Are you looking to install a new in-wall or in-ceiling speaker system in your home? A do-it-yourself installation can be a fun and cost-effective experience. This manual will assist you in getting started.
We’ll offer some recommendations for speaker placement. After that, we’ll look at a typical installation.
Before you begin any installation, be sure you have a clear plan. Excellent speakers in the wrong places may sound a lot worse than decent speakers in the right places. It’s a waste if you aren’t going to place them correctly.
In-ceiling placement for background music
Are you planning a system mostly for background music? Aim for even sound distribution throughout your environment. It’s indeed preferable to have too many speakers rather than too few. If the speakers are too far apart, music will play too loudly in some areas of the room and too quietly in others.
Stereo-input speaker placement
Sometimes you want music overhead but only have space for one speaker. What is the solution? A stereo-input speaker that plays music from both the left and right channels.
A stereo-input speaker is an excellent method to add music to a tiny space. You might also want multiple stereo-input speakers in a hallway or an unusually shaped space that isn’t well suited to stereo pairs.
Dedicated music listening with in-wall placement
Creating an environment where the primary focus is sitting and listening to music? At-ear level in-wall speakers reproduce the live sound experience. Make your left and right speakers the same distance apart as they are from your ideal listening position. This results in a balanced, concentrated sound.
Home theater speaker placement
Is your home theater going to be located in the living room or the family room? Or will it be in a media room where only movies and sports are shown?
In both spaces, the ideal in-wall speaker placement is almost the same. Depending on the activities in your space, the height of the left- and right-channel speakers may change.
Mixed-use room speaker placement
Imagine you’re having guests in your living room and want to play music for them. When standing, you want your front and rear in-wall speakers to be about ear level. As individuals move about, this elevated position provides excellent music performance. It also provides immersive sound effects when watching a movie.
For aesthetic reasons, it’s tempting to install the in-wall speakers directly next to the TV. However, spreading out the front speakers will improve the sound quality of your system. If possible, arrange your front left and right speakers the same distance apart as they are from your optimum viewing position. This creates a wide front soundstage that replicates a theater.
Dedicated theater room speaker placement
Except for speaker height, speaker placement in a dedicated theater room follows the same criteria as above. Because you won’t be using the space for anything else, each speaker should be at ear level (or slightly higher) when seated. This provides the finest possible surround sound experience.
Center channel speaker placement
When your center channel is at ear level when seated, dialogue is clearer and simpler to catch. However, your television looks best when its center line is at eye level.
Choosing the center channel and TV mounting sites necessitates a delicate balancing of the two factors. Before installing either, determine their height. Taping up cardboard cutouts of each may be useful for selecting the ideal positions.
In most installations, the center channel is installed beneath the television. Allow at least a few inches between the top of the center channel and the bottom of your television. This stops the TV from obstructing some of the sound from the center channel.
Surround speakers placement
If you’re using rear surround speakers, have them face forward to the front of the room, as shown above. If you’re utilizing side surrounds, point them at each other If your speakers’ tweeters can rotate, point them towards where you sit.
Surround speakers should be placed approximately the same distance away as the front left and right speakers. In-wall and ceiling speakers should be installed at least 18-24 inches away from an adjacent wall or ceiling.
Dolby Atmos® and DTS:X™ overhead speakers placement
Are you planning on using ceiling speakers for special effects? Dolby recommends four in-ceiling speakers for Atmos setups. One pair is in front of your listening position, and the other is behind it. If your system only has one pair of speakers, position them slightly front of where you’ll be sitting to listen.
Don’t be concerned if your speaker placement is imperfect. The auto-calibration feature on your Atmos-enabled receiver will assist in refining the sound. For a detailed look at Atmos speaker positioning, consult Dolby’s speaker setup guide page.
Having the correct tools on hand can help ensure a seamless installation. The tools used in a typical installation are listed below. Check your speakers’ owner’s manuals to determine if anything else is required.
