go back cause of WAF.
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Old 03-07-2013, 05:29 AM
 
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There are a few factors here but if you want a good off axis response the best is a vertically oriented speaker. However, that might not match with your decor sitting on a mantle plus it makes the TV have to be raised that much higher which isn't great for viewing angle. So let's talk about horizontal speaker dispersion which is a good attributes to consider for sound quality. Unless you are trying for limited dispersion a speaker, a speaker with a good off axis response will be best in most rooms and a desirable quality. This will assume a driver arrangement with a similar design and I won't get into wave guides and such. That can be another discussion.

The best off axis response is going to a vertically arranged speaker. The problem with this type of speaker is aesthetically it just doesn't fit many needs for most center speaker applications so then the compromises begin.

The least amount of compromise is having two larger woofers flanked by a vertically arranged midrange and tweeter. The added smaller midrange allows the crossover point to the woofers or technically larger midranges to still maintain a good off axis response. There are many companies that make this type of design. The disadvantage is cost as you are adding a driver and making this a 3 way speaker which needs a more expensive crossover. This type of speaker would probably be the best solution for you as it can still lay sideways and not be too tall.

The next tradeoff is the speaker you are considering. Which is a MTM design with the tweeter raised to help its off axis response. Many companies do this type of design as well and it is a budget consideration compared to making a 3 way speaker. The disadvantage here is height. Raising the tweeter makes a taller cabinet. If you are willing to go this height a regular MT speaker might work better. That is why I suggested it as it was only an inch taller and some smaller speakers might fit better. However, you might like the look of this better than a taller, narrower speaker.

Lastly is the MTM designed speaker placed horizontally. These do not have a great off axis response maybe 20 degrees if lucky before you start noticing problems. But they fit many horizontal spaces. You would be better with a MT speaker on its side than this one. The MT does have a different off axis response between left and right axis but would still be better than this.

Lastly, If you sit in front of the display does a poor off axis response make a difference? The answer is YES. It is how the sound interacts with the room. Keeping it simple, if the reflected sound off the walls is similar to the direct sound it will be pleasing to our ears. If the reflected sound is a poor response than it will deteriorate our sound. Since the room makes up about 70% of the sound we hear off axis response is an important attribute. When doing a treated room the off axis response is part of determining the type and placement of acoustic treatments. No amount of EQ can correct for sound reflecting from your walls and other surfaces in the room. So looking for a speaker with a good off axis response is something you should consider, especially if you do not plan on using acoustic treatments or have an application where limited dispersion is required.
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Old 03-07-2013, 08:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BobL View Post

Three speakers would definitely be better and you can angle them slightly downward too face you which you would not get with in walls.

While I agree that three bookshelf speakers would be better, there are in-wall speakers that allow for tilt internally, some just the higher-frequency drivers and others all of the drivers.
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Those speakers will work better than a regular center which isn't raised up but a speaker with the tweeter above the woofer will still work better. If you like Ascend their small bookshelf would be a better bet and only an inch taller.
http://www.ascendacoustics.com/pages/products/speakers/cbm170/cbm170.html

Well, the HTM-200 SE's tweeter practically is above its woofers when it is oriented horizontally, which in turn allows the woofers to be more closely spaced. The end result of this and other optimizations (such as the tweeter-mid crossover frequency) is relatively wide horizontal dispersion. In fact, as a center I would not use this speaker oriented vertically because its dispersion would not be nearly as wide on one side (the woofer side). The ideal configuration using this speaker would generally be with the center oriented horizontally, and the left & right fronts oriented vertically and firing straight ahead or toed-in, but in this case they'd actually have to be toed-out because of the seating, and besides that they would be 11" tall, which would force the TV to be mounted higher.

