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Author Topic: Ceiling/in-wall speakers -- brand/model guidance  (Read 1274 times)

Frank Koenig

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Ceiling/in-wall speakers -- brand/model guidance
« on: November 30, 2020, 06:15:49 pm »

I'm helping a friend plan a distributed background music system for his dwelling which is undergoing an extensive remodel. The walls and ceilings are opened up. He got a proposal from a professional installer that struck him as kind of expensive for what it was so I agreed to have a look. I found the proposal unnecessarily complex (too many speakers) and, unsurprisingly, too locked-in to the latest consumer technology.

I gave him my usual lecture about run-conduit-not-wire, technology changes fast, and that both he and the house have a long life ahead of them and should be able to adapt without tearing down walls. I also tried to get him interested in wall-bracket mounted speakers that open up a range of high-quality possibilities, and, significantly, can be aimed, but he wants a largely concealed system so ceiling (or maybe in-wall, in some places) speakers it is.

Rough requirements:

This is a residential background MUSIC system. No paging or life-safety. Emphasis is on sound quality.

Passive, direct connection to amplifier. As runs are short and speakers few, 70 V transformers are not required. (OK if they're included so long as they can be bypassed where needed.)

100 dB-A (slow) at 1 m on music while sounding decent.

Wide pattern suitable for low residential ceilings.

Usable response down to 70 Hz as no subs will be used.

Possible 6 in. depth limit (1/2 in Sheetrock + 2x6 in. stud depth) -- need to confirm, maybe negotiable.

Less than $200 each.

Prefer a brand I've heard of.

Having skimmed some past comments here and based on a little of my own listening Tannoy and JBL are at the top of the list. If anyone has a favorite (of any brand) that sounds especially good on music and that roughly fits the requirements I'd love to hear about it. Thank you for indulging me in one of these irritating what-gear? questions.

--Frank
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Dennis Wiggins

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Re: Ceiling/in-wall speakers -- brand/model guidance
« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2020, 07:27:09 pm »

...distributed background ... The walls and ceilings are opened up ... Passive, direct connection to amplifier. As runs are short and speakers few, 70 V transformers are not required ...

I can't help with the speaker choice, but I can advise them to run speaker wires everywhere.  Leave a coil behind or above the drywall at each potential location.  Document the runs, bringing them all to a central "wiring closet" with plenty of extra length for future connection. 

Insulate interior walls.  This make a huge difference; especially around bedrooms and between floors. 

Don't forget the main bath/Jacuzzi and feeds to patio, garage, and basement.  Wire is cheap and insulation is cheaper.

-Dennis

<edit>Of course, local code may prohibit some, or all, of this.   ;)
« Last Edit: December 01, 2020, 07:38:06 pm by Dennis Wiggins »
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Brian Jojade

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Re: Ceiling/in-wall speakers -- brand/model guidance
« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2020, 07:48:48 pm »

Prefer a brand I've heard of.

For specialty stuff here, you may end up dealing with brands you've never heard of. Instead, I'd prefer a brand that's been around for a while, even if I haven't heard of them yet.  And yes, in this space, there are a TON to choose from.

And I 100% agree with Dennis.  Wire (and preferably conduit) is WAY cheaper to install now than later.  If you have a pre-pulled wire nearby, getting it to where you need it in the future is much easier.

Home run everything if you can.  That gives you the greatest flexibility in the future if your needs change.

DOCUMENT EVERY WIRE. BOTH ENDS. And a map would be even better.  This type of install is so specialized that 5 years down the road when you want to do something, if it's not documented, it's a royal pain to figure out in the future.

Additionally, if it's a large house, having multiple access points that allow for an easy pull back to home run can be super handy for future upgrades.  Then essentially, you just need to figure out how to get a wire to that access point which then gets you back home easily enough.
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Caleb Dueck

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Re: Ceiling/in-wall speakers -- brand/model guidance
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2020, 11:32:00 pm »

Wide pattern suitable for low residential ceilings.
Usable response down to 70 Hz as no subs will be used.

Martin C8.1T, except they're over $200.  One of the better/best ceiling speakers that don't cost a fortune, and a nice wide pattern. 

The higher end Tannoy options are pretty good, but not in stock and cost more.

Community (Biamp) has some OK ones.  Same with EAW, JBL, EV, and everyone else. 

Stay away from Sonance and Bose and most of the general consumer brands.  The markup is insane!

If you can tweak the budget a bit - the 8" Martins would be my first choice out of the ones I've used/heard.  The 6" Martins have an even wider pattern, a bit less bass extension as expected, but they seem to distort too easily at higher SPL, where the 8" models are great.  If you can demo both of them - do it.  Make sure you can walk far off-axis. 

