Here’s a story: some friends of Rapallo’s were building a new home. It was to tick some bucket list things; like a dedicated home theatre room and an awesome view. But when they were telling us about their plans, they weren’t really allowing for speakers for background music. They were thinking it didn’t really matter and that a pair of cheap wireless speakers would do the trick just as well.
We went on a mission to convince them that some well placed in-ceiling speakers in their kitchen, living area, office, bedroom and bathroom would do so much better. We drew them a plan and they reluctantly agreed.
Fast forward two years and our Rapallo friends have been swinging through the day with their in ceiling speakers: ‘It’s the best advice we received during the entire building process, we use these in-ceiling speakers all the time. I don’t know how we put up with bad sound for so long.’
And there we have it.
But it’s not only for background music that in-ceiling speakers are proving their worth in gold. In-ceiling and in-wall speakers used to have a bad rep with audiophiles.
But not everyone can have bookshelf or floorstanding audiophile speakers in their home theatre either. Even home theatre enthusiasts are using in-wall speakers to save space in their rooms, allowing for larger projector screens and massive TVs without having to compromise on audio performance.
As a matter of fact, in-wall and in-ceiling speakers are some of our best-selling products. Just look at the amount of speakers that are involved in an Atmos set-up. We challenge you to try and squeeze that amount of speakers into a moderate sized room if you don’t want to use up-firing Atmos speakers. The answer is some good quality and well placed in-ceiling speakers.
Similarly we have used the ELAC on-wall speaker series on several occasions as LCR speakers behind an acoustically transparent screen. They sound amazing, there is definitely no skimping on quality. But the amount of space you gain is invaluable for smaller sized cinema’s where the maximum sized projector screen is high on the wish-list (It is all the time!;-))
But let’s get back to the essence of in-ceiling and in-wall speakers.
In-wall speakers pretty much work like regular speakers. The only real difference is that where normal speakers use the cabinet for resonance, in-ceiling and in-wall speakers use the wall cavity as a large cabinet, giving bass in essentially the same way you might get from a stand-alone speaker.
Rapallo offers a good variety of in-ceiling and in-wall speakers. We represent brands like Definitive Technology, ELAC, SpeakerCraft, Klipsch, Q Acoustics, Yamaha, Kef, Apart, Earthquake and ADS (Rapallo brand).
Each one of these brands are perfect for certain situations. The question is, which one to use when?
Basically, there are 7 main things to consider when planning your in-ceiling music system.
- Speaker placement
- Wiring capabilities
- Sound quality
- In wall or in ceiling?
One of the most important factors to consider is speaker placement. Even more than with free standing or bookshelf speakers, you’ll need to decide how, where and why you’ll use your in-wall or in-ceiling speakers. These factors will have big impact on your choice of speakers. Also, it will help you decide on their location quite early on, saving you both financial, technical and logistical nightmares. Once your speakers are installed, there is no moving them around and we all know that good speaker placement is vital to the quality of your system’s sound.
Depending on whether you are planning a whole house music system or a surround sound system for a dedicated home theatre, this will have big effect on your speaker choices and placement.
Obviously, for home theatre all the rules for speaker placement still apply and we would like to refer you to our blogs on the subject. In-ceiling is a great option for Atmos, but in-wall is preferable for surround where possible. There’s a range of sizes and designs when it comes to in-wall speakers. ELAC, Earthquake, Klipsch and Definitive Technology all offer a range of in-wall and in-ceiling speakers especially designed for home theatres.
We recommend approaching the deciding process in the same manner as you would other home theatre speakers. Make a shortlist of options that meet your requirements, read up on reviews (although you probably will find that reviews on this type of speaker is scarser) and ask for demo’s.
No home theatre is complete without a subwoofer to cover the low end. If a freestanding subwoofer is not an option and you decide to have a completely invisible system, Definitive Technology provides subs for in-wall installation.
