TIP #33:

At one time or another we have all thought about how nice it would be to have sound in a secondary location, away from the main stereo room. However, in the desired secondary location, be it kitchen, bathroom, bedroom etc. there is another overriding need, and that is that the speaker be invisible. A conventional box type speaker would simply take up too much space, or detract from the room’s decor.

What to do? Enter the flush mount or In-Wall Loudspeaker. Although we are all aware that such a beast exists, how to go about the process of taking our desire for music, in the kitchen for example, from a dream to reality is the burning question.

Usually, it is really quite simple. First, take a look at the room, and think about the traffic patterns people use and consider where people will be when they want to listen to music in that space. Taking this into account allows us to establish the best placement for our new, fun filled speakers, while providing maximum dispersion, with a minimum number of “hot” spots. Most flush mount speakers give the best stereo effect when they are a maximum of 10 feet, and a minimum of four feet apart. Sometimes it will be necessary to experiment with the stereo effect to get the best sense of room fill.

If for example, our kitchen has a 12 foot island type counter in the middle of the room, with an area for food preparation on one side and the kitchen table on the other, logically one might consider putting one speaker over each end of the counter. Unfortunately, this won’t do the best job for a couple of reasons. First, the speakers are too far away from one another to create a stereo effect for someone working at one end on food preparation, as only one channel (the one directly overhead) can be heard. Listening to music on one stereo channel is worse than listening in mono. Second, although the speakers are centrally located the best place for sound is on the counter, and you aren’t there very often.

Taking into account the traffic pattern, a better solution would be to create two zones, one at food prep area and another at the eating area. From here we have a couple of options, depending on quality and cost requirements. The preferred alternative would be a set of stereo speakers high on the outside wall, eight feet apart facing the food prep area. A second set could then be mounted on the opposite wall, adjacent to the eating area. Both sets of speakers now face the counter from opposite outside walls.

This speaker configuration gives us quite a few advantages. Number one, areas that were previously “hot” spots, because the listener was exposed to the close proximity of a single speaker, are pretty much eliminated. The ability to regulate volume is also increased, primarily because the sound from each speaker is heard directly. With this set up, the listener does not experience any delay of sound, and the sense of a separate left and right channels is evident throughout the room, because as the listener circulates in the room there are always left, right, left, right speakers.

A less expensive option would be to use single stereo flush mount speakers. These speakers are designed to reproduce stereo sound from a single location. They work well in bathrooms or foyers, where one speaker in the ceiling is all that is practical, -and quality stereo sound is required. If you need some help with this process, give us a call, that’s why we are here. Or, better yet, drop by and draw us a picture (or fax us one.) We would be pleased to recommend the best options for your environment. Hopefully this little example can help you in determining possible locations for speakers in your home.

Having decided where the speakers will go, we must turn our attention to getting wires to each of them. We have covered multi-room wiring in a previous Tip, so suffice to say, get the wires to a hole in the wall. The basics for pre-wire are:

  1. pull FT rated in-wall speaker cable and a data cable together (for potential future upgrades) from the main stereo system to an accessible central location in the second room (i.e. an electrical box at switch height)
  2. pull speaker cables from the electrical box to the individual speaker locations. If you don’t want to do this yourself, there are professionals we can recommend for this work.

OK, we now know where we want our speakers, and we have the wiring in place, which leaves us with our final decision – which speakers to purchase. Inexpensive In-Walls start at about $200 a pair and can go as high as $1,500. Since the sound of any flush mount speaker is affected by its location, mounting, room construction and shape, it is difficult to get a real idea of how any flush mount loudspeaker will sound in your house by listening to a set mounted in a our store display. Since we can’t really judge by listening to them in a different environment from the one in which they are going to be used, perhaps the better way is to assess the speakers on their specifications.

In any price category the number one feature to look for is warranty. This reflects directly on the confidence the manufacturer has in his product. Second is component quality. This isn’t rocket science, look at the way it mounts to the wall, the connectors and crossover network (cheap ones are quite minimal here). Lastly, look at the quality of the individual drivers, the speakers and other features (i.e. plastic paint grille included, mounting kit included, bass and treble controls and/or “pointable” tweeters for tailoring dispersion to a particular room, moisture resistance, etc. etc.

People who have flush mount loudspeakers installed in auxiliary rooms, tell us that they enjoy listening to music more often, since they do not have to go to the main system room for their tune fix. Usually, the speakers in the kitchen are used more than any other pair in the house. So, when making your decision on what type and quality of component to choose, remember that you never regret going with the better quality alternative. After all, fine music gives us a lift, especially when it is easily accessible and can be reproduced in all of its original glory. “Invisible loudspeakers” are an investment in the quality of life, and the return on this investment can be music to your ears, every day, for years to come – Enjoy!