The best in-ceiling speakers

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In this article, I review 5 the best in-ceiling speakers:

If you don’t have time to read the whole article, here are my recommendations:

I recommend the “Micca M-8C 2-way in-ceiling speaker” (sold individually) – These 8 inch 2-way speakers offer excellent sound quality and loudness for the price, have pivotable tweeters and are easy to install.

If you’re looking for a complete package for home theater, then I recommend the Acoustic Audio CS-IC83 in-ceiling home theater 5 speaker set.  These speakers have a high power output and sensitivity producing an incredible sound quality. They are suitable for outdoor and indoor use and are simple to install.

Why install in-ceiling speakers?

There are several advantages of installing in-ceiling speakers in your home. – You will save space in the room, all the ugly wires and cables will be hidden from view, they won’t ruin your decor and interior design and finally they provide excellent audio quality.

In this article below, I give you a detailed review of 5 of the best in-ceiling speakers / sets of speakers. Before that, let’s have a quick look at some of the features and common questions related to in-ceiling speakers.

Mono, stereo and single stereo?

Most “normal” in-ceiling speakers are “mono”. This means that each speaker will be used for either the left or right channel. To get true stereo sound, you would buy 2 of these mono speakers and connect one of them to the left speaker output of your amplifier and the other one to the right speaker output.  Often these mono speakers are sold as a pair (ie there are 2 included in the package) but not always. Sometimes they are sold individually and of course that means you have buy 2 of them to get a pair of stereo speakers.

Buying and installing 2x mono speakers to form a stereo pair (as described above) is the most common scenario. But what if the room in which you are installing the speakers is very small and can only realistically fit one speaker?  If you fit one mono speaker, then you get mono sound and nobody wants that.  The solution is to buy and install something called a “single stereo speaker”.  A “single stereo speaker” is one speaker that will produce stereo sound. It is capable of doing this because it has both the left and right channels built in and it has 2 separate tweeters (the part of the speaker that produces the treble). It’s important to note that the stereo separation is not as good when compared to 2 paired mono speakers but it’s still a good solution.

To install a single stereo speaker, since it is stereo, it needs to be connected with 2x speaker cables – one for the left channel and one for the left channel.

The important conclusion of all of this is to understand what you are buying when you see a single speaker for sale. – Is it a mono speaker (and therefore you’ll need to buy 2 of them to form a stereo pair) or is it a “single stereo speaker” to be used a single speaker with stereo output in a small room?  In the 5 reviews of the speakers below, I make this very clear for you.

How many ceiling speakers in a room?

It’s usually the size of the room that will determine how many speakers you’ll need or want. Here is a rough guide: 

  • Smaller than 10 feet x 10 feet (3 metres x 3 metres) – One single stereo speaker.
  • Between 10 feet x 10 feet and 17 feet x 17 feet (Between 3 metres x 3 metres and 5 metres x 5 metres)  – One pair of speakers.
  • Larger than 17 feet x 17 feet (5 metres x 5 metres)  – Two pairs of speakers.

How should I position the in-ceiling speakers?

A detailed explanation of how to place ceiling speakers goes beyond the scope of this article because each case is different but here are a few guidelines and rules of thumb:

If you are installing one single stereo speaker in small room, position it exactly in the center of the room.

If you are installing one or more pairs of speakers, then you should ensure that each ceiling speaker is at least 18-24 inches (45-61 cm) away from the nearest wall and that both speakers are the same distance from their nearest wall. Finally both speakers in each pair should be at least 6.5 feet (2 metres) from each other.

If the room has a weird layout or you want to direct the sound in a particular direction (example to a couch or bed), then you can buy speakers with angled or pivoting tweeters (the part of the speaker that produces the treble). With these pivoting tweeters, you can direct the sound towards you for better performance.

Do ceiling speakers need mains power?

In terms of power, there are 2 types of ceiling speaker: “Active” and “passive“.  “Active” speakers contain a built-in amplifier and are connected to the mains to draw their power.

“Passive” speakers are connected to an external amplifier via speaker cable and draw their power that way. “Active” speakers are not powered from the mains. “Passive” speakers are the most common type.

2-way vs 3-way speakers

What is the difference between 2-way and 3-way in-ceiling speakers?

2-way in-ceiling speakers

A 2-way speaker has two drivers. The first driver controls the higher range frequencies that go into the tweeter.  The second driver controls the low and the mid-ranges of the frequency that go into the woofer.

