Whenever you run out of space, but you can still improve your audio system configuration, there’s usually only one option. Get the best in-ceiling speakers that you can afford and easily install on your own.
This type of speaker sounds great and also looks cool. It can even save you the trouble of having to deal with large speaker stands or massive wall-mounted behemoths. I think everyone should experience at least once, the clarity, power, and versatility of in-ceiling speakers.
9 Best In-Ceiling Speakers to Improve Your Soundstage
Table of Contents
- 9 Best In-Ceiling Speakers to Improve Your Soundstage
- How Much Does Shape Matter?
- Swiveling or Aimable Tweeters
- Where Can You Install In-Ceiling Speakers?
- Can You Get Great Bass Performance?
- Common Specifications
- Peak Power Handling – How Much Do You Need?
- Dimensions Matter but Not All the Time
The Yamaha NSIC800WH are 140W two-way speakers with a 3.50kHz crossover frequency. They feature dome-type drivers capable of impressive output and are easy enough to install.
I like the low-profile design because it doesn’t attract attention to the speakers. The white color scheme is inconspicuous enough, too, and can work in various rooms. You can also install these speakers in walls if you like the sound and want a surround sound experience.
These are non-directed speakers. Instead, they have a natural and neutral sound dispersion. That’s thanks to the unique acoustic baffle design that features a spiral pattern and a grain finish.
Since the speakers have excellent moisture resistance, you can install them just as easily in the bathroom or outside your home. In terms of sound, the NSIC800WH speakers show impressive midrange and decent low-end detail.
Because of this, I recommend them for home theatres and gaming. The boosted dialogue can make either experience more immersive. And, you also get improved precision in the higher register thanks to the fluid-cooled swivel tweeter. These features ensure clarity, specifically in the human voice range.
Of course, you can use these speakers in a four or six-speaker configuration to create a very professional conference room soundstage too. After all, it’s the vocal quality that matters most in this scenario.
2. Micca M-8C
This 8” speaker has a natural soundstage and the right amount of bass, despite its low cost. The speaker is 10.7” in diameter and has a mounting depth of 3.5”. It’s relatively big, even though it’s not as loud as others in its class.
A two-way speaker can improve many existing home entertainment systems. After all, you get a frequency response range of 40Hz to 20kHz with the M-8C. That allows better bass definition and can add detail and richness.
The 8” Poly-Mica woofer is robust and well-designed. I find that the 90dB sensitivity is more than enough at this price range. It also happens to be the best you can get from Micca’s line of ceiling and wall-mounted speakers.
The rounded design makes the speaker much easier to install than rectangular models. Admittedly, the speaker’s color can be a bit bright. However, it’s safe enough to paint over it to make it blend with your décor, without altering the sound quality.
Due to the coaxial arrangement of the woofer and dome tweeter, the speaker is capable of producing natural vocals, smooth transitions, and sufficient clarity for the money.
If you need something with a broad dispersion pattern, you may want to check out the Acoustic Audio CS-IC83 speakers. These feature a flush-mount design and come in both framed and frameless models.
The speakers have a frequency response range of 40Hz to 20kHz. While they’re not optimized for detailed bass, they have excellent midrange fidelity, as well as a high peak sensitivity of 95db.
I also like the three-way passive crossover. It further improves the sound fidelity, adds richness and clarity to the vocal midrange, and ensures consistent precision for the higher register sounds.
Another thing that sets the CS-IC83 speakers apart is their pressure lock system. It helps secure a tight clamp on drywall and allows for an easier installation. The speakers have a mounting depth of 3.7”, if you’re going for framed speakers, and up to 4” if you opt for the frameless model.
Although they may be more aesthetically pleasing, the frameless speakers are slightly trickier to install. What’s also nice is that you can paint over the grills so that the speakers match your room décor.
This pair of Pyle in-ceiling speakers is one of the most affordable on the market. The speakers feature a flush-mount design, spring-loaded speaker terminals, and an overall simple installation process.
You can pair these with existing home theater systems to create a more immersive audio experience. You can also use them as they are if you don’t have enough room for traditional tabletop or bookshelf speakers.
The speaker grill is very durable and stain-resistant. Each speaker has a 9” diameter, 2.8” mounting depth, and 88db sensitivity. Although very powerful with a combined 200W of raw output, the speakers don’t enhance the bass definition.
The frequency response range of 70Hz to 20kHz doesn’t precisely aim at bass heads. That said, if your audio system can already reproduce detailed lows, then these speakers may be just what you need to add some clarity and richness to the vocal midrange.
I should also point out that these speakers are on the heavier side, each one weighing 5.5lbs. But, due to the secure mounting system, this shouldn’t be an issue.
The Polk Audio MC60 is an in-ceiling speaker with passive amplification and two-way crossover. Its 92db sensitivity gives it clear audio at high volume levels. It will also allow you to get a dynamic and immersive soundstage.