Another thought - if the SPL levels aren't high, use the Martin 6" models, but add a single small ceiling sub (Tannoy for example) to help with the low end.  Or hide a small-ish subwoofer (1Sound has some, or some small recessed options from various places - look close and the response graphs though) in the ceiling or wall somewhere.  This takes a lot of the stress off the speakers and works best overall.   
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MikeHarris

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Re: Ceiling/in-wall speakers -- brand/model guidance
« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2020, 10:55:15 am »

the Martin C8.1T is  a high ceiling speaker...the C6.8T is the right speaker   and i agree ...a small sub. 1Sound is really good looking...but well beyong budget
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Frank Koenig

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Re: Ceiling/in-wall speakers -- brand/model guidance
« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2020, 11:30:06 am »

This is very useful. Thanks, all, for your help. The Martin C6.8T looks like a really good fit and should be in reach budget-wise. The back can being included helps. The 7.13 in. depth should be fine for ceilings but I'll have to confirm. --Frank
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Hal Bissinger/COMSYSTEC

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Re: Ceiling/in-wall speakers -- brand/model guidance
« Reply #6 on: December 03, 2020, 06:03:21 pm »


If you can tweak the budget a bit - the 8" Martins would be my first choice out of the ones I've used/heard.   
You do realize that stereo in installations like this is worthless. So think about how many speakers you can do away with.

-Hal
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Lee Douglas

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Re: Ceiling/in-wall speakers -- brand/model guidance
« Reply #7 on: December 03, 2020, 07:09:50 pm »

Honestly, with very few exceptions, almost any in-ceiling/in-wall speaker placement is such a compromise that the "quality" clients say they are looking for almost doesn't matter unless you happen to be lying on the floor between the dispersion patterns of two in-ceiling speakers.  Other than the master bedroom, most listening is off-axis.  Although I'm a huge fan of conduit, I'm not so sure the technology of getting a signal to a passive speaker has changed much in the last half century; save your money and run a decently sized, NEC/AHJ approved installation speaker wire.  My standard installation in an open ended installation would be to run a 16/4 and a Cat5e to a single gang box and 16/2 to each speaker location from that single gang box, possibly passing behind a video location for speaker switching and/or a small sub. Use pre-construction brackets to reserve the speaker location.  This would allow for impedance matching volume controls in each zone or the possibility of some control of the system in the future.  As much as I like seeing the orange badge on my equipment, I think brands like Proficient Audio and others are easy to come by and will provide a price point that may allow for additional areas to be covered that may have otherwise been cut from the design.

That said, there are some extremely great sounding in-wall speakers (I was a B&W dealer for years), but their installation location and back boxing is absolutely critical and they are not $200 a piece.
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Frank Koenig

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Re: Ceiling/in-wall speakers -- brand/model guidance
« Reply #8 on: December 03, 2020, 07:53:39 pm »

Although I'm a huge fan of conduit, I'm not so sure the technology of getting a signal to a passive speaker has changed much in the last half century; save your money and run a decently sized, NEC/AHJ approved installation speaker wire.  My standard installation in an open ended installation would be to run a 16/4 and a Cat5e to a single gang box and 16/2 to each speaker location from that single gang box, possibly passing behind a video location for speaker switching and/or a small sub. Use pre-construction brackets to reserve the speaker location.

Agree on speaker wires. Current plan is to imbed 2-conductor speaker wire in the walls/ceilings with a run from each speaker location to a central wiring closet. The house isn't that huge so the amount of extra wire is worth the ability to reconfigure zones in the future. We plan to run conduit from where utilities, including Internet, enter the building to the wiring closet and from somewhere in the "home theater" area, where there is likely to be an ever-changing heap of consumer electronics, to the wiring closet.

The main room is a long and narrow kitchen and dining area where, given suitable speaker placement, one could reasonably experiment with stereo. Since each speaker has its own run to the closet this is easy to change and, given enough amplifier channels, could be left to be changed by the user on the fly.

I'll suggest running small conduit (in places where wire is not otherwise easily changed) to the likely locations of wireless access points and security cameras, too. While Cat cable is ubiquitous today, in a few years it could easily go the way of 75 Ohm coax. And even as everything becomes wireless, devices still need power.

Thanks all.

--Frank
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Steve-White

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Re: Ceiling/in-wall speakers -- brand/model guidance
« Reply #9 on: December 04, 2020, 12:42:44 pm »

Frank,
I messed around with my whole house system in a state of evolution for around 10 years.  Started out buying small metal box bookshelf speakers and had them on adjustable mounts and went from there.  In the end, I ended up with wall mounted stuff and a sub at the back end of the hallway and another sub in my shop.  What I have now isn't what I would label as HiFi, but it sounds pretty good.  Tried the Russound multi-room distribution switch, independent level controls, etc.

Now it's Polk Audio in-wall RC85i 8" two-way in the walls and a powered 15" Dayton sub at the end of the hallway, and a powered 12" Dayton sub out in the shop.  Every room has audio, including bathrooms, shop and patio.  Used a pair of 5ch HT amps for 5 2ch zones and a single 2ch amp for the patio zone that I can turn off at night.  Probably the biggest thing was adding independent zone controls.  When using the distribution autoformer/switch it was a PITA to manage levels.  When walking from room to room the levels would change and I found that really annoying.  Perhaps the next guy wouldn't - but it was annoying as hell to me.  So, a pair of DriveRack PA2's took care of that, setup as zone controllers and 120hz crossover to the subs.  Ran balanced XLR feeds to the subs into DI boxes feeding the plate amps.

