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Discussion Starter #1
Hello all,

I am in the middle of doing basement renos. One of the rooms is going to be an A/V room. My architect/builder tells me that the in-wall speakers now very good. From what I have read so far, the views seem to be somewhat mixed, leaning mostly towards cabinet speakers. The in-wall speakers also appear to be more expensive. I would have expected them to be cheaper given the lack of cabinets.

So, I am no audiophile but I like to do it right. Should I consider the in-wall speaker for aesthetics? My budget is about $3k for the entire system, including a monitor, receiver and speakers. Any recommendations regarding the speakers? In-wall vs standalone.
 

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In wall speakers should still have cabinets included that are hidden in the wall. Surface mount speakers have much more flexibility for upgrading and adjusting placement. I would only consider in wall speakers for surround speakers.
 

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Obviously I'm no audiophile, so my preference is in-wall. I put five of them ($700) in my basement A/V room, one subwoofer ($300), with Optoma HD200 projector ($1,000), a Pioneer VSX-920 AVR ($600). The video/audio is driven by Win 7 Media Center PC (HDMI) with Bluray, and XBOX 360 4G (HDMI) for gaming.

The room is fully dry-walled and in-walls give the room a clean appearance. More pleasing to the eye than on-wall or floor speakers. Sounds OK to me!
 

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I just finished a basement reno project that included a AV room (5.1) with in-wall speakers. The only speaker isn't in-wall is a 10" sub.

My main recommendation for anyone is to check out the products at monoprice. It's in the US and you need to pay duty, but their prices and products are both outstanding. I picked up some in-wall and in-ceiling speakers to go throughout the house. That, combined with some Sonos gear makes for a pretty sweet whole-house audio solution.

Since linking to outside sites appears to be frowned upon on this forum, I'll just list the Monoprice speakers that I used:

8 Inches Kevlar 3-Way High Power In-Wall Speaker (Pair) - 100W Nominal, 200W Max - ~$90/pair (id 6816)

8 Inches Kevlar 2-Way In-Wall Speakers (Pair) - 80W Nominal, 120W Max - ~$67/pair (id 4101)

5-1/4 Inches Center Channel Micro-Flanged In-Wall Speaker - 8 Ohm - ~$43 each (id 6317)

6-1/2 Inches Glass Composite 3-Way, Dual Voice Coil, Stereo In-Ceiling Speaker (Pair) - 40W Nominal, 100w Max - ~$65/pair (id 4619)

I outfitted the AV room with a 5.1 setup, the main floor with stereo speakers on either side of the fireplace, and in-ceiling speakers in the master bedroom and the upstairs hallway (11 Monoprice speakers in total). I'm also using separate amplified subs. The reviews of in-wall subwoofers weren't nearly as positive as the in-wall speakers, so I decided to stick with amplified subs, three of them.

All the speakers (once installed) sound outstanding, although I'd say that the listening experience from in-wall speakers is better than in-ceiling speakers. The in-ceiling speakers are nice for bedrooms/bathrooms where you have easy access to the ceiling via the attic. I'm not sure what it is, but I think music just sounds better when its coming from in front of you instead of above you.

Also, I found that the $90 3-way in-wall speakers sound great, but in most cases they sound no better than the $67 2-way in-wall speakers. The only time I could tell a difference is when I cranked the volume to a "you'd better be wearing ear-plugs" level and the 2-way speakers start distorting sooner. I expected that I'd get a better sound overall from the 3-way speaker because of the extra driver and crossover, but that didn't turn out to be the case.

Most in-wall speakers come with paint-able grills. The best way to paint them is to use a paint sprayer and to use watered down paint (I used the same latex paint that was used for painting the room). For best results do one pass on the front and leave it to dry for a couple hours, and then for the second pass, paint the back of the grill. If you only spray the front of the grill, you can still see the original white color of the grill when you look at the grill from 45 degree angle. I painted the grills for the basement (AV room) speakers, left the grills off for the main floor stereo speakers, and left the in-ceiling speakers unpainted (since the ceiling is white anyway).

Monoprice has great deals on speaker wire and wall-plates with speaker binding posts on them. Those things help your installation look very professional.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
DanceWithLysol:

What a handle! You must tell us the background for this.

Thank you kindly for your very thoughtful input regarding the in-wall speakers. You rock!
 

