Ceiling Speakers - Audiostance

The 8 Best Ceiling Speakers

Ceiling speakers provide a discreet solution to home audio, blending seamlessly into your room. They can also be installed in multiple rooms for a comprehensive home audio solution. What makes ceiling speakers so alluring is their affordability, ease of installation, and customizable coverage. Whether you want to enhance your multimedia home theatre experience or provide ambient music in your commercial property, ceiling speakers are a great choice.

We’ve been updating this article for over 5 years, allowing us in-depth insight into which ceiling speakers are reliable buys and which fall short on their promises.

Polk Audio RC80i In-Ceiling-In-Wall Speakers

Polk Audio RC80i

The Polk Audio RC80i’s 8″ driver and swivel tweeter provide a wide sound profile with bright treble and deep, immersive low-end.

Our Top Picks

Klipsch CDT-5650-C II In-Ceiling Speaker
Best For Home Theatre
Klipsch CDT-5650-C II

The Klipsch CDT-5650-C II is an excellent choice for home theatre use with its broad sound dispersion and defined vocal range. It’s an efficient speaker that can get loud without losing clarity.

sonos in ceiling speakers
Best For Music
Sonos In-Ceiling speakers

The Sonos In-Ceiling speakers are well-suited to music enthusiasts due to their crystal-clear sound, balanced frequency response, and immersive audio.

Polk Audio RC80i In-Ceiling-In-Wall Speakers
Best For Moist Rooms
Polk Audio RC80i

The Polk Audio RC80i combines moisture resistance with high-quality sound and easy installation. It’s an excellent choice for kitchens, bathrooms, and saunas.

The Benefits of Ceiling Speakers

Unlike traditional speakers, which move sound waves horizontally across the room, ceiling speakers move sound downward, creating a new sense of immersion as the sound fills the room more comprehensively. When paired with left and right-channel speakers, whether freestanding or installed, this additional dimension allows for movies to truly come to life.

Ceiling speakers can be used alone too though, and provide an extremely effective solution for widespread audio across both homes and businesses. You’d be surprised just how common ceiling speakers are. The next time you’re in a retail store, look up and you’ll likely see these discreet speakers spaced out across the ceiling board. That’s because ceiling speakers are ideal for adding ambiance to a room. Because there’s not one single source of sound, it covers the room better than traditional speakers.

Let’s not skip over the discreet nature of ceiling speakers either, which allows your room to retain the character you envisioned when designing it. Removing the speaker grilles can also add flare to your room if discretion is something you’d prefer to avoid.

The 8 Best Ceiling Speakers

Whether you want to tie together your home theatre setup or provide background music in your retail store, the correct ceiling speaker can help you achieve your goals. These aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution, but keep reading to find out which is best suited to your situation.

1. Polk Audio RC80i

Polk Audio RC80i In-Ceiling-In-Wall Speakers

The Polk Audio RC80i is a top-rated ceiling speaker that’s beloved for its combination of affordability and performance. Designed and engineered in the United States, these speakers feature an 8″ woofer and 1″ tweeter with a baffle-tuned design, producing a detailed, clear, natural sound.

With the grille on, the speaker is discreet and seamlessly blends into the room, and when removed, the RC80i showcases a lively blue cone that can add character to rooms with dark ceilings. Additionally, the grille can easily be painted to match your ceiling.

Where the RC80i stands out from other ceiling speakers is its robust moisture resistance, making it ideal for installation in kitchens, bathrooms, and saunas. They are suited more towards traditional use, and while suitable for every room in the house, if you’re looking for a dedicated home theatre option, the Klipsch CDT-5650-C II is better suited.

Pros

  • Neutral timbre
  • Wide soundstage
  • Precise imaging
  • Moisture resistant

Cons

  • Limited low-end bass

2. Bose Virtually Invisible 791 Series II

Bose Virtually Invisible 791 Series II in-Ceiling Speaker

If subtlety is essential to you, the Virtually Invisible 791 II by Bose lives up to its name. They feature a flush mount that stands just a few millimeters from the ceiling board. The grille features a magnet design so that it can be easily removed at any time, meaning you’ll never have to worry about removing the speakers if you decide to repaint your ceiling. Simply dismount the grille, paint it to match and simply snap it right back on – easy as that.

The tweeters are angled at 45 degrees to provide more precise sound in the direction of the listener, and the 7″ woofer finds a pleasant balance between the smaller, traditional 6″ and the larger but less discreet 8″ drivers. They produce a balanced sound signature with vibrant midrange and treble, great for enhancing vocal clarity. Because of the balanced approach, it is useful to consider adding a subwoofer for home theatre applications where depth is vital.

In addition to their balanced sound, they also provide an immersive soundstage and precise imaging that caters to music and home theatre purposes.

