Skip Navigation

In-wall and ceiling speaker placement

For home theater or music

By

Crutchfield Writing Team

The Crutchfield writing team is a group of full-time, in-house copywriters who share a passion for consumer electronics. In addition to creating the articles and videos you find in the Research area of the Crutchfield website, these hard-working and talented people write the informational copy for the products on our website and in the Crutchfield catalog. Our writers constantly research the latest products, technologies, and industry trends, so that we can bring you the most helpful information possible.

More from Crutchfield Writing Team

One of the most important things to consider when shopping for in-wall, on-wall, or in-ceiling speakers is where you're going to place them. How you place your speakers depends on how you're going to listen to them, as well as what your room's architecture allows. Whether you're installing them in your current home or pre-wiring a home that's under construction, the guidelines below can help you get a speaker setup that sounds good and works with the build and design of your room.

After you've determined what type of speakers you'll need and how many, check out our article on choosing in-wall and in-ceiling speakers.You'll find helpful tips as well as key factors to consider when deciding between speaker models.

Critical listening: Home theater

You should place your speakers for critical listening if you plan to use them as your home theater speakers. Try to place speakers at least 2 feet away from corners and other surfaces that might interfere with or reflect sound, such as tall or bulky furniture.

If you're installing 5, 6, or 7 in-wall or on-wall speakers for a home theater surround sound system:

  • Place the front left and right speakers so that they're at or slightly above ear level when you're seated, both equidistant from the main listening position. If the speakers are in a wall that's 10 feet from your chair, place them no more than 10 feet and no less than 5 feet apart from each other to maintain a good stereo effect.
  • Place the center channel speaker so that it's at ear level when you're seated. If your television is wall-mounted, place the center channel speaker slightly below. If your TV rests on a stand or table, place the center channel speaker just above it, and angle the tweeters down towards seated ear level if possible.
  • Place the surround speakers above seated ear level (as high as standing ear level). If the rear surround speakers are placed at seated ear level, they will overwhelm the sound coming from your front speakers, resulting in muddied and inaccurate surround sound. However, if your system will incorporate Dolby Atmos® surround sound, we recommend placing all in-wall or on-wall surround sound speakers at seated ear level to ensure optimum Atmos height effects.
  • For Atmos home theaters, Dolby recommends using four ceiling speakers, with one pair located in front of your listening position and a second pair behind it. They also suggest using in-ceiling speakers with a wide dispersion pattern, or speakers with aimable drivers that can be angled slightly toward your listening position. If your system can only accommodate one pair of in-ceiling speakers, mount them slightly in front of where you’ll be listening. Don’t worry if your speaker placement isn’t perfect, your Atmos-enabled receiver’s auto calibration system will help dial in the sound for optimum performance.
5-speaker and seating position For a 5-speaker setup, the right and left surrounds should be to the right and left side of your main seating position.
6-speaker and seating position For a 6-speaker setup, the center back speaker should go directly behind the main listening position, in line with the front center channel speaker. It should be about as high as the left and right surrounds.
7-speaker and seating position For a 7-speaker setup, the two additional back surround speakers should be placed behind the main listing position, at equal distances from the main listening seat, and about half as far apart as the right and left surrounds. They should be about as high as the left and right surrounds.

If you're installing 5, 6, or 7 in-ceiling speakers for a home theater surround sound system:

  • Place the front left and right speakers at an equal distance from your main listening position, in front of your TV, about 2-3 feet away from the wall. If the speakers are 10 feet from your chair, place them no more than 10 feet and no less than 5 feet apart from each other to maintain a good stereo effect. Measure the distance from the speakers to your chair in a level, horizontal line — i.e. don't measure upwards from your seat to the speakers in the ceiling. If your speaker's tweeters can swivel, aim them towards your seating position. This can help create a realistic soundfield — you'll be able to hear objects on the screen as they move from left to right.
  • As you're choosing speaker locations, also keep in mind the effects of reflected sound. Even if you angle the tweeters toward you, you'll still hear the sound that's reflected off the wall behind the speakers. Ideally, that reflection should be at the same level as your TV screen. You can figure out how far away from the wall you should place your in-ceiling speakers by using a mirror. Mark the spot on the ceiling where you think the speaker should go, then sit in your favorite listening position. Ask a helper to hold a mirror up to the wall, moving it up or down until you can see the mark on the ceiling reflected in the mirror. That's where the sound will reflect off the wall. If the speakers are too close to the wall, the reflection will be too high; too far away from the wall, and the reflection will be too low. In some setups, you may find that you prefer to aim the tweeters directly at that spot wall to get more reflected sound. If your in-ceiling speakers have that feature, experiment with aiming your tweeter before you put the grille on.
  • Place the center channel speaker right in the middle of the front left and right speakers. Also aim its tweeter (if possible) directly towards your seating position.
  • See the images below for placement of surround speakers in 5-, 6-, and 7-speaker setups. If you have aimable tweeters in your surround speakers, you'll generally also want to aim those towards your seating position. You may also position these speakers closer to the adjoining wall than the front speakers. The sound will reflect off of a higher point on the wall, which is generally desirable for surround speakers.
  • A Dolby Atmos surround sound system incorporating only in-ceiling speakers is not recommended.
5-speaker and seating position For a 5-speaker setup, the left and right surrounds should be to the left and right of your main seating position, as far apart as your front left and right speakers.
6-speaker and seating position For a 6-speaker setup, the center back speaker should go directly behind the main listening position, in line with the front center channel speaker. It should be about as high as the left and right surrounds.
7-speaker and seating position For a 7-speaker setup, the rear left and right surrounds should be placed behind the main listening position, at equal distances from that seat. They should be about half as far apart as the right and left surround speakers positioned on the sides.