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Oh, I've been using that handle for a long time. I started using it on battle.net when playing the original Starcraft in 1998. A friend of mine originally coined the name. I had recently seen a news program about Native Americans in downtown Calgary who used Lysol to get drunk/high. The reporter who did the story found a guy on the street who explained how he would puncture the aerosol can and drink the Lysol because of the alcohol content.

So, the name was a cross between the movie Dances With Wolves and those modern natives who got drunk off Lysol in downtown Calgary. I'm not sure if this is still done, but I thought the name was pretty funny at the time.

I kept using the handle because it's never already taken when I sign up at forums, so I don't need to remember different user names for different online communities.

Sadly, Starcraft 2/ battle.net doesn't allow names that long, so I'm using a different handle on there now.

I think we would all love to see some pictures...
The reno isn't done, so the basement won't very pretty, but I'll take a few pictures and post them. The AV wall is close to complete, so I'll try to angle it so it doesn't show the mess in the back. :)
 

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Maybe this is because I'm not married and never had to consider any wife-acceptance-factor issues whatsoever, nor have to worry about little kids running round toppling things over, but if I happened to have a spare room that would be used primarily for AV purposes, the HT equipment (TV + speakers primarily) would immediately become the focal point of the room. IOW, hiding them would be the last thing on my mind.

Instead of trying to hide equipment, I would go the exact opposite route and intentially have (at the very least) the front and centre speakers out in the open for everyone to see. Obviously, I would like them to look as good as possible, so aesthetics still come into play, but my philosophy would be how to best showcase the equipment in the space it will occupy.
 

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Okay, here are a few pics that I just took.



This is the stereo speakers on the main floor. In the future (when I can get a TV that meets my requirements) the big picture is going to be replaced by a mounted TV.

Now, to the basement, where reno work is going on...



This is the front of my "AV wall". Those are speakers grills painted with the paint sprayer. It's a bit of a mess down here because the reno isn't done yet.



This is the other side of that AV wall where I can run the cables. I also have a Sonos ZP90 and HTPC on this side of the wall since they don't really need to be visible.

I was going to post a few more pics, but I guess they have a 3-image limit on here for a reason, so I'll stop now.

When everything is done, it should look great! Right now it only sounds great.
 

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Danceswithlysol, nice work on the reno.

Normally when you crank up the volume on the receiver, it's actually the receiver running out of power that causes the distortion. I experienced this quite often when MDW used the karaoke using my receivers. I feared for my speakers then. When I added a power amp (180w/ch), I let her sing to her heart's delight and not worry about the speakers.
 

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Bean,

I would recommend that you do a mix of both kinds of speakers. In my HT I installed 7.1 Surround and I actually used a mix of all 3 kinds of speakers, In walls, In Cielings & floor standing.

First off not sure what type of system your building either 5.1 or 7.1 at your budget I'll assume 5.1.

My personally opinion is that Surround speakers aren't delivering a lot of effects and don't handle tons of power so using In walls or In Ceilings works fine with the surrounds and in most cases the issues of asthetics and placement are with the surrounds and not the mains.

Your Main speakers (L,R, C) are the speakers that deliver the most music/Sound effects and are the heart of the system. Over time you'll find that these speakers you might upgrade for better Quality and more power handling and if there stuck in a wall thats a problem. Not to mention the In Wall/ In ceilings don't perform as well and you want your mains to sound as good as they can.

Also I would make sure you do alot of research on In walls/In Ceilings if you go with them, I'd make sure you listen to them in person and look at reviews about sound & quality since once you have them built into your walls its going to be a pain in the ass to get them out if you ever decide to upgrade or have to fix them.

Personally I believe you get what you pay for and If I'm going to put it in my wall I'd be paying alot. I purchased some Energy C series In wall/In ceilings each speaker cost about $450.00 and will last me the long haul.
 

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Personally I believe you get what you pay for and If I'm going to put it in my wall I'd be paying alot.
Sorry eXcessive, but statements like this are really a fallacy. 15 years ago I had some good friends who worked at various AV stores (A&B Sound, Future Shop, etc) and they showed me how there is a huge variation in the amount of margin different products have. Some excellent examples are speakers and cables. If you take a look at the costs of manufacturing as a percentage of the sale price, it's unusually low. Products on the other end of the spectrum are things like modern HDTVs or computers where you aren't getting taken to the cleaners because the cost of making the product is significant.