Ran pink noise through the system to dial in the eq and gain levels at the listening areas for each zone.  It's been setup like that for at least 5 years and no changes in sight - I think I finally nailed it.

I would definitely run speaker wires and use amps.  For my long kitchen, two pairs of in wall up in the soffits.  4 x bookshelf in the shop on adjustable mounts to focus.  Two Polk Atrium near-field monitors out on the patio work best for watching TV - can run large drum fan in summer or forced air heater in the winter and still hear TV good.  That was another "discovery" to use a near-field approach on the patio and in the shop - to be able to hear it well without excessive volume levels - especially out on the patio at night when I'm out with my dogs smoking a cigar.  Milk Bones for them, I get the stogies.  :)
« Last Edit: December 04, 2020, 06:40:08 pm by Steve-White »
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Lee Buckalew

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Re: Ceiling/in-wall speakers -- brand/model guidance
« Reply #10 on: December 04, 2020, 01:13:12 pm »

Martin C8.1T, except they're over $200.  One of the better/best ceiling speakers that don't cost a fortune, and a nice wide pattern. 

The higher end Tannoy options are pretty good, but not in stock and cost more.

Community (Biamp) has some OK ones.  Same with EAW, JBL, EV, and everyone else. 

Stay away from Sonance and Bose and most of the general consumer brands.  The markup is insane!

If you can tweak the budget a bit - the 8" Martins would be my first choice out of the ones I've used/heard.  The 6" Martins have an even wider pattern, a bit less bass extension as expected, but they seem to distort too easily at higher SPL, where the 8" models are great.  If you can demo both of them - do it.  Make sure you can walk far off-axis. 

Another thought - if the SPL levels aren't high, use the Martin 6" models, but add a single small ceiling sub (Tannoy for example) to help with the low end.  Or hide a small-ish subwoofer (1Sound has some, or some small recessed options from various places - look close and the response graphs though) in the ceiling or wall somewhere.  This takes a lot of the stress off the speakers and works best overall.   

Another option, great sounding, from Martin is the Adorn ceiling speakers.  The ACS-55T have a similar frequency response to the C6.8T but less money. 
There is a shallow back can version (more limited LF response) if you would need to match with less room.  They also match the acoustic signature of both some small on wall models and a pendant model.
Can even get the on walls with weatherproofing accessories if you want to match anything for under eave mounting.
Where you would want some sub, if you could do in room the SX-210 is a really great little sub at a relatively low cost (Maybe not compared to other home speakers).

Lee
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Caleb Dueck

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Re: Ceiling/in-wall speakers -- brand/model guidance
« Reply #11 on: December 04, 2020, 09:49:33 pm »

Another option, great sounding, from Martin is the Adorn ceiling speakers.  The ACS-55T have a similar frequency response to the C6.8T but less money. 
There is a shallow back can version (more limited LF response) if you would need to match with less room.  They also match the acoustic signature of both some small on wall models and a pendant model.
Can even get the on walls with weatherproofing accessories if you want to match anything for under eave mounting.
Where you would want some sub, if you could do in room the SX-210 is a really great little sub at a relatively low cost (Maybe not compared to other home speakers).

Lee

How do the Adorn ceiling speakers perform, especially at similar SPL levels as the C series?  I have yet to use them. 

The C6.8T - I need to listen to them again, the first thing that comes to mind besides the wide pattern is how harsh the upper mid/HF gets as the SPL goes up. 

Agree with Hal - don't worry about 'stereo'.  I was always fascinated by how the residential world obsesses over having all speakers in pairs, especially ceiling speakers.  For 2.1 or 5.1 or 7.x.4 systems - stereo or surround makes sense.  For ceiling speakers - nope.   

Another point - match the speakers to the room, or more accurately, to the intended listening pattern.  Ceiling speakers are great where there is no focal point and the SPL will be lower, and the music isn't the main focus of the room.   For rooms where audio is the actual focus - I'd look at in-wall or on-wall, subwoofers, higher SPL, etc.   
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Lee Buckalew

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Re: Ceiling/in-wall speakers -- brand/model guidance
« Reply #12 on: December 07, 2020, 09:31:20 am »

How do the Adorn ceiling speakers perform, especially at similar SPL levels as the C series?  I have yet to use them. 

I have not yet used the ceiling versions of the Adorn.  They just started shipping but I have used the wall mounts extensively and they perform very well within their size and "I think" above their price point.

Lee
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Lee Buckalew
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Re: Ceiling/in-wall speakers -- brand/model guidance
« Reply #12 on: December 07, 2020, 09:31:20 am »


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