In-Wall Speakers: No Sir, We Don't Like Them

Posted by Tom Hannaher , Thursday, April 30, 2009
Somebody has to put a stop to this in-wall speaker madness. Here's my attempt.

For years, installing in-wall speakers has become more and more popular. Thus more and more people spend too much money for inferior sound.

A simple at-home demonstration will illustrate my point. Ask a friend or family member to stand with their backs (and heads) against the wall, and then speak in a loud, clear voice. Or better yet, ask them to sing! Then, as they are talking/singing, ask them to take one step away from the wall. Notice how the sound of their voice becomes much more clear, more open, more natural? That's because a human, or a loudspeaker, inherently sounds better when it's not jammed up against a wall -- or worse yet, jammed inside a wall. The way sound behaves when it emanates from its source too close to a wall is not good. This is why you always see audiophile-quality speakers parked out into the room, a good couple of feet away from the wall.

For years companies have worked on ways of solving this problem. And there are some decent in-wall (or sorta-in-wall/sorta-out-of-wall) speakers on the market. But they tend to be pretty pricey, and the sonic results variable. And then there's the cost of installing those in-wall speakers and their wires. Yipes! It can easily end up costing you $1,000-$2,000 to have a pair of high quality in-wall speakers installed in a room. So be prepared to pay a lot for this kind of sound system and to settle for less sound quality than you really want.

Go wireless with Roku, Squeezebox, Sonos or Apple...and maybe a little ZVOX

If you want music throughout your house, you don't need to string all those wires. The companies listed above all have pretty great wireless audio solutions that will cost about the same or less than wired audio systems. Then connect them to a small amp and a pair of good bookshelf speakers (that can be wall-mounted), and you'll get much better sound than in-walls. Or connect your Sonos/Roku/Squeezebox/Apple-Airport to a ZVOX single-cabinet sound system. Then life is very simple, sounds very good, and doesn't cost nearly so much.


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