A good measure of "value" is not paying for a lot of margin in the products you purchase. For example, I knew a guy who worked at Soundsaround in Calgary, and they sold Nuance speakers. Those speakers are about 80% margin just for the retail store. At the end of the day a lot of people were leaving the store dropping $1000 on $75 worth of speaker parts and copper cables. Paying more hardly guarantees you are getting a better product.

Speaker design hasn't changed much in the past 40 years. There isn't much innovation in the loudspeaker world. Most of that innovation is just in the form factor with cooler looking drivers and speaker boxes.

If you want the best looking (and sounding) home theater, I'd put as much money as possible towards a big, high quality TV and avoid the rip-off prices you generally find on name-brand speaker drivers and cables. It's important to do a good job on the installation of in-wall speakers (e.g. remember to put an adequate amount of insulation behind the speakers).

Comparing in-wall speakers to a set of Mission and Nuance floor-standing speakers (what I was replacing) I found that, by themselves, the floor standing speakers have quite a bit more bass. Once you add a powered sub to both configurations (floor standing and in-wall) it's very difficult to tell a the difference.

My in wall speakers start losing volume noticeably at about 120Hz, and it quickly falls at about 80Hz. These values are highly dependent on the installation job of your speakers. Measuring this helps you determine where you want to set the crossover for your sub. I used this software to determine this, and I recommend you do the same when tuning the entire system.

Getting parts that provide the best bang for your buck and tuning them correctly will produce a much more satisfying result than the paying too much for commoditized technology.
 

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I have investigated a number of scenarios in the past and here is some of my thoughts for what its worth.

  • Crappy and mediocre speakers can be bought at any price.
  • Within brands, standalone speakers typically represent much better value. (i.e./ for the same price, standalone will sound better)
  • In-Wall Speaker and Ceiling Speakers are prettier
.

Like all speakers, I recommend you audition them before you buy.

I use ceiling speakers for several rooms in my house for music and I auditioned four different models before making a decision. What I found is that the sound quality varied significantly with each pair.
 

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Dances,

You don't need to talk to me about Margin vs cost I'm a sales rep for a manufacturer I know all about how it works.

However materials, service, manufacturing location/Design are all a factor and if you have listened to alot of products its very easy to hear the differences.

Lots of folks like to think in AV that you can't hear and see the differences in the various products its a constant arugment on forums. Facts are you can certainly hear the differences.

I would never buy a set of speakers without being able to hear and that would be tripled if they were a low cost product of any kind.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
eXcessive:

My budget is not set in stone. I will spend about $1 to$1.5k on a plasma (50"), the remainder of $2-4k is for the rest of the system. I think I will spend about $1k on a receiver and the rest on speakers. If I can get away with spending just a thousand on speaker then that would grand (ha ha). I have never heard of nice sounding in-wall speakers but I am open minded. I will be going into shops to listen to them. The speakers that Lysol spoke of from Monoprice are certainly priced right, but it is nearly impossible to audition them.
 

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You can look at Emotiva's in-wall/in-ceiling. I bought the 8.2 in-ceiling but have yet to connect them. However, I've connected the outdoor monitor 6.2 and they sound solid to me.

You can audition them for 30 days.

While there, you may want to look at the UPA-5 and UMC-1 and compare that to the AVR you had in mind. Price difference will not be much and it may be worth it to you.

Good luck.
 

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It is true that most stereo stores don't properly install in-wall speakers for auditioning, which makes it even more difficult to determine if said products are a good fit for you. This is especially true if the show room is much different than the room you'll be placing the speakers in.

While auditioning products that are only available on the internet is nearly impossible, you can get a pretty good indication of product quality by surveying the internet. If the reviews for a product are generally excellent, I don't mind taking a risk on it. If you like the price of monoprice speakers, I recommend you search the internet for the opinions of people who have installed them.
 

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beanagee1, you can buy the Emotiva speakers and try them out at your place. You'll have to pay shipping both ways though if you return them. Of course, you can get those dropped off across the border so shipping is cheaper. If you can wait for some sale, maybe US Thanksgiving or Christmas, they may even waive the US shipping. I bought some of their products during their July 4th sale - product discounts and free shipping CONUS.

Finally, see if there are Emo owners near your place and if they will open their doors to a friendly guy with a six-pack (or twelve) of their favorite beverage.

Good luck and keep us posted.
 
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