Background music requires a completely different approach. Here, your main goal is to get even sound coverage throughout the room, with the emphasis on ‘even’. Getting an understanding of the way sound behaves will be a consideration to get the best results. In general, it’s better to have too many speakers than too few. If the speakers are too far apart, you’ll have music playing too loudly in some parts of the room and too quietly in other spots. We recommend placing speakers in pairs of two for stereo. One pair is fine in a smaller to medium room, but definitely opt for two pairs in a larger room.
Also, with sound reflection in mind, it’s important to place in-ceiling speakers well away from walls. The other situation where you need to think about reflection is the dining area: if you place a ceiling-mounted speaker directly over your dining room table, the sound may reflect upward off the table and interfere with conversation.
How much power you need, their location, brand preference and your budget will determine which speaker works best for your situation. Definitely stick to one brand per room, as each brand has their own ‘signature’.
CHOOSING IN-CEILING SPEAKERS
One In-ceiling speaker is definitely not equal to the next in-ceiling speaker. So which one?
- On one end of the scale, there is the most basic and budget Rapallo model: a simple a single fixed speaker driver. No bells and whistles, but it does a fair job. Most brands offer similar no fuss options, albeit with higher designer specs, superior materials, better crossovers etc.
- Sometimes, you want music overhead but there’s simply no space for the ‘work in pairs’ rule. If you only have space for one speaker (like you would in a toilet room) stereo (2 channel) input speakers like the Klipsch R-2800-CSM II or the Yamaha NS-ICS600 In-Ceiling Speakers are the answer. Theyplay both the left and right channels of music in a single location. They can also be very helpful in odd-shaped rooms where working in pairs is not possible.
- Many in-ceiling speakers offer a tweeter that can be rotated. Instead of sound going in one fixed direction, it can be directed towards you for better performance, like the Klipsch Controlled Dispersion Technology (CDT) speaker series that can direct both high and low frequencies towards the listening area.
- Some speakers like the Q Acoustics Qi series and the Apart Audio speakers use heavy-duty materials that hold better up in humid environments. They are perfect for withstanding steam in the bathroom or kitchen. If your bathroom is relatively large, placing a water resistant stereo-input speaker near the vanity and one near the bathtub will ensure you can follow that morning’s news, even during noisier activities like brushing your teeth or showering.
- And then there are the esthetic considerations. Low profile esthetics like the Definitive Technology ‘s Disappearing™ In-Wall series feature (apart from the above mentioned pivoting tweeters) also near-invisibility thanks to their small diameters, hidden flange design, and low profile micro-perf grilles.
- Also, some like the NS-IC600 YAMAHA 16cm Custom In-Ceiling Speakers offer paintable magnetic grills.
- Most in-ceiling speakers only require a few inches of mounting depth, but even that could be too proof a challenge at times. Klipsch offers speakers that are specifically designed for shallow mounting debt.
- As we mentioned earlier, in wall and in-ceiling speakers use the wall or ceiling cavity for resonance. As you can imagine , this can be quite an unpredictable factor in the science that is speaker design and it potentially will effect sound quality. To control this varying factor, some brands create in-ceiling and in-wall speakers with integrated enclosures (back boxes) built around them. Enclosed speakers control the unpredictable and therefore tend to offer superior bass performance. A word of caution though: always make sure that the extra depth fits. We have seen dimensions of in-wall and in-ceiling speakers cause hair scratching moments on several occasions.
On a final note there is the consideration of budget.
Just like for any pair of speakers, there is variety, options and quality differences galore when it comes to in-wall and in-ceiling speakers.
And as with anything, the more you pay, the better the quality of your drivers and the crossovers and the more flexibility you will have in adjusting your set-up, which can only benefit your play-back.
The question is mainly whether you want in ceilings for just some background music and are happy with a very basic budget in–ceiling speaker, or are you more serious about your music system and have higher expectations?
As it will no doubt be clear, it takes experience and expertise to plan a good multi-room music system, especially when it is a make or break situation as with in-wall and in-ceiling speakers.
The Rapallo team is very happy to map everything out for you. You simply tell us about your performance goals for each room, your personal situation and requirements, budget and plans for the future.
We will provide you with all the information needed to help you choose the best set-up. Of course, we can also help with installation should you wish.