HELP! : In-Ceiling surround sound speaker.


Dec 23, 2010
Okay so I'm not going to explain how this happened but I wanted surround sound in an addition of my home and I ended up with 7 speaker holes in the ceiling, I'm not going to explain but I had no idea that my speakers would be in-ceiling I thought they would be wall-mounted. So I have a question.

Q: Are In-ceiling surround sound systems superior to stand alone and wall-mounted systems?

Now that I'm stuck with these holes. I need help finding the best speakers for my price range and hole placement. What is the best 7.1 in-ceiling system or which speakers should I buy including the sub woofer for under $1000? under $750? under $500. I will also take other recommendations. I have pictures and a video to help you guys understand my speaker placement. Thanks in advance. I really appreciate it. :wahoo:

P.S. Will it be directional? Someone told me it won't. I if it's not directional I was thinking I could use the holes to bring some poles down and mount pointed speakers.

Front, center, and surround speaker holes

Rear speaker holes

"S" means speaker. Front, center, surround


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i'm not sure i would call in-ceiling mounted speakers "superior" but they do have the advantage of zero-clutter.

i cannot state this from person experience but i would think that sounds would appear to be heard slightly from "above" instead of "from the sides" unless room accoustics bounce the sound off of the nearby walls.

mounting poles that come out of holes in the ceiling may look a bit funny even with a cover plate made up. another option would be to install a solid coverplate and base-mount satelite speakers to them which are directional.

i cannot recommend any ceiling speakers to you as i havent dealt with them at all but after doing some online research perhaps look for online reviews. if you decide to go with some satelite speakers or similar i personally like klipsh but there are many other options.

you might want to read the recent sticky for some other brands.
There are in ceiling speakers made by Sonance and Paradigm which are designed for this application. They don't fire down but at a 30 degree angle toward the seating area. These are for the front 3 speakers. They also make in ceiling speakers for the surround applications that have dual tweeters so the sound is less directional than a simple in ceiling speaker. A regular in ceiling speaker will work ok if positioned carefully.


Dec 23, 2010

Well what I want is surround sound that has distinguished channels like a wall mounted system. and why should only the front 3 be pointed? dual tweeters so the sound is LESS directional? or do you mean more.


Dec 23, 2010

If I did end up going with satellite speakers which ones would you buy for the best 7.1 surround experience in my price range.



I believe he meant for surround sound( the back or side speakers), you want a dispersed sound, hence the dual tweeters.

I'm not sure if you will be happy with ceiling mounted speakers. The sound quality isn't close to what regular speakers can give you but they would ok for the rear and side speakers.

If I was you I would spend the money on just a 5.1 system and then figure out later if you want a 7.1, You would just have to add a couple more speakers.


Dec 23, 2010
It almost seems like in-ceiling and in-wall speakers are at the high end because they're significantly more expensive than stand alone 5.1 and 7.1 speakers. Also they use the whole whole or whole ceiling as the cabinet where as regular speakers just use their enclosure. If the rear and side speakers would be ok on the ceiling what would be the problem with the front 3? I'm just trying to make use of the holes i have. But if in-ceiling surround sound is that terrible I will consider stand alone systems. From what I'm reading people are please with in-ceiling surround sound when they use angled speakers in the front and either normal or angled in the rear and side. I just need help finding the right ones


Oct 15, 2007
first of all..
the type of sound you get from each setup.

doesnt take much to realize this key part..
if the speaker is pointed directly at you, it is louder.
(start coming to terms with all of the sound processing and you will find yourself in a situation where the exact opposite is true)

now consider this for seconds..
the majority of speakers will be midrange and tweeter ONLY.
not good enough for clarity.. but fills a void for function.
think about the size of subwoofer cabinets and consider how big the wall is for the speaker.
way too big and you will see there are people trying to make a stretched-out situation work for visual appeal and audible difference because of where the speaker is located.
they slap a price tag on there that is high because people are supposed to think it is all 'new' and 'clever'
but the results require more thought.

speakers in the ceiling can have an advantage of being on the wall with four sides of a cube facing the wall the speakers are on.
this advantage is lost due to surround sound design.
simple terms..
the soundwave from the front is ment to collide with the soundwave from the rear.
you cant do this if both of the speakers are up in the same wall.
you could try to get the horizontal soundwave's to touch eachother.
you are gambling with a situation that requires the vertical (plus all of the horizontal excess)

people like to listen to the audio rain down from the top of the room.
it isnt designed for audio perfection.. not even a chance at it.

