Installing Ceiling Speakers
The simple and elegant ceiling speaker, a modern audio solution in both the home and commercial environments, offering great performance, easy installation, and low visual impact.
A relatively simple task for a professional, and even the more competent DIY’er, installing ceiling speakers is pretty much an identical physical process to fitting downlights, with the only difference being in the wiring, which can vary depending on the type of ceiling speaker system that’s being put in.
That being said, the logic required for correct placement, fitment, and wiring for these units to operate correctly is repeatedly a source for deep confusion it would seem, with many trades people taking on their installation when they really should not have, either regretting it midway and then relying on phone support to try and help fix the mess, or just handing over a complete lashup and wiping their hands of it.
As you can imagine, neither of these common situations will lead to a good customer experience, or an audio installation that looks good and sounds good.
“no thanks, my builder is good with electrics, he will do the install”
These simple yet hauntingly powerful words accompany the sales of so many of our ceiling speaker systems and commercial audio systems, with customers not prepared to cost in professional installation services.
Because, quite obviously, a large audio installation and commissioning is just like plastering a wall or plumbing in a toilet, so why not let a builder do it if he’s there already…
HOW TO INSTALL CEILING SPEAKERS
A large problem we encounter as a retailer is that many of our ‘supply only’ audio system sales are being incorrectly installed, be that the physical units such as ceiling speakers or amplifiers, or the electrical and signal wiring being totally wrong.
It’s more often the case with these situations that the customer or their chosen installer will then blame the supplied equipment as being at fault, simply calling to say their system doesn’t work, either demanding replacements or asking what we are going to do to solve it.
It’s only then, during either extensive phone diagnosis, emails, photos, or even a site visit, that the truth of the situation is revealed, and we can then present the options available to solve the issues, with the actual equipment rarely being to blame.
A recent example (pictured above), and indeed prompt for this blog, is quite exceptional, with a large ceiling speaker system being supplied to a new temple being built.
This not inexpensive sound system has been ‘professionally’ installed by a friend of the site owner, and is a truly astounding piece of work, showcasing the ingenuity of the installer when faced with the daunting challenge of fitting speakers that basically require cutting a circular hole, and just how creative you can be when you have zero idea what you are doing. This is a multi-speaker system and each unit has suffered the same fate.
Not surprisingly, the building owner isn’t particularly thrilled with this quite unique aesthetic decision or the fact that none of the system will even produce any sound at all, despite the wiring being apparently complete.
After inspection of the current situation by our installer, a full rewire of the system and a slightly more subtle ceiling speaker installation will now be carried out by us, along with any damaged equipment being replaced, and a complete run-up and EQ of the system before handover, as was of course originally suggested to the customer during the initial ordering stage.
As it is with most situations gone wrong, there reaches a point where a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, and this is especially true when getting involved in residential audio installation or commercial sound systems.
INSTALLING CEILING SPEAKERS
Though the name ceiling speaker would give a fair hint at their intended location, along with the supplied instructions, cutting template, and even at worst case, a quick internet search available in most people’s pockets, there seems to still be a fair bit of confusion amongst many builders and house electricians when tasked to install them.
Using the amazing temple install speaker as a great example, overlooking the horrific aesthetics of it being held up with a strap, this speaker will simply never operate properly due to its open placement.
A speaker driver must have some form of enclosure or baffle board to separate the front from the rear acoustically, to stop the natural phase cancellation that occurs which will make the output inaudible. A box, or enclosed cavity such as a ceiling space will then provide the necessary back pressure for reproducing bass frequencies.
So, as a simple answer as to how to install ceiling speakers, you will be required to cut a circular hole in the ceiling material that’s large enough to insert the speaker you have, allowing the grill to sit flush to the ceiling. The size of hole to cut is completely down to the size and type of ceiling speaker you have, and all ceiling speakers come provided with a cutting template to ensure you have the correct fitment guide.
HOW TO FIT CEILING SPEAKERS
With the hole in the ceiling now cut, the fitting of the speaker will be one of two ways, being either sprung clamps as you would find on a standard spotlight or downlight, or, the ceiling speaker will feature its own set of screw adjustable clamps.
