Audiophile Reviews: Best In Wall Speakers For 2019
Whether it’s a floor space problem or a decor-related issue, reducing speaker clutter is something most audiophiles and home theatre enthusiasts are aiming to achieve. It’s no surprise then that these in-wall speakers are quickly turning into household staples these days.
The prospects of improving your home theatre’s sound performance without cluttering up your living space with wires and speakers are grabbing everyone’s attention – and taking the market by storm.
Over the last years, the sound performance of in-wall speakers has improved drastically, too. It’s safe to say that they can now go neck-to-neck with free-standing units.
Even more so, speaker manufacturers are coming up with new and improved designs, sizes, and styles, leaving a lot of people confused:
How do you know what to buy?
That’s where my detailed guide comes in – I’ll explain the basics, discuss the things to consider, and introduce you to the best in wall speakers currently available on the market.
In a hurry? The test winner after 20 hours of research:
Last Updated: December 1, 2019
By Barry Allen: This article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information regarding best in ceiling speakers available for those who are interested in enhancing their audio experience in home environment. The best 5 available have changed, and information has been added to assist individuals in finding the in-ceiling speakers currently available on the market. The FAQ has also been updated.
Top 3 In-Wall Speakers On The Market
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Shopping for Best In Wall Speakers: Consider the Following Factors
Deciding to go with in-wall speakers is merely the first hurdle.
So, if you’re shopping for the best in-wall speakers, I highly recommend that you take a moment to look into the below-mentioned factors before you make your final decision.
If anything, it’s going to save you the frustration of picking something that’s not quite up to the task.
The good news is that selecting in-wall speakers follows on the same – or relatively similar – footsteps as „conventional“ speakers. That means that frequency response range, power rating, sensitivity, and size are still factors to consider here – along with a few more things.
You see, the idea behind installing in-wall speakers is creating a clean, minimalistic look. That means no visible enclosures, no wires to trip on – you get the picture. So, one might argue that looks matter more than ever here.
Here’s everything you need to know!
Frequency Response Range
People can hear sounds within the 20 Hz to 20 kHz range – anything that goes above or below those limits is pretty much undetectable to our ears.
Similarly, speakers – both free-standing and in-wall ones – have a range within which they’re capable of reproducing sound.
It should go without saying, but I’ll point it out, anyway:
Always go with as full of a frequency response range as possible. That way, you’ll get the maximum sound experience – a much more balanced sound, and deeper bass, too.
Next to the unit’s actual power, sensitivity is easily one of the most crucial factors in determining a speaker’s performance.
I’ll avoid going into too many details here. My goal isn’t to confuse you or throw a bunch of additional info your way – it’s to help you pick the best inwall speakers for your needs.
Simply put, sensitivity refers to the speaker’s efficiency, more than anything else – it determines how efficient the unit will be in converting power to output volume.
So, for the best possible output – and an overall improvement in sound quality – go with in-wall speakers that boast higher sensitivity:
The higher the sensitivity, the better their overall performance – given the same amount of power, that is.
The 88-dB sensitivity is considered an average – a golden standard if you will. Anything below 84 dB isn’t even worth considering. And if you come across a unit that boasts a sensitivity of 90 dB or more, you’ve hit the jackpot.
Power Rating: RMS & Peak Power
When you’re looking at a speaker’s power rating – the same holds for all types of speakers, not just in-wall ones – you’ll typically come across two different wattage levels. One stands for the unit’s RMS power rating, and the other stands for peak power.
Are you confused yet?
Don’t worry; since power is a vital ingredient in getting that booming, room-filling sound you’re after, I’ll be sure to explain both:
RMS Power – This power rating is the one that truly matters when you’re trying to assess the speaker’s „real“ power. That’s the actual amount of energy that a speaker can handle while operating continuously.
Peak Power – Perhaps you can already tell by the name, but this rating refers to the maximum power that your speaker can handle in short bursts, and for a limited amount of time.
Drive Unit Size
When you’re shopping for an in-wall speaker, size is a vital factor to consider – and I don’t mean the sole dimensions of the speakers, either.
The focus here should be on the drive unit’s size.
Do you know that cup-sized component that every speaker has? Well, focus on that.
You see, as with any other speaker, this component is responsible for different aspects of a speaker’s performance, including its frequency range and overall sound quality.
The larger the speaker, the better the audio performance.
With in-wall speakers, your options will typically range from four to eight inches – and you should pick one according to the size of the room, as well as your sound preferences:
For low-end power and deeper bass, large, eight-inch drivers are virtually unmatched. If you’re trying to fill an ample space with sound – and you want it to be well-balanced and distortion-free – a more substantial driver is your best bet.
