During a recent trade show, I was re-introduced to the idea of mounting built-in speakers close to the floor. I had seen it done before in homes that we’ve featured online and in Electronic House magazine, but hadn’t really stopped to consider the merits this unconventional speaker placement.
It’s easy to understand why you’d want a speaker mounted in the ceiling or in the wall: The sound hits you right where your ears are. So why on earth would you want to install your speakers just above the baseboards?
Turns out, there are a few good reasons. For one, it raises few visual conflicts. That low-mounted speaker won’t compete with windows, artwork or other decorative elements. In fact, it’ll go pretty much unnoticed. Minus the competing elements, you’ll be able to put that speaker in the best position possible.
It also may be easier to install, particularly when it paired with an amplified keypad. Several manufacturers of whole-house audio systems offer amplified keypads, which allow the speaker to be wired right to the keypad instead of back to an equipment head-end. It’ll certainly be easier to snake wire down the wall than up to the ceiling, for instance.
But what about audio quality? Aren’t speakers supposed to be mounted at ear level for the best audio experience? Low-mounted speakers certainly won’t work for critical listening areas, says custom electronics professional Sean Hotchkiss of Grand Home Automation, Hudsonville, Mich.
“There may be obstacles between the listener and the speaker. It might be people milling around, or furniture and draperies that get placed in front of the speaker that muffles the sound making clarity and imaging suffer greatly.” For example, you wouldn’t want a low-mounted speaker to deliver audio from a TV or home theater system.
However, a low-mounted speaker can be a good option for rooms where you simply want some music playing softly in the background. A dining room, formal living room and the foyer are good candidates, as are any rooms where “conversation is the main objective,” says Kevin Wall of Sound Environments, Citrus Heights, Calif. “Plus, designers love the idea, and are more willing to give your home systems installer the ‘audio sweet spot’ you want in other areas of the house if you give them their ‘design sweet spot’ in the dining and living room.”
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.