- drywall saw
- utility knife
- wire stripper
- stud finder
- masking tape
- measuring tape
- drill and bits
- shop vacuum
UL-rated wire for your in-wall or in-ceiling speakers
It is essential that you utilize speaker wire that has been authorized for in-wall runs. You want UL-rated wire with a CL2 or CL3 designation.
Confirm your speaker locations with a stud finder
After you’ve determined where your speakers will go, ensure there’s enough space in the wall or ceiling to accommodate them.
Determine whether there are any problems behind the wall or ceiling. Use a good stud finder that is capable of detecting metal pipes, AC cables, and other obstructions hidden behind your walls.
Detailed check behind the walls
Make an effort to inspect as much as possible without creating a hole. Try to figure out which way the joists run and where the empty wall space between the studs might be.
You’re looking for wall spaces devoid of pipes and electrical wires. Because you may not know what’s behind the wall with certainty, you may need to cut and patch exploratory holes.
Start with the pilot hole
Drill pilot holes in an existing room to see if each of your speaker locations will work. This allows you to check the space behind the wall or ceiling to ensure there is nothing there.
To avoid electric shock, turn off the power in the areas where you will be working before you begin. Then, in the center of where you want to put your speaker, drill a small hole. When drilling, take care not to drill into a pipe or electrical conduit.
Pilot hole area exploration
In the pilot hole, insert a strong wire (such as a bent coat hanger). Wrap the exploratory wire with electrical tape or wear rubber gloves if there are any power lines behind the wall near your pilot hole. Investigate the surrounding area. Check that there is enough space for the speaker and that nothing is in the way. Check the mounting dimensions of your speaker to ensure there is enough room for it.
Always double-check your speaker locations before you cut
Don’t make any cuts in the drywall until you’ve drilled pilot holes and double-checked all of the speaker locations. If one of your locations does not work out, you may want to consider relocating one or more of them.
Map out your speaker locations with rough-in brackets
When working with fresh construction, rough-in brackets come in handy. They’re also beneficial if you’re remodeling an existing room and the old drywall has been removed. These brackets are designed to be installed between two studs or joists. The speaker holes will be cut for you by your drywall hanger.
Isolating the sound where you want it to stay
Your speakers may have another room next to them. Consider in-wall or in-ceiling speakers with a back-box to reduce sound leakage. Back-boxes increase bass response by enclosing the speaker in a sealed housing. They also keep dust and dirt at bay.
Installing the new speakers
Cutting drywall and installing speakers
Be sure to follow all the safety precautions we advise before cutting drywall. A wise carpenter once said, measure twice cut once.
Minimize the dust
Cutting through drywall and plaster generates a lot of dust. Before you begin your installation, cover any nearby furnishings. As you cut, have someone hold a shop vac hose underneath the drywall saw. This eliminates a large portion of the dust clouds produced during installation.
Plaster and lath
Installing speakers in a home with plaster-and-lath walls or ceilings will be more difficult. Plaster is prone to cracking and crumbling, so be prepared to undertake some touch-up work.
Running in-wall cable might be very difficult. It could be better to run out-of-wall wiring and conceal it with rugs, cupboards, and other items. More options may be found in our post on home A/V cable management.
Drop ceiling installation
Installing speakers in a drop ceiling is not the same as installing them into drywall. Drop ceiling panels are often inadequately strong to withstand the weight of in-ceiling speakers.
Place a thick piece of plywood atop the foam panel to reinforce the area where the speaker is placed. Attach it to the cross beams, then cut a speaker opening into both the plywood and the drop ceiling.
Ceiling panels with high-quality pressboard are different. You will often be able to cut right into the panels are they are more durable.
Dialing It In
Examine the speaker for tone controls. Set the bass settings to “minus” or “cut” if the speaker is within a foot of a corner. Set the treble control to the minus/cut setting if the room doesn’t have a lot of upholstered furnishings to absorb sound.
Do you have any questions concerning the design of your new system? Our knowledgeable consultants are well-versed in every aspect of home audio installation. Contact us at your earliest convenience and the sooner you will have the smart home audio system solution you have been dreaming of.