8 Reasons to Avoid New In-Ceiling Speakers Today

In-Ceiling Speakers

8 Reasons to Avoid New In-Ceiling Speakers Today

Key Points

  • In-ceiling speakers offer state-of-the-art audio discreetly throughout your home, but there are several factors to consider before installing them.
  • The cost of professional in-ceiling speaker installation can range from $1,000 to $2,400.
  • In-ceiling speakers require specific access points in your walls and ceiling, making them incompatible with some spaces.
  • Safety mechanisms like fire hoods and volume control limitations are important considerations when choosing in-ceiling speakers.
  • Alternative options like on-ceiling speakers or floorstanding speakers offer lower installation costs and more customization.

In-ceiling speakers are all the rage in department stores, offices, and commercial spaces. But have you ever thought of installing them in your house?

In-ceiling speakers are a tempting investment. They offer the potential for state-of-the-art audio right in your home, discreetly transmitting aesthetically pleasing sound quality throughout the area. 

However, you should consider a few things before committing to in-ceiling speakers. Whether you live in new construction or an older unit, you might want to rethink this option or try something else.

In today’s guide, we’ll get into the nitty gritty truth behind in-ceiling speakers. We’ll break down all the reasons you might want to avoid them and opt for something else. At the end, we’ll explore a few alternative options that could be even better for your audio set-up. Let’s get into it!

Some Background On In-Ceiling Speakers

In-house audio systems tend to be large displays. Many people gravitate toward traditional standup speakers (also known as floor standing or tower speakers), that rest on the ground, often attached to other sound systems like record players or CD units.

Occasionally, people want an alternative to this common solution. They want the experience of crisp, surround sound without all the clutter.

To them, in-ceiling speakers seem like the best option! You don’t have to worry about what they look like because they’re hiding inside your walls. It makes you feel like you’re living in luxury, since, you know–less is more.

What people don’t realize is how complex installing in-ceiling speakers can become, often outweighing any potential benefits from the sheer hassle of the ordeal.

Reasons To Avoid In-Ceiling Speakers

Installing in-ceiling speakers in your home is a major commitment. Before you decide that they’re the best option for you, it’s important to consider a few key factors so you don’t lose any time or money.

Suspended ceiling with LED square lamps and round speakers in the conference room.
If you’re outfitting a large space like this, you’ll need to add plenty of individual speakers to get the most even sound.

©Artem Zarubin/Shutterstock.com

Reason #1: The Cost

One of the most jarring realizations people face when they decide to install in-ceiling speakers is the actual cost of it vs. their perceived cost. It’s implied that these sound systems are not too pricey, veering towards more of a mid-range in terms of price.

However, it’ll cost at least $1,000 to get professional in-ceiling speaker installation. And you certainly would be getting them professionally installed, because doing it yourself could cause major damage to your home’s integrity.

If you’re opting for a more intricate system, you can expect to pay around $2,400 for installation. This is a serious investment, so you should anticipate paying more to receive higher quality (you get what you pay for!). 

Reason #2: The Number of Speakers You’ll Need

The size of your space will add to the overall cost of your project, sometimes drastically. Many people can get away with installing just a pair of speakers to their ceiling, but larger rooms may need 4, 6, or even 8.

You’ll also need something to power your speakers, like an amplifier. You may potentially require more equipment than you initially intended, making it more practical to opt for a visible sound system instead. And unless you’re installing these speakers yourself, you’ll need to pay someone to install them for you. That often isn’t a cheap service, which we’ll get into in a minute.

Reason #3: You’ll Need Wall or Ceiling Access

In-ceiling speakers require a specific access point in your walls and ceiling for installation. Your unit must be able to access these areas. Otherwise, your space is incompatible with in-ceiling speakers. All of you audio enthusiasts living in cramped apartment units must pick something else.

An electrician can analyze the area, determining if your home is a good fit for the in-house speakers you’re looking at. If it isn’t, there isn’t much that can be done to work around the issue, and you’ll have to rethink your plans.

The age of your home isn’t really going to impact the results much here, either. Your home either is compatible, or it isn’t–there is not much else you can do about it. Just make sure you own the space where you’re installing speakers into, since your landlord might not appreciate massive holes in the ceiling.

Technician installing speaker radio on ceiling of building.

Image: APChanel, Shutterstock


Reason #4: Safety Mechanisms

Sure, they are a cool design. There is no denying that. But in-ceiling speakers come with some safety risks due to their positioning. You might have a hard time accessing them without professional help once they’re installed, leading to complications when technical difficulties arise.

Therefore, most professionals recommend that you install a fire hood with your new in-ceiling speakers. This added expense can be a legal requirement, depending on where you live.