Six-inch speakers are the golden middle – not too small to mess with sound quality, and not too large to be attention-grabbing. They’re practical, versatile, and ideal for medium-sized rooms.
The smallest out of the bunch – four-inch drivers – aren’t exactly known for their stellar audio performance. However, they’re much easier to „hide,“ and blend into their surroundings perfectly.
Besides the actual size of the speaker drivers, another measurement you should pay special attention to when shopping for best in-wall speakers is mounting depth.
This measurement refers to the space that a speaker will require to fit inside your walls correctly – and with enough clearance.
And while it’s not directly related to its performance, it can be a critical element in your in-wall speaker placement and installation.
Furthermore, make sure that the speakers can be easily mounted on the wall – and removed if the need arises, too. Granted, in-wall speakers aren’t something that will be moved around frequently – if at all – but you should have the option to take them down with ease, nonetheless.
Most in-wall speakers these days come with mounting tabs, templates, and accompanying hardware to make the installation process as painless as possible for you.
Last but not least, keep in mind that high-quality in-wall speakers tend to be a bit more expensive than your average freestanding home theater speakers.
So, before you start browsing the market, be sure to set a budget for yourself. That way, you won’t get carried away and blow your cash on something that’s way out of your budget. Plus, it will help you filter your options more easily!
You mostly get what you pay for here – but that doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to find some excellent in-wall speakers for less than $100. It can be done, but you’ll undoubtedly have to pay more attention to their general specifications and features.
You know the saying – the devil is in the details.
That said, a quality unit will not only deliver high-quality sound but last longer, too, which makes it a worthwhile investment by all accounts.
Best In-Wall Speakers
Now that you know what to look for, it’s time to start exploring the market. I suggest that you start your search for the best in wall speakers here, with the following models. They’re the best that the market has to offer at the moment – and you’ll see why soon enough!
1. Polk Audio RC85i - Best Overall
Our Rating: 88/100
Okay, let’s kick off my best in wall speakers reviews with the majestic Polk Audio RC85i. They’re excellent in every way imaginable – from construction and design to sound delivery that is second-to-none in this particular category.
And yes, I’m aware that this sounds like a serious oversell, but I’m willing to back this up with facts, so, keep on reading!
At first glance, the rectangular shape – which measures 14.2 x 10.1 inches, with a depth of 3.5 inches – and white exterior is all there is to these speakers.
But in this small, easy-to-install package, you’ll find everything you need for an excellent sound delivery – an eight-inch dynamic-balanced woofer coupled with a one-inch soft dome tweeter.
The addition of a swivel mount on the tweeter makes a huge difference, as it allows you to direct it toward the room’s exact listening area.
What caught my eye was the sturdy, moisture-resistant construction, though:
The rustproof stainless steel hardware and metal grilles are topped off with durable rubber surround – a critical feature that not only ensures a better response but prevents moisture access, too.
Oh, and if you’d like to combine these in-wall speakers with traditional ones, you can – the RC85i is timbre-matched to other Polk Audio speakers!
It’s rare to find speakers that boast an audio quality that’s just as good – if not better – as its design. But, as it turns out, the RC85i managed to go above and beyond in both of these aspects.
Let’s start with the basic specifications, and go from there, shall we?
These two-way speakers boast 90-dB sensitivity and a frequency response that ranges from 30 Hz to 20 kHz. And even though their power rating doesn’t go beyond 100 watts, they still produce plenty of room-filling sounds.
And thanks to the Dynamic Balance technology, there’s no noticeable distortion, either.
More importantly, your lows and highs will stay in their respective lanes, rather than getting in the way of each other – and that’s what promises exceptional sound clarity.
It’s a well-known fact that in-wall speakers often struggled with achieving audio clarity in the past. The RC85i, however, not only blows the competitors away but can go neck-to-neck with some free-standing units, too.
The feature I was most interested in – and skeptical about – was the infinite baffle tuning, though. The speakers use your in-wall space as a virtual enclosure, further improving their bass response, and ensuring a smooth blend of low and mid-range frequencies.
Plenty loud, with perfectly balanced, crystal clear highs, and the rich, booming bass – that’s as good as any in-wall speaker will get!
2. Pyle PIC8E - Close Second
I could give you plenty of reasons to get the Pyle PIC8E for your in-wall speaker system, but they all come down to two factors – build quality and audio performance.
