Putting Bookshelf Speakers In-Wall: A Good Idea?

Speakers are designed for various purposes- not only to work uniquely in their own setup but to complement the other pieces of equipment in an entire sound system. When using bookshelf speakers, you might wonder if you can make the function as in-wall speakers.

Putting bookshelf speakers in-wall may provide you with satisfactory results, but this is unlikely. Due to the design of the speaker, the ports will need space away from the wall and the Speaker/Boundary Interference requires an open-air mounting. If necessary, though, use speakers with front ports.

Putting Bookshelf Speakers In-Wall_ A Good Idea

Attempting to place bookshelf speakers in-wall is not how they are designed to function, so you will be attempting to come up with a do-it-yourself solution that can yield unpredictable results.

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Even if you believe that the bookshelf speakers you own will be of higher quality than in-wall speakers that you can afford, using a speaker for an unintended purpose will provide you with unsatisfactory audio performance. Let’s take a closer look.

Also read: Can I Use Bookshelf Speakers as Front Speakers?

Why Should You Not Put Bookshelf Speakers In-Wall?

Truly, we have all been there- trying to stretch our budgets and use what we already own to make our dreams come to reality. However, unless your dreams are poor quality audio in your home theater, you will want to avoid using speakers in a way that they were not designed to be used.

Home theater speaker systems require physics, and placing bookshelf speakers in the wall disrupts the physical mechanisms that are supposed to help the bookshelf speaker optimize its performance. For this reason, among many others, bookshelf speakers should remain on an open-air mount for best results.

In case you have never had to go through the grueling process of setting up your speakers in your home theater, then you might not know how important speaker placement is for the overall sound quality that the speakers will produce.

Truly, the science behind speaker placement (and how speakers themselves work) is fascinating. But, avoiding learning about how these work or choosing to ignore recommendations can leave you unhappy with the audio experience that you will inevitably experience.

Bookshelf speakers, for example, are designed to sit either on a literal bookshelf or another type of mount. Interestingly, bookshelf speakers actually work best when they are on a mount that allows them to be in the open-air rather than on a bookshelf that could have too close of boundaries (i.e. the back of the shelf being too close to the back of the speaker).

Along these same lines, bookshelf speakers come with different options for how they are ported. The port on a bookshelf speaker is how the air escapes, so it is important that this is left open so as to avoid interference with the physical sequence of events that create high-quality sound.

When using front ported bookshelf speakers, you have a little more leeway considering the speakers can sit on the edge of a shelf and usually have plenty of space.

However, using rear ported bookshelf speakers will require them to be placed on a mount- or at least three times the width of the speaker away from the wall. This is to avoid the reverberation and muffled sound that can come from an unnecessary boundary placed near the speaker.

In this same sense, this is why you should not place bookshelf speakers in the wall- especially not rear ported speakers. Sure, you might get lucky in using front ported bookshelf speakers as long as they are not placed deep within the cavity of the wall, but this is still not optimal. And placing rear ported speakers in a cavity- well, you can forget about high-quality sound streaming from them.

Of course, there will always be people who encourage you to avoid the recommendations and perform trial and error on speaker placement within your home. Or, perhaps it is a nagging family member who wants the aesthetic appeal of in-wall speakers without having to replace the bookshelf speakers you already own.

However, going off of this route will likely leave you underwhelmed as the sound will not be able to carry out as well, and your overall audio experience will suffer as a result. It all goes back to using the speakers as they were designed to be used.

In-wall speakers were designed (and have the physical makeup) to perform at their peak when placed in a constructed cavity in the wall. Bookshelf speakers require open-air to emit their audio signals throughout the room.

How Far Should Bookshelf Speakers be From the Wall?

How Far Should Bookshelf Speakers be From the Wall?

Not only do you not want to palace the bookshelf speakers in the wall as makeshift in-wall speakers for your home theater, but you really want to kick these away from the wall as is reasonably possible for your unique setup.

Specifically, bookshelf speakers should be placed within two to three feet from the wall to optimize their overall performance. An ideal setup for bookshelf speakers is on a mount so that the air sent through the ports can reach open space as immediately as possible.

Along with this, you want to consider how adding a boundary can affect the performance of a speaker. With bookshelf speakers, they are optimized in their performance when they have free air readily available to them. This means that they will not perform their best when placed too close to a wall or another boundary-like surface.

This is why bookshelf speakers perform their best when they are mounted and placed away from the wall roughly 2-3 feet. The boundaries are far enough away from the speaker to allow the audio signals emitted to traverse the air before hitting a wall and changing their course.

You may find that the only place that you can place your bookshelf speakers is on an actual bookshelf- and this can still work great (even if it is not a free-standing mount).

When placing your bookshelf speakers on a bookshelf or another type of shelf or mount, try to give the speaker as much space from the nearest boundary (wall, furniture, the backside of the bookshelf, etc.).

Specifically, be sure that the side of the speaker where the port is located is turned to hit the open-air when setting up your home theater sound system.

Of course, you will need to think about the drivers in the speaker, but you really want the bookshelf speakers to have “room to breathe”. Bookshelf speakers are not the kind of speaker that can be placed in a wall or cavity- they like their space, and they are not shy about asking for it.

How Do You Hide Bookshelf Speakers?

Ok, so if you cannot place your bookshelf speakers in the wall, you might be looking for more creative solutions to hiding the speakers. After all, most people want to pay attention to the screen in a home theater- not the speakers that will allow the audio experience to come full-circle.

Hiding bookshelf speakers can be a bit tricky. While they can be sneakily concealed behind art, books, and other items propped up, they should be given space to breathe so that the air passing through their ports does not become muffled. So, your best bet is to create visual appeal in other areas to avoid the focus being drawn to the bookshelf speakers.

This might sound counterintuitive, but the whole point of being a speaker is to be able to experience high-quality audio. If you are trying to hide your bookshelf speakers away, you are likely not giving them the space (and the setup) they need to give you the audio experience you expect from them. It can be a tricky beast, but it is one that is worth wrestling with.

Bookshelf speakers, especially compared to tower speakers, are more conspicuous in their smaller size, anyway. So, attempting to conceal them from view might mean that you need to get pretty creative.

After all, blocking them off entirely would also harm the ability for the mid-range and high-range frequency audio signals to pass through.

So, to hide bookshelf speakers, you can attempt to create a stronger visual appeal in other locations of the room so that your eye is not immediately drawn to them. Another option is to place art near (but not blocking) the speakers. This can help to perpetuate a more pleasing visual aesthetic in your media room.

You can also choose to go the other route and embrace the bookshelf speakers and their natural visual appeal. Instead of trying to hide them and consequently being forced to look at the strange setup that you have come up with in this attempt, you can instead choose to focus on speaker placement as the top priority and consider the design component later.

In this way, the function of the bookshelf speakers becomes the most prioritized, and the audio experience will be greater because of that.

Finally, if you are really concerned about the speakers in your home theater being less visible, then you might consider investing in high-quality in-wall speakers in the first place.

Paired with a subwoofer, in-wall speakers can achieve more than you might think, so it is worth giving them a shot if you want both your visual and auditory senses pleased.

Also read: Can I Use Bookshelf Speakers for Atmos?