Installing In-Ceiling Speakers

Tips for Installing Ceiling Speakers

Manufacturers make it relatively easy when installing ceiling speakers these days. However, there are some tips and tricks when taking on this DIY project. We’ve put together this series of ceiling speaker installation tips to make your DIY process easier.

Tip 1 – Buy The Best Ceiling Speakers For Your Needs

Before we run through how to install a pair of ceiling speakers, let’s quickly touch on what is arguably the most important part of the process, picking ceiling speakers that are the best for your needs. Ceiling speakers aren’t all created equally, and ensuring you have the right type for your home is your first step. We have compiled a list of our recommended ceiling speakers to make this process easier for you.

Tip 2 – Measure Correctly Before Cutting

One of the most important steps to consider is correctly measuring your ceiling speaker placement and hole size before cutting. Almost all ceiling speakers have a template to get the right hole diameter. It is extremely important you measure this out before you cut to ensure the speaker fits correctly.

Consider stenciling both speakers (or all speakers if you have multiple speakers) using the template provided (you can also find downloadable templates for many speaker models online), and then sit or stand in your desired listing area. If you have someone to help you, get them to hold the speaker in place and see what the speaker might look like. If your ceiling speaker has a pivot on the driver or tweeter, you can check the angles simultaneously.

Tip 3 – Check Your Hole Before Cutting

One of the biggest mistakes people often make when installing ceiling speakers is to measure the holes, get the right positions, and then cut. Many forget to check if there are any obstructions before cutting, only to discover you aren’t able to install the speaker in the position due to piping, conduits, or other obstacles.

The best way to avoid this is to drill a pilot hole in the center of your speaker position. Take a piece of rigid wire (a coat hanger usually works best) and bend it into shape. The bend should be just longer than the radius of your speaker hole so you can check all the way past the edges.

Move the wire around in all directions. If you hit any obstacles, it’s better to choose another position. Try to work out what you hit. If it’s just some insulation, this can be moved. If you don’t hit anything, you’re good to go ahead and cut. Check BOTH holes before cutting. You don’t want to cut one only to find you have to move the other slightly backward or forwards.

Tip 4 – Speaker Placement

When installing ceiling speakers, the distance between speakers can have a big impact. This goes for stereo, surround, and multiple speaker distribution installations. If you are installing the system for a TV, ensure each speaker is an equal distance from the source as its matching speaker.

Stereo Installations

For stereo installations, you must make sure the speakers are between 6 and 10ft apart. Too close, and you’ll most likely hear both speakers without any stereo image. If the speakers are too far apart, you won’t get an accurate stereo sound image and might experience some “dead” spots in the middle of the room. Usually lacking in bass and low mids. Between 6ft and 10ft seems to be the sweet spot for stereo speaker installations.

Surround Sound Ceiling Installations

For surround sound ceiling installations, you also want to ensure your front left/right and rear left right are equal distance apart as per stereo installations above. You also want to make sure your front, left/right, and center speakers are on the same height axis. For example, if you have the left/right in the ceiling, your center speaker needs to be in the ceiling too. If you decide to put the left/right in the ceiling and the center in the wall near the TV, the audio image will sound off.

This is because the sound from the left/right speakers and the center speaker will arrive in your ears at different times. It’s a matter of milliseconds, but enough for your ears to register something sounds off. In some advanced high-end home theater receivers, you can set up a delay on the output to correct this. For most receivers, you don’t have this option, so you need to install all the speakers on the same height axis.

Multiple Speaker Distribution Installations

If you’re installing multiple speakers, you must make sure each speaker is an equal distance apart. In multiple speaker distributions, it’s unnecessary to stick to the 6ft to 10ft rule. However, you will need to check the speaker dispersion to ensure your distance isn’t going to create any dead spots.

Tip 5 – Amplifier Selection

To ensure you get the most out of your speakers, make sure you select an amplifier that matches as close to your maximum power output as possible. This will ensure your speaker runs efficiently and avoid any damage from overdriving the amplifier to get more out of the speaker.

For example, if your speakers are rated 100W maximum at 8 Ohms, choose a receiver or amplifier to match that specification. Slightly under or even above that wattage is okay. In most cases, you can run an 8 Ohm speaker on a 6 Ohm output. Always check your manufacturer’s recommendations or contact customer support if this isn’t clear.

Tip 6 – Cabling

Cabling is often overlooked when installing your speakers. However, this can have a serious effect on the sound quality and volume. If you’re trying to push too much current, the cable will overheat, causing damage to the cable or equipment.

Also, if the current can’t pass through your cable effectively and efficiently, you lose juice along the way resulting in frequency loss.

Here are some distances to consider when selecting your cable gauge. Remember, the cable doesn’t ever take a direct path, up walls, along a ceiling board, around an obstacle, etc, to get to your speaker.

Cable Recommendations for 8 Ohm Speakers. For 8 Ohm ceiling speakers, I wouldn’t go lower than 18 gauge.

  • 18 Gauge – Maximum 32ft
  • 16 Gauge – Maximum 48ft
  • 14 Gauge – Maximum 80ft
  • 12 Gauge – Maximum 120ft
  • 10 Gauge – Maximum 200ft

These lengths are a guideline only. Some manufacturers will specify their own recommendations based on the speaker’s limitations.

Tip 7 – Painting Ceiling Speakers

Painting your ceiling speakers seems easy enough. However, there are some things to keep in mind. Firstly, make sure your speakers are actually paintable. Some plastics can’t be painted. The manufacturer will indicate this in the user manual or product description when purchasing online.

  • Try painting your speaker grille before installation. It is way easier to paint while on the ground and will avoid any over-spray on the surface or speaker itself.
  • If you have to paint the speaker frame, make sure you cover the speaker properly. The manufacturer will usually provide a paint-cover which is basically a piece of paper cut to the diameter of the speaker. Wait for the paint to dry completely before removing the paint cover to avoid any splashes or drips landing on the speaker cone or tweeter.
  • Wrap the rear of the speaker in a newspaper when painting. You don’t want to risk over-spray getting into the electronics.
  • Make sure you always clear the holes on the grille of any paint build-up. A toothpick works best for clearing any over-spray on the holes.
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Written by
Bryn De Kocks

Bryn learned of the importance of quality audio through competitive gaming. Since then he's expanded his interest in the audio sphere, focusing primarily on the headphone market.

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