The 10 Best In-Wall Speakers
This wiki has been updated 24 times since it was first published in December of 2016. If you want surround sound without intrusive black boxes taking up valuable floor space, then these in-wall speakers may be the perfect solution for you. Available as either single models or pairs, we've included options ranging from budget-tier to professional-grade and ranked them by their audio quality, sonic capabilities, appearance, value for money, and ease of installation. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 22, 2020:
Our latest two updated speaker models reflect recent sound designing technologies, that are able to project to suit different speaker positions, room shapes, and even the construction materials that they project off. Firstly we included the JBL Arena 8IW, with its proprietary HDI Waveguide technology, which optimizes the sound coming out of the speaker according to the room shape and the manner and angle in which it is positioned, including off-axis and ceiling-mounted setups.
Next, we added the Sonos Architectural, which are high-quality units when used with a decent amplifier, but really come into their own when used with the Sonos Amp. This system scans your entire room and tunes the speakers accordingly, to ensure you get the optimal performance from your home cinema or audio setup. Of course, these come with quite a large price tag when bought together, but there are many quality options in this ranking to suit more modest budgets as well.
July 11, 2019:
On this update, we added two totally new items, the Monoprice Caliber (#9) and the Polk Audio RC85i (#2). We also swapped out the dual-woofer Klipsch Pro-6502-L listed on our previous update with its more comprehensive twin, the Pro-6504-L, which features four 5.25" fiberglass cone woofers.
The Polk Audio RC85i made an impression on us for two main reasons: primarily, its sound quality; but also, for its durable butyl rubber surrounds which prevent moisture from entering. This, coupled with its stainless rustproof stainless steel hardware, results in a model that fills a gap in our previous update, in that we didn't have any models truly suited to be used in a jacuzzi room, covered patio, etc. Furthermore, we realize that some people who purchase this one for such an outdoor room may later decide that they want to install it inside, instead, in which case it can be easily integrated into a full surround system setup. This versatility is what really won us over.
We raised the Martin Logan Edge High Performance from its previous position at #3 to our top spot. Though it is costly, it dominates the others in terms of its sound stage, precision, and its near-total lack of distortion.
Those seeking budget-level options may look to the aforementioned Monoprice Caliber, the Silver Ticket Products 82W (#10), or the Polk Audio 265 RT 3-Way (#8), all of which are great choices for the low price they're offered at.
Bowers & Wilkins CWM8.3 D Considered the standard bearer of the premium in-wall speaker domain, Bowers & Wilkins offers this marvelous unit to put the competition to shame. To give you an idea of its éclat, for instance, it features a 1" dome tweeter made of diamond(!) which can push the frequency range up to an astounding 70kHz. This may offer more harmonic depth, and definitely adds more clarity to the more common high-end frequencies. Of course, the astronomic price tag matches the quality of its components, but the more you read about this unit, the more you'll understand why. Its 10-inch Aerofoil bass drivers tout a unique carbon fiber construction, more efficient than traditional Kevlar, that provides superior rigidity to minimize distortion. Other features include an innovative midrange driver, dubbed the Continuum cone; a cabinet designed and optimized with computer-modeling to maximize resonance and efficiency; and slim, aluminum turbine heads that won't add unwanted coloration from the cabinet. Keep in mind that it does need to be installed with the matching back-box, which is sold separately. bowerswilkins.com
The Case For In-Wall Speakers
You see, the sound a freestanding speaker emits often reflects off of these surfaces, causing undesirable peaks and cancellations.
Sound is an immensely powerful thing. We’re surrounded by it every day, so if you tend to take it for granted, you’re forgiven. However, research has taught us that sound can affect our mood, our focus, our level of energy, and our general wellbeing. It can also — when used in a purposeful way — promote healing, reduce stress, and even help alleviate depression.
So, while it may at first appear to be a relatively trivial decision, maybe your choice in speakers will have a greater impact on your life than you originally anticipated. And while floorstanding speakers can certainly produce quality sound, they take up valuable space and are often visibly intrusive.
