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In-wall and ceiling speakers buying guide

How to choose the right ones for your rooms

Living room with in-ceiling speakers.

Built-in speakers save space on your floors and shelves. The wiring is hidden behind the walls. And paintable grilles make flush-mounted speakers nearly invisible.

In-ceiling and in-wall speakers provide high-quality sound without cluttering up your decor. Want music in your kitchen without a speaker taking up counter space? How about a surround sound system without bulky speakers in the living room?

Generally speaking, ceiling speakers are best for multi-room music systems. In-wall speakers are ideal for space-saving surround sound. We'll show you the options for both.

Ceiling speakers for whole-house music

There are two main things to consider when planning your in-ceiling music system. First, how many speakers does each room need for good sound? That depends on the room's size and how it's being used.

One or two ceiling speakers may provide good background music for your dining room. But say you have a large living room with a high-ceiling. You might need five or six speakers to get the volume you need when you throw a party.

The other factor to consider is speaker placement. You want your music system to deliver even coverage throughout your room. This takes careful planning to get the best results.

Ceiling speaker placement

Your A/V Designer will map out the ideal locations for your rooms.

Customized system design for your home

It takes experience and expertise to plan a good multi-room music system. Let one of our residential A/V Designers map out everything for you. Upload floorplans and photos of your rooms and your designer will draw up a system proposal. You'll see what size speakers to get, how much power you need, and where everything should go. You'll even receive a pre-loaded shopping cart with everything that you need.

System design for your business

Residential audio gear isn't well suited for stores, restaurants and other commercial buildings. We have a separate team of designers to help you put together a system for your business. Get started by filling out a commercial system design request form.

How much should you spend?

Let your budget be guided by the listening experience that you want in each room. Modestly-priced speakers are fine for background listening. But if you're passionate about music, you want a system that you can really jam to. Go for higher-quality speakers that deliver the live concert experience. Tell your designer about your performance goals for each room. He or she will help you choose the right equipment.

Ceiling speaker features 

Direct your high frequencies

Many 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.

Illustration of aimable tweeters.

Choose a speaker with an aimable tweeter to direct the sound exactly where you want it.

Get stereo sound from a single speaker

Sometimes you want music overhead but just have room for one speaker. Stereo input speakers play both the left and right channels of music in a single location. They are a great way to add music to small spaces. Or you may want several of these in a room that's not well suited for stereo pairs.

Image of a stereo input speaker.

Stereo input speakers have two tweeters and play both the left and right channels of music.

Use a moisture-resistant speaker in your bathroom

Some speakers use heavy-duty materials that hold better up in humid environments. They are perfect for withstanding steam in the bathroom or kitchen. You can even use them in the ceiling of a covered porch for music outside.

Moisture-resistant speakers in a bathroom.

Choose moisture-resistant speakers for areas with high humidity. They're ideal for bathrooms, kitchens, and saunas.

Self-enclosed speakers

Most in-ceiling speakers only require a few inches of mounting depth. But some are 8 or 9 inches deep, because they have extra large woofers or they have enclosures (back boxes) built around them. Enclosed speakers offer excellent bass performance. But the extra depth can pose a fit problem in some homes. Check the speaker measurements to make sure they will fit between your ceiling and the floor above.

Front and side view of an enclosed speaker to illustrate the depth of the speaker.

Self-enclosed speakers offer great bass, but are extra deep. Be sure to measure your mounting depth to make sure your new speakers will fit.

In-wall speakers for serious listening

Sometimes sitting down to listen to music — and doing nothing else — is good for the soul. If you have a room where you can do dedicated listening, consider in-wall speakers. When placed at ear-level, they provide a more direct field of sound and a "sweet spot" for stereo imaging. This makes you feel more like the band is live on stage in front of you.

Illustration of an in-wall speaker system that creates a "sweet spot" for the listener.

Carefully placed in-wall speakers provide a front-row listening experience for music.

Choosing in-wall speakers for surround sound

An in-wall surround system provides a true theater experience. Just like with ceiling speakers, there's a range of sizes and designs. Your speaker selection will be based on your room's layout and your performance goals. Here's how a typical 7.1 in-wall system looks:

Illustration of a 7.1 system

Here's the typical in-wall speaker placement for a 7.1 surround sound system.

The importance of voice-matching

Every speaker brand has subtle tonal qualities that are unique to them. This makes for a distinct audio "voicing". If you were painting a room blue you'd use the same shade for all four walls. You wouldn't paint one wall a different shade of blue than the others. You want them to match.

Speaker voice-matching works along the same lines. You want to use the same brand of speakers throughout your room. This gives you consistently great sound as action moves all around you.