Keep in mind that while in-wall, on-wall, and in-ceiling speakers can deliver excellent sound, they aren't as good as many other speaker designs when it comes to playing lower frequencies. For a home theater setup, you'll need a subwoofer with a high crossover if you want to get good full-range sound. See our article on subwoofers for placement tips.

Critical listening: Music

You should also place your speakers for critical listening if you plan to spend a lot of time in that room listening to music, rather than using music as pleasant background sound. Try to place the speakers at least 2 feet away from corners and other surfaces that might interfere with or reflect sound, such as tall or bulky furniture.

If you're installing 2 in-wall or on-wall speakers for stereo listening:

  • To obtain a good stereo effect, place the left and right speakers an equal distance from your prime listening seat, at ear level while seated. If the speakers are in a wall that's 10 feet from your chair, place them no more than 10 feet apart from each other and no less than 5 feet apart.

If you're installing 2 in-ceiling speakers for stereo listening:

  • For a good stereo effect, place the left and right speakers an equal distance from your prime listening position, and (if possible) aim the tweeters toward your seat. For example, if the speakers are 10 feet from your chair, place them no more than 10 feet apart from each other and no less than 5 feet apart. Measure the distance from the speakers to your chair in a level, horizontal line — i.e. don't measure upwards from your seat to the speakers in the ceiling.

In-wall, on-wall, and in-ceiling speakers can do a great job with the highs and mids, but aren't as good as many other speaker designs when it comes to playing lower frequencies. So to get well-balanced, full-range sound, you'll also need a subwoofer with a high crossover. See our article on subwoofers for placement tips.

Entertainment listening

In rooms you'll move around in or frequently entertain in, speaker placement designed for critical listening won't work. The music will be too loud in one area and too soft in another, a flaw that will be most obvious when the volume is low. By employing three or four speakers in a room, or by judiciously using a combination of direct and reflected sound, you can create a relatively even soundfield. You'll hear some degree of stereo effect regardless of where you are in the room.

We've written the guidelines below to help you achieve that desired effect. Some of them are situation-specific, while others are more general. As you read them, note which ones apply to your room, needs, and goals.

General guidelines:

  • Try to keep speakers about 2 feet away from corners and other surfaces that might interfere with or reflect sound, such as tall or bulky furniture.
  • For rectangular rooms of less than 300 square feet, two speakers should suffice. Place them near opposite corners.
  • For L-shaped rooms, or for rectangular rooms larger than 300 square feet, use 3 or more speakers. Stagger them across the space for good sound dispersion. If you do end up using an odd number of speakers, stereo input speakers can be a good choice.
  • For a narrow, long room, place the speakers at either end. (Wall speakers can go either at the ends themselves, or on an adjacent wall.) Stereo input speakers are a good solution for this relatively awkward space.
  • When your décor or budget won't allow more than two speakers in a large room, try to place left and right stereo speakers near (but at least 2 feet away from) the corners, or at far ends of the room, to better disperse the sound.
Speaker placement for background listening

(A) Diagonal placement gives good coverage in a typical rectangular room of 300 square feet or less. (B) Use three or more speakers in a large or L-shaped room. (C) In a narrow room, place the speakers in the middle at either end. In this example, stereo-input speakers would be a great choice.