Fire hoods help the natural integrity of your building (namely, your ceiling) in the event of a fire. This risk factor is not a common occurrence, but the fire hood is non-negotiable. If you want in-ceiling speakers, you need to consider the cost of a fire hood, too.

The music should be fire. But the house shouldn’t. So, don’t forget about safety.

Reason #5: Volume Control

You would need different in-ceiling speaker units placed in different rooms to get full control over the volume coming from each one. So, if you have loud in-ceiling speakers installed in your living room, you should get used to its volume playing throughout your house. If you live in a department store, this is great! But your typical residential house might not get along with this setup.

Creating a dynamic volume level throughout your home is possible. Plan to install multiple in-ceiling speaker units throughout your home if each of the rooms is compatible. They aren’t just limited to living room use—you can get really creative if you have the budget for more units.

While impressive, establishing the perfect set of in-ceiling speakers to satisfy your aesthetic needs can generate a large bill much quicker than most people anticipate.

Reason #6: Moisture And Overheating

These days, many manufacturers have recognized that their customers want their in-ceiling speakers in bathrooms or kitchens. Many of these former safety hazards have been worked out, but some persist.

However, even with clever manufacturing, these are still speakers; they may be prone to overheating or damage from moisture if placed in the wrong rooms.

As tempting as it is to have full surround sound for your bubble bath, rethink the long-term costs of potential damage and having to replace them every few years.

Modern staircase and hand rail design in white and grey color
Basements are ideal locations to install in-ceiling speakers, since you can often access them from above. Just make sure your basement is dry so your speakers don’t get water-damaged.


Reason #7: Choosing The Right Speakers

Perfectionism is a blessing and a curse. The quality you desire from in-ceiling speakers might require a more thorough search than if you were willing to accept something sub-par. Plus, you can probably guess it won’t be easy to swap them out if you don’t like how they sound.

These days, there are many affordable options for in-ceiling speakers, but you should proceed with caution. Remember, installing in-ceiling speakers will already set you back at least $1,000. Once you add high-end, luxury speakers, this cost skyrockets before you even realize it.

Ultimately, you’re not going to want to settle for cheaper in-ceiling speakers because it could be far more expensive to replace them frequently. It’s important to do research on the brand and model you’re selecting before you purchase in-ceiling speakers.

Reason #8: Impracticality

Sure, in-ceiling speakers can impress house guests; but how frequently do you have people over where you need to be so dedicated to entertaining them? Take a thorough inventory of the number of events you host before you decide this is the right option for your home.

Sometimes, it can be tempting to get the latest and greatest with the hope that your social status will elevate. However, in-ceiling speakers are more impractical than people recognize at first glance.

They are drawn in by their audio quality and advanced technology while failing to ignore that they can actually be distracting and hard to use in everyday life. The speaker units will play at the same time, at the same volume, when connected to an amplifier, which can be frustrating while attempting to talk over loud music.

The real kicker is that many true audiophiles will claim that different types of speakers sound better than ceiling models. Floorstanding speakers, tower speakers, and even bookshelf speakers all claim to take the ribbon for the best sound quality. So, in-ceiling speakers are not very practical if you’re trying to get the best audio.

The Best Alternative To In-Ceiling Speakers

Your ceiling might not be a good fit for speakers, but you still deserve high-quality audio throughout your home. Thankfully, there is another way to get a similar experience without facing all of the complications that come with installing in-ceiling speakers.

On-Ceiling Speakers

This option is a bit more eye-catching, so if invisibility is what you’re going for, you probably won’t like it. Still, it is less distracting than a standalone unit on the ground.

You and your guests likely aren’t looking at the ceiling that often. Additionally, they can still have a clean, aesthetically pleasing look to them despite not being completely invisible.

Plus, speakers on your ceiling will have a lower installation cost than speakers on your ceiling. There are far fewer issues that arise with speakers that you simply stick on the ceiling versus digging deep into the walls of your home.

There is also more customizability with on the ceiling speakers in terms of volume control. You’d be surprised at how many of the problems people have with in-ceiling speakers are manageable when they go for alternative options, like on-the-ceiling speakers.

Office black speaker hanging on the ceiling in the meeting room
You will still need to attach on-the-ceiling speakers with tools, but they are easier to manage and use than their in-ceiling counterparts.


Floorstanding or Tower Speakers

It is easy to see how floor-standing speakers go completely against the philosophy of in-ceiling speakers. After all, they are much bigger, take up more space, and can add wires and clutter to your otherwise clean setup. But they are still a viable alternative.

If you don’t mind the extra space that floor-standing speakers take up, you’ll enjoy many other benefits that you don’t get with in-ceiling models. The costs are often lower, and the sound quality of many models is often competitive or even much better.