audio pefection.. even a chance no matter what speakers you use.. requires in the wall or at least in a box outside of the wall.. in the middle of the room from floor to ceiling.
NOT ear height.
when they do the surround sound processing.. they expect the speakers to be a little bit lower than the middle from ceiling to floor.
because most people have an 8ft ceiling.
some have a 10ft ceiling.
and there is nothing in the settings of the receivers to adjust for the ceiling height.
they dont go by height as the first necessity.
they go by the length between the vertical walls (the walls that go up and down).
this is the simple truth right here.

get the length between speaker and wall down.
get the length between speaker and ears down.
you cant get the length between speaker and ear if the speakers are in the ceiling not pointed at you.
the speaker is supposed to be pointed at your ear.. or the general listening location.
that way you can bipolar the field with the listening area/length to the area.. and then let the rest of the room square off for the effects.

when your speakers are up in the ceiling.. you have to do more than bipolar the room.
because the front speakers point down and they are not anywhere close to being pointed at the listening location.

sometimes the front AND the rear speakers are not pointed at the listening location.

if i was you..
i would find a use for those holes, because having holes in your drywall is quite embarassing.
patching those holes with nothing but plaster is also embarassing - especially for the person that tries to use the area of the wall that has been patched, thinking it is dry wall and finds out the whole section is nothing but cheap crumbling plaster.

in wall speakers arent any good because you dont use the whole inside of the wall to an advantage.
you dont use 3-way speakers that are worth anything of quality.
and sometimes there isnt enough room between the wall joists for a big enough speaker cone.

most professionals will cut open the wall and put their speaker box inside of the wall.
even if that means making the speaker box strong enough to be connected to a wall joist.

the only problem is..
if you want to re-arrange your room, the speakers arent going anywhere.
you have to build the room and design it once.
then keep the listening position the same.
you could change the couch from a 2 seater to a 3 seater.. or a 3 seater to a 4 seater.. but the space where the couch is has to be the same.

when you have speakers that dont point at the listening position.. a much bigger amount of audio processing needs to happen to get the room in a bipolar field again.
and this basically means getting everything blending into a single liquified state.

it is hard to get the stereo width AND point the speakers at the listening location when the speakers are inside the wall without being twisted.
you dont want your speakers inside the wall being twisted, because it requires custom reverb to be programmed for the bumps in the wall.
walls are expected to be flat.

best advice..
build your own speakers in a cabinet, then put the cabinet in a corner pointed at the listening position, build a wall from floor to ceiling that encloses the speaker cabinet into the corner, then program some reverb to inform the audio system of the corners in the room.
doesnt work as good with a four sided room.. compared to a stop sign shape.
the more folds in the wall.. the closer to being inside a cylinder.
and the cylinders (or spheres) are where the most magic can happen.

problem with the speakers in the corner with a corner plate..
room nulls and a lessening effect of the corners to chop up the 'bi' part of bipolaring the room.

with all of this said..
it sickens me even more to think there are audio mastering studios that tailor to a specific type of room.

in all standards of affect..
you have to have four parts where the walls meet (the corners of the room)
and again, four parts where the ceiling meets the walls.
and finally, four parts where the walls meet the floor.

squared, cubic, yada yada blah blah blah.. that is how the audio studios are supposed to be standard to allow the dolby digital and dts effects be a perfect drop in placement to any room.

when you input speaker distance from speaker to listening position.. it gives a well deserved chance for the audio processor to realize how big the room is.
the situation is of close approximation.. but i did say close, and close is usually enough for a standard.

only matter of subject here now is..
do you put the speakers in a setup like how dolby digital website tells you to?
do you put the speakers in the exact corners of the room to get the widest soundstage possible like you are suppose to do?

this does mean one very big thing.. and i think we should be a bit proud of it.
all of the new houses with huge living rooms cannot benefit from the surround sound effects unless the entire room is filled up with audio.
this means more money to buy higher wattage amplifiers.
at the very least, watching the movie with the volume on the receiver turned up higher.

