Selecting and Installing Speakers in Walls and Ceilings

We decided that we need new speakers for both the living room and the large family room and that they while they should sound good, they should not make the same visual statement as the massive Boston Acoustics had.

I remember buying our first set of speakers many years ago. The rule of thumb was simple – whatever your budget for audio equipment, invest at least half of it in speakers because regardless of the price of the electronics, it’s the quality of the speakers that make the real difference.

Good Speakers that don't make a visual statement
Polk Audio TC60i Total Control Round speakersIt seemed as if we had had that set of old speakers forever. They were great when we bought them and they had served us well. Boston Acoustics with a great woofer, a midrange, and a tweeter, the walnut enclosed pair had stood in the corners of our living room in a number of different houses.

When the woofers finally gave up after 15 years of service a single call to Boston Acoustics and two replacements arrived days later. They were easy to install and within an hour the speakers were back in service.

During our major renovation, which added a large family room in addition to remodeling of the living room, we decided that these venerable speakers just would no longer meet our needs. We decided that we need new speakers for both the living room and the large family room and that they while they should sound good, they should not make the same visual statement as the massive Boston Acoustics had.

Living Room Speakers
The living room was the easier of the two spaces. At 16’ x 20’ it seemed that a single set of wall speakers would do the job. Additionally, we wanted the speakers to “disappear” from view as much as possible. After shopping around, we decided that for both price and performance a pair of Polk Audio’s RC 85i in-wall speakers would do the job. The speakers came with excellent instructions – including paint masks and how to paint the speaker grills to blend with the wall color. Within days of their arrival (we purchased them off the Internet from a highly reputable source), with the paint dry, the speakers were installed and both their look and sound was impressive.

Family Room Speakers
Polk Audio RC85i In-Wall Speakers The large family room, at 16’ x 30’ and a cathedral ceiling was a different problem. Not only did the room speakers have to provide for music, but also had to serve as front and rear speakers for the flat screen/home entertainment center. Given our experience with the RC 85i speakers in the living room, we again opted for them in the family room for the front channels. However, due to window placement and other considerations, in-wall speakers just would not do for the rear channels.

After a little more research we decided on the Polk Audio TC 60i In-ceiling speakers. Just as with the wall speakers these ceiling speakers came with paint masks and straight forward instructions and their installation was no more difficult. Mounted in the ceiling with their grills painted to match the ceiling paint, they sounded as good if not better than the wall speakers.

Conclusions
Looking back on this experience, there were a few things that made the project go smoothly.

Wall speakers are inconspicuous in family room

  • Carefully study and plan where the speakers would need to be installed. Remember that these smaller speakers actually use the wall or ceiling cavity as part of their resonating space and that a good installation will result in a good sound,
  • Don’t be afraid to use good quality speaker wire to pre-wire everything before drywall was installed. It may cost a bit more, but if you get it on the larger reels, it’s quite economical and will ensure a good sound, and
  • Finally, take your time with painting the speaker grills. It’s not hard if you follow the instructions, but it is a step that can really have dire consequences if not done right. Allow a couple of days for the spraying and respraying – thin coats are good, thick coats that clog the grill’s holes are bad.
I rate this project as medium easy – and the results are well worth the effort.