In-wall speakers, on the other hand, provide your space with a clutter-free look, a direct field of sound, and an immersive audio experience — as if you’re physically at the movie theatre, or in the crowd at a concert. Sound quality has improved in recent years to the point where these models can compete with some of the top freestanding and bookshelf speakers on the market.
With in-wall speakers, you won’t have to worry about how you’re going to hide the tangle of wires protruding from the back of the unit. If they don’t match the existing decor in your home, you can easily fix that by painting them. In fact, some often refer to this style as architectural speakers, as they improve the ambiance of the room and add value to your home. This means, arguably, that you can consider their installation as an investment, akin to renovating your kitchen or putting in a new shower.
They’re also ideal for surround sound systems; aside from clearing up space for your home theater, they will reduce the chance that the floor, wall, ceiling, or another object will interfere with your sound. You see, the sound a freestanding speaker emits often reflects off of these surfaces, causing undesirable peaks and cancellations. Detractors will point out that it’s impossible to truly know how your speaker system will sound prior to installation, since it will be encased in the wall. To prepare for this, you can purchase bass and treble tone controls along with your speakers, which will allow you to make adjustments to the sound once the system is operational.
Speakers To Suit Your Space
Many aspects of the selection process will be the same as that of a freestanding model. The two styles come with different characteristics, some of which are suited to specific applications, some of which are not. Therefore, you should know beforehand how you intend to use your speakers — whether it’s for watching television, practicing with your rock band, or playing soothing music during yoga lessons.
Selecting the shape is more of an aesthetic decision than a functional one, though you should note that all in-wall units feature speaker grills.
Generally speaking, most in-wall speakers have a rectangular frame, though a few models come with a round design. Selecting the shape is more of an aesthetic decision than a functional one, though you should note that all in-wall units feature speaker grills. These are usually paintable, which is helpful for tailoring the unit to your existing color scheme.
Before shopping, you’ll have to ensure your space is capable of housing in-wall speakers. While it will typically require at least four-inch clearance behind the wall you’re mounting it to, some slim models will let you get by with about two inches of clearance. Just keep in mind that the depth of the mounting enclosure will affect its performance — without the proper depth, it won’t produce a full sound.
If you plan on installing multiple units, make sure you consider voice matching. This refers to the notion that different brands produce slightly different sounds, so you’ll want to make sure each speaker is the same brand to guarantee consistency.
All of the components of your speaker contribute to the quality of the sound. With a freestanding speaker, this includes the various elements of the cabinet surrounding the speaker. With in-wall speakers, a much larger enclosure acts as the cabinet, which can affect the volume and bass.
Because of this, many choose to buy subwoofers to accompany their in-wall speakers. A dedicated subwoofer will help the speaker generate a fuller, more realistic sound. These also can be in-wall models, but as subwoofers are typically significantly smaller than the speakers themselves, going with a freestanding subwoofer shouldn’t pose much of an issue.
Installation And Placement
The installation and placement process is one of the primary challenges of going with in-wall speakers over their freestanding counterparts. You can play around with latter all you like, but there’s no room for experimentation with in-wall models: you have to make sure it’s just right the first time around.
However, since they take up little to no space, the placement possibilities are far more wide-ranging.
Most of you will install your speakers in a family room, a bedroom, or a home cinema. However, since they take up little to no space, the placement possibilities are far more wide-ranging. You can set up a nice system in a laundry room, a hallway, a mudroom, or even a bathroom (though if you do choose a bathroom, make sure your unit is resistant to moisture).
While hiring a professional certainly can’t hurt, you can be successful in this endeavor if you do your homework. It’s all about creating and executing a clear plan of action.
One key consideration is how you will run the wires. As previously mentioned, a quality in-wall speaker system will add value to a home — and a system that conceals wires behind the wall can be quite aesthetically pleasing. On the flip side, it’s easier for homeowners who aren’t as handy to run wires on the outside of the wall instead. Once again, it’s up to you.
Once you know your wiring strategy, you’ll need to determine the specific placement location. Preferably, you will position them at ear level for when you are seated. Find the ideal location on the wall, then check for obstructions, such as wires, pipes, or studs. You will want to install your speakers between two studs.
Once you install your speakers and connect the wires, you can sit back and enjoy the fruitful sounds of your labor.