Originally Posted by Kressilac
Can anyone point me to a good reference on in-wall/ceiling speakers. I want to get educated on the differences between brands and the differences between bookshelf and free standing speakers. The goal is to get a comfort level in choosing some of the speakers for use in my Great Room home theater setup and throughout the house for whole home audio. I know a bit about free standing and wall mount speakers for theater and audio.
What should I look for? How does the in-wall aspect of the speaker change acoustics. What tradeoffs for hiddenness am I running into? Which brands are low end, middle of the line, high end? Are there kits where I can buy a 5.1 setup for say the master bedroom or am I buying each speaker individually? Just need a short primer and a pointer in the right direction to learn more.
Having owned floorstanding speakers, bookshelves, and in-wall and in-ceiling speakers and doing a lot of research and listening along the way I will be happy to share my opinions and experience with in-wall, including advantages and disadvantages.
Several years ago we were in the process of buying a new home and I assumed none of them would have a finished basement. I started thinking about a home theater at that point and what I wanted to do about audio. I knew I wanted an acoustically transparent screen, but I was not sure if I wanted to build a false wall and have free standing speakers within the false wall (going this route you typically lose 2-3' of your room). So I started researching in-wall speakers to put behind the false wall. I read lots of threads, and found the dedicated Triad speaker thread to be a wealth of information:
Paul Scarpelli (a VP at Triad) participates in the owners thread and several times I read statements from him that their in-wall speakers sound every bit as good as their in-room speakers. This somewhat surprised me as I was of the mindset that in-wall would be a step back from in-room. But the more I read the more I realized that there are inherent benefits to an in-wall speaker (especially behind an acoustically transparent screen.
This article really explained the benefits to an in-wall speaker:
Per the article above the results of using in-wall speakers are that you eliminate the main wall the speakers are installed in as a reflection point. You also get cleaner bass and you get very good imaging. Could it be true? Well, I wanted to find out for myself. I was able to visit several higher end home theaters while traveling to Park City, Utah (home of the Sundance festival and lost of multi-milion dollar Hollywood homes set in the mountains). First of all, I was blown away by how good some of these rooms sounded using in-wall speakers for mains and surrounds. Granted, these rooms were not using inexpensive in-wall speakers, but all the same they sounded every bit as good as expensive rooms I had been in that used in-room speakers. If done right, in-wall speakers can sound very good. I was also able to visit RBH, who is a high end custom speaker maker based in Layton Utah. I spoke to several of their designers there and they echoed what my ears had told me and what I read. You don't really compromise anything with in-wall speakers if you do it right.
You also get very easy placement typically with an in-wall speaker. In-room speakers typically do not sound best unless they are pulled at least 2-4 feet from walls. Not everyone has that luxury. In addition, if you have small children in-wall speakers really alleviate the concern of children pushing your speaker over or playing with it. You also get a very clean look. I have three young children and repeatidly had issues with my speakers being knocked over or moved, hence one of the reasons I was researching in-wall.
So what do you look for in a good in-wall speaker? There are two types of designs. Open baffle (which are in-wall/ceiling speakers that have an open back, and a speaker with an engineered enclosure. These are speakers in-wall/in-ceiling speakers that, essentially, have a built in cabinet. If possible, I would look for an in-wall speaker (or an in-ceiling speaker for that matter) that has an engineered enclosure. Why? To prevent in-wall speaker loss:
It makes sense if you think about it. Drywall makes a poor enclosure, and you may or may not know what is buried in your walls that could result in poor sound. That said, some companies that offer open baffle designs also will sell you an enclosure for the speaker thus converting it to an enclosed speaker vs open baffle. You can also contact the speaker manufacturer and ask them what volume you would need to make a box if you wanted to build your own custom enclosure. Keep in mind, you need to build it to the right volume or it could affect speaker performance, and you need to ensure the enclosure you build is built properly. For most people it is most likely easier just to buy a speaker with an engineered enclosure.
Does that mean open baffle sound bad? No. To me, they can sound good as well, but I prefer not to deal with in-wall speaker loss.
Aside from that you are dealing with the same affects as any other manufactured speaker. How good the components are (tweeter, woofer, design, crossover, etc). Not all in-wall speakers sound the same and price is usually a factor. Triad, James Loudspeaker, RBH, BG Radia, Atlantic Technology are just a few that make engineered enclosed speakers that sound quite good but cost more. There are plenty more out there as well that you can fit in on a budget that sound quite good. For budget reasons, I settled on these for my front three:
You can find them for under $400 typically. But there are plenty more brands out there like PSB, Paradigm, Totem, Klipsch, B&W, etc. For the most part any major speaker manufacturer makes in-wall speakers too.
Ideally if you can find some local custom installers or speaker shops that have a demo room you would want to take advantage of that. I listened to lots of brands before deciding on the Deftech speakers.
Cons? Well, installing a speaker in a wall is not, literally permanent, but it sure feels that way. It is not trivial to switch out one in-wall for another if the newer one has a smaller footprint than the existing one. You would need to do some drywall patching and then cut-out the new hole for the smaller speaker. It is more difficult to demo in-wall speakers too. And you really have to be careful where you are cutting in your walls and make sure you are not cutting into a stud in a load bearing wall for instance.
You also have to make sure that speaker wire is run in-wall and is in the correct spot. Like any speaker, in-wall speakers need to be placed properly to get the best sound.
If you go with an open baffle in-wall design vs enclosed, you want to ensure you are not getting in-wall speaker bleeding into any adjoining rooms.
I would also avoid in-wall subs and stick with in-room if possible, and plan on getting a sub for sure
Hope this helps.