I am building a new HT room, have heard that in-wall/in-ceiling speakers will not have the same acoustic quality as floor standing speakers. Is this accurate? Which option is recommended?
If I have to choose floor standing speakers, they will be placed next to a projector screen, how do I conceal the speakers? Is a false wall covered with acoustic fabric needed?
Thanks in advance.
I've owned a custom A/V company that does custom theaters all over the US for the past 12+ years.
In a word, YES, in-wall speakers can be the same quality as a floor standing or large monitor/LCR speaker as long as you select the correct speaker size for the room and desired quality and SPL levels. The architectural speaker market has come a very long way in this product category as, in the US, in-wall and in-ceiling leaves are - by far - the highest demand in the passive speaker category. Therefore, a tremendous amount of R&D has been put into this type of product. There are many outstanding in-walls for theater use.
However, there are a lot of variables that come into play with deciding where to invest your $ when designing a theater. Because of the variables in a system's design, it isn't as simple as a blanket statement saying "Speaker type "QRS" is best".
I will say that in a typical system crossed over at 80hz, people way underestimate an in-wall speaker's ability to put out the SPLs and coverage needed for a Cinema or theater experience. There are many in-walls that are outstanding and virtual mirror images of their in-room counterparts.
That isn't to say small, junky speakers won't sound bad - in-wall or other wise. But, the proper sized speaker for your room and at the quality level you desire is what to look for. Not if it is in the wall or in a box.
Nearly every theater I design anymore consists of in-wall speakers behind an acoustically transparent screen. Three major advantages with an in-wall outweigh any theoretical drawbacks compared to a tower or traditional "box speaker" lay out:
1: We can place the speakers correctly in relation to the image on screen. Meaning: Speakers not on the floor and on the correct axis for the seating positions.
2: A clean, commercial cinema look (there's a reason they put them behind screen in large cinemas) with the largest screen possible. In-room box speakers, like a floor stander or bookshelf, will take up floor space and limit screen size.
^ Personally, when I watch a movie, all I want to see is the film, not all of the gear around the screen reminding me I'm in my house.
3: Eliminates the expense and square footage loss building a false wall to accommodate larger speakers would require.
^ Now, there are definitely ways to do a theater with huge speakers in a false wall behind an AT screen, but the only need to do so would be for a very very large room or to accommodate very very large speakers. Like, for example, Klipsch's Professional line of theater gear. Those speakers are SERIOUS business in terms of size and output, but require square footage in depth, height, and width.
Most residential spaces are nowhere near that big to need that. If yours isn't THAT huge, than those larger types of speakers are wasted $ as they aren't being used anywhere near their potential.
Bottom line - There are some amazing in-wall speakers that play loud, clean, and sound huge. Some have 9, 8, 7, 6 1/2 or even 5 1/4 inch woofers. They're perfect for a theater as that is what they were designed for. And the cost per speaker depends on your room size and quality desires. If you have $300 per speaker budget you may be better off doing a bookshelf monitor or tower in a larger room because a quality in-wall for a theater like that would be more per speaker.
We recently did a very entry level theater in a wide open basement using 3 of these https://www.klipsch.com/products/reference-premiere-professional-series-in-wall?model=pro-180rpw
behind a 133" AT screen with all in-ceiling surrounds in a 7.2 channel system. Modest budget of under $8,000 for the whole theater (Screen, projector, receiver, remote, labor, etc) for the home owner, but they were thrilled with it. Those put out a great sound for the cost. Are they something I would use a lot? Not typically. But, for an entry level system, it worked well and, IMO, there would be nothing tangibly gained by switching to the bookshelf or floor standing version of that speaker in their situation. We used 2 10" subs with them, but for entry level, that was a great little theater!
Hope this perspective helps. If you need specific recommendations, feel free to give some details about your room. Room size and shape, quality expectations, number of seats, seating distance, etc. Dedicated room or open space? The more details the better!