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Ceiling Speakers: Everything to Know Before Install in 2024
Our ceiling speakers experts cover the most important things to consider before purchasing and installing your in-ceiling speakers.
Ceiling speakers - everything you need to know
*Updated for 2024*
Ceiling Speakers & Ceiling speaker systems 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 built-in 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 11 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 that covers everything you need to know about ceiling speakers in 3 easy-to-digest videos. If you're ready to get started with your project, we do offer a free design service so we can ensure your budget goes as far as possible. We've filmed a walkthrough of a real client's floor plans here
- How many ceiling speakers do I need in a room?
- Where should I position the ceiling speakers and how far apart?
- Do ceiling speakers need mains power?
- Do I need mono or single stereo ceiling speakers?
- Which speaker cable do I need?
- Do ceiling speakers need fire hoods?
- Guidance for installing ceiling speakers in high-humidity rooms
- Can ceiling speakers be painted?
- How slim should the ceiling speakers be?
- How do I set up my ceiling speakers in a 7.1 or 5.1 surround sound system?
- Can I voice control ceiling speakers?
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 rather than 2 larger speakers.
If you are going to be powering your 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 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 to create your multi room system.
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 speaker with an angleable tweeter to direct the sound to the room's most habitable areas. We have plenty of options with angleable tweeters, and these can be adjusted to perfectly match your room acoustics.
For more information, please contact our team of specialists who can study your floor plan and see what would be best, where.
No, 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 a multi room amp such as the Sonos Amp or Bluesound Powernode for the best user experience. These amps allow 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 their easy-to-use apps. These amps also allow you to use multiple connectivity methods such as Spotify Connect and Airplay 2.
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 mounted speakers which simply require mains power from a nearby light fitting for example and are controlled via Bluetooth. No amplifiers and no cables. Check out Lithe Audio ceiling speakers.
Traditionally, house speaker systems have been designed to work with amplifiers that process left and right channels only, so you would need to purchase a pair of ceiling speakers to set up as a stereo pair.
This is still the case for most amplifiers available today. However, in some cases, it’s just not practical to install a pair of 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 designed 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.
|Stereo Speaker designed to be used as part of a pair
|? Note that the single-stereo option has two tweeters, this allows it to process both the left and right side of the soundstage.
Most two channel amps running at 8 Ohms, such as the Sonos Amp, are capable of powering either 4 mono ceiling speakers or 2 single-stereo ceiling speakers. This limit is increased to 3 speaker pairs when using Sonos' In-Ceiling Speakers.
|? Top Tip: To wire a single-stereo speaker, you should wire 2 cables to it and not 1. Only wire one if you're using a 4-core speaker cable (please see below). We commonly see the mistake of installers installing a single cable for a single speaker, and this is unfortunately not correct.
Check out the diagram below to see how your speakers should be wired:
For the majority of installs, we recommend 16 gauge 2 core speaker cable, being the industry standard. We can supply this cable in reels of 25 or 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 be degraded if it travels too far affecting the sound quality. In this case, we would suggest upgrading to 14 gauge cable. Cable should be installed in a parallel configuration.
What is 4 core speaker cable?
Four cores of speaker cable are bundled in one outer sheath. This type of cable is particularly useful for single stereo installations as only one cable run is required instead of two.
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.
Most of the speakers we supply are steam and humidity resistant which means, as long as they do not get wet, they are excellent in a bathroom and kitchen environment. When buying Ceiling Speakers, it’s always best to check with your supplier or electrician on points like this 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 5 In-Ceiling Speakers for your Bathroom. >>.
Yes, the grille on your speaker can be removed and spray-painted with good quality paint in most instances. It’s important to spray thin layers of the paint so that you don’t clog the perforated holes in the speaker grille.
The very least amount of mounting depth you’ll need is 36mm, though the average ceiling speaker is 100mm.
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. Please use our filter on our Ceiling Speaker Homepage to find the most suitable speaker for you.
If you’re looking to set up a home theater system and want to incorporate in-ceiling speakers, you’ll just need to think about positioning and the amplifier you’re using to power the speakers.
For 5.1 speaker placement, you’ll need a pair of speakers to offer rear surround channels. This would be two left and right speakers behind or just above your listening position. From here you’ll just need a left and right front speaker either side of your TV and another center channel speaker directly between the two (ideally where the screen is positioned to project dialogue more accurately) to finish the 5.1 system. For a 7.1 system, add two additional surround speakers directly between the front and rear surrounds, to form a left and right pair of mid-surrounds.
|? Top Tip: It’s important to use an amplifier that can process either 5.1 or 7.1 sound channels in this type of system.
Where should I position my subwoofer?
In terms of subwoofer placement, low-frequency sounds are non-directional meaning you can position your subwoofer anywhere. It makes sense in a lot of installations to have the subwoofer placed directly in front of your seating position, but don’t stress too much and position the subwoofer to best suit your room.
If using the Sonos Amp, we highly recommend pairing it wirelessly with the Sonos Sub.
Yes, this is now possible with the help of an Amazon Echo or Google Home device. Simply plug in your device in your chosen room and help Alexa or Google Assistant to discover your amplifier in the Amp's operating app and follow the on-screen set-up to get started.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and our specialists will be happy to help.
By Jonathan, Sonos Specialist
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