While I was remodeling my home theater, I decided to take a look at ceiling speakers to increase my surround sound, but I found they were going to take a lot of work. This got me wondering whether ceiling speakers were worth the hassle.
So, are ceiling speakers any good?
Ceiling speakers make a great addition to a home theater, particularly if you’re looking for a more immersive sound experience. They need to be specifically designed for ceilings, but they make an excellent addition to a surround sound setup.
I decided to take a look into what makes ceiling speakers a good addition to a home theater setup, and how much work actually goes into installing them.
This article looks at the reasons why you might want to install ceiling speakers, and any useful information you might need to know before installing them.
When Are Ceiling Speakers A Good Addition?
It’s fair to say that not everyone’s home theater will benefit from ceiling speakers. After all, if you’ve only got a small room dedicated to your home theater, you might already have enough speakers.
Also, if you live in a rented property, you might not be able to carry out the work necessary to install them. These are some of the situations when you’ll probably see the most benefit from ceiling speakers:
1. They’re less messy
Sure, speakers aren’t usually considered ugly, but many people prefer to minimize clutter as much as possible.
If you’re building a home theater, you’ll inevitably have cables running everywhere, and so at least mounting your speakers in the ceiling means you have a few less cables to worry about.
2. They’re a good way of completing a surround sound system
You’ve already got a set of “normal” speakers (think bookshelf speakers or monitors) then you might not want to go out and buy a new surround sound system.
Ceiling speakers are a potentially easier way of completing this, as you can mount them behind your seating area and use them as the rear channels.
3. They allow you to be more flexible with your layout
If you choose to mount your speakers in the ceiling, then you won’t have to worry as much about positioning your furniture around floor speakers.
Not only will this mean fewer cables, but if you get swiveling ceiling speakers, then you’ll have plenty of freedom over where to put your furniture.
4. They give you a more immersive experience
Surround sound is all about immersion, so why not get the most out of your home theater? Cinemas use ceiling speakers for the same reason, so it makes sense to splash out on some if you can.
How Many Ceiling Speakers Do You Need In One Room?
So if you’re considering taking your home theater to the next level by installing ceiling speakers, you’ve probably already wondered how many you might need in your space.
I spent plenty of time playing around with speakers and placement to find the best layout for my room, and this is always the best option for deciding on amount of speakers.
However, I imagine many people won’t go out and buy speakers just to experiment with them, so here are some useful tips for deciding how many ceiling speakers you need.
Realistically, there’s no set answer for how many ceiling speakers you need.
The answer will be different for everyone, and depend on things like your intended use, the size and shape of your room, the sound level you’re expecting, and whether you have any other speakers connected to your home theater.
As a general rule, it’s better to have too many speakers than not enough.
Try To Strike A Balance
You should aim to balance your speakers to ensure the best sound quality. This means ideally pairing them up, so for example having a pair of ceiling speakers behind your seating area, and maybe another pair in front. Balancing them like this will give you much more consistent sound quality.
Obviously you should plan your speaker placement based on the size and shape of your room. Using the balancing rule, make sure that the speakers provide enough coverage for the space, but also don’t crowd things.
Draw up a rough plan of your room, including where you plan to position furniture in relation to your TV or screen, and then decide where would be best to place the ceiling speakers. I try to aim for one set behind seats, and then any others in front.
Calculate The Number Of Speakers
If you’re adding them to an existing surround sound or speaker system, you’ll generally need fewer ceiling speakers. Again, a single pair of ceiling speakers might be more than enough, particularly if you combine them with floor or wall-mounted speakers.
It’s best to use ceiling speakers as an addition to your setup, rather than as the main speaker system. This means you should aim for maybe a pair or two of ceiling speakers, and then at least two floor speakers.
As a definitive answer, in a standard size room (an average size living room), I would probably use a maximum of 4 ceiling speakers.
If your room is particularly large, consider 6 to adequately cover the space. However, in a bigger room, you will definitely benefit from using a range of different speakers types, as this will allow you to cover the room better.
What Size Ceiling Speakers Should You Get?
We all probably know by now that speakers come in different sizes. Different sized speakers produce different sound levels, with larger speakers generally being louder. This isn’t always the case though, as you might find some amazing small speakers that pump out plenty of volume.
Make sure you shop around before buying so that you can find the speakers that are right for the size and layout of your home theater.
Standard Speaker Sizes
As standard, ceiling speakers usually come in either 6.5” or 8” diameters. As with other speakers, this size refers to the cone, not the speaker. This means the actual face of the speaker will be bigger, but not by much.
You’ll probably be able to find ceiling speakers that are bigger or smaller, but these are the most common sizes available.
For choosing ceiling speakers, I recommend this article by Crutchfield.
Which One Should You Get?
6.5” ceiling speakers are an ideal size for most standard size rooms. In a home theater, you probably won’t find you need the bigger type, as these are generally used in much larger spaces.
6.5” ceiling speakers are versatile and generally perform very well. A pair or two of 6.5” speakers will give excellent coverage to a standard size living space.
8” speakers are generally used in much larger spaces, but can still be good in home theaters. They’re much better for larger rooms, but the difference in bass can make them a good addition regardless of the size of your room.
The overall size increase means they pump out much more bass than a 6.5” speaker, and you might even find you don’t need a subwoofer with these speakers.
Generally speaking, you’ll need fewer 8” speakers than 6.5” speakers in a room of the same size, and having too many might make the bass overpowering.
A single pair of 8” speakers will probably do the job in most standard size living spaces, but you should also look to combine them with other kinds of speaker. However, if you have a larger space, consider at least two pairs of 8” ceiling speakers.