I recommend this model if you need extra bass definition. The MC60 has an impressive low-end response and a frequency range of 35Hz to 20kHz. Compared to the most ceiling and wall-mounted speakers, this one truly caters to bass heads.
You only need a 20W amplifier to get it running safely, which shouldn’t be an issue. It is a bit pricey compared to other consumer-grade speakers in its class. Nonetheless, the overall sound clarity, detail, and richness make it worthwhile if you value fidelity and quality over anything else.
I like the removable grille design, and I also think that the swivel tweeters are fantastic. This design helps produce a more natural and realistic soundstage while also maintaining accuracy across all frequencies.
Due to its superior build quality, the MC60 speaker also shows excellent vibration damping. The speaker is also good at eliminating distortion, whether you run it at medium or high volume levels.
The Klipsch CDT-5800-C II is a potent, very loud individual in-ceiling speaker. Its maximum output is 200W, and it comes with Klipsch patented Horn technology. That allows the speaker to produce louder sounds more efficiently than most of its direct competition.
Build quality is a given with Klipsch. The speaker features an 8” pivoting cerametallic woofer as well as a 1” titanium tweeter. This combination ensures superior accuracy across the vocal midrange and high frequencies, as well as detailed bass.
Another proprietary technology used is the CDT or Controlled Dispersion Technology. It ensures a proper dispersal pattern with minimal loss of detail. The main benefit is creating a more realistic and immersive soundstage.
Something that you won’t find on many in-ceiling speakers is treble and bass control switches. That said, the CDT-5800-C II speaker has a midbass attenuation switch, not a traditional bass adjuster. That means that you can fine-tune the vocal midrange even further, and use custom settings for music, gaming, and movies.
The speakers also have a high sensitivity, 95db, as well as a durable ABS enclosure. The premium mounting system is easy to use and can help manage vibrations and unwanted resonance too.
The Polk RC80i 8” speakers feature a standard design but a superior build quality and multiple layers of protection. What these speakers do better than most is thrive in damp indoor and outdoor environments.
If you need something genuinely rugged and long-lasting to use in questionable room conditions, the RC80i may be your best bet. Each speaker has a mounting depth of 3-1/8” and a cut-out diameter of 9-3/8”. While it may be challenging to use the RC80i speakers as replacements, they’re certainly ideal for new installations.
I like the extended frequency response range of 35Hz to 20kHz. It allows for enough bass definition to deliver full-range audio performance and compensate for low to average performance tower speakers.
The 90db sensitivity is decent, even though you may hear some cracking or distortion at higher volume levels. That said, the overall audio quality is satisfying. Both the tweeter and woofer are dynamic. And, the tweeter has a swiveling design that promotes an omnidirectional dispersal pattern.
I recommend using these speakers if you have an amp that can provide between 20W and 100W per channel. Truthfully, the RC80i won’t give you the most substantial volume boost. But they can certainly enhance the soundstage, add richness, and shine a light on details in the lower registers.
If you’re looking to maximize available space and spend less on speakers, the JBL CSS8008 offers an exciting alternative. This speaker provides conical coverage at a 120-degree angle and has very high sensitivity – 96dB. The latter helps reduce the amount of distortion and cracking at high volume settings.
The CSS8008 is a 15W speaker. It may not seem like much, but it can be more than enough in smaller rooms and office spaces. Interestingly enough, the CSS8008 model is one of the easiest speakers to install. However, the speaker doesn’t come with all the necessary brackets and mounting accessories.
You can save money with this if you’re trying to complement or replace another JBL in-ceiling system. However, you might not find it so cheap if this is your first ever purchase.
I recommend multiple CSS8008 speakers for conference rooms. The audio may be clear and crisp even with a single speaker, but you might not get the volume you need with a single one.
One of its defining features is the multitap transformer. This technology allows you to pair the speaker with amps of three different voltages – 25V, 70V, and 100V. Hence the speakers are quite versatile when compared to most.
Another speaker that I’m fond of is the Klipsch R-1650-C. It is the one that I recommend when you want something high-end from a reputable brand, but you can’t afford the flagship model.
The R-1650-C is there for both residential and commercial use and, as such, boasts a very durable enclosure and reliable mounting system. It also features a coaxial arrangement of the 1” dome tweeter and 6.5” cone woofer.
This combo enhances the audio clarity and preserves the detail in the midrange and higher frequencies. Although the speaker is 9.5” in diameter, the cutout diameter is just 8.3”. So, it’s not smaller than most in-ceiling speakers, meaning you won’t have a hard time installing it either new or as a replacement.
The peak output of the R-1650-C is 140W. That’s considerable power at this price range. You may also appreciate the depth present in the higher register. That, combined with the enhanced vocal midrange, should compensate for the lack of bass in most cases.
