April 16, 2008 by Scott Varn
Q. Can in-wall speakers deliver the same sound quality as floorstanding speakers? And can in-ceiling speakers deliver the same impact at in-wall speakers? -Johnny, Dallas, TX
A. This is a very common question, primarily because it is what customers want to hear. “Give me back my floor space, hide it in the wall, but keep the quality high.” In general, in-wall speakers have dramatically improved, but only a few can perform as well as floor standing speakers. Those that can are often larger than people want and can cost just as much or more. The key is whether or not they can produce the full range of frequencies in the music.
In a home theater situation, the high and mid-tones can easily be reproduced by in-wall speakers and the lower frequencies are handled by the subwoofer. But in a stereo application, without the subwoofer support, they tend to sound weak. Now in-wall subs are available to solve this issue. They, too, are not as efficient as in-room subs - the good ones cost more plus require installation.
The most important thing to remember when looking for comparable in-wall speakers is to make sure they have a back enclosure. A traditional speaker has an enclosure specifically designed to help the drivers perform efficiently. Speakers that are left open in the back invite issues. Performance will vary dramatically based on their location in the wall or ceiling. Also, without some type of back-box, much of their sound can travel into the adjoining room or next floor. Manufacturers like Tannoy, Totem and Legacy recognize this fact and reengineered their in wall/ceiling speakers to be comparable to their floor standing products.
Ingenious new drivers and years of engineering have gone into producing quality sound from more discreet speakers. So if you are willing to spend more money for a quality aesthetic solution, in-walls can finally sound as good as floor standing speakers. But if seeing the speaker is acceptable, the bang for the buck is still better.
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Scott has been in the technology industries for over 20 years. But his experience as an artist is what led him to create an award winning business that combines engineering and aesthetics for home theater design.
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