Best In Wall Speakers – Buyer’s Guide 2018
Finding the best in wall speakers for your needs isn’t easy; there’s an abundance of different models out there to choose from.
Wall speakers are specifically designed for those that hate having a big set of bulky speakers in their lounge or bedroom. There’s nothing worse, right? The majority of home speakers aren’t just bulky, they’re pretty unattractive and are usually bland and you know that they won’t match the color scheme or anything else in your home. This is why in wall speakers have become so popular. And if you buy the right set, you won’t have to compromise on sound.
But, where do you begin when making sure you get the most suitable in wall speakers for you, at a decent price? Well, I’m here to help with a few in wall speaker reviews of what I think are some of the best options available today.
Best In Wall Speakers
|Model||Mounting||Frequency Response||Value for Money|
|Polk Audio RC85i||In Wall||35Hz - 20kHz||10/10|
|Micca M-8S||In Wall||40Hz - 20kHz||9/10|
|Yamaha NS-IW760||In Wall||50Hz - 24kHz||6/10|
|Polk Audio RC60i||In Ceiling||40Hz - 20kHz||8/10|
|Pyle PDIW65||In Wall/Ceiling||70Hz - 20kHz||9/10|
|Klipsch R-5502-W||In Wall||40Hz - 23kHz||5/10|
|Polk Audio RC80i||In Wall/Ceiling||35Hz - 20kHz||8/10|
Things to Consider
Usually, there brands come with a good warranty, which in my eyes in an essential part of buying any audio equipment. If you’re spending hundreds, if not thousands on equipment for your house, then isn’t it important to make sure that if anything goes wrong it gets replaced for free? Well, all the in wall speakers I’ll talk about have a warranty. I advise you investigate a bit further to make sure that the warranty is suitable for you.
Finally, the amount of in wall speakers you get is down to you; each occasion requires a different set up. Though for the average small lounge, I’d say 2, 4 or 6 in wall speakers would be ideal.
Polk Audio RC85i
Polk Audio are one of the most well known names in the audio industry, branding themselves as the ‘Most Trusted Name is Surround Sound’. I can’t say that I’d disagree with them, as their products are some of the best selling on the market.
Headquartered and manufactured in Baltimore, Polk have been around for almost 50 years, and they’ve cornered the market in terms of surround sound. The RC85i is one of their newer products, and we feel that it is a slightly better choice than the RC60i which is specifically made as an in ceiling speaker (the RC60i also makes the list, just a bit further down).
What really separates the RC85i from the other in wall speakers that I’ve featured is two things. Firstly, it’s versatility. Due to it’s waterproof build, you can comfortably use these in wall speakers in your bathroom, or if you’re wealthy enough, your sauna. Whilst this might not be your intentions at first, you can always move these speakers if you really want to, so it’s not a bad thing to have speakers that can be used in any room in your house.
The second thing that puts these in wall speakers slightly ahead of the pack is just the sheer quality. The sound quality is pretty exceptional, especially when you consider that they are ultra-lightweight. At this price, you’d struggle to find a better set of in wall speakers than these.
1) Nice design; of course, you might not be too bothered about this for in wall speakers (the grill is nice though!)
2) Very easy to set up. If you’re not technologically minded and don’t want to spend a bomb on installation, these are some of the easier speakers to install.
3) They’re suitable for any room if your home, not just your lounge. Yes, bathroom speakers are a fantastic idea if you’re a karaoke expert in the mornings.
1) Because they’re specifically lightweight speakers, parts of the model like the arms might be a bit flimsy compared to what you’re used to. Remember to take care when installing your RC85i speakers.
2) The mounting clips, like some of the other parts of these speakers, aren’t of the best quality. Again, be careful when installing.
3) Not great for heavy bass lovers. If you really want a bass sound, you should look to combine these with a decent in wall subwoofer.
|I love these in wall speakers from Polk; the most reliable brand in the United States when it comes to surround sound.|
|Alex says , Full Time Audio Geek|
The M-8S is the older brother of the smaller M-6S, though there isn’t too much of a difference between the designs. Whilst the M-6S has a 6.5 inch poly woofer, the M-8S has a larger 8 inch poly woofer. This makes for a less compact build, but a bigger and broader sound. You’d probably choose the M-6S as a ceiling speaker as opposed to putting it in wall.