Pros

  • Dual tweeter design for improved imaging
  • Good for both music and movies
  • Discreet profile

Cons

  • Fairly expensive
  • Drop off towards the end of the high frequencies

3. Sonos In-Ceiling Speakers

sonos in ceiling speakers

The Sonos in-ceiling speakers offer premium quality at a premium price point. As with other Sonos products, they are best used with other speakers from the Sonos range. In this case, they form part of the Sonos architectural series alongside their architectural in-wall and patio speakers. Paired with the Sonos amp, they create a comprehensive solution for home audio.

Enjoy improved tonal qualities thanks to the Trueplay functionality when paired with the Sonos amp, which adjusts the tonal qualities of the speaker to suit the installation area. These ceiling speakers do the hard work for you, letting you lay back and enjoy the results without excessive tinkering. The result is an immersive sound with a broad soundstage that creates an immersive sound suitable for both music and movies. Additionally, their balanced sound ensures accurate audio reproduction.

Overall, the Sonos in-ceiling speakers are a great all-around option for those seeking premium quality and who aren’t limited on a tight budget.

Pros

  • Balanced timbre
  • Can reach high SPL (Sound pressure levels)
  • Wide soundstage
  • Precise imaging

Cons

  • Non-paintable speaker grille
  • No cabling included

4. Klipsch CDT-5650-C II

Klipsch CDT-5650-C II In-Ceiling Speaker

Klipsch offers a variety of in-ceiling speakers, with the CDT-5650-C II being one of their most popular models. It is an extremely efficient speaker that produces high-quality sound while still being affordable. It has a 6.5” speaker driver with a 1” titanium tweeter and a swiveling 100-degree Tractrix® Horn. The woofer can shift 15 degrees to adjust the sound dispersion, a unique feature that most in-ceiling speakers lack.

Treble and midbass attenuation switches let you fine-tune the sound depending on the room or installation. A 0db or a -3db attenuation is available for both treble and mid-bass. With the switches located on the front of the speaker, you can easily make adjustments even when the speaker is installed.

They produce high-quality sound with vibrant bass and crystal clear highs, though home theatre setups still benefit from a dedicated subwoofer, particularly for the deep lows. The dynamics allow for subtleties to carry through to the listener, while precise imaging makes them extremely well suited for home theatre use.

Pros

  • Defined bass
  • Adjustable woofer for increased dispersion
  • Can reach high SPL (Sound pressure levels)

Cons

  • A bit on the expensive side
  • Low-end could extend deeper

5. Pyle PDICBT286 8”

Pyle 8” Flush Mount In-Wall-In-Ceiling Speaker Kit

The Pyle PDICBT286 is an affordable in-ceiling speaker that caters to those with limited budgets and those who don’t need the highest quality sound. They are best suited for background music and work well for small commercial establishments where refined audio quality is less important.

Despite having limited imaging and soundstage, the PDICBT286 isn’t without merit as they are an excellent option for low-requirement environments, and it excels as a budget ceiling speaker option. They feature an 8″ woofer and 1″ tweeter and provide a mostly balanced sound, though they lack the details and depth required for home theatre purposes.

The Pyle PDICBT286 truly stands out from the competition because of its built-in Bluetooth connectivity, meaning you won’t have to stress about additional receiver costs when installing them. Enjoy wireless audio in any room of your home without breaking the bank.

The grilles can be painted to match your ceiling, and the speakers sit flush against the ceiling, a discreet installation suitable for nearly any room in the house. However, they do not have moisture protection, so avoid installation in humid rooms like kitchens and bathrooms.

Pros

  • Durable
  • Affordable
  • Bluetooth amplifier included

Cons

  • The bass could be deeper
  • Limited soundstage and imaging

6. Definitive Technology Di 8R

Definitive Technology Di 8R In-Ceiling Speaker

Definitive Technology’s Di 8R ceiling speakers form part of their Disappearing™ speaker series and are specifically designed for a discreet installation. They have an 8″ woofer that produces a punchy bass, while the pivoting tweeter provides defined upper frequencies that can be angled toward the listener using the pivot feature.

An Environmental EQ switch compensates for room reflections. Setting this switch to “- (minus)” will compensate for these reflections. If your room is “dead” (in other words, there are loads of soft surfaces absorbing a lot of sounds), then setting the Environmental EQ to “+ (plus)” offers a treble boost to brighten up your speakers.

The Di 8R can be painted. However, Definitive Technology provides strict instructions when painting the grilles, so check out the user manual before attempting to paint.

Whether you’re after a ceiling speaker for home theatre purposes or simply want to create a room-covering music solution, the Definitive Technology Di 8R is an excellent option.