This high-performance two-way duo is an outstanding choice for a wide range of custom installations, and the integrated treble control certainly gives it an edge over the competition.
So, why did this speaker system end up as a close second in my round-up of the best in wall speakers, then?
Stick around and find out!
What you’re getting here are two round-shaped, two-way speakers, measuring 10.6 inches in diameter each, and with a mounting depth of 3.7 inches. So, nothing too big or over the top:
Wherever you decide to mount them, you can count on a flush, clean fit. Plus, the stain-resistant grills are paintable, too, ensuring an even better blend into the environment.
Construction-wise, they combine ABS, an environmentally-friendly material, and urethane film laminated cloth.
Each speaker consists of an eight-inch poly cone mid-bass driver, and a pivoting, one-inch silk-dome voice-coil tweeter. Another integral part of the speaker’s design is a built-in treble control switch, which allows you to tweak the sound and find that listening sweet spot more easily.
Beyond their classy, low-profile design, the PIC8E speakers deliver quite a sound, too. And considering that it boasts more than a few impressive specifications in that department, the high-performance audio shouldn’t come as a surprise:
The speakers boast a frequency response range of 35 Hz to 20 kHz, coupled with an 88-dB sensitivity. Furthermore, their RMS rating reads 150 watts, with peak performance going as high as 300 watts.
The highs are nothing to call home about – although they’re clear and crisp, they do feel somewhat light in that range. But, what they lack in highs, they make up for with an outstanding mid-range performance.
Bass packs a powerful enough punch; at least for a pair of in-wall speakers that is. It’s not mind-blowingly deep, but the response is solid, nonetheless.Plus, they can get pretty loud, too – and you crank up the volume without experiencing any noticeable distortions.
3. Micca M-8S - A Budget Pick
The Micca M-8S speaker falls into the category of the best budget-friendly in-wall speakers currently on the market.
The well-designed housing packs a wide-ranged, high-quality sound – but that barely scratches the surface of everything that this unit has to offer.
So, if you’d like a more detailed take on why this piece of audio equipment deserves a spot in your home, keep on reading!
Measuring 10 x 14.2 inches, with a mounting depth of 3.6 inches, the M-8S can be considered average in stature. And with a required cutout of 8.75 x 12.75 inches, installing it should be child’s play.
Inside this two-way speaker, you’ll find two crucial components – a high-excursion eight-inch polyester woofer, combined with a one-inch soft silk dome tweeter. Together, they create a flexible combination that allows for precise audio production – but more on that later.
Even more so, the tweeter is designed to achieve a broader listening sweet spot. It features a diffuser, which is there to help with off-axis response, as well as an automatic pivoting mechanism to help adjust the sound production and better aiming.
Oh, and if you already own a pair of M-6S, you’ll be glad to know that they’re compatible for mixing and matching!
Overall, I consider it a perfect balance of stylish design and quality sound.
With a build like that, the sound quality that it’s capable of delivering shouldn’t come as a surprise. The M-8S boasts peak power of 100 watts per unit, and an advanced 12 dB crossover network, responsible for the perfect integration of the unit’s tweeter and woofer.
And in case you were wondering, yes, it gets plenty loud – but there’s more to it than that.
It’s packed with all the right tools needed for delivering clear sound with well-defined low, mid, and high-pitched frequencies.
Its frequency response covers a range from 40 Hz to 20 kHz, which might seem a bit insufficient in the lower end.
But what it might lack in the frequency range, it makes up in woofer size. Eight inches of driver material has proved to be more than enough to produce deep, robust bass lines without interfering with mid-range tones.
4. Polk Audio 255C-RT - For Home Theater
Alright, back to the Polk Audio again. It’s about time that we take a closer look at the Polk Audio 255C-RT – a speaker that embodies the balance between easy installation and excellent audio performance.
If you’re searching for a centerpiece for your stealth home theater, look no further – it doesn’t get much better than this. You’ll get all the action, minus the unwanted attention:
All you see is the screen, and all you hear is the crystal clear sound.
Is there anyone here who’s not familiar with the Vanishing Series?
The idea behind this entire line of audio equipment was creating sleek, wafer-thin, easy-to-mount in-wall speakers that fit flush into the wall and fit into any home décor, too. And that brings me to the 255C-RT – one of the sleekest in-wall speakers you’ll come across.
Roughly 7.6 x 13.1 inches, and with a mounting depth of 3.4 inches, it requires a minimal amount of space for installation – and protrudes a mere 7 millimeters, too. And when you think that it doesn’t get much more inconspicuous than that, you realize that the grille is paintable, as well.