In my opinion, at it’s current price, you’d struggle to find a better performing speaker. It uses a soft dome tweeter, which essentially is used to keep a crisp sound in the high frequency sounds that this speaker emits. Whilst it isn’t the best for lower frequency and bass infused sounds, you can always pair this speaker up with a good subwoofer for a fuller sound experience.
Another added benefit of investing in the M-8S is the fact that you can easily customize and paint the grills of the speakers if you so wish. Whilst I personally like the crisp white base color that they come in, it’s really easy to pick up some enamel paint from your local DIY store and finish the grill off in your preferred color.
1) They’re a good price. You definitely don’t want to be investing your entire budget into your speakers, which you can avoid by picking up a cheaper set like the M-8S.
2) To the average person, you really won’t notice much difference between the M-8S and speakers five times it’s price.
3) Personally, I like speakers that use a soft dome tweeter over a hard dome tweeter. This isn’t a necessity, but it’s just our preference for a lighter sound.
1) The main issue, as always when dealing with budget speakers, is that the customer service isn’t as efficient as it is with bigger companies like Polk and Bose. Of course, this is why many people do not mind paying double or treble the price for a similar product in terms of quality, but bear that in mind if you go for the budget option. It isn’t much of an issue with regular speakers, but it can be a nightmare if your in wall speakers stop working!
2) There are better products out there. The sound quality is good, but not great.
|We can’t all afford to spend hundreds of dollars on things like speakers. If you’re on a tight budget, the M-8S would be a great pick.|
|Alex says , Full Time Audio Geek|
Unlike the other speakers I’ve mentioned, the Yamaha NS-IW760 is a bigger beast and is best used as a center speaker in combination with a pair of smaller speakers and maybe a subwoofer. For my money, they are one of the better center channel speakers on the market right now.
You don’t have to use the NS-IW760 on it’s own, though. Many people purchase three or more of this speaker to really create a fantastic sound in their lounge. Here is an example of a good setup;
By having 3 speakers with the same frequency response and sound quality, this helps create an equal and strong sound throughout the system. Using a 1 inch soft dome tweeter, the high frequencies that this speaker gives out are of a really great quality. Paired with a good subwoofer, you’ll be well on your way to getting a comprehensive in wall sound system for your home.
1) The vocals that this speaker produces are amazing. If you’re an avid movie fan and love a good movie marathon, then you’ll recognise how important it is to get great sounding speakers.
2) The NS-IW760 aren’t a new, innovative speaker; they were released many years ago. Whilst you might thing this would be a negative as the technology might be outdated, I prefer to think of it as a positive. It has been one of the best selling in wall speakers consistently for years, which says a lot about it’s reliability long term.
3) You can find this speaker with varied wattage and builds, with some being better than others. The one I’ve listed has upgraded kevlar cone woofers, which produce a slightly better sound than other alternatives.
1) Whilst the highs and mids are great, it isn’t the best for lows and deep bass sounds. You could look at getting a three way speaker if this is a concern for you, as the introduction of a mid-range usually means that the bass sounds are better.
2) In terms of build quality we’ve definitely seen better, though you’d usually be paying a much higher price than this.
3) It’s not as easy to install as other speakers. This is partially due to the size of the speaker, as it is usually more difficult to install center channel sized speakers than smaller ones. Just be wary that isn’t an easy fit if you want to install it horizontally, which is what the majority of people do. You might need to get someone in to install this speaker, even if you do have some experience.
|This is my favorite option for a center channel speaker. Personally, I’d get three of these an install one horizontally under the TV, with two installed vertically either side. Optimum cinema experience, yeah!|
|Alex says , Full Time Audio Geek|
Polk Audio RC60i
To create a truly great surround sound experience, many people take the option to introduce scattered smaller speakers throughout their wall or ceiling. We think that the RC60i are some of the best in ceiling speakers available on the current market. Whilst you don’t necessarily have to use them as a ceiling speaker, this is where we think they work best, as you’d be better off going for something bigger and bulkier for your wall.
Many people opt to use these speakers in their bedroom, which can be a great decision if you often listen to music in your bedroom before you go to sleep. They use a 0.75 inch tweeter, which is slightly smaller than what you might expect, though it does still produce the softer sounds that you might expect when using a soft dome. Aesthetically, they are made to replicate the appearance of a ceiling light, which will help them to blend in to your home without becoming an eye sore.