soundwaves can be programed to avoid eachother or come into contact with eachother on purpose.
you dont need to have walls for the surround sound effects to work.
you need enough sound pressure within the area you are listening to form a field or 'geletin' that can hold the soundwaves in together as an organized space.
doesnt need to be super pressured.. but the closer you get to blowing out a candle, the better those effects are going to sound.

put your favorite color lights in those holes with some light bulb canisters.
you could do your favorite color..
maybe some of those flourescent black light bulbs .. and turn them on when watching a movie (nobody wear white)

you could put some 100 watt subwoofers up there..
get yourself an analog 4-way crossover and send the bass signals up there to some bandpass boxes and use the hole in the ceiling as a port.
that way you have the bass for each channel like you are supposed to have.
the subs are the same 100 watts your receiver outputs.. so they are not expensive.
getting the bandpass box built for the perfect compromise between the size of the box needed for the speaker.. and the port tune frequency needed for the size of the room.. it is trigonometry that requires a speaker that fits within the last part of the equation.

room size and port size/length is first.. the sub needs to fit those two.
you dont need to use the hugeness of the hole if you put a plate in and a smaller hole for the port.

you gain the advantage of running the subs off of the receiver.
and this means you can then grab any 8 ohm 100 watt receiver and hookup all the speakers.
you would be stuck with 5.1 unless you cutout some holes for the extra two speakers to make it 7.1

if you get tired of trying to find a sub that fits the bandpass bill..
you could put a speaker in the hole and attach the speaker box to the speaker.
as if you lay the speaker box directly above the hole to put the speaker in the hole.
again.. it would be the same 100 watts from the receiver, no need for an extra amplifier.
saves a bit on the electric bill.
provides some of the best omni-directional sound available (to the extent of length, angle of location)

not the best choice because the bass can also have the same requirements as the midrange.
the need to be pointed at the listening location is real.

that means the only thing left is LFE .. and this isnt bass.. it is the massive speaker cone movement to create the feeling of air pressure.
that is it and only it.

you put some serious subwoofers up in the ceiling like that and you might crack the drywall.

holes in the ceiling for speakers is simply another time when the industry said 'hey let me play with it' and you have these horror results in the end.

sad but true.
you could put some 3-ways up there and try to spend thousands of dollars (maybe tens of thousands of dollars) to have the audio processor calibrate it all to the best of their ability.
the results will never ever be anything close to what removing the speakers from the ceiling is going to do.

probably get yourself a slab of drywall and cut out some holes.. and try to apply a brace along the back of the circle with some glue.
then plaster the whole circle in to hide the seem of the circle.
that way you dont have plaster crumbling down on you in 20 years.
you dont go trying to hang a plant and the whole thing comes falling down out of no where.

to be 'like the rest of us' doesnt have to be a bad thing.
especially when we are talking about fitting into the audio standards.

the standard is going to remain the same for quite a long time until people are more active in the audio industry.
this means building the cylinder shaped room.. and then they will be complaining you are too lazy to build an entire sphere with a couch poised in the middle of it.

this means throwing some speaker cabinets in the corners of the room.
providing those speakers with enough power to fill the room with audio.
and waiting for the industry to take those baby steps to raise the speakers up off the floor towards something exactly in the middle between ceiling and floor.

this is what it is going to be.
and if you try to do something different.. it is going to cost you a stupid amount of money (or know-how) to TRY and bend/stretch it all back to the standard.
and using speakers in the ceiling is one of those times when the results are going to be much worse than the standard.


Dec 23, 2010

Thanks man I really appreciate it! Your essay has helped me understand a lot of things about surround sound and speakers. I just have one question. What "standard speakers" should i get for a 7.1 system around $1000. I really dont feel like making my own speaker cabinets etc.


Oct 15, 2007
there are quite a few different levels of quality available.
and within those levels.. there might be a dozen different options.

asking me, i would say there are enough of the different levels of quality to specifically choose which level you receive based on what you deserve.
i dont know what you deserve.. and i dont know all of the levels of quality.

all i can tell you is..
you will pay extra for somebody else to do something for you.
and when you let somebody else do it for you.. they are the ones that get to choose how much quality you get.

and you might say 'well i am letting you choose now, already'
but .. consider this:
if i was to choose which level of quality you get, then i would also get to choose how much effort i put into building the cabinets - programming the audio processor to tweak everything perfect for your room - and maybe to the extent of tweaking just how the audio processor i program coincides with the dolby digital and dts surround sound effects.
since they are ment to work as one, the percentile of completion would again be the choice i make.. not yours.

