Ceiling speakers offer a versatile and aesthetically clean audio solution for both homes and businesses. Because ceiling speakers fit flush against the ceiling panel, they are both physically and visually unobtrusive. This leaves you with more floor space and less chance of accidental damage. Unlike Bluetooth speakers, which can be set up with a simple click of a button, ceiling speakers require a little more work to get set up, and it’s essential to understand the initial costs and installation requirements.
In this article, we’ll help you understand precisely how in-ceiling speakers work, which are the best for you, how many you need, and ultimately leave you feeling confident in your purchase. We’ll begin discussing ceiling speakers broadly before separating the discussion into home and business.
You may also be interested in our list of the best ceiling speakers.
What Are Ceiling Speakers & How Do They Work?
Ceiling speakers are a specific type of speaker that is created with the purpose of being mounted to one’s ceiling. They feature a unique design that differs from traditional home speakers and also appear slightly different from in-wall speakers, which we’ll touch on further below.
A ceiling speaker follows the same core design as most traditional speakers, with a voice coil, cone, magnet, frame, and grille. However, the differences are primarily related to how these core speaker components are put together. In traditional speakers, the enclosure is an important part of the sound experience, and changes in the size and shape of the enclosure directly impact audio performance.
With this type of speaker, there isn’t a traditional enclosure. Instead, the driver fits into a shell (also known as a basket) that is then mounted to your ceiling. The rear of the driver then faces upward into your ceiling space while the cone faces downward into the room.
Ceiling speakers are almost always passive, requiring an amplifier to power them. This is common practice within home audio, but many customers who aren’t audio enthusiasts only discover this additional cost once they’ve already bought their speakers.
The type and power of the amplifier and receiver required will differ between speaker models. When you’re looking for an amplifier and receiver to match your ceiling speakers, you’ll want to pay particular attention to the power rating as well as the impedance of the speakers. Using an amplifier with the incorrect impedance can cause a drop in overall audio performance. Impedance typically ranges between 4 Ohms and 8 Ohms, and amplifiers can sometimes cover a range of impedance (For example, 4 Ohms to 16 Ohms).
Amplifiers & receivers will also determine how many speakers you can run from it and, ultimately, how many amps you’ll need to cover your area. Some amplifiers may only support a couple of speakers, while others can cater to larger arrays of speakers. This is something you can determine by looking at the impedance of the amp, as well as its outputs. We’ll run through the process of
It is also something that you should consider when planning and ensuring you have the correct approach to achieving the correct impedance. This will also allow you to wire more speakers to a single amp.
The wiring that connects your ceiling speakers to your amplifier can also affect how many ceiling speakers you can wire to the amp. Using parallel wiring will allow you to connect four 8 Ohm speakers to a 4-8 Ohm amplifier. This is because two 8 Ohm speakers that are wired in parallel translate to 4 Ohms of total impedance. This principle is carried across to lower impedance speakers too.
Series vs. Parallel Wiring
You will need to calculate how many speakers you can utilize together from an A/V receiver using either series or parallel wiring. Series and parallel wiring both affect the impedance of your installation but in different ways.
When wiring ceiling speakers in a series, the math becomes simple. You need to add together the amount of impedance from each speaker in the series. So if you have four 4 Ohm speakers in a series, your total impedance to use in reference to your amplifier is going to be 16.
If you use series wiring with high-impedance speakers, you may quickly exceed your amplifier’s maximum impedance. For example, 4 8 Ohm speakers connected in series require a 32 Ohm amplifier.
Parallel wiring works differently from wiring in a series. Instead of seeing the overall impedance increase with each speaker connected in parallel, we see the impedance drop as we add additional speakers.
In a parallel configuration, you can work out the required impedance support fairly simply, assuming all speakers in the configuration have the same impedance. To do this, take the number of speakers in the array and divide the speaker impedance by that number.
For example, if you had a config of four 8 Ohm speakers, you’d divide 8 by 4 and be left with a total impedance of 2 Ohms.
In contrast to series wiring, you may notice compatibility issues reaching your receiver’s minimum impedance range. So always check the numbers first.
Combining Series & Parallel Wiring For Larger Installations
To resolve these limitations, we can create a configuration of speakers that incorporates both parallel and series connections. Divide your speakers into two series of connections. For an 8-speaker setup, this will mean setting up two series of 4 speakers. You can then take your two series of speakers and connect them together with a parallel connection.
This helps in the process of achieving a viable impedance for your amplifier/receiver. Let’s assume you have eight ceiling speakers at 8 Ohms. We can help bring down the overall impedance requirements by placing them into two series of four speakers and then connecting those two series with a parallel connection.
The resulting impedance is then 32 Ohms (per series) divided by 2 (due to the use of the parallel connection) for a final impedance of 16 Ohms, supported by many amplifiers on the market.
As you can see, we can use both parallel and series wiring to manage the impedance of our installation effectively.
But what if we want to wire multiple speakers of varying impedance? In that case, you’d typically opt for a parallel connection, depending on the number of speakers in the connection and their impedance. Let’s assume we have 4 speakers of varying impedance that we’d like to wire together. For this example, let’s imagine that three are 8 Ohms and the other one is 4 Ohms.
The math is a bit different for this; below, you can find the formula used and how to adjust it correctly for your speaker setup.