If you already have some good in wall speakers and you are looking for a more complete sound, it might be worth introducing a pair or quad of RC60i’s into your sound system.
1) They are not the chocolate filling, but these speakers can certainly be the icing on your sound system cake (dessert metaphors for the win!). This means that you don’t want to rely on the RC60i’s as your primary speakers, but they can certainly make your system feel complete.
2) We think that these speakers are available at a super reasonable price, especially when you consider that they are Polk; probably the most recognized and trusted brand in the industry.
3) You can almost definitely install these speakers yourself, even if you have little to no experience in doing this kind of thing before. It can be handy to learn how to install your own speakers, as you can save quite a bit of money by doing so.
1) The grills are seriously weak, and you’ll have to be careful if you install these speakers yourself. Whilst Polk speakers are generally great quality, the RC60i’s aren’t made to be as durable as some heavier set models.
2) One of the main criticisms of the RC60i is that they don’t emit enough sound, or that they sound too hollow. Whilst this is true to a certain extent, the majority of people are using these as their sole speakers in the house. Don’t expect to use the speakers on their own and be happy with the sound, as it will almost certainly be lacking.
|To get a full speaker experience, match the RC60i’s with something larger like it’s older brother the RC80i.|
|Alex says , Full Time Audio Geek|
My Top Tip - Consider a Soundbar
Why we don’t necessarily love these speakers, if you shop around you can usually find them at half, or sometimes even a third of the price as some of it’s direct competitors. While we don’t advise cutting costs for something like installing in wall speakers, if you do wish to do this then the PDIW65’s are the best of the budget bunch.
The Pyle PDIW65 uses a flush mounting system like many other speakers. This will help to increase the sound quality of the speakers significantly. If you’re curious to learn more about flush mounting, check out this great video which will help explain what flush mounting is.
Perhaps the main negative that we feel about the PDIW65 is that they are not the most attractive grills of any in wall speakers that we’ve seen. This likely won’t be of concern to many as in wall speakers aren’t the most noticeable things in the room; they are designed to be subtle and overlooked. But, if you are after a sleeker looking grill for your living room, you might have to up the budget a little and look elsewhere.
1) These speakers aren’t just budget friendly, they’re super budget friendly. You really aren’t going to find speakers of this quality cheaper anywhere, unless you’re willing to buy used speakers.
2) They are really simple to install, so you won’t need to worry about getting an audio nerd like me to install them.
3) I can’t say that these speakers are good quality, because they aren’t. But, if you directly relate them on a price to quality ratio, then I would say that they work out a pretty good value option. Make of that what you will!
1) Honestly, the quality is lacking a little when directly compared to the RC80i or other speakers that have a similar set up. Though these are significantly cheaper, if you have the budget then you should consider looking for something a tad better (in our humble opinion).
2) To continue with the quality from a more in depth aspect, you might find that the higher frequencies that these speakers produce aren’t the best at high volumes. If you are putting them in your office for some gentle background music, they’ll do just great. But if you’re putting them in your cinema room for action flicks, you’ll definitely need to mix them up with a good quality subwoofer and a center.
|Personally, I don’t like cutting corners with my audio projects, so I wouldn’t use these. But I do understand everyone has limits, and if I only had a limited budget to spend, Pyle produce some half decent speakers.|
|Alex says , Full Time Audio Geek|
Another center channel speaker in direct competition with the Yamaha NS-IW760, the Klipsch is a stylish speaker one of the best audio companies around. An extremely attractive speaker, the R-5502-W works extremely well as a horizontal center channel speaker, but will always perform well vertically in a set up of other speakers or as a pair.
Whilst the majority of their products are rather expensive, they do produce an amazing quality sound and you should consider them if you are looking to upgrade your current speaker setup. Why are they more expensive? Well for one, they use horn-loaded technology, which isn’t cheap. Whilst it isn’t easy to explain how horn-loaded tech works, I’ll do my best in a few short sentences.
Horn-loaded tech gives you the ability to create a far louder directed sound. Not only is the sound louder, but it will likely be with even less distortion that what a front loaded speaker would sound like. There’s a reason why the majority of bands and musicians use horn loaded tech when performing; it has the ability to be louder, and better.
