How To Wire Ceiling Speakers

By José Carter  |  December 3, 2022
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José is a veteran audiophile with an MSc in Engineering, and a passion for sharing his audio knowledge with others.
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Ceiling speakers are built to provide you with high-quality audio without making a mess of your room. There are many different types of speakers that you can choose from. What makes ceiling speakers so special?

Ceiling speakers make your home theater experience more wholesome and they also blend in seamlessly with your room. Not to mention, they save you plenty of space. Choosing the right ceiling speakers and placing them in the right spot in your rooms is crucial to getting the most out of your ceiling speakers.

If you have found the perfect ceiling speaker to install, then this guide is a must-read for you. We will take you through all the steps you need to know in order to install your ceiling speaker safely without causing any damage to yourself, your room, and your speakers.  

Why Choose Ceiling Speakers Over Other Speakers

Even though speakers are decent to look at compared to most gadgets, they still can leave a mess behind. Ceiling speakers help you avoid clutter as you won't have to deal with speaker wires.

Sure you get the same advantage with in-wall speakers but you can't be as flexible when choosing a spot to install it compared to in-ceiling speakers. With in-wall speakers, you have to worry about moving your furniture around to get the best sound quality. 

The experience you get with in-ceiling speakers is just more immersive. The audio quality complements your home theatre system and gives the experience of watching a movie in the cinema. 

Pre-Planning Before The Installation

Before actually starting the installation process, there are many things you need to get right to save you from lots of hassle and regret down the line. We have compiled a list of things you need to take care of to make the installation process smooth and simple. 

1. Choose The Right Spot To Install Ceiling Speakers

You would want to get in right on the first attempt as you cannot move the location once the installation is complete. You would want to choose a room that has a ceiling with plenty of space. In most places like bathrooms, it is often not practical to install the speaker due to a lack of ceiling space. 

Most ceiling speakers are not made to be installed in high-humidity environments. Prolonged exposure of the speakers in a kitchen environment can make parts like speaker grills rust. The same can be said about other high-humidity environments like bathrooms.    

Having an attic space over the spot is the first thing you should look for when choosing a spot. The speaker location should be central to the room and be at an optimum distance from where you would mostly listen. Having an accessible attic helps you make sure that there are no wiring, duct tapes, or pipes that can interfere with the installation of the speaker later. 

2. Check Your Ceiling Wiring

The knowledge of electrical wiring over your selected spot is very crucial. Knowing the wiring structure of your room would help you locate your best options to install the speaker. You can take the help of a wiring guide to know how speakers would connect with the ceiling wires. 

It is best to avoid parallel wiring between the electrical wires and speaker wires. If you require to go through electrical wiring it is best to do so perpendicularly. It is better to use a thicker speaker cable when installing your speakers.

3. Collect All The Required Tools

To make the installation process smooth, have all your tools ready beforehand. It can distract you and increase your chances of making mistakes when you will have to get the needed tools in the middle of the process. 

We have compiled a list of the tools you will need to install the in-ceiling speakers.

  • Ladder
  • Protective goggles for safety
  • Measuring tape
  • Drywall knife
  • Pencil
  • Wire cutters
  • Painters tape
  • Template for the speakers
  • Stud finder
  • Screwdriver 
  • Electrical tape

An Easy Step-By-Step Guide To Install Ceiling Speakers

Now that you have taken the preparations required you are ready to install the ceiling speaker. Before you begin, recheck the back of the drywall ceiling through the accessible attic. When you are running speaker cables to the installation spot make sure to keep a suitable distance from electrical wiring to avoid electrical hums.

1. Mark Your Speaker Locations

You would need a ladder, stud finder, template, tape, and a pencil for this step. Using the ladder and the stud finder inspect your selected spot. Use the stud finder to find ceiling joists and mark them using the tape. 

If you want to install a pair of ceiling speakers or more than 2, you would need to repeat the process and find other ceiling joists. ideally, you would want to keep a distance of 8 feet between your speakers but it can change depending on the size of the room.

Now that you know where the joists are, you need to use the template to locate the ideal spot for the speaker opening. It is a good idea to tape the template to the ceiling before you mark the spot with a pencil. Once the template is secured, trace the spot with a pencil. 

2. Cut an Opening Through the Drywall

In this step of the process, your floors might get messy. An enormous amount of dust would come out of your drywall ceiling so make sure to protect your floors. Also, use protective goggles to keep your eyes safe. 

It is a good idea to cut pilot holes to check behind the walls. The idea is to make a hole in the center of the final speaker outline and use this exploratory hole to inspect if there are any obstructions in the back of the drywall ceiling.