In this case, we’re looking for the total impedance from this configuration, so we use the following math:
Total Impedance = 1 / (1 ÷ 8 + 1 ÷ 8 + 1 ÷ 8 + 1 ÷ 4)
The total impedance for this configuration is 1.6 Ohms.
This topic was discussed very well by Tom Kehr of Avixa. If you’re someone who finds videos easier to learn from or want a better understanding of the math involved, I’d highly recommend giving his video a watch.
As with many other home audio speakers, the type of connectivity you opt for is going to, in most cases, be related to the receiver you use or the use of an additional wireless receiver. While Bluetooth speakers will have their Bluetooth receivers built into the speakers themselves, most in-ceiling speakers do not come with native wireless support.
Receivers, on the other hand, have the capability to bring wireless connectivity to your home or business. Initially, Bluetooth was the most common wireless technology used for ceiling speakers, but in recent years we’ve started to see Wi-Fi becoming more popular, with newer AV receivers coming with built-in Wi-Fi connectivity.
Unsure of whether to go with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi? Some amps offer both forms of connectivity, giving you the most versatile results. Wi-Fi connectivity comes with the benefit of controlling your audio across multiple rooms and creating a full home audio ecosystem.
In-Wall Speakers vs. Ceiling Speakers
In-ceiling and in-wall speakers are common choices to improve home entertainment. But if you’re still unsure which is better to buy, there is no right and wrong answer. Both in-wall speakers and ceiling speakers have their benefits and drawbacks. Consider these differences and pick the one that makes the most sense for your home audio goals.
Ceiling speakers are better suited for multiroom setups and are extremely versatile in nature. While in-wall speakers can be used for basic audio needs, they excel as home theatre speakers, especially when paired with a center-channel speaker.
One of the biggest differences between these two types of speakers is related to their appearance. For some individuals having discrete speakers is a positive, while other audio enthusiasts enjoy seeing their speakers and use their presence as a part of their interior decoration. In-wall speakers can add a touch of class to your room, while ceiling speakers.
There isn’t one that sounds inherently better than the other, but in-wall speakers often have the upper hand regarding low-end performance. In-wall speakers are a great choice if you’re looking for a directional sound experience for home theatre. If you’re looking for more general audio coverage and multiroom setups across a home, ceiling speakers are advantageous.
|Benefits of In-Wall Speakers
|Benefits of In-Ceiling Speakers
|Stereo-Imaging is better
|Wider sound dispersion
|More directional sound
|More discrete than in-wall speakers
|Typically offer better low-end
|Easier installation process
|Fewer speakers required
|Typically more affordable
The Audio Properties of Ceiling Speakers
Because of how they are installed and the area they are required to cover, ceiling speakers have unique features and sound characteristics that differentiate them from traditional speakers. A feature sometimes found in ceiling speakers is the addition of a maneuverable tweeter that you can direct to face a particular direction. Tweeters cover the upper range of frequencies and benefit most from directional control.
Ceiling speakers come in various sizes; most units are either 6” or 8” in diameter. As with other speaker types, you’re typically going to get the best bass response out of a larger driver diameter, and if you’re setting up a home entertainment setup or plan to use the speakers to throw parties, opting for an 8” speaker is recommended.
There are many high-quality 6” options out there, and some still perform better than other 8”, but 6” ceiling speakers are best suited for background music and ambiance due to what is typically a less bass-dominant presence.
Ceiling speakers offer incredible sound dispersion due to the way they are mounted. Because the soundwaves come down from the ceiling, they aren’t as obstructed by objects as traditional room speakers. The coverage is also better than a single or stereo pair of speakers because ceiling speaker installations consist of multiple speakers laid out to cover the room.
Regarding frequency response, ceiling speakers are like any other – there will be winners and losers. Still, some excellent ceiling speakers on the market offer a balanced sound profile without sacrificing a deep bass extension.
Home vs. Business Use
Ceiling speakers are typically installed in both home and office environments, but the characteristics of these speakers between these two environments may vary slightly, particularly in how they sound.
Home ceiling speakers focus on providing a high-quality sound experience with deep bass that can be used in home theatre audio setups or for powering house parties. Ceiling speakers used in work environments are slightly cheaper and do not provide as high of listening quality. That’s because business ceiling speakers are usually used for announcement purposes or for ambient music.
It’s often not a case of these speakers being sold for one purpose or another, but it is something to consider when buying ceiling speakers. Ensure that if you opt for home speakers, they offer good bass extension and high-quality sound. If you’re looking to provide ambient audio to your business, you can save some money and opt for a cheaper solution, though you should still ensure the speakers you buy still have sufficient audio performance.
One of the challenges of any installed speaker is the installation process itself. While traditional home speakers are easy to set up and need some cabling to get started, installing both ceiling and in-wall speakers requires more work and some DIY capabilities if you plan to do it yourself.
To install ceiling speakers, you’ll need to cut holes into your ceiling, which, while relatively simple, can be challenging to some, especially those with limited handiwork experience. You’ll also need to run your wires into your ceiling speakers to your receiver, meaning you’ll also need ceiling access.
For those who feel comfortable with their DIY skills, we have some installation tips that you may find useful.
When installing ceiling speakers, make sure you use the correct gauge of wiring for your installation. Your speaker’s manual will likely come with recommendations for the correct cables.
If you’re uncomfortable installing your speakers, I would highly advise speaking to a trained installation expert who can do the job for you. While this adds extra costs, it comes with what is typically priceless peace of mind.