If loudness of the speakers in your home isn’t an issue for you, then you would be fine with a cheaper set of speakers. But if you want optimum quality, then go with the Klipsh R-5502-W.
1) Visually, they look fantastic and are an extremely subtle addition to any home.
2) Unless you’re an experienced audiophile, they will blow any other speakers that you are tempted by out of the water. From the Cerametallic cone woofers to the titanium driver, no expenses have been spared when making these speakers. This makes them some of the best in wall speakers available right now.
1) They cost a lot more than any other speaker that I’ve mentioned, so they won’t be an option for the majority of people. I do think they are a bit of a luxury buy, but they do provide quality for their cost.
2) Aside from the cost, it’s difficult to state any real negatives with these speakers.
|Targeted at a more professional audience than amateur, Klipsch products of the highest quality. A great choice if you have the budget.|
|Alex says , Full Time Audio Geek|
Polk Audio RC80i
Yep, I understand why you might think that I am a bit Polk-biased, but I’m just sharing my genuine opinions on these speakers with you. One thing is for certain; I’ve never been disappointed by a Polk product. I can’t speak highly of them enough, and the RC80i are another great option from them.
One good thing about the RC80i’s and smaller in wall speakers in general is that they are super portable and easy to fit in any location throughout your house. Check out this installation that shows you can put them pretty much anywhere;
Like many other Polk products, the RC80i’s are extremely durable and you can use them anywhere in your home. They’re ideal for fitting in your bathroom, as they are very water resistant so you don’t need to be concerned about your speakers getting destroyed by condensation.
A great option for any in wall speaker setup; match them with the RC85i and the RC60i for a complete speaker set up.
1) They actually work really well in the ceiling. That might sound a little crazy, but let me explain. In the audio industry, it’s commonly said to avoid ceiling speakers and place them in the walls to get a true surround experience. Whilst I definitely recommend putting some speakers in wall, these speakers actually work well whilst in the ceiling, proving many an audiophile wrong. They don’t droop even in a suspended ceiling, and they distribute sound extremely well.
2) Not only do they produce great highs, but the mids are very crisp and on point too. This is a common criticism of two way speakers, so it’s good to see some speakers that break the mould.
1) The RC80i’s will struggle with the lower frequencies more than other speakers. They aren’t designed to handle the bassier sounds; they don’t do a bad job, but not the best. Be sure to pair them with another speaker if you’re putting them in your lounge.
2) You’ll almost certainly want to get more than a pair of these speakers, which can become quite costly. One of my friends installed 20 of these throughout his house and his bill was pretty big (though he loves them, despite the cost).
|The RC80i are a good option if you need an easy install speaker that won’t break your bank balance.|
|Alex says , Full Time Audio Geek|
FAQ | Terms Explained
Do I need more than one speaker?
To put it simply, yes. To really get a great quality throughout whichever room you’re trying to surround sound, you ideally will use a minimum of two speakers in your set up.
What different types of in wall speaker are there?
For me, I find it best to put the most popular in wall speakers into three different categories. This way, I don’t get confused.
The most common is what I would call ‘fronts’, which is the majority of what people assume to be in wall speakers. They are smaller, usually circular or rectangular. You can use them as left and rights on your television, or they can be used throughout your walls or in the ceiling of your home.
Secondly, the center channel speaker. This is the long rectangular speaker that you would usually place horizontally underneath your television, though they can be used vertically as left and rights too.
Finally, the in wall subwoofer. The majority of people won’t need this, but if you do like a lot of low frequency sounds and heavy bass, it is worth considering getting an in wall sub.
What is a Woofer? | Subwoofer Explained
The most common question that I’m asked by movies is about subwoofers and woofers in general. And I’ll admit; when I first started looking at speakers, I really didn’t have a clue about it either. I’ll try and put this in simple terms so that anyone can understand it.
A woofer is essentially a loud speaker. It usually describes a loudspeaker ranging between 20 Hz – 2,000 Hz that will deal with the lower-end frequencies (think bass and deep sounds) that are emitted from the speaker. It also deals with the mid-range frequencies too, as the Tweeter deals with the higher-end frequencies (think lighter) above 2,000 Hz
Now, a subwoofer will deal with selectively low frequencies between 20 – 200 Hz. It is specifically designed to do this; the way that the air slowly travels through the sub enables it to produce clear sounds without distortion.
