When you’re upgrading your surround sound, in-ceiling and in-wall speakers are both great choices. They allow you to create a one-of-a-kind, room-flooding surround sound experience in a single room or even in multiple rooms. But after you see the price, you be wondering if one or the other (in-ceiling vs. in-wall) is better, and will give you more bang for your buck.
In-ceiling speakers are placed in any ceiling, are compact, and are budget-friendly. In-wall speakers are larger, powerful, and have the flexibility to be placed in any wall, but they are more expensive.
If you’re trying to decide between the two, it’s important to know what makes them different from one another, what benefits they provide, and how they are best used. Plus, you need to take into account the aesthetics of the two, your space, and your needs, such as your budget and other requirements.
In-ceiling speakers are typically circular-shaped speakers that are created to fit nested into your ceiling. Ceilings are great places to put speakers — the speakers themselves are out of your line of sight, and they provide an additional dimension of sound.
In-ceiling speakers are downward-firing, and you can buy them individually or in a set. Individual in-ceiling speakers are low-priced, at around $40-50 per speaker for a good quality speaker product.
In-ceiling speakers can be used in one room or multiple rooms. They can be used to create traveling, fluid sound throughout many rooms, such as background music at a big party. If you love entertaining, you will enjoy the flexible, subtle surround sound experience that they provide indoors or out.
In-ceiling speakers won’t take away from the style of your room, but if you are worried about them, they could always be installed on the wall anyway as we’ve explained before. They add another dimension to your sound and are out of your eyesight. Plus, they are budget-friendly.
You may have more detailed questions about in-ceiling speakers and how they work, and if that’s the case be sure to check out our accompanying articles on whether or not your in-ceiling speakers need a backbox, if they need an amp, and if there’s any safety concern with them being near insulation.
In-ceiling speakers will fit right in with the style of your dedicated theater room, main living area, or outdoor entertainment space. They won’t take away from a clean, sophisticated look, no matter where they’re located.
They are nice to look at, but many times they aren’t even noticeable. They simply blend in with the look and feel of your space and rooms. This makes them a very aesthetically pleasing option.
In-ceiling speakers bring new height to your sound and create a more room-filling sound experience. Whether your sound system includes a soundbase, a soundbar, or a traditional surround sound setup with a receiver, in-ceiling speakers add height to your sound.
With in-ceiling speakers, you can better mimic the same multi-dimensional sound found in movie theaters in your home, no matter the living area or space that they are located in. They help provide an immersive listening experience.
Out of Sight
In-ceiling speakers not only add dimension to your sound system, but they are also in a great location. The ceiling is a great place to stay out of eyesight. Speakers are meant to be listened to, not looked at. They are smaller and more compact, in comparison to in-wall speakers, which also contributes to not being eye-catching, which is ideal.
At a low price of around $40-50 per speaker, you can add as many in-ceiling speakers as your budget allows and spread them out however you want. Sets of five can go for around $150, which makes it a very affordable option for expanding your sound system.
While there are many pros, in-ceiling speakers do have a few cons, including a narrower sound, less technology, and the fact that you need to buy several of them or a package to really make the right impact.
Narrow Sound Field
In-ceiling speakers are smaller than in-wall speakers. Since they are typically 6.5 inches (but can go up to 8 inches in size), they have a narrower sound field than larger in-wall speakers. Depending on your needs, this could be a downfall.
Since they are small in size, in-ceiling speakers can only pack so much technology into 6.5 inches of a speaker enclosure. Compared to bigger in-wall speakers, most in-ceiling speakers are for easy listening, rather than high-powered sound.
Need to Buy More
It’s best to buy several in-ceiling speakers since they are smaller and have a narrower sound field. You can buy them as a set, but a set is about the same price as a single high-quality in-wall speaker. Plus, more speakers means more work during installation with hole cutting, wiring, and beyond.
In-wall speakers are rectangular-shaped speakers that are placed on the inside of your walls. They can serve as your left and right speaker channels, as additional front and rear speakers, or as continuous sound throughout multiple rooms.
In-wall speakers are larger than in-ceiling speakers. The most popular size is 8 inches. They are horizontal-firing, which allows the sound to travel across the room, as opposed to down from the ceiling like in-ceiling speakers.
Instead of the tweeter being placed in front of the bass driver like seen in an in-ceiling speaker, an in-wall speaker’s tweeter is placed beside the bass driver(s). And all the added thoughts about backboxes, amps, and managing the speaker around insulation linked in the in-ceiling speaker section, those apply here too!
In-wall speakers provide great sound quality, placement flexibility, and a larger sound stage. They are a great addition to home entertainment systems of all kinds.
Since they are larger, in-wall speakers have more room for extra sound technology and features. Therefore, in-wall speakers are often more powerful and higher quality than in-ceiling speakers.
Rather than simply adding a downward-firing sound dimension, in-wall speakers can add multiple dimensions of sound when they are placed in several walls of a room or other area.
In-wall speakers are great for any wall. They can be in the front, the back, or the sides of the room; high or low. For music buffs, they can provide sound throughout a house by being placed on walls throughout the house.
There are a few options on the market for outdoor use as well, if you’re interested in adding them to your outdoor space. But be sure to look for speakers that are specifically rated for outdoor use if you go this route.
Larger Sound Stage
In large areas, in-wall speakers can provide sound throughout the space and help bridge the gap between rooms, which is also great for entertaining. Place in-wall speakers throughout the main living area, kitchen, and dining room for a large-area sound experience for both you and your guests.
While they are flexible in placement and help produce a powerful, broad sound in your space, in-wall speakers tend to be more expensive and are bulkier in size.
While still budget-friendly in some cases, single in-wall speakers can be found on sale online and in stores for $40-150+, which makes them a bit more expensive than individual in-ceiling speakers. With this extra cost comes the benefits, but that may not be in everyone’s budget.
In-wall speakers are larger in size, typically 8 inches, whereas most in-ceiling speakers are 6.5 inches. Since they are larger, placement becomes very important. You don’t want their size to take away from the vibe of your space.
You want them to be enough out of the way that they don’t grab too much attention, which can limit the places that you can put them. This can be difficult for smaller-sized rooms.
Are They Interchangeable?
In many cases, you can use in-ceiling and in-wall speakers interchangeably. During the install, the hole sizes and shapes will be different, but the overall sound of the two is similar in their flipped locations.
If you’ve purchased in-ceiling speakers and want to use them as in-wall speakers instead, you might be surprised that they can be used interchangeably without much difference in sound quality.
If you’re considering mixing and matching in order to be cost-effective, you should know that you’ll likely get the quality you pay for. Taking a couple of in-wall speaker examples: purchasing something like the Monoprice 3-Way Fiber In-Wall Speakers (on Amazon) will be vastly cheaper than a set of Sonos Architectural in-wall speakers (also on Amazon). So be sure you’re considering your overall quality needs while cost-cutting.
Which Is Better?
The best choice for you between in-ceiling and in-wall speakers depends on your needs and your budget. There are pros and cons to each, but they serve different purposes. If you want to add another dimension and reach to your sound system for a low cost, in-ceiling speakers are a great choice. You’ll love the flexibility, compact size, and added sound dimension.
If you want to create a powerful, multi-dimensional sound at a higher cost, in-wall speakers are a great choice for you. The large size creates a great, large-area sound, and there is still a good amount of flexibility in placement. You can always be creative in how you “hide” them or take attention away from them.
Don’t forget that you can use the two interchangeably in some cases. So if you change your mind, it may be a good idea to try just moving the original speaker(s) first.