Speaker placement in rooms you'll be entertaining in, such as a dining room:

  • In-wall: Place them low on the walls (at AC outlet height) and in opposite corners. This creates multiple reflections and a very pleasant and pervasive sound field at a low volume. Turned up loud, this placement will sound muddy and hard, but for dining room conversation enhancement, it's unbeatable.
  • On-wall: Since you probably can't place on-wall speakers very low on the wall, move them higher up the wall ™ 6-7 feet from the floor. Place them roughly in opposite corners, and aim the speakers towards the middle of the room. On-wall speakers may be a good option for some homes, but in-wall speakers will most likely yield better results.
  • In-ceiling: Avoid surfaces in the room that will reflect sound in a disruptive way. For example, 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. In-ceiling speakers are a good option for some dining and entertaining rooms, but in-wall speakers are often better suited for the task.

Speaker placement in rooms you probably won't be entertaining in, such as a kitchen or den:

  • In-wall/on-wall: Place the speakers about 6 feet off the floor. While wall speakers are a great option for many rooms, they tend to create more "hot spots" (areas where the sound is much louder) than ceiling speakers do.
  • In-ceiling: These will be relatively easy to place, and are less likely to create acoustical problems than wall speakers. Just follow the general guidelines above to fit your room's shape and size, and you should be in good shape.

Speaker placement in your master bath:

  • If you want to install speakers in your bathroom, stereo-input in-ceiling speakers are a great way to go. One stereo input speaker plays both channels of stereo music with one woofer and two angled tweeters; they're great for small rooms or larger awkwardly shaped areas. Depending on the size and layout of your bathroom, you may want to use more than one. For example, if your bathroom is relatively large, placing a stereo-input speaker above the sink and one above the bathtub will ensure you can follow that morning's news, even during noisier activities like brushing your teeth or showering.

*** Namegoeshere***

A single stereo-input speaker plays both the left and right channels of stereo music via one woofer and two angled tweeters.

For background listening

In hallways, entryways, laundry rooms and other less-trafficked areas, it may seem like overkill to install speakers. But if you play the speakers in the living room so that they're at the right volume in the entryway or laundry room, the volume in the living room will be uncomfortably loud. Installing speakers for background listening lets you enjoy music pretty much anywhere you roam in your house, without having to crank up your speakers to floor-shaking levels.

Stereo-input speakers are often the most effective way to bring background music to small rooms. In larger rooms, you'll probably want to use more speakers, staggering them throughout the space. Since the volume in these areas will generally stay low, you don't have to worry as much about the effects of reflected sound ™ your goal is simply to disperse the sound over as wide an area as possible.

Wrapping it up

With these goals and guidelines in mind, take a look around your home. You'll want to follow these tips when you can, but rooms vary, and there may be other factors you need to take into account. For example, if there are in-ceiling light fixtures in a room where you plan to install in-ceiling speakers, you might tweak the placement of your speakers to keep them in line with the light fixtures for a more pleasing look.

You can get a good idea of what's involved in installing in-wall or in-ceiling speakers with our step-by-step installation guides for in-wall wire and in-wall, in-ceiling, and on-wall speakers. If you're planning on installing your wire and speakers yourself, make sure you're comfortable with all the tasks described.

If you have any additional questions about how and where to place your speakers or are planning a multi-room music system, you can call one of the experts in our A/V Design Group at 1-800-555-9407. They can take the info you supply and craft a comprehensive system proposal.

  • Adam W. from Chesapeake, VA

    Posted on 7/23/2015 2:46:50 PM

    I'm confused-The section on "installing in-wall or on-wall speakers has a bullet that says "For Atmos home theaters, Dolby recommends using four ceiling speakers, with one pair located in front of your listening position and a second pair behind it." Then the section on installing in-ceiling speakers has a bullet that says "A Dolby Atmos surround sound system incorporating only in-ceiling speakers is not recommended." So which is it?

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/24/2015 10:36:37 AM

    Sorry for the confusion, Adam. What we were trying to say is that an Atmos surround sound system consisting exclusively of in-ceiling speakers is not recommended. That's because if the entire soundtrack is being projected at you from above, Atmos won't be able to accurately recreate the "height" effects. It's perfectly fine (preferable even) to use in-ceiling speakers for the height channels in an Atmos system, just be certain to use in-wall or on-wall speakers placed at seated ear level for all of your other channels to ensure optimum Atmos height effects.

  • Jesal from NJ

    Posted on 8/10/2015 1:11:01 PM

    What is the best speaker recommendation for a 7.1 system which can accommodate 2 in-wall front right and front left channel speakers, an in-ceiling center channel, and in-ceiling right and left channels, as well as in-ceiling (or in wall) right and left back channels? Is there a more optimal speaker configuration? Can Dolby Atmos be accommodated with this setup and if so, what speakers or receivers would work best? Thanks.

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/11/2015 12:36:06 PM

    Jesal, we sent your question to our sales team for the best answer. They'll be contacting you via email soon. For immediate help, you can contact them via phone or chat.