What does two-way design mean?
It can be super complicated to understand what is meant by a two way design. Essentially, this refers to the frequencies that the speaker uses. In a two way design, the speaker will use two different frequencies. For bass and low frequencies, a woofer is used. For higher frequencies, a tweeter is used. In case you’re wondering, in a three way design an added mid-range is introduced to produce frequencies between the two.
Is a three-way better than a two-way?
Well, it’s generally understood that a three way speaker won’t necessarily be better, but it will have a clearer mid-range. and a bass. This is a common misconception, as many people think using a 3 way speaker will only make the mid range sound better; this isn’t true. This is more important to some people than others, but you’re unlikely to recognise much of a difference unless you’re a pro. Is a three way better than a two way? Most certainly not. Like many things, you can get good and bad of both types of speaker. I’d rather have a decent two way than an average three way any day of the week; and because more two way speakers are sold, you’re more likely to find a good one.
What is Frequency Response?
You’ll most likely find frequency response represented in the form of a graph, like so;
You’ll find frequency response listed for any major audio items that you’re looking to purchase. Speakers, headphones; they will all list that the frequency response is 30 Hz-200 Hz. But what does this really mean?
Well in simple terms, the frequency response describes how your device responds to the sound, or frequency, that it produces. For example, to measure frequencies we use Hertz, or Hz. The frequency response is important, as it is important that you audio device produces music that you can really hear at a good quality. It’s usually it’s accepted that humans listen best to volumes between 20 Hz and 20 kHz, so most audio devices will be between these frequencies.
Soft Dome vs Hard Dome Tweeter
So, in my humble opinion you won’t need to worry about this too much if you’re not an experienced audiophile. You’ll barely notice the difference, but if you’re an audiophile like me, you’ll probably have your preference between the two tweeters.
I personally prefer hard dome or metal tweeters, but that’s just personal preference and I have friends that swear by soft dome tweeters. Check out this super handy video if you want a more in depth answer:
How to remove your speaker grills (if necessary)
This is something that bugs me personally, so I just HAD to write on it! Something commonly referred to in the industry is using a corkscrew to remove the grill by hooking the inside of the grill and tugging slightly. Please don’t do this! If you really need to remove the front of your speaker grill, treat it like a paint tin. Use a corkscrew or something similar and slowly lift the edges off, rotating around the speaker slowly until it pulls free. This way, you can avoid damaging your speaker (and yes, I learned the hard way!).
How to fit your in wall speakers
Step 1: Determine the location
The first thing that you’ll need to do is work out exactly where you want your in wall speakers to be placed. You’ll ideally want them positioned at your ear level when you’re seated, which is perfect for sound. This is about 3 or 4 feet, or roughly 1 metre from the floor.
Now, you’ll want to get it as close to this position as possible. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible as sometimes there are things behind the walls (like pipes) that might cause an obstruction. If this is the case, you’ll have to adjust your positioning slightly.
Step 2: Measure the Space
Now, all on the in wall speakers I’ve recommended should come with a template that will help you measure where exactly you want to install your in wall speakers. If you don’t receive a template with your speakers, you can always contact the supplier and they’ll be happy to help.
Get some duct tape or cello-tape and place the template on the wall. It should come with pretty comprehensive instructions, but it’ll likely ask you to drill a 1/2 inch hole into the wall and use a keyhole saw to cut through the drywall. You don’t need to be concerned if this isn’t particularly attractive, as when you out the speaker in place, you’ll no longer be able to see the jagged edges that you leave from cutting the drywall.
Step 3: Run the Wires
Step 4: Installation
Once your speakers are completely wired, you’ll want to install your speakers properly. To do this, you need to secure the speakers safely to the wall and make sure that they are secure and aren’t going to fall out of place. After putting the speakers in the hole you’ve cut for them and connecting the wires, you can then screw in the screws to a fairly tight level (though not too tight).
Some people wait until after they have put the speakers in the walls to paint the grills, though personally I think that is the wrong way to do things. You’ll find it much easier to paint your grills prior to installing them.
Step 5: Test the System
The final step to installing your in wall speakers is making sure that they are installed properly. To do this, you should start at a medium frequency and an extremely low volume to avoid any damage to your speakers. Hopefully, they should be all good to go!