i hope you see how there could be a dozen different ways i could make things better or worse for you AFTER i pick out the speakers.

and please consider this..
if i pick some low level of speakers and try my best to make them sound as good as they can get.. you would be locked into the low level category.
there is nothing left for you to *fix* ... and that means you plug in the speakers and press play.
if you want more, you have to sell the speakers (or return them for a refund if allowed) and get something different.

let me finish by saying this...
not all of those 'name brand' speakers you see in a cabinet are using speakers they build themselves.
no - no - no...
sometimes the company picks some speakers from a dedicated speaker builder - throws everything into a cabinet - and sells them as a 'complete set' with a new brand name.

good luck..!
i am not the one to really push which speakers you choose.
because i know our ears could be different shapes and we might hear things different.
so i try to let you stop when you think you have had enough.. and then i go on to talk about setting up those speakers in a much better way than simply connecting the wires and pressing the start button.

would i say be cautious at places like best buy? yes
would i say be cautious at places like some small audio store that sells a lot of speakers from a brand name you never heard of? yes

there are hidden positives and negatives.. but people generally never make it that far into the advanced tier of transducer technology (and i suppose they really shouldnt have to do much more than calibrate the reverb within the constraints of the equalizer settings used = some speakers will simply be for a different size room/spl levels/dB levels)


Don't be afraid to buy speakers of a brand you never heard of because most people only know a few brands.

For example, for the price that you pay, Paradigm makes excellent speakers. Small local audio shops can be great. Most will let you take them home and try the speakers out. Plus usually offer a 1 year(usually 2 on electronics, even used) turn in and upgrade path.

The thing is, $1000.00 isn't a lot when you are thinking about buying eight(8) speakers. For movies a center channel is very important. Basically you spend more money on front, center and subwoofer(s) then less on rear and side speakers.

There are plenty of speaker kits available that can save you some money, like kits from "Parts Express" or some higher end ones you can google.

Rule of thumb on a stereo system( for music) is you spend 1/3 of your budget on speakers, the front mains. As you can see it can get expensive but if you upgrade through the years, you can make a pretty nice system.

Something we should of asked, what are the dimensions of the room?


Oct 15, 2007


be afraid to buy.
there is always something out there that sounds better for the same price.
sounds the same for less price.

have you gone through 6 - 12 different speakers that sound about exactly the same .. and then looked at how much each one cost to weigh in a price to performance ratio?

90% of the world doesnt do this because they go to wal-mart .. best buy .. and whatever local electronics shop that is totally trying to please two brand names.

these STORES dont give you the chance to try all of the choices available.
you wont explore the world shopping online without hearing the speakers yourself.
you wont find all the world has to offer if you shop locally.

it is very very hard to find a store that doesnt sell speakers for which they are a fanboy of (or they are somehow receiving a discount for buying lots of stock).
look out there in the world and see some of the examples as to how stupid people are - and most importantly, how quick they are to ask questions before they ever begin to appreciate anything.

it is why the stores dont exist.
it is why there arent friendly people on a business brochure offering to help.
it is why there isnt any 'demo' listening rooms to go to that really show off something more than the speakers and the receiver.

there is a lot of bottom-end brand names that get complete control over what the average person will set their eyes on and buy.
these companies are government associated - but they are not spending all of the money in the audio section.
the money is tied into other companies, and it is shared in a pattern of 'some here and some here and most of it here'

you really have to earn quality for whatever you buy.
it has been this way since your parents were born.

those of us who know how the best of the best products where hidden.. we know good and well that sometimes the product is sitting right there in the store and it needs to be adjusted before you get full use out of it.
and now..
we know this information has spread out across the world.
no reason to continue putting the best products on the shelf and hide them.

back when it was a television you were shopping for..
they would show you a bunch of different television and ignore the best one.
and if you did ask about the best one, if you got the television to turn on.. it might look better, but you paid a much bigger price tag to get the small bit of upgrade.
all because the television technician never ever opened up the back of the television and made some adjustments with a screwdriver to increase/perfect the picture.