Pros

  • Wide, immersive soundstage
  • Detailed imaging
  • Environmental EQ switch
  • Low depth requirements
  • Flush mounting

Cons

  • Quite pricy
  • Somewhat large cutout size


8. Micca M-8C 8”

Micca M-8C 8” In-Ceiling Speaker

The Micca M-8C is part of the M Series from Micca, which features both in-ceiling and in-wall speakers for those wishing to install a full home theater system. Micca M-8C is one of the more affordable products on this list, but it is important to note these speakers are sold as singles.

The M-8C features an 8” woofer with a 1” tweeter. The tweeter can be angled towards the listener by using the pivot feature. The bass extension from the woofer is average, which can be expected from a budget option.

Similarly, the soundstage and imaging have a modest performance, with the soundstage being fairly narrow and the imaging lacking the precision found in more expensive ceiling speakers. They retain decent detail and clarity that surpasses the quality found in similarly priced competitors. They have a frequency response range between 40Hz and 20kHz.

Micca provides a template so you can stencil the correct size before cutting. Once in position, tightening the screws will swivel the tabs to fasten the M-8C securely into position. The speaker grilles are paintable so that you can match your ceiling color or decor.

The Micca M-8C 8” has a power handling of between 20-100W at 8 Ohms, with a sensitivity of 90dB. The overall volume capabilities of the M-8C are suitable for both small and moderate-sized rooms. By including more speakers, you can also cover larger room sizes.

The Micca M-8C is best suited as a simple stereo left/right system or a full home theatre surround sound system. Part of the M Series range includes box-shaped and circular designs depending on where you wish to position the speaker.

Pros

  • Good value for money
  • Decent volume capabilities
  • Sound quality is sufficient for its price

Cons

  • Installation is not as easy as some other models

8. Yamaha NS-IW280CWH

Yamaha NS-IW280CWH 6.5 In-Ceiling Speaker System

The Yamaha NS-IW280CWH 6.5” is versatile and can be used for most applications. The sound quality is particularly well suited for home theatre use and music listening.

The NS-IW280CWH features a 6.5” driver with two ¾” tweeters. Both the woofers and tweeters can be pivoted to direct the sound exactly where you want it. Only two speakers we feature in this article can pivot both the main driver and tweeter.

It has a very good soundstage performance with a lot of width and detail. With a frequency response spanning from 65 Hz to 28 kHz, it captures most of the spectrum of musical tones, though it lacks some low-end bass and will benefit from including a subwoofer when used for home theatre. The 180-degree dispersion angle ensures an even sound distribution. It has a natural timbre and reliably reproduces instruments and vocals, offering clear and detailed treble, rich midrange, and powerful bass.

The Yamaha NS-IW280CWH 6.5” has a template to stencil your hole before cutting. Once the speaker is positioned, you can angle your speaker driver and tweeters to the desired location—the grille clips into place.

The grille on the NS-IW280CWH is paintable in case you need to match paint or decor.

These speakers have a power rating of 20-100W at 8 Ohms, with a sensitivity of 85dB. Their SPL is similar to that of the Bose Virtually Invisible 791 Series II, which has a similar design. Use a speaker cable no less than 18 gauge or 12 gauge for installs longer than 30ft.

The Yamaha NS-IW280 is well-suited to both home theatre and music purposes. It has both good soundstage and imaging. The ability to pivot both the woofer and the tweeter is a feature that few other ceiling speakers offer.

Pros

  • Loads of volume
  • Great mids & highs
  • Affordable
  • Easy to install

Cons

  • The bass could be improved

What To Know When Buying Ceiling Speakers

The best way to make an educated purchase is to understand what makes a ceiling speaker good quality. Comparing the technical specs can provide useful insight into how these speakers compare online.

If you’re installing ceiling speakers for offices or businesses, you can buy more affordable options suited for background music and public announcements. Soundstage, imaging, and detail are less important for commercial use, though clarity and sufficient volume remain essential in all ceiling speakers.

Sound Quality

Sound quality is the most crucial consideration when buying ceiling speakers. Consider speakers with an expansive sound capable of producing sufficient bass with clear and detailed highs. Balanced sound profiles are most sought after, as they provide the most accurate representation of the production. However, there are no right or wrong tuning options; many still prefer bass-heavy speakers.

Avoid speakers that tend to distort at volume (a result of low dynamic range) or those tuned in a way where a particular frequency range noticeably overpowers the rest of the frequencies. The imaging, soundstage, and presentation of dialog are additional considerations.

Timbre

Timbre is a term used to describe the tonal qualities of speakers. With in-ceiling speakers, timbre is essential to consider, as this speaker style often integrates with other speakers in your home. When pairing different speakers together, choosing speakers where tones complement each other is beneficial. Speakers with the same timbre create a more immersive and seamless experience, especially in dialog panning, where mismatched timbre becomes easily noticeable. If your existing home speakers have a bright, warm sound, buy an in-ceiling speaker with those qualities.

