How to install surround sound speakers in the ceiling

How to install surround sound speakers in the ceiling?

Johann a TV mounting Technician and Editor
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Last Updated on June 8, 2022 by Johann Holsinger

So you’ve got a new set of surround speakers?

Knowing how to install surround sound speakers in the ceiling will not only create the best soundscape for your media room but will also add a new and better modern aesthetic to your overall room decor.

Compared this to standard speaker mounting, that stick out and can be intrusive and less modern to look at.

We think that the perfect home theater has ceiling and wall-mounted surround sound speakers.

There is some debate about both ceiling-mounted and ceiling-installed speakers and when to use each type.

  • Ceiling mounted speakers are best for front and rare left and right movie sounds.
  • Ceiling installed speakers are flush-mounted inside a ceiling and for direct overhead sounds for an ultimate movie experience.

A white speaker mounted on the ceiling as part of a surround system

When is the ceiling the best spot to install surround sound?

For speaker placement, speakers that will be used for background sound or support ambient sound are great for installing in or on the ceiling.

This location is much better to get the full reverberation from every sound or music note that comes out of the speakers and can complete many surround sound systems.

Small speakers outside ceiling mounting

What’s better about inbuilt ceiling speakers vs mounting speaker boxes?

Traditional speakers

Advantages

  • Great for fast wall placement.
  • Can be installed on a stand.
  • Provides perfect left-right balance.

Disadvantage

  • Can be hard to adjust.
  • Do not always hide the speaker and look slimline.

Traditional ceiling speaker mounted on the ceiling

Inbuilt ceiling speakers

Advantages

  • Great for audio systems that need high-profile installation.
  • Ceiling installation can be sleek and discreet [1].
  • Can offer water protection for outdoor speakers, and speakers on boats.
  • Allows for better cable management options.
  • Produces great surround sound for music and movies.
  • Downwards facing ceiling speakers are needed to complete high-end surround sound systems.

Disadvantages

  • Do not allow for adjustment if positioned incorrectly.
  • May limit your potential for lighting options.
  • May not sound great for gaming or podcasts if not paired with ear-level speakers.

Should you combine wall and ceiling-installed speakers?

Yes, in many cases combining both wall and ceiling installed speakers can benefit your sound quality.

For example, ceiling speakers will shine with ambient sound and music.

Wall speakers can be more targeted to listening height to produce clear and crisp speech or focused audio for left and right for movies and games.

A full home theater setup with ceiling surround firing downward

Should you combine floor standing and ceiling-installed speakers?

One of the biggest benefits of floor-standing speakers is they can be manually adjusted to better suit your listening needs.

If you rearrange your furniture, being able to adjust the location of a floor-standing speaker can benefit your sound quality overall.Image

Floor standing speakers and subwoofer

What are all the surround sound types and their configuration?

When you see two numbers together, this refers to the number of speakers with the number of subwoofers you would use for that system [2].

For example, a 5.1 would be a configuration for 5 speakers and 1 subwoofer.

For arrangements with 3 numbers, the third number will refer to the number of speakers you should have for ceiling installation.

If you see an additional number that would indicate the number of surround sound ceiling installed speakers directly above the listener.

Ceiling mounted surround sound speakers can be stand-alone for music listening applications or paired with a surround sound system to complete it with overhead sound.

Here are the different surround sound channels including:

  • 1.0 – A single speaker only, like a standard portable Bluetooth speaker. 
  • 2.0 – The most basic speaker system that has one speaker on both sides of the television, left and right.
  • 2.1 – An upgrade to the two-speaker setup with a subwoofer that will enhance depth and bass on the basic setup.
  • 3.1 -The channel will have four channels: left, center, right speakers, and one subwoofer.
  • 4.1 – The five-channel setup has left and right front speakers, rear left and right, and one subwoofer.
  • 5.1 – The added center ceiling mount speaker placement for 5.1 surround sound is a great option for standard music playing and movie enjoyment
  • 6.1 Do you like the sound from behind, the 6.1 arrangement has the addition of a center rear speaker.
  • 7.1 – This is great for a combination of floor and wall installation with an addition of two extra left and right speakers directly to the side of the sofas in the middle of both the front and rear speakers.
  • 7.1.1 – An outstanding arrangement with the addition of a ceiling-installed overhead speaker for high-quality media watching.
  • 7.1.2  The extra ceiling installed speaker replaces a single overhead speaker with both a left and a right.
  • 7.2 – An addition to the 7.1 set-ups with a second subwoofer to distribute the bass sound evenly in the room from both left and right.
  • 9.1 – The standard high-end home theater setup has 9 speakers adding to extra left and right speakers but only one subwoofer is mostly used by home theater enthusiasts. Only a single subwoofer lacks both left and right differentiation or ceiling-installed speakers for better separated overhead sounds in movies.
  • 9.1.2 – The ultimate home theater setup is just a simple upgrade to an out-of-the-box 9.1 setup. The main right and left speakers will now be firing from overhead with the upgraded double ceiling-mounted speakers on both sides of the system.