you dont know what you dont go to school for.
and coming to the forum waiting for an answer to fall onto your lap IS NOT going to school to learn.
that is why you go to one audio forum after another and you see the same STUPID baby answers to get you started.
you dont see the important answers anywhere because the government.. families associated with the government.. and people who have become generally successful - they have all learned and been told to keep their mouth shut about the better ways of living (unless the person is willing to pay dearly for it.. or work hard to find an answer).

i dont see anybody working hard to find an answer.
i see people expecting the answer to be given to them.
go to the store and get whatever it is you want, within the price you can afford to pay.
keep telling yourself money is the way to happiness.
because you dont love yourself when you do.. and you wont be loved in return.

the only reason i am out here saying something is because of the massive amount of work that has been done to brain wash people that are too lazy to try things on their own.
most of the articles are simple, and there are some key points that are complete lies.

the audio industry is already ashamed of itself.
they cant deny the products and release them at the same time.. the contradiction is far too vast.

you cant even get a person to listen to your story and support the story as the form of a representee.
it isnt worth it when you look at the crap other people are still buying.

do the favor yourself.
buy some speakers.. connect them to the amplifier and equalizer.. calibrate the equalizer with the microphone from the acoustic laboratory.. take a note as to how good the speakers sound .. send them back for a full refund.

that is exactly what you think we did.. and that is exactly the answer you are asking us.
but c'mon .. waste the money and give it right back to the government (Or make somebody else rich because you dont want to save the money).

as it was already said..
nobody is decent enough to tell us the size of the room (plus ceiling height) to begin.
but dont stop there..
we need to know if you have carpet.. if you have leather furniture or plush fabric (or something in the middle of those two).

training can come from a desire to know.
then it takes the money.. the time.. and the know-how to go out there and do it.

look at your neighbor to your left.
look at your neighbor to your right.

chances are.. you dont believe they are smart enough to gather all of that information.
- no time to do it
- no money to do it
- they are not interested in audio

crutchfield.. best buy.. newegg.. these places carry *YOU MIGHT GET LUCKY* brand names.
and that means..
depending on the model number of the speaker you get, you might get lucky and get something that really does sound decent.

then there are the 'step-up' brand names.. some people would say 'you cant go wrong'
and i beg to differ.
chances are.. it is the exact opposite of the other situation.
most of the time you will find something that sounds decent.. but depending on the model number you get, something might actually sound terrible.

then you get up to the 'i cant afford that' category.. and some people would say 'you cant go wrong'
and to that i say..
you probably cant listen in very very close .. because that is where all of the difference is.
from regular listening position, you might not hear the difference at all.
if you are having a war with a friend or neighbor.. they will probably get close to BOTH speakers to see if they can find a problem with either one of the speakers.
then they say.. if you can hear a needle drop , you can tell my speaker is a little bit better in the itsy bitsy area of a needle's sharp tip.

not very important, and it could ruin relationships with your friend or neighbor.
and what might prove to be worse, the difference is actually enough to make a person buy the 'improvement' and get rid of the old speakers.

the government realizes people make more money than they ever deserve.
they also see the same people who are willing to spend that money on things of a price category they should never ever be in.

umm HELLO...
if you keep buying things in that price category to have it NOW -- nobody else can afford to play too.
that makes you a selfish punk that gets what nobody else can have.
and there are people who work harder and make less money.

want to know somebody that works harder and is more deserving of money??
how about the people who wash the cafeteria tables at the school your child goes to..?
you know.. those people who make sure the tables are clean between each 'session' of children sit down to eat their food.
the kids need to sit down and eat to re-charge themselves and learn some more.
they also need to be in a clean area to prevent them from getting sick or distracted by someone else's mess.
either one could ruin the day.
could hamper the week/month.
and it could be enough to cause the child to miss a few days in school and really get behind on their work.

table cleaners are very important at school !!
because there is nothing worse than seeing a child go to school and be too slow out in society - getting in everybody else's way when they are in a hurry.
the world doesnt 'go' like that.. it slows down and creates a recession where the best of the best get treated like the worst.

i dont believe i am too harsh.
i believe i am being forced to repeat the same thing over and over again because the problem keeps happening again and again.

my advice:
stop pointing to your mouth and saying you are thirsty.
try pointing to your mouth and saying the water you drank tastes bad.
and then.. if you are ever so kind - come back and tell us about some water you drank that DID NOT taste bad.
that is how an art gallery is formed.
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