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10 Things You Need to Know About Ceiling Speakers Before You Install
Written by installers, for installers! We cover the most important things to consider before purchasing and installing your ceiling speakers.
Ceiling speakers - everything you need to know
Ceiling speakers are designed to be a permanent audio solution that will provide you with excellent, aesthetically-pleasing sound for many years to come.
That’s why it’s critical you’ve chosen the right quality of speaker as well as thought about how they will be installed.
Have you read our guide about how much ceiling speaker projects cost yet? This will give you an idea of whether they're even right for you.
To install ceiling speakers, you must be able to gain access behind the walls/ceilings to wire the speaker cable, and once everything is installed, we do not want there to be any unwanted surprises!
We have picked 10 things that every installer/customer should be aware of before they install the speaker into the ceiling.
We've also made a beginner's guide to ceiling speakers in the form of a YouTube video series which covers everything you need to know about ceiling speakers in 3 easy-to-digest videos.
1. How many ceiling speakers do I need in a room?
For the most part, ceiling speakers are sold in pairs, with a view to setting them up as a left and right stereo pair. One of the most important things about audio is the consistency of sound.
For larger spaces, we feel to balance audio levels better, it is sensible to add 4 smaller speakers than 2 larger speakers.
If you are going to be powering your ceiling speakers with Sonos, you'll need to use the Sonos Amp. Each Sonos Amp can power up to 4 mono ceiling speakers (8 ohms impedance) or 6 Sonos in-ceiling speakers so many people choose to install 4 or 6 ceiling speakers in a square configuration whenever there is plenty of space to do this.
However, note that all ceiling speakers connected to the same Sonos Amp will play the same music at the same volume. If you're looking for independent control between rooms, you will need a Sonos Amp per room, so bear this in mind when considering the number of Sonos Amps you need.
2. Where should I position the ceiling speakers and how far apart?
It is best to position the ceiling speakers at equal distance apart from each wall, along the length of the room and at least 2 metres away from each other for the best stereo separation effect.
If the speakers will be less than 2 metres away from each other, you may wish to consider a single stereo ceiling speaker, positioned in the middle of the room's ceiling.
We understand some customers may have awkwardly shaped room layouts, which can make it hard to know where the best place to position them would be.
In this scenario, it may be worth choosing a ceiling speaker with an angleable tweeter to direct the sound to the rooms most habitable areas.
For more information, please contact our team of specialists who can study your floor plan and see what would be best, where.
3. Do ceiling speakers need mains power?
No, ceiling speakers are usually passive speakers which mean they do not have built-in amplifiers, and instead receive their power via speaker cable that is run from an external amplifier. This is achieved by wiring each ceiling speaker up to the binding posts on the Amp.
We recommend using the Sonos Amp for the best user experience. Sonos allows the user to assign each Amp their respective room name and audio can be grouped or played individually wirelessly to any or all rooms using the easy-to-use Sonos app.
The Sonos Amp itself then requires a mains power connection and a consistent WiFi connection.
If you do not have the facility to run speaker cable behind the ceiling, you can get ceiling speakers which simply require mains power and are controlled via bluetooth. No amplifiers and no cables. Check out Lithe Audio ceiling speakers.
4. Do I need mono or single stereo ceiling speakers?
Traditionally, ceiling speakers have been designed to work with amplifiers that understand a left or right channel only, so you would always buy a pair of ceiling speakers, to set up as a stereo pair.
This is still the case as this is how they will be wired to the Sonos Amp. However, in some cases, it’s just not practical to install a pair of ceiling speakers for lack of ceiling space.
This is particularly common in bathrooms or other smaller sized rooms. To overcome this, the single stereo speaker was born to offer a left and right channel out of a single speaker, preserving space and opening up the options to have music in more rooms.
A single Sonos Amp is capable of powering either 4 mono ceiling speakers or 2 single ceiling stereo speakers (or 3 pairs if using Sonos' own in-ceiling)
To wire a single stereo speaker, you should wire 2 cables to it, not 1, unless you are using 4 core speaker cable (more details below).
We commonly see the mistake of installers installing a single cable for a single speaker, and this is unfortunately not correct.
A diagram can be seen below for how to wire your ceiling speakers.
5. Which speaker cable should I use with my ceiling speakers?
For the majority of installs, we recommend 16 gauge 2 core speaker cable, being the industry standard and sufficient for most installs. We can supply this cable in reels of 50 metres with free next day delivery if you need it quickly.
The only time you may need to run better quality cable is if any single cable run is longer than approximately 35 metres.
The audio signal can degenerate if it travels too far affecting the sound quality. In this case, we would suggest upgrading to 14 gauge. Cable should be installed in a parallel configuration.
What is 4 core speaker cable?
4 core speaker cable is four cores of speaker cable bundled in one outer sheath. This type of cable is particularly useful for single stereo installs as only one cable run is required instead of two.
6. Do ceiling speakers need fire hoods?
A fire hood engulfs the back of the speaker to prevent the spread of fire within the ceiling void.
This is a legal requirement for any ceiling speakers that are being installed where there is a habitable room above to preserve the integrity of your ceilings in the event of a fire.
Another benefit of a speaker hood is that they provide a form of back box to enhance sound and prevent a certain amount of sound leakage. That means you can keep your upstairs neighbours happier for longer if you turn the volume up!
Please check with your builder/installer whether a fire hood is required for your ceiling speakers in your particular building. “Low smoke / zero halogen” speaker cable may also be necessary.
7. Can ceiling speakers be installed in high-humidity environments such as a kitchen or bathroom?
Most of the ceiling speakers we supply are steam and humidity resistant which means, as long as they do not get wet, are excellent in a bathroom and kitchen environment. Please check with your electrician if you are unsure.
Or, if you want to have the peace of mind of having a fully waterproof ceiling speaker that can be installed inside a shower enclosure or above the bath tub, the Monitor Audio AWC265-T2 is perfect in this environment.
Have a look at our top picks for ceiling speakers in the bathroom.
8. Can ceiling speakers be painted to match my room?
All of the ceiling speakers on our website have white spray-paintable grilles, allowing you to match the speaker to your environment.
9. How slim should the ceiling speakers be?
If the amount of depth you have in the ceiling void (behind the plasterboard) is very low, there are options available for slim and ultra-slim ceiling speakers.
The very least amount of mounting depth you’ll need is 36mm otherwise ceiling speakers won't be feasible in your property. Please use our filter on our website to find the most suitable speaker for you.
10. Can I voice control my ceiling speakers?
Yes, this is now possible with the help of an Amazon Echo or Google Home device. Simply plug in your device to your desired room you’d like the ability to voice to control your system, help Alexa or Google Assistant to discover your Sonos devices in the Sonos app and follow the on-screen set up to get started.
Then try saying “Alexa, play my favourite Spotify playlist”.
View our How to Get the Most out of Alexa on Sonos>> blog
If you're in the middle of a ceiling speaker project or considering one in the future, we'd love to help!
We offer a completely free floor plan mark-up service so we can suggest the best positions for ceiling speakers, let you know how many would be required, recommended models and an indication of cost.
Simply phone us on 0800 677 1100, chat with us using the widget at the bottom of the screen, or send your floor plan to email@example.com and our specialists will be happy to help.
By Jonathan, Sonos Specialist
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ABOUT SMART HOME SOUNDS
Smart Home Sounds is a UK Sonos specialist dedicated to filling homes with the joy of music, one room at a time!
We provide expert advice on the full Sonos range, from the voice-controlled Sonos One to a Sonos wireless home cinema system with PLAYBAR, SUB, and 2 x PLAY:1s all with free next day delivery and a 6 year extended warranty.