3-way in-ceiling speakers

The three drivers of a 3-way speaker are the woofer, tweeter, and mid-range.  So the advantage of a 3-way speaker over a 2-way speaker is that the 3-way separates out the mid-range from the low-range and has a dedicated driver for each. To a trained ear, this will result in a slightly purer sound but the difference is not a major one.

Speaker power output, sensitivity and loudness

There are a lot of misconceptions about speaker output power and how many watts you need. In very basic terms, if you like listening to very loud music, then you need more watts. The more watts, the louder the music.

However, it’s a bit more complicated than that. The power output of the speaker also depends on the power output of the amplifier. If your amp has a power output of 50 watts, then having 150 watt speakers is pointless.  So again, in very basic terms, for loud music, you need an amplifier with a lot of watts that feed into speakers with a lot of watts.  If you aren’t going to be listening to very loud music, then honestly 50 watts is more than enough.

The number of watts isn’t the only metric you should be checking when it comes to loudness. The other very important metric is “sensitivity”, measured in db. The sensitivity rating of a speaker indicates how much output it delivers when fed 1 watt of power and measured from 1 meter away. The higher the sensitivity a speaker has, the less amplifier power it needs to produce volume. In other words, it will sound louder than a speaker with a lower sensitivity.

As an example, imagine you are comparing 2 sets of speakers both rated at 100 watts. The difference is that “Speakers A” have a sensitivity of 85db and “speakers B” have a sensitivity of 90db.  If you test them with the exact same amplifier, then “speakers A” will be much louder at the same volume setting. “Speakers B” will start to distort at a lower volume.

Conclusion – To increase the “loudness” of the music produced by your speakers, choose an amplifier and speakers with a high number of watts and choose speakers with a high sensitivity.

Are in-ceiling speakers waterproof?

Some in-ceiling speakers will be “splash proof” and “steam proof” which makes them good choices for humid environments like the kitchen or bathroom.

The best in-ceiling speakers

Micca M-8C 2-way in-ceiling speaker

The Micca range of in-ceiling speakers comes in 2 sizes: 8 inch or 6.5 inch. (Those are the sizes of the outer woofer.) You can choose what size you want when you place your order. The manufacturer recommends you install the largest M-Series speaker model that will fit because that will provide the fullest sound and best performance at all playback levels. The specifications in this review are therefore for the 8 inch model.

The Micca M-8C is an 8 inch 2-way mono speaker that is sold as a single unit. Therefore to have a stereo pair of speakers (one each for the left and right channels), you need to buy them in multiples of 2.

The speakers come with white grills, and they look very good when they are installed. The design of these speakers is very sturdy, and the cones are reinforced. Although the speakers are rated as eight inch speakers (diameter of woofer), they are actually almost ten inches in diameter when you mount them with the grills. 

Poly-Mica Woofer

In addition to smooth and natural vocals, the 8 inch woofer is capable of robust bass output, allowing the M-8C to be used without the need for a subwoofer in many applications.

Pivoting Silk Dome Tweeter

The 1-inch silk dome tweeter generates abundant detail and clarity, projecting a solid and focused image for all sources. The pivoting design means the tweeter can be pointed in the direction of your choice.

Advanced Crossover Design

The perfect integration between the tweeter and woofer is achieved through a 6dB crossover network that ensures coherent transition in the critical upper midrange region.

Easy Installation

Use the included template to mark and cut the mounting hole with a drywall knife. Built-in mounting tabs are included and help make this speaker very easy to install.

Technical specifications

Woofer:                             Pivoting 1-inch silk dome
Tweeter:                            8-inch Poly-Mica Woofer
Crossover:                         6dB/Octave
Frequency response:        40Hz-20kHz
Power handling:               100 watts (each)
Sensitivity:                         90dB 1W/1M
Dimensions:                      10.7” Diameter
Cut-out dimensions:         9.4” Diameter
Mounting depth:              3.5”

Pros

  • Excellent sound quality for the price. These speakers are better than many more expensive models.
  • The tweeters can be pivoted in any direction.
  • The speakers come with white grills which look very good.
  • Easy to install.

Cons

  • The sound is a bit overpowered in the highs compared to mids, but that can be easily adjusted at the amplifier.
  • The clips that hold the speaker into the ceiling are a bit flimsy. You’ll need to be careful when installing them. (Once they’re in place, everything is very secure.)