The majority of ceiling speakers supplied by Audio Installations have the adjustable system fitted, so once pushed into the ceiling hole and held flush with the ceiling, the screws located behind the quick remove grill can simply be tightened, and the clamps will lock the speaker into place. It really is that easy.
Either type of speaker will ensure a good tight fitment that’s safe and secure. The clamp types just make removal a bit easier if and when needed.
What you must be aware of when planning to fit ceiling speakers is, as obvious as it may sound to some, whether the ceiling is suitable for that type of installation or not. Meaning, what material is the ceiling ? Can it be cut or not ? Is there a suitable cavity above ?
For most commercial and residential properties this isn’t usually an issue, and you can fit ceiling speakers into wood, plasterboard, or office style ceiling tiles with no problem, but it’s better to investigate before rather than after.
HOW TO WIRE CEILING SPEAKERS
Wiring of ceiling speakers falls into several categories depending on the audio system size and its required capabilities.
At its most basic, for say a living room stereo installation, it’s no different from wiring any other speakers to your chosen amplifier or hi-fi unit. So two lengths of 2-core speaker cable would be run from the left and right outputs of the system and up to the corresponding speaker.
With ceiling speakers this is usually achieved with a wall chase, allowing the pair of cables to exit the ceiling and come down the wall, often to a terminal plate, which can then be connected to the amplifier.
Most customers looking at ceiling speaker systems are looking at multi-speaker and multi-room setups, be it for a shop or restaurant, or for a factory or showroom. These can be fairly complicated wiring depending on the desired control to the designated ‘zones’, requiring a mixture of individual wiring runs and daisy chained parallel connections.
To correctly wire ceiling speakers for these systems requires planning, and a working knowledge of high voltage audio systems, which are completely different to your standard low impedance hi-fi wiring.
With the majority of larger ceiling speaker packages and distributed audio using 100v line operation, it is extremely important to have an understanding of how these types of speaker systems work, and how they must be wired to operate correctly, or at all.
DO CEILING SPEAKERS NEED MAINS POWER?
Active speaker systems, such as those with built-in Bluetooth and amplifiers will indeed require a power supply feed.
All these active ceiling speaker designs will operate on low voltage DC, usually supplied from a laptop-style power supply they come with, which must be connected into the mains supply to operate.
The accepted norm and safest way to wire ceiling speakers such as this is for a fused spur from the lighting circuit to be fitted, and the power supply wired directly into this.
It is only active speakers that require power to be present in the ceiling, and this is a good factor to consider when planning an installation.
DO AUDIO INSTALLATIONS OFFER A DESIGN SERVICE?
For customers that have confidence in their own electrician's abilities, or even decent DIY and electrical skills, we do offer a full wiring diagram design service when required with any of our audio system purchases.
This can be whatever you need it to be, from a simple wiring hookup reference on smaller systems, to complete speaker positioning layout and cable wiring routes for a multi-zone operation leading back to a single amplifier location.
We can modify architectural plans for renovations and new builds, or work from a simple set of room dimensions and sound requirements to work out what’s best for your situation to achieve the greatest results.
With phone support, live chat support, quick email response and a team of dedicated product specialists and customer service operators, we are a complete solutions provider.
DO AUDIO INSTALLATIONS OFFER AN INSTALL SERVICE?
We employ the services of several specialist audio installers that allow us to cover most of the UK.
This includes schools and educational facilities that require DBS approved workers, and all our chosen installation teams will meet the full range of health and safety requirements of any site, along with complete liability insurance to cover any potential issues during and after the installation.
All our teams are fully qualified to undertake electrical work in accordance with the current regulations and are able to carry out most audio installations with the minimum of disruption to the existing wiring.
For larger installations that may require high access or more invasive construction, the initial site visit and quotation will cover the rental of any specialist site equipment, with all hiring timeframes and costs being clearly documented and discussed prior to any works being started.
The Audio Installations team and our specialist installers take great pride in our transparency and full cost breakdowns, so as a customer you can see exactly what’s happening and there aren’t any hidden surprises.