Although I agree that three standard two-way, two-driver bookshelf speakers all oriented vertically would be better for the front LCR (which is why I use such a configuration myself, albeit mounted just above my stand-mounted TV), there is the aforementioned height issue and with most bookshelf speakers that have adequate bass and output capabilities there would also be a depth issue (especially for rear-ported speakers) since the mantel in this case is only 8.5" deep. I figure that the best way to leverage the HTM-200 SE's strengths would be to orient all three front speakers horizontally, taking advantage of its relatively good horizontal dispersion in this orientation, its shallow depth (only 6 3/8" with no ports), and short height (only 6.5"), given its output capabilities (you can play it loudly enough for this room when crossed over to the subwoofer at 80 Hz). This would allow for the TV to be mounted closer to eye level, with minimal sacrifice to sound quality--less than most people give up with their center speakers.
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If you want something a little smaller something like this may work well.
http://paradigm.com/products/products-by-category/bookshelf/paradigm-reference/milleniaone-2-0-system/milleniaone-2-0-system

Just keep in mind that with such small speakers you'll sacrifice some capabilities, such as how loud they can get while keeping distortion reasonably low. In this case (which is typical), you may have to cross over to the subwoofer as high as 150 Hz, which has two major drawbacks: some sounds or parts of sounds, including deep human voices, are likely to seem to be coming from the direction of the sub (so-called localization); and most subs don't sound good at such high frequencies because they were designed for much lower frequencies (they may sound sloppy, boomy, or even lacking in output in some cases, resulting in a gap in frequency response and missing or "thin" sound).
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Old 03-07-2013, 09:20 AM
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There are a few factors here but if you want a good off axis response the best is a vertically oriented speaker. However, that might not match with your decor sitting on a mantle plus it makes the TV have to be raised that much higher which isn't great for viewing angle.

Agreed on all counts--there are almost always tradeoffs to be made somewhere.
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The best off axis response is going to a vertically arranged speaker. The problem with this type of speaker is aesthetically it just doesn't fit many needs for most center speaker applications so then the compromises begin.

You mean of course the best horizontal off-axis response, which is aimed at providing the best sound quality for those who are seated away from the center horizontally, which obviously is the usual case, as people don't usually sit on top of one another when watching movies (except perhaps in a lap wink.gif). If people did sit on top of one another instead of beside, then you'd want to have the best vertical off-axis response--silly example, I know, but this is intended to help promote understanding of the issue.
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The least amount of compromise is having two larger woofers flanked by a vertically arranged midrange and tweeter. The added smaller midrange allows the crossover point to the woofers or technically larger midranges to still maintain a good off axis response. There are many companies that make this type of design. The disadvantage is cost as you are adding a driver and making this a 3 way speaker which needs a more expensive crossover. This type of speaker would probably be the best solution for you as it can still lay sideways and not be too tall.

Regarding their horizontal off-axis dispersion characteristics, they do sacrifice some performance but it's at a much lower frequency (the low midrange rather than the high midrange), which definitely helps with things like dialogue intelligibility, so you are right.

However, it is difficult to find any such speakers that would fit on this mantel, and I just looked at a bunch from Paradigm, JBL, and KEF since they tend to have relatively small ones, and the ones that weren't too large were all too deep, with the exception of this one:
http://www.accessories4less.com/index.php?page=item&id=KEFHTC3001BLK&gclid=CMrg1MSM67UCFYtaMgodcXcADA

I don't know if I'd recommend it because the HTM-200 SE is more comparable to KEF's Q series or better, and it's less expensive on top of that, but the HTC3001 seems like a viable option.
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The next tradeoff is the speaker you are considering. Which is a MTM design with the tweeter raised to help its off axis response. Many companies do this type of design as well and it is a budget consideration compared to making a 3 way speaker. The disadvantage here is height. Raising the tweeter makes a taller cabinet. If you are willing to go this height a regular MT speaker might work better. That is why I suggested it as it was only an inch taller and some smaller speakers might fit better. However, you might like the look of this better than a taller, narrower speaker.

