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Are In-Wall Speakers Still Useful for Surround Sound?

As a regular watcher of television and movies, building my dream home theater system was always a goal of mine. My initial system started out one piece at a time, carefully reviewing specifications, reading reviews and installing what I thought would work best. For a rental, having speakers that sat on mounts was ideal. After all, who wants to lose their security deposit when they finally move out? However, once I had a place of my own, I started to consider the benefits of in-wall speakers for use with my home theater. But, in doing so, I found that the use of these speakers was much debated.

So are in-wall speakers still useful for surround sound? Properly installed, quality in-wall or in-ceiling speakers have plenty of benefits for a home theater system. Reduced sound reflection, higher gains, a sleeker profile and a more flexible layout design are some benefits worth thinking about.

Think about it. Many movie theaters rely on the use of in-wall or in-ceiling speakers. These help to immerse their patrons in sound while enjoying the latest movie on the big screen. If you are looking for a truly immersive and cinematic experience, considering an in-wall or in-ceiling speaker may be the right option for you.

Are In-Wall Speakers Good For Surround Sound Systems?

Home theater or media movie room inside modern home.

When you run a search in Google on in-wall speakers for home theaters, you are going to come across plenty of mixed opinions. However, the truth of the matter is – when you invest in a speaker, you will get what you pay for.

Quality speakers are good for your surround sound system. Period. If you invest in a quality in-wall or in-ceiling speaker, the benefits of the device make it worth the investment. There are a number of different in-wall or in-ceiling speakers available today.

It is important that you carefully look at the specifications and reviews before buying any speaker. However, when it comes to your in-wall or in-ceiling speakers, you need to invest in a model that is specifically designed for this type of use. You should never buy a regular home theater system and attempt to install it into a wall. It was not designed for this and will diminish the sound quality no matter how you position it.

With plenty of sizes, profile, and color options, there are in-wall or in-ceiling speakers that complement any décor style or home theater design.

One of my favorite in-wall speakers is the Polk Audio RC85i (on Amazon).

Pros and Cons of In-Wall Speakers

Pros and Cons of In Wall Speakers

Plenty of experts and home theater enthusiasts alike have something to say about the pros and cons of in-wall speakers. Below are some of the most common arguments used in the debate over the usefulness of in-wall speakers for surround sound.


  • Reduced Sound Reflection: When you place a speaker in a room, the sound waves it produces bounce off the surrounding walls, floor, ceiling, and furniture. Known as sound reflection, this can cause certain distortions and echoes. By installing a speaker in your wall or ceiling, you eliminate at least one of those reflecting surfaces. This can make your sound clearer and less distorted.
  • Higher Gain: When you mount a speaker in your wall or ceiling, it creates what is known as a “baffle”. Baffle helps to increase your speaker’s bass. In fact, simply by mounting your speaker in a wall or ceiling as we explained in our guide on in-ceiling speakers, you increase the bass by 6dB. This is considered a substantial increase. (And considering the price of a good subwoofer, it is an increase you did not have to break the bank for!) The bass increase created by the wall or ceiling, which is known as the “boundary effect”, lowers distortion as well.
  • Sleeker Profile: Speakers, even sleek speakers, can appear bulky when sitting on stands or wall mounts. They project from these spaces and can be a bit of an eyesore. They also take up precious floor space and create additional obstacles when cleaning, repositioning, and simply hanging out in your home theater. In-wall or in-ceiling speakers, however, do not do this. Because they are flush mounted to your wall or ceiling, they provide that sleek, sexy, minimalist look many home theater enthusiasts desire.
  • Flexible Layout Design: Although you will need to cut an installation space in your wall or ceiling to support these, built-in speakers give you a much more flexible initial layout. You do not have to clear floor or bookshelf space while attempting to angle speakers in a way that best compliments your home theater setup. This can limit the diversity and position of your speakers, furniture, television and more. However, with in-wall or in-ceiling speakers, the only thing you really need to consider is which position best amplifies and directs sound towards your ears. Some higher end speakers, which swivel, can be installed and repositioned without having to relocate the entire speaker unit if you move your furniture around later. Additionally, ultra-slim models are great options for those worried about having enough space for these in-wall or in-ceiling speakers.


  • Hours of Installation: In-wall speakers require a more intense installation process. Instead of using stands or a small wall mount (how to set up wall-mounts here in our guide), they require much more. Cutting into the wall or ceiling, running wires inside the walls, and flush mounting the speaker boxes in place may require hours of labor instead of just a few minutes.
  • Harder to Move: In addition to a more time-consuming installation process, in-wall or in-ceiling speakers are harder to move. Why? Because it requires cutting a new hole, re-running wires, and patching the previous location.
  • Upgrade Issues: Upgrading your in-wall speakers also becomes harder. This is because newer models tend to have different measurements and specifications. This, again, requires either cutting a new hole or patching spaces where the previous one was cut. This can be inconvenient, if not expensive.

The Bottom Line:

At the end of the day, the speaker you invest in should be one that meets your needs, budget, and expectations.

In-wall or in-ceiling speakers can greatly benefit your home theater system. But they are not for everyone. As I said before, someone who is renting an apartment or home may not want to install these speakers.

However, in-wall and in-ceiling speakers can boost your home theater’s performance and give you a truly cinematic experience. Not only can they do this, they do so with minimal requirements, freeing up floor space and allowing for a more diverse home theater setup. For those short on space, this can be one of the biggest benefits of in-wall or in-ceiling speakers as you no longer need bulky mounts.

The installation will take a great deal longer than simply hooking up floor speakers. However, once installed, the reduced reflection, higher gain, and sleeker profile means less distortion, better bass, and less obtrusive equipment.

Investing in a quality in-wall or in-ceiling speaker gives you a boost without relying on increased power too. This means the natural boundary effect amplifies your bass without costing you more in quality or energy.

Placement is important when it comes to any speaker used for your home theater. Multi-directional in-wall or in-ceiling speakers can give your flexibility without requiring new holes and serious patching if you decide to move them later.