For front left and right channels

Most in-wall speakers can be used for your left and right channels. They install vertically on either side of your TV.

For the center channel

The center channel is perhaps the most important speaker in your home theater. It's responsible for the movie's dialogue. It installs horizontally, typically below your TV or projector screen. Use a center channel that has a tweeter in the middle of the speaker. This balanced design provides even dialogue for all of your seating locations.

Image of center channel speaker.

Choose a center channel speaker that has a tweeter between two woofers. This lets everyone hear dialogue clearly.

For side and rear surround sound

Adding speakers beside and behind you makes you feel like you're a part of the movie. Consider using surrounds that feature tweeters that fire in different directions. This design delivers lifelike sound in a wide area. Everyone gets wraparound effects - especially if you have multiple rows of seating.

Image of a speaker with off-axis tweeters.

In-wall surround speakers use tweeters that face different directions to provide immersive surround effects

Give your system the bass it deserves

No home theater is complete without a subwoofer for the low end. For a completely invisible system, install a sub into your wall or floor. These sneaky-good subs get their power from an external amplifier.

Image of an in-wall sub and amp package.

Install a subwoofer into your wall for impactful bass without taking up space. A separate power amp provides power.

Dolby Atmos

Want an immersive home theater with sound coming from all directions? Create a Dolby Atmos system by installing speakers into your ceiling and connecting them to a surround sound receiver with Dolby Atmos decoding. You'll feel the rain gently failing through the trees in the jungle. You might even duck when the helicopter swoops down from the sky.

Illustration of a 7.1.2 Dolby Atmos system.

You don't need special ceiling speakers to make Atmos work. But you do need a Dolby Atmos-capable receiver.

Explore other setup options

There are numerous ways to set up a flush-mounted surround system. For more information, check out our in-wall and in-ceiling speaker placement guide.

Installation accessories

Use the right wire for your speakers

It's important that you use speaker wire that's approved for in-wall runs. You want UL-rated wire that's labeled CL2 or CL3. Check out our ceiling and wall wiring guide for more info.

Rough-in brackets for new construction

If you have access to your wall studs or ceiling joists, use pre-construction brackets. They provide a more stable and secure mount for your speakers. They also act as a speaker placeholder when the drywall is being cut.

Keep the sound where you want it

Your ceiling speakers may have another room located above them. Use speakers with back boxes to limit the sound that leaks through. Back boxes also improve bass response by providing an enclosure around the speaker.

Easy volume control

For a simple way to control your music's volume in each room, install an in-wall volume control.

Related articles

For info on how to drive speakers throughout your house, check out our multi-room power guide. Self-installing? Check out our in-ceiling and in-wall installation guide.

Get a free system design

In a well-designed home, form and function are on the same team. Furnishings and appliances smoothly serve your family and guests. You should expect no less from your audio/video gear. But first you need a plan, and that’s where your Crutchfield A/V design specialist comes in. Submit a system design request today! You’ll receive a detailed system plan and a link to a pre-filled shopping cart.

3 easy steps

1

Share your info and ideas

2

Approve your design

3

Install your gear

  • Pius Bond from Kampala

    Posted on 10/27/2020

    Excellent! Well researched and presented information. It will help me come out with an audio system plan for my house which is under construction. I wish I could get a recommendation for somebody here in Kampala-Uganda to help me to install when my time comes.

  • Carlos Celis from Miami

    Posted on 10/7/2020

    Most comprehensive Dolby Atmos system explanation. Thank you!!!

    Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 10/8/2020

    Thanks for your kind words, Carlos. I'm glad we could help!
  • Albert Benichou from Berkeley, CA

    Posted on 7/7/2020

    Why do you think they are so little options for wireless in ceiling speakers and I think the most important part not mentioned here is what system and app will control a multi-room system, without pairing each time you enter a room. I spent days now and could not find a good brand offering a in ceiling speaker including an amp and a wifi. Not even Sonos or Bose or Yamaha

    Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 7/8/2020

    Hi Albert, I totally understand where you're coming from. I think the term "wireless" makes this product category a bit challenging, since it can refer to signal transmission (ala Wi-Fi®), or self-amplification (either AC or battery powered).

    In both instances, in-ceiling speaker installations present a challenge. Installing an amp or battery pack in the ceiling poses a fire risk. And it can be tough to get a wireless signal through certain types of wall and ceiling material. I think we'll eventually see more custom-integrated options on this front, but traditional wired speakers are still the go-to option for most installations.