Note that all speaker combinations can go up to 4 Subwoofers, and 5 overhead ceiling installed speakers as a standard. For example, a 9.4.5 or a 13.4.5 surround sound setup is possible but not everyone knows how to do it.

A 4.1 surround speaker setup

Floor standing speakers in a surround sound setup

From here on, you can upgrade your home theater system to 10.2, 13.1 surrounds, or higher. Ultimately with some skills in electronics you can be as creative as you want the question is what extra speaker will make the biggest difference for your #D audio experience.

A high-end surround speaker home theater setup

Can you pair a standard surround sound system with custom ceiling-installed speakers?

Yes, you can combine a standard surround sound system with ceiling-installed speakers.

However, this arrangement may need a different speaker configuration or stand-alone adapters to ensure the two systems pair together.

You can match ceiling-mounted speakers with outputs from a surround sound system if the new speakers are the same or have a higher wattage output. 

Pairing can be done with multi-channel amplifiers or control boxes, depending on your preferences. In some cases, using a soundbar can also work when you want to combine a small number of speakers together.

In many cases, depending on ceiling-only speakers they may not produce the best sound for your listening needs for movies and gaming, and a large number of audiophiles will add wall-mounted speakers to the same system as well.

Don’t use new custom ceiling installed speakers.

If there rated wattage is lower than the original ceiling-mounted speakers, make sure to have enough watts in your new ceiling-installed speakers.

Speaker mounted on the ceiling

What surround sound configurations work best with ceiling-mounted speakers?

In some cases, choosing a three-number configuration can lead to a much better sound profile.

For example, 5.1.2 configurations can give you an excellent mix of different wall and ceiling speaker configurations.

In this example, you will have 5 ear-level speakers, 1 subwoofer, and two speakers will be installed in the ceiling to produce overhead sounds, like from a helicopter or falling objects in a movie.

This gives a solid arrangement of targeted listening from speakers that are wall or stand mounted to direct sound right to your ears from above.

A single subwoofer can help produces a booming bass to enhance the surround sound quality of the speakers by always diverting the heavy base sounds so that the mid-range speakers dont get heavily distorted.

And the two overhead speakers can enhance the ambient or support sound to help tie all sound systems together in a nice package.

Here are your choices of electric ceiling TV mounts in case you want to paint the heavy-duty steel the same as your ceiling speakers.

Components of a home theater setup

A clean home audio surround sound setup

Are surround speakers only installed in the ceiling lacking?

In some cases, yes, ceiling-only speaker installation can fall short depending on what you listen to.

For example, ceiling installed speakers will shine right down for music-only listening, but for movies or gaming, ceiling-only speakers can be lacking simply due to the reduction of the targeted left-right front, back and side targeted sound

Surround speaker on ceiling

In-wall surround sound speakers vs In-ceiling surround sound speakers

In-wall surround sound speakers

Advantages

  • Produces sound at ear height or from above while still providing a better left-right balance.
  • Installation is somewhat easier when you locate studs or the top plate of wall frames first.
  • Speakers of almost any size can be installed on the walls.
  • Do not limit the amount of recessed lighting that can be installed.

Disadvantages

  • May not produce the best “all over” sound profile if mounted close to the ceiling if speakers are supposed to be at head level.
  • Targeted listening may not offer a proper surround sound feel.
  • May overwhelm the listener with too much left or right sound.

In-ceiling surround sound speakers

Advantages

  • Creates a great “all over” sound profile by adding direct overhead sound.
  • Excellent speaker placement for hidden speakers in music-only audio systems.
  • Speakers and subwoofers can be combined discreetly.
  • Frees up wall space for windows, art, or open floor plans.

Disadvantages

  • Room shape or size may not be perfect for in-ceiling installation.
  • Installation can be difficult and requires ladder usage and cutting of plasterboard.
  • It may be difficult to pair with existing speaker systems if you get undersized speakers.
  • Limits the potential placement for recessed lighting.
  • Speaker size is somewhat limited.

What tools do you need for surround speaker placement in ceilings?