But the speaker would have to be very small to be oriented vertically in order to achieve superior horizontal off-axis response without pushing the TV considerably higher, and overly small size entails other trade-offs, as described earlier.
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Lastly is the MTM designed speaker placed horizontally. These do not have a great off axis response maybe 20 degrees if lucky before you start noticing problems. But they fit many horizontal spaces. You would be better with a MT speaker on its side than this one. The MT does have a different off axis response between left and right axis but would still be better than this.

The HTM-200 SE is better than both in horizontal off-axis response (except perhaps for a few MT speakers that are expressly designed for horizontal placement, which is rare):
http://www.ascendacoustics.com/pages/products/speakers/htm200/htm200meas.html

These measurements were taken with the speaker oriented vertically, so the one that we're interested in would be "Vertical Response in Degrees," which would indicate the horizontal off-axis response when the speaker is oriented horizontally. This is quite excellent performance for a horizontally-oriented speaker, and better than that of some vertically-oriented speakers I've seen. Very few, if any, MT (or T/M as I like to call them) speakers can match this on both the left and right when they're laid down on their sides. In actual practice, the HTM-200 SE works really well this way, and in addition this has benefits when it is used as a vertically-oriented surround speaker (most often the case for this speaker), since vertical off-axis response is important for good coverage of the viewers from those angles. I feel confident about recommending three of them for the mantel, all oriented horizontally to help with TV placement and aesthetics; by the way, if the height of the mantel is higher than ear level, then the tweeters of these speakers should be below the woofers, unless the speakers are tilted to point directly at the ears of the central viewer (do NOT forget to do either of these or both!).

Having said all that, one alternative would be to use speakers with coaxial/coincident drivers, but there aren't many of those, and I haven't been able to find one with the right characteristics that would fit, apart from the KEF HTC3001 mentioned above.
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Old 03-07-2013, 11:37 AM
 
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We seem to be on the same page with design criteria. The HTM-200SE only shows off axis to 30 degrees and you can already see problems starting and notice they only show it to 30 degrees and with their center speaker they only show on axis. Their other speakers show measurements out to 45 degrees. I do applaud them for showing any measurements at all and they have decent performance for the money. With a TV over a fireplace I'd try to minimize speakers that are too tall to preserve some of that viewing angle. When I first read the specs I was thinking the was designed as a center similar to the Atlantic Technology 1400C and I read height of 11" which is what made recommend CMB 170. If you were going to give up that much height then you might as well go with a good 2 way speaker. Even the 4" MT speakers like the millennia are taller.

In walls can certainly work in a lot of situations but might be difficult if the OP plans to place them above the TV. There isn't enough tilt in most in walls for that. I didn't find too many speakers with a vertically oriented midrange/ tweeter that would hit the depth of that shelf or their price was multiples of the HTM-200SE. Just as the Atlantic Technology 1400C would be nice with that tilt base it would be considerable more expensive.

A dual concentric would definitely be a great option and the KEF might be a good choice if it meets his aesthetic concerns. I'm not sure how it compares to the Ascends. There aren't many other dual concentric designs that I can think of. Only the Tannoy Arena comes to mind but that would be considerably more expensive. There aren't many speakers I can think of under ~$200 that might fit the OP needs. If the budget gets increased then the OP might consider some of these options.
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Old 03-07-2013, 03:26 PM
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The HTM-200SE only shows off axis to 30 degrees and you can already see problems starting and notice they only show it to 30 degrees and with their center speaker they only show on axis.