The next step is to cut the traced outline that you marked using the drywall knife. Make sure that you are moving forward in an arc shape and cutting the circular outline in one direction. Doing this step very slowly would save you from doing drywall repair later. Finally, when you completely cut out through the outline, you have the opening required to place your in-ceiling speakers. 

3. Running Speaker Wires

Using the attic space run the speaker wire to your receiver. You can also choose to use the wires behind the baseboard if you don't have attic space. For this step choose a quality cable that has low resistance. Leaving extra speaker wire is always a good idea to give you some wiggle room during the installation process later. 

4. Make The Connections

Use wire cutters to strip 1/2 inch of the insulated covering of each wire. Make sure that the receiver is turned off before you perform this step. Before you move forward with making the connection between the wires and the speaker, remove the speaker grille.  Connect the positive and negative end of each wire carefully to the positive and negative end of the wire jack of the speakers carefully.

Make sure that you use only an adequate amount of copper required to fill the terminal. Excessive use of copper can lead to electrical short circuits damaging your speakers. You can also check the connection and the sound quality by turning the jack on before permanently installing the speakers.

5. Install The Speakers

For mounting the speakers to the drywall a variety of brackets can be used. The most common one is to use in-built clamps that you just need to push down after fitting the speaker to the opening you cut through the drywall.

Place the speakers in the hole opening carefully and make sure it fits perfectly. Push the clamps forward once you confirm that the fitting is perfect. If the speakers don't have in-built clamps then use a screwdriver to tighten the screws. 

6. Place the Speaker Grille

Most speaker grilles are magnetic and you just need to place them right on top of the speaker to secure the connection. You can choose to paint the speaker grilles before installing them to match the color of your interior. It is a good idea to check if you have left any fingerprints on the grilles before you place them over the speakers. 

FAQs About In-Ceiling Speaker Installation 

What do you plug ceiling speakers into?

All passive speakers need to be powered. To do that you need to connect a ceiling speaker to an external amplifier. The connection is made using a speaker cable between a ceiling speaker and the amplifier unit. 

There are also some active speakers available which come with a built-in amplifier. Such type of speakers doesn't require an external power source. In case you don't have an accessible attic space, active speakers should be your preferred choice.

What cables do I need for ceiling speakers?

An industry-standard cable that is 16/2 (16 gauge, 2 core) is your safest bet and would be a perfect fit for most installations. However, if the amplifier is far away from the speaker and a cable wire of over 25 meters (82 feet) is required then you need to switch to thicker cables. 

Switching to thicker cables in case of a huge distance between speakers and the amplifier keeps your audio experience intact. Because of distance, the audio quality suffers if thicker cable wires are not used.

How do you power a ceiling speaker?

Most ceiling speakers are passive speakers as we mentioned before. They need to be connected to an external amplifier or a receiver through a cable wire so they get power. Mostly an amplifier is present in the receiver which is why often the terms are used interchangeably. 

Although rare, some ceiling speakers come with a built-in amplifier. Still, they need a power connection to function properly. If your in-ceiling speakers are active then you need to connect them to an outlet so they get power. 

Can I use ceiling speakers without cables?

Mostly all ceiling speakers are passive which means you need a cable is needed to connect to the amplifier or the receiver. Even in the case of active speakers you need to connect the speaker to a power outlet. 

But, yes there are some ceiling speakers that are both active and come with a Bluetooth system. You can control the audio system with WiFi from your phone and also you can install them in bathrooms but they cost slightly more.   

You can also buy a pair of speakers that don't need any wiring. Some speakers even let you connect them with Amazon Echo Dot or Google Home Mini device and give you the ability to control the speakers using your voice. 

How far apart should I keep my ceiling speakers? 

It can be puzzling to determine how par should your pair of ceiling speakers be apart. The best thing you can do is to place them 2-4 meters apart to enhance the audio quality and get a good stereo separation effect.

If you place them over 5 meters apart they might sound disconnected. On the other hand, if you place them closer than 2 meters you won't get a stereo separation effect. If you have a lack ceiling space consider switching one ceiling speaker.

Wrapping Up

If you have made it this far then you are ready to take up the project of installing a ceiling speaker in your house. Installing the right ceiling speakers will provide you with an immersive audio experience and complete your home theatre system. There are many varieties of ceiling speakers to choose from and picking the right one for your room is the first thing that you need to take care of.   

While installing make sure to have all the tools ready and choose the right spot to install your speakers. Safety always comes first. Even though there are not many risky elements to installing a ceiling speaker, make sure to turn off the amplifier when you are making the connection and also wear protective goggles when you are cutting an opening for speaker installation.

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