  • Drywall or Plaster Saw 
  • Laser Level
  • Stud Finder
  • Cordless Drill
  • Drill Bit Assortment
  • Wire Stripper and Connectors
  • Measuring Tape
  • Pencil
  • Ladder
  • Eye Protection

Tools for DIY TV mount

How to install surround sound speakers in the ceiling?

Step 1. Decide on Placement.

Ceiling speakers should create a good cover of sound throughout the room, so central placement is best.

Try to install the speakers in such a way that the placement complements existing lighting fixtures or climate control vents.

Step 2. Mark the Location.

Once you have decided on a spot for your speakers, ensure the area is near a stud and mark the location with your pencil.

This gives you a chance to measure the locations and ensure each spot is equally spaced around the room.

Step 3. Use a Speaker Template.

Most speakers should come with a template to help you create a perfect-sized hole.

Use the template to mark the hole with a pencil and once again check the locations before you start cutting into the ceiling.

Cutting openings of a ceiling for speaker

Step 4. Cut the Openings.

After you are satisfied with the template placements, use your drywall saw to carefully cut the openings for the speakers.

Ensure you wear your eye protection at this time since this process will create a lot of dust coming downwards.

Step 5. Snake the Wires.

Once the holes are made, start snaking your wires through the hole and running them back to your amp.

This can be made easier if you have assistance from a friend, or if you have use of an upstairs or ceiling crawl space.

Check out this wire and cabling guide for walls.

Tools for DIY TV mount

Step 6. Install the Speakers.

After the wires have been connected to your amp, install the speakers snugly into the hole.

Secure them to prevent falling to the side of a ceiling joist, and add the finishing touches such as the grill cover.

Step 7. Enjoy the System.

You have just learned how to install in-ceiling speakers!

Now it’s time to turn on your music and enjoy your new ceiling-mounted audio system.

Here’s a bonus wall-mounting guide for your TV.

Dos and don’ts when placing surround sound amp speaker in the ceiling

Dos

  • Do add ceiling framing as required to keep the speakers firmly mounted if the location is not directly next to a ceiling purlin or joist).
  • Do pay attention to lighting and HVAC when deciding on speaker placement. 
  • Do double check for wires before cutting into the wall with a saw.
  • Do use thick cabling when possible, 14AWG is recommended.

Don’ts

  • Don’t forget to wear eye protection when cutting into the ceiling.

Should you pair ceiling-installed speakers with ground-sitting speakers?

In many speaker arrangements such as 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound ceiling speaker placement, keeping your subwoofer on the ground will create the best sound profile for the overall room.

Many individuals will place their subwoofer front and center in their listening space to get the best bass return when watching cinematic movies.

Speakers in ceiling and projector for a surround sound hometheater

When to mount speaker boxes on the ceiling instead?

If you have purchased a pre-configured sound system, ensuring each speaker is placed in its designated spot will get the best return on your sound.

Some systems require a certain number of speakers to be installed above your listening level, which means ceiling installation is the best option.

If you don’t want to spend extra money on in-ceiling replacements or you don’t want to make holes in your ceiling, you can just use the standard ceiling speaker boxes.

A traditional speaker mounted on ceiling

Considerations for installing ceiling speakers outdoors or on a boat

When installing your speakers outdoors or on a boat, keep in mind the technology is moisture-resistant and not moistureproof.

This means outdoor speakers will require some protection from the elements in order to work correctly.

For more heavy-duty applications and exposure to extreme weather, you can look at the specs in specialty marine grade speakers.

Surround speaker mounting on boats

How many speakers do you have?

Whether you just wanted to know how to install speakers in the ceiling, or simply want to compare the options, there is a wide range of configurations that can work for your media room. 

It is up to your preference for how many subwoofers you want in your home entertainment system, and how many ceiling speakers you have in the optimal position.

We think having two overhead speakers are best, one left and one right-sounding ceiling speaker.

And if you’re thinking how you can install speakers on the wall, check this out.

Until next time! Listen to the voice up above for guidance.

Surround sound 7.1 configuration

More information:

  1. Benefits of ceiling speakers, published by https://hipages.com.au/article/benefits_of_ceiling_speakers
  2. Basic types of surround sound systems, a blog from https://blog.bestbuy.ca/tv-audio/tv-home-theatre-tv-audio/basic-types-of-surround-sound-systems-5-1-6-1-and-7-1

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Johann Holsinger portrait

Hi, my name is Johann Holsinger, here at mountyourbox.com I share all of the tips and tricks I have professionally learned to help you set up your ultimate home entertainment system.