But I'm talking about using three HTMs across the front for the LCR, with all of them oriented horizontally--that's not unlike how many soundbars are designed, except this one has three separate cabinets. Only what is labeled as the vertical response matters in the measurements, and while that only goes to +/-15 degrees, this speaker still, in my experience installing a couple of systems like this, works better out to 30 degrees when horizontally-oriented than most other speakers I've heard in this orientation (and better than any standard MTM center or soundbar I've heard). If you look at the vertical response measurements of most standard two-way bookshelf speakers, you'll typically see a lot more ugliness than this at even less than 15 degrees off-axis (and most will be asymmetrical and worse on one side), making them less well suited for horizontal orientation than the HTM.
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Their other speakers show measurements out to 45 degrees. I do applaud them for showing any measurements at all and they have decent performance for the money. With a TV over a fireplace I'd try to minimize speakers that are too tall to preserve some of that viewing angle.

So would I, and the HTM is only 6.5" tall when oriented horizontally, which is why I recommended this configuration for all three front speakers.
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When I first read the specs I was thinking the was designed as a center similar to the Atlantic Technology 1400C and I read height of 11" which is what made recommend CMB 170. If you were going to give up that much height then you might as well go with a good 2 way speaker. Even the 4" MT speakers like the millennia are taller.

Oh, OK. But you do see what I meant now, right? In my opinion, it plays to the HTM's strengths, since it almost is a vertical MT when it is laid down horizontally, as strange as this may seem. There are compromises involved in all of the options I've considered, but I think this is a very good combination of compromises, and very simple--almost like a soundbar, but better.
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A dual concentric would definitely be a great option and the KEF might be a good choice if it meets his aesthetic concerns. I'm not sure how it compares to the Ascends.

I don't know how it compares, either, but I'm wary of most systems that are designed for home theater as part of a package. Maybe it sounds just as good as KEF's regular line of hi-fi speakers, but I don't know. Its overall specs look good, but such specs don't always tell the whole story, and 3" woofers and a 0.75" concentric tweeter do not inspire much confidence as to how well it will hold up at louder volumes (size isn't everything, but those are pretty small drivers, one of which is placed inside another). I'd recommend some of KEF's larger center speakers, but none of them would fit, especially since we need to leave some room for their rear ports in addition.
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There aren't many other dual concentric designs that I can think of. Only the Tannoy Arena comes to mind but that would be considerably more expensive. There aren't many speakers I can think of under ~$200 that might fit the OP needs. If the budget gets increased then the OP might consider some of these options.

Sure, I didn't even bother looking at some product lines because of their prices.
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Old 03-07-2013, 04:01 PM
 
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I understand the HTM is going to be used for the front 3, when I suggested the soundbar it is for aethetic as many don't like the look of speakers sitting on the mantle. But, since the OP is willing to do it the HTM-200 would be a good choice for his budget. It is probably the least of the compromises.
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Old 03-07-2013, 04:25 PM - Thread Starter
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I understand bookshelf speakers would be the best option but for aesthetics we really want to do in-wall or in-ceiling speakers. My dad has the Polk TC80i's with the aimable tweeters that work well for him and they sound pretty good. What are the thoughts on those? Also, I had an installer come out and recommend Sonance VP65R SUR's (which cost more than I want to spend) and these can swivel the entire woofer from what I understand.

I'm not aiming for theater quality here, just something pretty good for my small budget. My use is: 60% TV watching, 15% movies and 25% music listening / background music.

Thank you all for your input so far!
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Old 03-07-2013, 05:08 PM
 
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I wouldn't do in ceiling speaker with your slanted ceiling, plus most in ceilings only angle about 15 degrees so they still aim mostly down. there are some exceptions like Triad and Episode which angle 45 degrees but are more expensive and rectangular. Paradigm makes some that are 30 degrees and round but i think they are way more expensive.

For in walls where do you want to place them? two on the sides and one below the TV could work. The mantle was a good idea for small speakers but I understand if for aesthetic reasons it is not your first choice. I'd probably go back to my original suggestion and get a good sound bar. It is not ideal acoustically but they can look very well and still sound decent.

Is speakers mounted on the wall an acceptable option?

The polks are just OK, nothing special and you can do better in the price range. sonnce makes goos stuff but for less exspensive brands look at proficient.
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