Realistically, there’s no right answer to the size of speakers needed. However, in a smaller room, I’d lean towards smaller speakers, and more of them. 8” speakers are great, but mostly unnecessary if your room isn’t that big.
Where Should You Place Your Ceiling Speakers?
As with any other part of your home theater setup, it’s worth appropriately planning the layout of your speakers before cutting holes in your ceiling.
Your placement will also depend on your intended use, as background music requires a different setup to immersive surround sound.
Follow these tips when planning your speaker layout:
- There shouldn’t be any “gaps” in your sound. This will result in very unbalanced sound, meaning it’ll be really loud in some spots, and too quiet in others.
- If you’re using them as part of a surround sound setup, consider following a placement guide, but replacing the back channels with ceiling speakers. They can be most effective when mounted around seating areas.
- However, if you’re going to be using your speakers for various uses, think about what would be the best placement. You might not always want sound blaring out right behind your furniture, particularly if you only want background noise while entertaining.
- Also think about speaker layout in relation to where your furniture is, but also where it might be. You can’t move ceiling speakers in the same way as normal speakers, so it’s worth thinking about placement options that are suitable for now, but will also work in the future.
- If you’re using an existing surround sound system, and your ceiling speakers are simply an addition, then it might be worth just placing them in the middle of the room. This will save you any issues in the future, and will also mean you’ve got appropriate coverage for the whole room.
One of the easiest ways to figure out the right placement for ceiling speakers is to draw up a plan of your home theater room.
There are different ways of doing this, but I found it’s easiest to do a floor plan from a bird’s eye view, similar to what you might see in building blueprints. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be to scale, but this might help if you’re planning on getting technical.
Once you’ve got a rough sketch of your floor plan, add in your TV and furniture, either where it currently is, or following a new layout. This will allow you to decide on the best speaker placement before you start cutting. It’s best to try a few layouts before committing, just to make sure you’re happy with the placement.
Another really easy way to plan this is to just put the speakers on the floor in relation to where they’ll be in the ceiling.
If you feel like temporarily wiring them up, do so, and then play some music or an audio track through them. This will help you to figure out any blind spots, and whether you’ve got enough speakers to cover the room.
Things To Remember When Using Ceiling Speakers
Ceiling speakers really aren’t complicated to install and use, providing you do plenty of research first. Here are some helpful tips to remember when buying and installing ceiling speakers:
- Placement is important. Do everything possible to space them equally, and aim for around 6ft gap between speakers. If this isn’t possible because of the room’s size, then keep them as far away from each other as possible. Also, make sure they’re equally spaced away from any walls or lighting.
- Ceiling speakers are usually passive speakers, meaning they don’t need an external power source. You only need to wire them to your existing amplifier, which makes the job much easier, and means fewer cables to run along your ceiling.
- Ceiling speakers generally come in pairs, and are connected to stereo amps that divide signals into left and right. Plan your room accordingly based on this rule of pairs. However, there are some models available that come as a single stereo speaker, which is useful in some situations, but obviously doesn’t produce the same sound quality.
- Don’t forget to invest in good quality cables for your wiring. There’s no point in buying good quality speakers, only to lose sound quality through cheap wires. Also, remember that you’ll need more wiring than usual because they have to be run through ceiling voids, and then down to the amp.
- If you live in an apartment or shared building, consider investing in fire hoods for your ceiling speakers. Not only do these protect your speakers from fire, they also help to absorb some of the sound pumped out the back of the speakers. Some buildings might even require these to be fitted by law, so look into this too.
- If you’re concerned about there not being enough room in your ceiling void for the speakers, keep an eye out for ultra-slim models. They exist for this exact reason, but will likely cost a bit more than normal models. Generally, the thinnest a ceiling speaker will be is around 1.5”.
How To Install Ceiling Speakers
Ceiling speakers require more installation than probably any other part of your home theater. I only realized this through actually installing them, but you do need to be a bit handy to get the job done.
If you don’t think you’re up to it, then consider hiring a general contractor, as the job involves plenty of cutting. Here are the general steps to installing ceiling speakers.
- Decide where to place your speakers and test the ceiling for supporting beams, wiring, and other such things. A stud detector is really useful here, as you don’t want to find you’ve drilled a hole in the wrong place after you’ve drilled it.
- Drill a small hole and insert a piece of wire to test the area. Wrap the end in electrical tape to avoid any accidents, and run it around the rough diameter of the speaker. Providing there’s nothing in your way, you should be fine to install the speaker.
- Once you’re happy with your planned placement, go ahead and cut some holes. This is best done with an electric saw or jigsaw, as these will get the job done quickest.
- Then it’s just a case of wiring the speakers in. This will probably involve cutting another small hole in the ceiling near where you want the cable to come out, but other than that it’s not different from wiring up any other set of speakers.
These steps are based on your ceiling being made of drywall. If it isn’t, you might want to ask a contractor to take care of the cutting and drilling, as they’ll likely have the experience needed to get it done quickly.
A sound engineer or electrician would likely also take care of the wiring for you.
Check out this installation video below.
I’ve found that adding ceiling speakers to my home theater setup has made a big difference to the sound levels in the room. They also weren’t too hard to install, and have made the room feel much more like a theater than a standard living room.
The most important thing to remember when planning ceiling speakers is to base them on the size and shape of your room. It’s also worth considering what exactly you want from the speakers, as not every home theater setup will benefit from ceiling speakers.
Also consider your neighbors, as sound will generally carry more from a ceiling speaker than a floor speaker. Other than that, don’t forget to have fun improving the quality of your home theater!