Installing in-wall/ceiling speakers

November 4, 2004

in-wallFrom time to time I’ll have a client that wants to use in-walls for rear or effects channels in their surround sound setup. While I haven’t heard a lot of in-walls that can reproduce the necessary subtleties or SPL’s needed for great surround sound in a home theater, they do exist. Obviously like most things in consumer electronics, great in-walls or great speakers in general aren’t usually the budget models of a line.

As always try to get a feel or reference for what your about to buy. In-walls may be harder to demo than standard speakers, but in lieu of actually hearing them try to talk to other owners or at least be somewhat familiar with the manufacturer as they don’t all sound alike. Whoops I got off on a tangent, this article is about installing them not picking them. So with that here are a few points to keep in mind that might help you tackle your stealth speaker project.

Half a plan is better than guessing completely:
Seriously though consider the holes you’re about to cut, short of dry-wall repair that’s pretty much where they’re staying. It’s worth a few minutes of thought for something you’re likely to see for the length of time you own your home. Consider how the surrounding walls and obstructions might impede the sound. Check to see if you can make them symmetrical with one another.

Avoid placing the speakers to close to corners, as they may suffer from early reflections. Also many newer in-walls have point-able tweeters and hi-low pass filters, these are valuable for correcting sonic problems that cant be overcome by placement.


Label those suckers:
If you’re only pulling or attaching cable for a pair of speakers, then this may not be a huge issue. But if your pulling a pair of surrounds, a rear center, and two effects channels, it’s always a good idea to label the amplifier end of your speaker cable, with LR, RR, RC, and so on.

Unless you have X-Ray vision…
Get a stud finder and use it, countless in-wall speaker blunders could have been avoided with the use of a cheap stud finder. Also for the nth degree of assurance, take a coat hanger, straighten it out, and bend it about 6” from the end in a (L) shape. Then poke a small hole in the center of your proposed in-wall hole, push the hanger in and then turn it around 360 deg.

If all is well you shouldn’t scrape or ‘bump’ anything but insulation. Also, speaking of insulation, be sure to place a drop cloth under your intended target to catch any falling insulation as you cut out the hole.

Trace and score:
Once you have drawn out marks for your speaker cutouts, use a razor knife to score the wall or ceiling, in line with the marks you’ve drawn. This will reduce the likelihood that older paint or thick sheetrock mud will crack or peel, when you begin to cut.

Don’t use a cordless drill, for final tightening:
If you want to use a cordless for 75% or so of the screw travel during the installation of your inwalls, that’s fine. But toward the end when you’re nearing the last bit of screw travel, put the drill down and grab a screwdriver. I can’t tell you how many speaker wings I’ve snapped off or stripped by not heeding my own advice.

I hope these tips help make your in-wall speaker project a little more enjoyable and professional looking in the end.



Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under Home Theater How-to


Comments

  • Can you install a wall speaker and leave the woofer separate behind the actual speaker housing. My installer put it too close to a pipe and decided to pop out the woofer and sit it behind on the insulation. Should I be concerned about the sound quality from this speaker floating behind and what about the insulation getting into the woofer? Please help.

  • Kelly

    Can you install a wall speaker and leave the woofer separate behind the actual speaker housing. My installer put it too close to a pipe and decided to pop out the woofer and sit it behind on the insulation. Should I be concerned about the sound quality from this speaker floating behind and what about the insulation getting into the woofer? Please help.

  • B.Greenway

    Bruce I haven’t personally, but a friend who has one swears by it.

  • B.Greenway

    Bruce I haven’t personally, but a friend who has one swears by it.

  • Bruce

    Have you tried the Hole Pro adjustable hole cutters to make the ceiling cutouts for speakers?

    Being able to adjust the cutter to the exact size hole needed and to catch all the shavings while cutting into a ceiling seems like a great way to go.

  • Bruce

    Have you tried the Hole Pro adjustable hole cutters to make the ceiling cutouts for speakers?

    Being able to adjust the cutter to the exact size hole needed and to catch all the shavings while cutting into a ceiling seems like a great way to go.

  • Adrian D

    Setting up an Home Theater system. I have the front speakers in-wall and the rear surround speaker in-ceiling. The surround must be placed in ceiling because there is no rear wall.
    The question is how it will be the sound received from the in-ceiling speaker.

  • Adrian D

    Setting up an Home Theater system. I have the front speakers in-wall and the rear surround speaker in-ceiling. The surround must be placed in ceiling because there is no rear wall.
    The question is how it will be the sound received from the in-ceiling speaker.

  • Bill

    what about in an insulated attic? I would assume that you do not want the loose blown cellulose insulation to be in direct contact with the speaker. is there a cardboard baffle or box deigned to be installed in this location?

  • Bill

    what about in an insulated attic? I would assume that you do not want the loose blown cellulose insulation to be in direct contact with the speaker. is there a cardboard baffle or box deigned to be installed in this location?

  • Ping

    Is there any advantages of using these back boxes or metal loudspeaker enclosures in the attic location, even it may not improve the sound quality?

  • Ping

    Is there any advantages of using these back boxes or metal loudspeaker enclosures in the attic location, even it may not improve the sound quality?

  • B.Greenway

    Hi Lenny,

    Most in-walls are free-air designs that do not require the use of a back-box. Several in-wall brands/models do make use of a back boxes, though they should be clearly labeled as so.

    I do know of several installers that like to use back boxes with free-air designs, but I’ve noticed that this is not always an obvious improvement.

    The reason being your “how big’s the box?” question, yes exactly how big should the box be for a speaker designed to play in free-air?

  • B.Greenway

    Hi Lenny,

    Most in-walls are free-air designs that do not require the use of a back-box. Several in-wall brands/models do make use of a back boxes, though they should be clearly labeled as so.

    I do know of several installers that like to use back boxes with free-air designs, but I’ve noticed that this is not always an obvious improvement.

    The reason being your “how big’s the box?” question, yes exactly how big should the box be for a speaker designed to play in free-air?

  • lenny

    if speakers in ceiling, do they need a surround in the attic? sound insulated? rigid polystyrene perhaps. 1/2″ plywood box? if so, how big’s the box?

  • lenny

    if speakers in ceiling, do they need a surround in the attic? sound insulated? rigid polystyrene perhaps. 1/2″ plywood box? if so, how big’s the box?