  • Jim from Sonoma

    Posted on 9/4/2015 4:38:40 PM

    I just bought the brackets from you for the 620 RT and 90 RT speakers that I will be putting in my ceiling for the atmos stereo that I will be using. Right now I'm at the 2x4 stage before sheet rock if I email you some photos and the pdf file of my lay out can you show where you would place the speakers. my wall are made out of fox ICF block and are twelve inches thick I cannot install speakers in the walls and I do not want to hang them on the wall . So my plan is to put all seven speakers in the ceiling. Any help in this subject will be greatly appreciated Jim

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 9/4/2015 5:10:45 PM

    Jim, you may want to give our advisors or techs a shout to help map out your speaker placement. You should probably also be aware that Dolby does not recommend an all in-ceiling speaker installation for Atmos. In order to work properly, Atmos requires a 5.1 or 7.1 ear-level base speaker system with either two or four in-ceiling (or Atmos enabled) height speakers. If all of the speakers are mounted in the ceiling, the proper height effects cannot be reproduced.

  • Monika

    Posted on 10/11/2015 10:06:27 AM

    OK a square room with all 4 walls is easy...how about this: we're refinishing our basement, picture a 3 wall room with an L shaped sofa. TV will be directly across the one part of the sofa, the other sofa side will be facing another room. How do you place speakers on this set up?

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 10/12/2015 9:30:42 AM

    Monika, we sent your question to our sales team for the best answer. They'll be contacting you via email soon. For immediate help, you can contact them via phone or chat.

  • Bill from tuscaloosa

    Posted on 12/28/2015 3:04:38 AM

    will there be enough separation for a 5.1.2 ATMOS system with the following: ATMOS enabled bookshelf speakers for Front L/R channels On wall Center Channel In-ceiling rear surround channels.

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 12/28/2015 9:44:15 AM

    Good question, Bill. As I recall, Dolby recommends placing your base speaker system (front, center, and surrounds) at ear level for an Atmos system. I see no issues whatsoever with the front and center speakers in your setup, but using in-ceiling surrounds may very well reduce the level of Atmos height effects that you experience. By how much is really hard to say, as we're still charting relatively new territory here. If possible, I would suggest using on-wall or in-wall surround speakers, rather than in-ceiling.

  • Dennis from Santa Rosa

    Posted on 1/7/2016 10:02:42 PM

    When I purchased a new build, I had them pre-wire the family room for home theater, but did not expect them to put four speaker connections in the ceiling , and not all that spread out (I didn't have any say, apparently - no one asked me). My wife thinks we'll be OK if we can tilt the speakers a bit - especially the back ones, so that sound isn't coming directly down on you. Is such a configuration going to work? Or are we better off just setting some speakers up externally and forgetting about the ceiling? The center speaker will most likely go below the TV, and the sub off in a corner.

  • jialu x. from eugene

    Posted on 1/11/2016 2:58:28 PM

    Good year Dave, I am building a HT for the bedroom. 17.3' long by 12.4' wide by 7.8' high. My current plan is leaning towards 5.1.4 with in wall/ceiling speakers. As the trade-off of implementing a HT system in the bedroom is that the headboard is often aginst the 12.4' wide wall and it will be technically the MLP. In such case, how would you recommend on the speaker placement specifically the atmos ones in ceiling? What sizes of speakers should i consider?

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 1/12/2016 10:31:51 AM

    Jialu, I sent your questions to our sales team for the best answer. They'll be contacting you via email soon. For immediate help, you can contact them via phone or chat.

  • Jon from MONTGOMERY

    Posted on 1/13/2016 12:23:54 PM

    Dave, I would like to see that email answer sent to Jesal from NJ (sent 8/10/2015). That's almost exactly what I'm doing. Renovation with access to all stud walls and ceilings. Room is 20x25. I plan to set up the room with 7.1 to view from either end (because we just don't know...). My current system is 5.1, and I don't plan to replace it until after I know how much money is left from the renovation (I'll upgrade the speakers now since I'm leaning toward in-wall). My plan right now is to run the speaker wire for 7.1 system while the walls are open. I'll have access to the side speaker wires when I upgrade the system to 7.1. I'm looking at some Polk in-wall speakers. My problem is my wife doesn't want the speakers at ear level, and she doesn't want to be restricted as for furniture and picture placement. It would be great if I could put the center speaker in the ceiling. The room is the family room. Movies, TV and music... Thanks, Jon

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 1/14/2016 11:02:33 AM

    Jon, I must confess that I forwarded Jesal's inquiry to our advisors for further assistance (as I have done with yours). The situation that you both are in has a number of possible solutions that requires more discussion and planning than practical through a single email response. You'll be in good hands with them. Dave.