Yamaha NS-IW280CWH 3-Way in-ceiling speaker system (pair)

The Yamaha NS-IW280CWH is an easy-to-install, versatile in-ceiling speaker system that delivers high-quality natural sound. The tilted woofer design allows for optimal sound directing to listening position.

These speakers have an overall nice sound for the money. They are easy to install with the included template. The speaker cone is permanently tilted to face the sitting position. The two tweeters are also fully adjustable. They are sold as a stereo pair of 2 speakers. You can also buy them as a set of 4 speakers (2 pairs) or as a set of 6 speakers (3 pairs.)

Key features

  • Easy installation design.
  • 6.5 inch Polypropylene mica cone woofers.
  • Dual 0.75 inch dome tweeter with “SoundMax”.
  • Tilted woofer design for directing the sound in any direction.
  • Swivel tweeter for wide dispersion.
  • 100 watts maximum input capability (there is also a 120 watt model).
  • Paintable aluminium grille with protective cover included.

Technical specifications

Speaker type: 3-way in-ceiling.
Woofer: 6.5 inch Polypropylene mica filled cone woofer with rubber surround.
Tweeter: Dual 0.75 inch dome tweeter.
Crossover: 6 kHz / 9 kHz.
Frequency response: 65Hz-28kHz.
Nominal input: 30 watts.
Maximum input: 100 watts (there is also a 120 watt model).
Sensitivity: 85 db / 2.83 V/m.
Dimensions: 10.28 inches (261 mm) in diameter.
Depth: 5.02 inches (127.4 mm).
Mounting dimensions: 9.45 inches (240 mm) in diameter.
Mounting depth:     4.78 inches (121.4 mm).
Weight: 3.37 pounds (1.53 kilograms).

In the box

  • 2x Yamaha NS-IW280CWH speakers.
  • 2x Speaker grills.
  • 1x Cut-out template.
  • 1x Paint protective cover.
  • 2x Glue strips.

Pros

  • The build quality is very good. They have a sturdy design and covered back.
  • They are simple to install and the instructions are very clear.
  • Decent sound for the size and price.

Cons

  • The bass and loudness are a bit weak compared to other models. That is no doubt due to the sensitivity being a bit low (85db).

Klipsch R-1650-C in-ceiling speaker

The Klipsch R-1650-C is a 2-way in-ceiling speaker. It’s a single mono speaker that is sold as one unit. To form a stereo pair, you would therefore need to purchase 2 of them.

The Klipsch R-1650-C provides excellent performance, reliability and durability at a low price. The R-1650-C employs a 6.5-inch polymer-cone woofer and a large motor structure for high sensitivity. A coaxially mounted 1-inch polymer-dome tweeter distributes smooth, clear highs over a wide area.

The speaker comes with a mounting system that makes for a simple installation. A separate installation kit is available for more complicated installs but is rarely necessary. A fire-rated enclosure is also available as a separate purchase.

The speaker’s paintable aluminium grille provides added rust protection and is therefore suitable for use in humid conditions such as bathrooms and kitchens.

Technical specifications

Frequency response: 57Hz-20kHz +/- 3dB
Power handling: 35 watts (140 watts peak)
Sensitivity: 91dB @ 2.83V/1 meter
Nominal impedance: 8 ohms compatible
Drive components: Two-way system using a 1 inch (2.5cm) polymer dome, tweeter and a 6.5 inc (16.5cm) poly woofer.
Dimensions: 9.5 inches (24.1cm)
Cut-out dimensions: 8.3 inches (21cm)
Weight: 5.1 pounds (2.3 kilograms)

Pros

  • The sound quality is very clear and balanced.
  • The high sensitivity (91db) makes these speakers nice and loud.
  • They are suitable for use in humid conditions.
  • The installation is easy with the enclosed template.

Cons

  • The mounting screws were a bit difficult to tighten.

Polk Audio RC80i 2-way in-ceiling speakers for humid conditions (pair)

These Polk Audio RC80i in-ceiling speakers come as a pair.

Woofer and tweeter

Equipped with an 8 inch dynamic balance woofer that gives you a fuller bass and a 1 inch metalized soft dome tweeter with a 15-degree swivel mount. The swivel mount allows the tweeter to be pointed in the direction of your choosing.  The speakers feature a mineral-filled polymer cone and strong composite driver baskets that keep all the parts firmly in place, resulting in a balanced sound coverage throughout your room.

Easy installation

Installation is a simple 3 step process. – Cut a hole, feed the wires through, and drop the speaker in. The speaker is held in place by rotating cams that safely secure the speaker with no extra assembly or mess. The aluminium grille can be painted to match your decor or left as it is in a powder-coated white shade. Once installed, it is very discreet.