    We're happy to help you choose the best solution for your system. Just give one of our advisors a call, and they can walk you through the options for your home.
  • Mihir Kamdar from London

    Posted on 6/27/2020

    Hi Kramer, my house is currently undergoing refurbishment and we have an open lounge room (8m x 7m) where we plan to set up a dedicated area (a corner) for home cinema. We have the option for in ceiling speakers and/or wall speakers, however I'm confused which type (ceiling or wall) should be selected. Would it be wise to go for a 5.1 set up of 3 in wall speakers around the TV, 2 ceiling speakers just above the sofa? Or all 5 speakers in the ceiling (3 at the front, 2 at the back)? In addition, my floor will be tiled (porcelain tiles) I live in the UK so I was thinking of going for the KEF QR speaker range, happy to hear your thoughts. Thanks in advance. Mihir

    Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 7/10/2020

    Hello Mihir, thanks for reaching out. Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding.

    I recommend going in-wall for the front left, right, and center speakers, and in-ceiling for the surround channels. There's two reasons for that. First, the in-wall speakers up front will be much closer to ear level than ceiling speakers, which is key for dialogue to sound realistic. Second, having in-ceiling speakers for all of your channels would only give you one plane from which sound originates. By having a mixture of wall and ceiling speakers, you create a more immersive, three-dimensional soundstage.

    As for your speaker choice, I'm partial to KEF myself (and own a pair of their LS50 Wireless speakers for my office). They are a fantastic choice for your home theater system. Just make sure you have a good home theater receiver to drive them, and you'll get years of awesome surround sound out of them.

    Good luck with your project, and let us know if you have any other questions!
  • Charles Rowell from Springfield

    Posted on 6/18/2020

    I am looking at putting a ceiling speaker in my bathroom. I was planning on using the Focal stereo input model 100 IC 6 ST. I plan on using it for music. Do you think this would be a good fit.

    Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 6/23/2020

    Hi Charles, the Focal 100 IC 6-ST is a great choice for your bathroom. It's moisture-resistant, so as long as it's not getting directly splashed, you can install it in your bathroom with confidence.
  • Barry from MADEIRA BEACH

    Posted on 12/1/2019

    is it possible to use in-ceiling speakers for both the dolby atmos + the side surround speakers? I have a room where the wide walls are unable to handle an in-wall speaker, so I am thinking about in-ceiling...

    Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 12/2/2019

    Hi Barry, yes you can certainly use overhead speakers in multiple locations and enjoy a three-dimensional sound experience. I would pair them with a nice set of floor-standing or bookshelf speakers and a center channel for your front soundstage for the best performance. Give us a shout if you'd like any help putting together a system!
  • Jeff from Southport

    Posted on 6/28/2019

    Kramer, I just want to add two ceiling speakers in my living room for music. I would like option to turn up load enough for dancing. I will be running them through an Audio Source AMP102vs. What's your recommendation? Thanks, Jeff

    Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 7/3/2019

    Hi Jeff, my apologies for the late reply. You'll be hard-pressed to beat the Polk Audio RC80is for the money. They have solid bass thanks to 8" woofers, and are a great pairing with your amp. You can even aim the tweeters to direct the sound toward you!
  • Paul Bloom from Seattle

    Posted on 10/7/2018

    Hi, we are doing a remodel and planning for ceiling speakers in our kitchen, family room, dining room, and living room. I'm considering the MA 6.5" 2-way in-ceiling speaker. Will be used for music, except in the living room where they will also be used for back speakers in 5.1 surround sound (with Sonos playbar and sonos sub woofer). How do these Monitor speakers compare with Polk, Bose, and others?

    Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 10/7/2018

    Hi Paul, both Polk and Bose make nice in-ceiling speakers. But I personally prefer Monitor Audio, and would choose their speakers for your new system since the gold dome tweeter they use is the same one found in their highly acclaimed bookshelf and floor-standing speakers. They'll do an excellent job with both music and surround sound effects for you.
  • phil from Staten island

    Posted on 10/2/2018

    Hi, I'm looking to add 2 in ceiling speakers to up grade my surround sound. i have the Bose Acoustimass 15. Should i stick with Bose for the two in ceiling speakers or is it ok to use a different brand. In your article you state you should stay with the same brand of speakers you already have for voice matching. Thanks

    Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 10/2/2018

    Hi Phil, yes I'd stick with Bose for your in-ceiling speakers. The Virtually Invisible 591 or 791s would be an excellent sonic match for you.
  • Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    Posted on 6/27/2018

    Hey John, we can certainly help you get your new system going. I'm going to put you in touch with one of our Advisors, who will reach out to discuss the best options.