You can often find detailed technical input from audio enthusiasts across the internet where they discuss timbre matching and how well specific speaker series are timber matched. Still, there are debates around timbre matching and its importance. Ultimately, you should consider how they will integrate with your existing speaker setups. Certain speaker types are more prone to noticeable timbre mismatching.

Driver Size

A speaker driver is a primary factor in deciding how a speaker sounds. The term refers to the part of the speaker that moves air, projecting sound. Ceiling speaker drivers range between 4″ and 10″, with 6″ and 8″ being the most commonly found sizes.

Because larger drivers can move more air, they tend to have the ability to offer lower frequency coverage and offer more volume. Larger drivers are associated with better bass and more volume and can often provide wider frequency response.

Consider that larger drivers take up more space and are also usually heavier. They can also be more challenging to drive, requiring a higher output amplifier. Ceiling speakers with smaller drivers have the advantage of being more versatile and easier to install.

Speaker Sensitivity

Speaker sensitivity refers to the efficiency of a speaker in turning power into volume. Sensitivity is typically represented as a dB reading, indicating the amount of volume the speaker has at a 1-meter measuring distance, with 1W of power.

Speaker sensitivity indicates the speaker’s volume potential, and you can use power handling and sensitivity to calculate the volume the speaker can produce. A good sensitivity ranges between 87 and 90 dB, with >90 dB considered highly efficient speakers with better volume capabilities.

You should consider ceiling speaker sensitivity with your existing amplifier. If you have a low-powered amplifier, you should opt for higher-sensitivity speakers, as they may struggle to reach sufficient volume.

Impedance

Impedance refers to the resistance of electrical energy between the speaker and the amplifier. You must accurately match your impedance with your amplifier, which can be influenced by how you wire your speakers. Impedance changes depending on how many speakers you wire together and which wiring method you use. No impedance value is inherently better than the next. You can read more about impedance matching below or in greater detail in our in-ceiling speaker guide.

Frequency Response Range

Frequency response range refers to the frequencies that the speaker can produce. This is represented in Hertz (Hz) or Kilohertz (kHz). The lower the starting number, the more low-end extension and bass the speaker can produce, and speakers with a higher starting number may still sound punchy but will lack the depth from lower frequencies. The second number represents how far into the upper frequencies the speaker can extend, and this relates to the range of treble frequencies the speaker can produce.

The average human can hear frequencies between 20Hz and 20kHz, so why opt for a ceiling speaker that extends deeper? Subsonic frequencies may not be audible, but the soundwaves can still affect your listening experience, with the ability to create more immersion.

The frequency response range is measured on an X-axis and is linear. In contrast, frequency response charts plot the level of these different frequencies and portray the speaker’s performance, while frequency response range tells you what the speaker can produce.

Frequently Asked Questions

Specific questions frequently pop up around the discussion of in-ceiling speakers and their purchase. These answers aim to provide you with a better understanding of these common questions.

Can I install ceiling speakers myself?

Ceiling speakers can be installed by those with some basic DIY experience, but should only be done if you’re comfortable with the process. Otherwise, it is better to opt for a professional installer.

How do I install ceiling speakers?

To install ceiling speakers yourself you will need to cut out the correct sized holes (always reference the manual to know the correct cut out size, taking into account that the diameter of the speaker is different to the cutout diameter). You will then need to run wires between your amplifier and the ceiling speakers. Ensure your speakers are wired in the correct format for your amplifier’s impedance. This becomes vital when installing a larger array of speakers.

Are ceiling speakers better than in-wall speakers?

Neither in-wall nor ceiling speakers are inherently better than the other, but each provide their own benefits and drawbacks and serve specific purposes. In-ceiling speakers are omnidirectional, meaning they have broad coverage that immerses the listener. In contrast, in-wall speakers have precise directionality and are well-suited for home theatre. In-wall speakers have a left and right channel approach whereas ceiling speakers aren’t split by channel.

What amplifier do I need to use for my ceiling speakers?

The amp you require will depend on the impedance and power handling of your speakers. There are plenty of options to choose from, so just ensure that they are compatible with the setup you’re creating.

How do I wire ceiling speakers to an amplifier?

To wire ceiling speakers to an amplifier, connect the speaker wire from the amplifier’s speaker outputs to the terminals on the ceiling speakers, making note of the polarity (+/-). Use stranded wire, strip insulation from the ends, and securely insert into speaker terminals, ensuring a tight connection. Repeat for each speaker.

Audiostance Author - Matt Hallowes
Written by
Matt Hallowes

Matt is a sound engineer and confessed vinyl junkie! His work as a sound engineer includes live production and venue installations, giving him deep insight into the audio industry, with personal experience with dozens of products. While traveling the world, Matt shares his knowledge and expertise with us!

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