Suitable for humid conditions

These Polk Audio RC80i speakers are suitable for humid conditions such as a bathroom, kitchen, sauna or even a covered porch outdoors due to their rust-resistant hardware, moisture-resistant materials and rubber seal.

Technical specifications

Frequency response: 35 Hz – 20 Khz
Recommended Power: 20-100 watts RMS
Impedance: Compatible with 8 Ohm amplifiers.
Sensitivity: 90db (1w/1m)
Drive Unit Complement Mid-Bass: 8 inch (20cm) mineral-filled polypropylene cone, rubber suspension.
Drive Unit Complement tweeter: 1″ (25mm) soft dome in ball and socket.
Cut-out Dimensions:  9.37 inches (238.1 mm) in diameter.
Depth with 0.5 inches (12.7 mm) of drywall: 3.25 inches (82.6 mm)
Shipping weight (pair): 9.5 pounds (4.31 kilograms)

In the box

  • RC80i ceiling speakers (pair)
  • 2x Grills.
  • 2x Cardboard templates with paint masks.
  • User manual and registration card.

Pros

  • Excellent sound quality.
  • Their relatively high sensitivity (90db) makes these speakers nice and loud.
  • They are suitable for humid conditions (bathroom, kitchen, sauna or a covered porch).
  • Simple to install with their 3 step process.
  • The tweeters have a 15 degree swivel mount allowing you to “aim” the music in the direction you want.

Cons

  • The bass is perhaps a bit weak.
  • The grills are a bit flimsy.

Acoustic Audio CS-IC83 in-ceiling home theater 5 speaker set

The Acoustic Audio CS-IC83 ceiling speakers are a complete package of 5 ceiling speakers that are designed and engineered in the USA and suitable for home entertainment, center channel, home theatre, multiple room systems, industrial sound, outdoor entertainment areas, decks, patios and pools. They are designed and built for all weathers so they can be used outdoors as well as indoors.

The speakers are 8 inch 3-way speakers and have a very high recommended power rating of between 20 and 350 watts per speaker with a very high sensitivity rating of 95dB at 1 watt 1 meter. What those numbers mean is that these speakers are powerful and loud.

Easy installation

This home theater speaker set comes with full detailed installation instructions and the necessary cut-out templates fixing them to the ceiling and connecting them to your amplifier.

Excellent sound quality

You will not be disappointed with the sound quality and loudness of these speakers. Normally to get this level of audio quality, you’d need to spend a lot more.

Features and specifications

  • All weather design for indoor and outdoor use.
  • Paintable frames and grills.
  • Recommended power: 20-350 Watts per speaker.
  • Frequency response: 40Hz-20 kHz.
  • Sensitivity: 95dB at 1 watt 1 meter.
  • Impedance: 8 Ohm
  • 3-Way design and functionality: 3-Way passive crossovers for greater fidelity.
  • 8″ Woofers, 13mm soft dome tweeters.
  • High rigidity poly cones with progressive spiders.
  • Butyl rubber surrounds for increased performance and durability.
  • Poly mica midranges.
  • Cut-out templates included for easy installation.
  • Spring-loaded speaker wire terminals for easy connectivity.
  • Overall size: 10.86″ per speaker.
  • Cut-out size: 9.49 inches per speaker.
  • Mounting depth: 3.7″ per speaker.

Pros

  • This complete set of 5 speakers offers excellent value for money.
  • The high power output and sensitivity produces an incredible sound quality.
  • Simple to install – The templates and detailed instructions are included.
  • Outdoor or indoor use – Designed and built for all weather conditions.
  • Designed and engineered in the USA.

Cons

  • The grills are a bit awkward to fit after the speaker is in place.
  • Some people may find the bass a bit weak on occasions.

Conclusion

So what are the best in-ceiling speakers?

I recommend the “Micca M-8C 2-way in-ceiling speaker” (sold individually) – These 8 inch 2-way speakers offer excellent sound quality and loudness for the price, have pivotable tweeters and are easy to install. They are the best ceiling speakers for audiophiles!

If you’re looking for a complete package for home theater, then I’d recommend the Acoustic Audio CS-IC83 in-ceiling home theater 5 speaker set.  These speakers have a high power output and sensitivity producing an incredible sound quality. They are suitable for outdoor and indoor use and are simple to install.

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