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I've done quite a bit of web surfing concerning home theater design, speakers, and speaker placement. I have seen almost nothing about in-wall speakers. Would someone give me some pros and cons for in-wall speakers vs free standing speakers?

Almost everything I've read talks about speaker placement where the speakers are a significant distance from the nearest wall to get the best imaging, sound stage, etc. How can the in-wall speakers possibly give comparable sound quality to the free standing speakers?

I bring up this subject because my son-in-law is having a contractor build a home theater from scratch in his basement in a space about 20 ft x 12.5 ft. He is budgeting about $25,000 for the entire project. I was very surprised when he told me the contractor has proposed a complete in-wall speaker system by Speaker Craft (a brand that I had never seen in web home theater web forums). The speaker model numbers appear to be near the low end of the Speaker Craft products, including only a single 10" subwoofer. That sounds like a very small subwoofer considering his budget and I'm afraid he won't get the impact that he wants. When my son-in-law first talked with me about this project, he said the contractor was throwing around brand names like Velodyne; I thought he was on the right track for sound quality. I've encouraged him to take a closer look at what SVS has to offer.

Any advice or opinions will be much appreciated.
 

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I built my 11.5' x 19.5' dedicated room and have a pretty nice system for much less than $25,000. Even if I had paid someone to build the room, it would have still been much less. That includes a pair of SVS PB12-Plus/2's at about $2500, which is significantly more (in many ways) than a 10" in-wall sub. I can almost guarantee he won't be satisfied with a 10" in-wall sub.

I won't say in-wall speakers are bad, but generally they are reserved for WAF or other unique situations. However, in that dedicated home theater room there is plenty of room to place floor standing speakers, which I personally believe he would enjoy more if he doesn't have some significant reason for going in-wall.

Maybe some others will chime in.... but I would also try to get him on the forum and look at a few of our construction threads.

Tommy has a good thread and he used in-walls. Tommy' HT In-Progress. He was about to use an in-wall sub but decided it would be much better to go with an SVS. I'm pretty sure he is quite happy he did.

It would also be nice to know what equipment and acoustics he has planned.
 

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In wall speakers pale in comparison to free standing speakers for many reasons... The #1 issue is perception of soundstage. With in-wall speakers you are forced to have an axis that is perpendicular to the front wall (if they are installed in the walls), and that would prevent any adjustment of seating location and speaker placement after the fact. Another issue along the same lines is, if the speakers are mounted in the ceiling, which I have seen a few times, you are going to get the "voice of god" effect where all off the dialogue sounds like its comming from upstairs. This may not be as much of an issue with the surrounds, but it is still detrimental to a proper sound field projection.

The final issue is $ to performance ratio. With in-wall components, you are paying a premium simply because they are designed to be placed in-wall. With the budget you mentioned, I can imagine a setup that would be a few orders of magnitude greater than the proposed configuration...

Definitive Tech BP7000SC mains, C/L/R 3000, BPVX/P surrounds
Outlaw Audio Model 7900 or 7500 Amp
Integra DTC 9.8 Preamp/Processor
Epson PowerLite Pro Cinema 1080 Projector
DA-LITE screen
HD sources/consoles/hd stbs/HTPC
ATLEAST 800$ on acoustical treatments. For a basement I would focus on 1st reflection points in front, and bass traps in the rear.
 

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How can the in-wall speakers possibly give comparable sound quality [and imaging] to the free standing speakers?
Quite frankly, they can’t. Take any given decent quality freestanding speaker, it will require an in-wall that’s probably 3-4 times the price to sound as good. Sheetrock doesn’t quite fill the bill as a non-resonant speaker cabinet, for instance, so there are coloration issues that must be overcome. There’s no free lunch.

In-walls can be a good option for the rear speakers, where imaging is less of an issue, if there are aesthetic concerns. But as the others have noted, there’s no good reason to go that route with a dedicated room. I would only use in-walls for the fronts as an absolute last resort – again, can’t see this as an issue in a dedicated room.

And I’ll also concur with the others about the sub. There really aren’t many 10” subs that are up to true home theater standards – i.e., good output and exentsion - and none of the ones that are are in-wall.

I certainly hope your son-in-law will re-consider. He’s on the road to a big-buck, mediocre-performing system.

Regards,
Wayne
 
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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks everybody for the inputs.
Bob, I appreciate the specific recommendations for a setup. I have to admit that I haven't done my homework yet ... but I don't see a separate subwoofer in your list of speakers. Are the Definitive Tech BP7000SC mains full range speakers with audiophile subwoofer capabilities? Please forgive my ignorance, but I don't understand the abbreviations in the line "HD sources/consoles/hd stbs/HTPC"? I will price out your recommendations to see how they fit with my son-in-law's planned budget.