Inside, you’ll find two 5.25-inch mid-drivers/woofers and a one-inch dome tweeter in the middle – a horizontal setup with a centered stereo image that will blow you away.
And now for the audio production:
Considering its size, I have to admit that it disperses sound rather well. Its frequency range goes from 30 Hz to 27 kHz – impressive by any standard – which is paired with 90-dB sensitivity, and power that reaches 150 watts.
The lower tweeter levels help to offset reflective surfaces – a feature known as Reflective Room Compensation – while the Power Port feature optimizes airflow, and eliminates distortions.
The result, as you can imagine, is deep, powerful bass and room-filling, clear sound – everything you need for a superior cinematic experience at home.And since it’s designed as a horizontal, center channel speaker, it can be a perfect addition to your existing surround sound system – be it 3.1, 5.1, 6.1, 7.1, or above.
5. Monoprice 3-Way Caliber Series 8” - Top 3-Way Pick
Our Rating: 82/100
Coming straight from the Monoprice Caliber Series of products is this pair of eight-inch in-wall speakers – a duo of three-way speakers that’s tough to beat, both design and performance-wise.
And surprisingly enough, they’re not that expensive, either.
So, if you’re set on getting three-way in-wall speakers, the Monoprice 3-Way Caliber Series 8” speakers could be what you’re after here.
These three-way speakers come as a pair, each measuring 14.1 x 10 inches, with a depth of 3.9 inches. A high-frequency attenuator is an integral part of its design, too.
The housing itself is minimalistic – the all-white, no-logo grills cover the entire speakers. Once they’re installed, they keep a very low profile, which is always a plus with in-wall speakers. You can paint the grille if you’d like, too.
Look behind the grills, and you’ll discover an eight-inch DuPont Kevlar fiber woofer, and a four-inch Kevlar fiber mid-range driver – both packing oversized magnets – along with a one-inch titanium silk dome tweeter. Oh, and the tweeters are pivoting, too!
Kevlar is known for being light, yet rigid and reliable, and is a perfect choice for clean, distortion-free sound.
On that note, are you ready to hear what these components bring to the table performance-wise?
The frequency response range goes from 50 Hz to 20 kHz, so, it does leave a bit to be desired in the lower field. Other than that, they’re far from lacking – they still boast a maximum power output of 200 watts, along with 90-dB sensitivity.
Back to their design, the Kevlar fiber used for the woofers and mid-range drivers, combined with oversized magnets, provides more impactful, distortion-free bass. The titanium silk of the tweeters, on the other hand, ensures warm and airy audio production with clear and detailed mid and high tones.
So, when it comes to the actual sound production, you can expect them to be crisp and clear in the highs, and booming enough in the lows. On that note, they can get pretty loud, too, if that’s your main priority.
Overall, it’s safe to say that you’ll be happy with this three-way in-wall duo setup.
Best In-Wall Speakers – Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Two-way, three-way, or central speaker classification?
A: If you’re unfamiliar with the whole two-way or three-way speaker classification, the main difference between them is in the number of drivers present in the speakers. So, two-way speakers feature two driver units – usually a woofer and a tweeter. Three-way ones typically have added mid-range drivers, besides the woofer and the tweeter. But don’t assume that more drivers per unit mean better sound delivery – there are more factors at play here, including the crossover network.
Q: What wire should I use when installing in-wall speakers?
A: The recommended wire gauge will vary. It all depends on the distance from the actual speakers to where the amplifier or the receiver is located. In most cases, 14-gauge or the 16-gauge wire will do fine. However, if you’re working with distances of more than 100 feet, you should opt for thicker, 12-gauge wire. Whatever size you choose, the wiring should be UL-rated, with a CL2 or CL3 label. This part’s non-negotiable.
Q: What’s the best placement for in-wall speakers?
A: Whether you’re installing them to improve your home theater setup or for a better music-listening experience, there are some ground rules to follow. Your wall speakers should be set approximately two feet away from corners and surfaces that could interfere with the sound. As far as height goes, directly at – or slightly above – ear level when you’re seated is the most recommended placement option.
After it's all said and done, we recommend:
Before you go about your day, let us remind you that, even though we choose to highlight the Polk Audio RC85i as the best out of the bunch, all these in-wall speakers had something to offer than granted them a spot on our list.
So, make no mistake about it:As long as you follow the guidelines and the advice we gave you on finding the best in wall speakers, whichever one you choose, you’ll be more than happy with its overall performance. And helping you get there was the whole point of writing this guide!