I think that this speaker or a pair of the R-1650-Cs would work a lot better if used to complement a home theatre system or a conference room audio system. On the other hand, it might not be the best standalone speaker, given the low bass definition.
How Much Does Shape Matter?
The shape of your in-ceiling speakers will usually only determine how easy they will be to install. For example, round fixtures are more compatible with round speakers. That also means that they’re easier to integrate with the décor.
Square speakers are not as comfortable to install in a ceiling. They make for much better wall-mounted speakers, from a convenience and integration standpoint.
When it comes to actual audio quality, it’s hard to say if one shape overshadows the other. It’s true that square speaker models are usually bigger and can pack more technology under the hood. However, it’s not a hard and fast rule.
Swiveling or Aimable Tweeters
Aimable tweeters can be very important. Most in-ceiling speakers today will have this feature. But, it’s worth double-checking if you’re buying an older model.
What an amiable tweeter does is allow you to direct specific frequency ranges precisely where you want them.
It is an essential component of any in-ceiling speaker or speaker system that you buy to complement your existing home theatre system.
Without the ability to aim and send specific frequencies to certain parts of the room, you might not be able to enrich the audio you’re already getting.
Where Can You Install In-Ceiling Speakers?
Just because you have the best in-ceiling speakers in terms of sound, doesn’t mean that they’ll go just about anywhere. That’s because not all models share the same build quality.
Some are heavy-duty so that you can use them both inside and outside your home. Others can resist humidity and moisture.
If you want to mount ceiling speakers in your bathroom, make sure that their components are moisture-resistant and that they can handle steam, heat, and sudden temperature changes too.
Can You Get Great Bass Performance?
Yes and no. As you can see, most in-ceiling speakers listed in this article are average when it comes to bass definition. A few of them cater to audiophiles and bass heads better. But, the primary purpose of these speakers is convenience and adding a bit of detail. They’re not necessarily there to replace a 5.1 or 7.1 audio system.
Therefore, they will always lack in the low-frequency department more than freestanding or tower speakers.
That said, some in-ceiling speakers can significantly boost bass performance. However, they are usually more expensive and a pain to install. If most speakers come with a 3” to 4” mounting depth, self-enclosed in-ceiling speakers with extra-large woofers can have double that.
These are not designs that everyone can install, or afford for that matter. I don’t typically recommend them since there are easier ways to get more bass.
Frequency response is critical. It lets you know just how much the speaker can do in terms of clarity over specific sections of the frequency spectrum. For in-ceiling speakers, a range of 50Hz to 20kHz is considered normal or even standard.
These types of speakers can be very affordable. If you want some extra bass, then you should look for an extended frequency response range. Keep in mind that a low end of 35Hz is usually the best you’re going to get for your configuration, except with self-enclosed speakers.
In my opinion, the closer you get to that 50Hz mark, the better. The more well-rounded the speaker will be. You will rarely need extra bass unless, of course, your existing subwoofer is weak.
Sensitivity is also essential. The majority of in-ceiling speakers carry a sensitivity of 70db to 90db, with some of them pushing close to 100db. Since these speakers are sometimes more prone to distortion at high volume levels, I recommend a high sensitivity rating.
Peak Power Handling – How Much Do You Need?
That’s something that only you can answer. For me, a pair of 50W speakers, combined, would be more than enough in a small room with a not so tall ceiling. But, if you want to use the speakers in your living room or a conference room, that’s not going to be enough.
Luckily, in-ceiling speakers come in a wide range of wattages. You can find them anywhere between 15W and 200W per individual speaker. Some models offer even more firepower.
Just make sure that you check carefully to see if you’re looking at an individual speaker or a pair of speakers. Manufacturers tend to list the combined output and peak power handling when selling a multi-speaker configuration.
Dimensions Matter but Not All the Time
You’ve noticed that in-ceiling speakers come in various sizes, but that they’re also quite similar in diameter and mounting depth. If you’re installing a fresh, new system, then the dimensions don’t matter as much.
You should measure your ceiling for whatever combo configuration you want to make sure that you have room for enough cutouts.
However, things are a bit trickier if we’re talking about replacement speakers. If you want to replace an older in-ceiling speaker, it’s going to be much easier to get a bigger one than a smaller one. With a larger speaker, you can expand the cutout hole.
A smaller speaker may not have a mounting bracket big enough to cover the space. Therefore, you may have to do some filling work, which involves extra materials and labor.
Get the Speakers You Deserve
In-ceiling speakers are one of the best ways to create an immersive and well-integrated audio system. They’re easy to hide, take up zero floor space or desk space, and they’re quite cheap if you think about it.
I recommend using in-ceiling speakers to enrich your home theatre system rather than using them as standalone speakers. That’s because, for a truly immersive audio experience, you’ll want the sound coming in from all directions.