Sonnie and Wayne, I'll pass along your words of wisdom as "expert opinions" to my son-in-law and hope he heeds your advice.

Is there anyone out there who has had superior results with in-wall speakers who would like to share some points of view in favor of in-wall speakers?
 

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I have heard a number of very good in-wall home theater systems. As others have pointed out, their is a significant cost involved. The last very good in-wall system I heard was at a parade of homes, and just the speakers would use up about 1/2 of your son-in-law's budget.

I have three brand recommendations for in-walls:
Triad
RBH Sound
James Loudspeakers

Also ensure that the in-wall speakers used have been designed for use with an enclosure.
 

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Quite frankly, they can’t. Take any given decent quality freestanding speaker, it will require an in-wall that’s probably 3-4 times the price to sound as good. Sheetrock doesn’t quite fill the bill as a non-resonant speaker cabinet, for instance, so there are coloration issues that must be overcome. There’s no free lunch.

In-walls can be a good option for the rear speakers, where imaging is less of an issue, if there are aesthetic concerns. But as the others have noted, there’s no good reason to go that route with a dedicated room. I would only use in-walls for the fronts as an absolute last resort – again, can’t see this as an issue in a dedicated room.

And I’ll also concur with the others about the sub. There really aren’t many 10” subs that are up to true home theater standards – i.e., good output and exentsion - and none of the ones that are are in-wall.

I certainly hope your son-in-law will re-consider. He’s on the road to a big-buck, mediocre-performing system.

Regards,
Wayne
Thanks Wayne. I often wonder as to why a sturdy box of the required volume can not be included in the in wall speakers. Since it will be behind the wall asthetics will not be important and we can have significant saving is finishing etc compared to a small box speaker.

I am sure there must be some good reasons why that is not popular.

Would love to get your thoughts.

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If this is driven by decor considerations, I have five free standing L1 speakers by Elipson for my home cinema set up (retail €400 ea and stands are about €100, contain cable management if thinner than mine are used), with a single one of their sub units (elegant cylinder) about €500 each.
I bought custom made to length thick shielded speaker cables with nice color sleeves from a Chinese supplier who has never let me down yet. I chose the color of the sleeves.
Members of the fairer sex often comment unprompted that they like the aesthetics.
I use British Audiolab (8000x7 amp and 8000AP preamp / dac) to drive.
The sound is very credible to the point that I enjoy music as much as films on the set up.
IMHO, I’d look to find some beautiful speakers that also sound great: at this budget he should not have problems. I’m not saying at all that my speakers are the last word in hi fidelity, but they ain’t bad, and frankly hard earned cash spent on the sources, preamplification and processing probably pay more dividends than on the speakers.
The subs could probably be built in, as placement is not such an issue, ditto the amps and boxes.
Mostly home theater is something of a compromise between aesthetics and sound. I think that choosing nice looking speakers, beautiful cables (or hiding these into the walls), build in subs, amps, monitor / tv cables is probably the better compromise to get great sound and looks. Built in speakers would also not be the way that I’d go.
Probably would also research if there were attractive active or amplified speakers, as that would effectively monobloc each speaker and not require a power amp (assuming subs will be powered). Or longer rca cables and shorter speaker cable approach, if the amps could be hidden near the speakers. As it sounds as if he’s rebuilding getting power to each speaker may not add much to the cost, and would probably pay sonic dividends. I used to run five musical fidelity monblock amps, sounded great but the number of power cables etc was hard in my situation to hide away (and allow sufficient ventilation)




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Quite frankly, they can’t. Take any given decent quality freestanding speaker, it will require an in-wall that’s probably 3-4 times the price to sound as good. Sheetrock doesn’t quite fill the bill as a non-resonant speaker cabinet, for instance, so there are coloration issues that must be overcome. There’s no free lunch.

In-walls can be a good option for the rear speakers, where imaging is less of an issue, if there are aesthetic concerns. But as the others have noted, there’s no good reason to go that route with a dedicated room. I would only use in-walls for the fronts as an absolute last resort – again, can’t see this as an issue in a dedicated room.

And I’ll also concur with the others about the sub. There really aren’t many 10” subs that are up to true home theater standards – i.e., good output and exentsion - and none of the ones that are are in-wall.

I certainly hope your son-in-law will re-consider. He’s on the road to a big-buck, mediocre-performing system.

Regards,
Wayne
This. Period. Nothing else to say.
 
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