Speaker Placement Guide
Speaker placement and installation
in-wall and in-ceiling 

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.

Pleasing background music for small spaces can be achieved with a pair of speakers.
Speaker placement

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.

For larger rooms use two pair of speakers.
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.

For your bathroom a centrally located stereo-input speaker is a great choice. Producing both channels of your stereo music source from a single location.
I you want background music in a long, narrow hallway. Install a stereo-input speaker at each end for balanced sound all the way down the hall..
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.
For the best sound in a music only listen space, place the speakers the same distance from the focal listening area.
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.

Your front and in-wall speakers should be at ear level when standing in a mixed-usage room.
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.

For your home theater, install your in-wall speakers at about ear level when seated for the ultimate audio 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 in the sound. For a detailed look at Atmos speaker positioning, consult Dolby’s speaker setup guide page.

Adding a pair of overhead speaker channels to your system? Place them slightly in front of your seats for immersive sound effects.
Installation Preparation

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
  • level
  • stud finder
  • screwdriver
  • masking tape
  • pencil
  • 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 sure 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.

A stud finder is a great investment, especially if you are DIY.
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.

Starting with a pilot hole allows you to make sure there are no hidden surprises, like electric cords, gas lines, etc.
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

After you’ve installed your speakers, you should make any last adjustments needed. Before installing the speaker grilles, point any aim-able tweeters toward your seats.

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.

Personalized consultation

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.