In that same vein, floor-standing speakers can be much more visually appealing. If you don’t mind embracing the fact that you have massive speakers in your room, then you can appreciate the intricate and novel designs of some of the fancier models.

Tall Stereo Vintage Speaker in Modern Interior with open drivers
Floor speakers take up more space, but can often provide better sound quality at a lower price than in-ceiling speakers.


Why You Might Still Want In-Ceiling Speakers

We might not have fully convinced you that in-ceiling speakers are a bust–and that’s okay! Everyone has their own tastes, and in-ceiling speakers may be the perfect addition to your home renovations.

If you’re okay with the cost, go for it. However, you have to really consider everything that you’d be paying for now, and everything that could eventually become an expense in the future. That’s typical with homeownership, but in-ceiling speakers require more maintenance than they’re given credit for.

You may still be certain that you can handle that. Many people are. Plenty of homeowners who install in-ceiling speakers don’t regret their purchase, and many go so far as to say it’s been a massive upgrade for their home.

A home theater is a great place for in-ceiling speakers, especially if you’re going for the true movie theater effect. Think about the space you’re aiming to install the speakers in. Determine whether or not they will give you your money’s worth in that location, and if you can make the commitment, take the plunge! We won’t stop you.

Summary Table

Reason #1: The CostProfessional in-ceiling speaker installation can cost at least $1,000, and more intricate systems can cost around $2,400.
Reason #2: The Number of Speakers You’ll NeedThe size of your space will determine the number of speakers you need, which can add to the overall cost of your project.
Reason #3: You’ll Need Wall or Ceiling AccessIn-ceiling speakers require a specific access point in your walls and ceiling for installation. If your unit can’t access these areas, your space is incompatible with in-ceiling speakers.
Reason #4: Safety MechanismsMost professionals recommend that you install a fire hood with your new in-ceiling speakers. This added expense can be a legal requirement, depending on where you live.
Reason #5: Volume ControlYou would need different in-ceiling speaker units placed in different rooms to get full control over the volume coming from each one.
Reason #6: Moisture And OverheatingSpeakers may be prone to overheating or damage from moisture if placed in the wrong rooms.
Reason #7: Choosing The Right SpeakersThe quality you desire from in-ceiling speakers might require a more thorough search than if you were willing to accept something sub-par.
Reason #8: ImpracticalityIn-ceiling speakers can be distracting and hard to use in everyday life. The speaker units will play at the same time, at the same volume, when connected to an amplifier.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do people still use in-ceiling speakers?

Yes! If anything, in-ceiling speakers are becoming more common for homeowners. About a decade ago, a home theater room was a rare luxury. You might have had a cousin or “rich friend” who had one, and you’d get excited to pay them a visit to use it. Now, home theaters are more viable for middle-class incomes. Some apartment buildings even offer them to residents as an amenity. The trend of upgrading your home entertainment has made it a bit easier for people to access in-ceiling speakers. This is causing people to be tempted to install them to their own homes, even if they aren’t quite ready for that commitment yet.

Do I need in-ceiling speakers?

You’re not going to like this, but the honest answer is a resounding “probably not.” They’re a cool option to have for high-quality music, but most people don’t host enough people to get their money’s worth. In-ceiling speakers are an expensive and permanent investment to your home. Before you get in-ceiling speakers, you should consider a number of factors that determine whether you and your home are a good fit for them. Otherwise, you can find other types of speakers to get the same effect.

Do in-ceiling speakers add value to your home?

They certainly can add value to your home, under a few caveats. First, you have to make sure you purchase high-quality in-ceiling speakers and amplifiers that will last through various generations of residents. You should aim to get speakers that last at least a decade if you’re aiming to add resale value. Still, even if you do everything right, you’re unlikely to convince your average home buyer to pay thousands more for your house unless they are just as much of an audio enthusiast as you are.

Are in-ceiling speakers better than in-wall speakers?

It depends on what you need them for. A home theater would benefit greatly from in-ceiling speakers because they create an immersive audio experience. They can be comparable to going to a traditional movie theater in terms of quality. Still, if you don’t want to deal with the struggles of installation, you could probably do just as well with in-wall or tower speakers.

Should I put insulation behind in-ceiling speakers?

It depends on what your primary source of surround sound is. If your in-ceiling speakers are your primary source of surround sound, then yes! It would absolutely be worth it to insulate the area. These days, it can be relatively easy and cost-effective to insulate an area like this in your ceiling, so it shouldn’t add too much to the already costly installation bill. However, you should insulate the area at the same time the speakers are installed for the best results.

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