Choosing Today’s Flush-Mounted Speakers

One of the most fundamental commodities of residential technology is the flush-mounted speaker. There are hundreds of manufacturers that have jumped on the bandwagon to produce and supply flush-mounted, in-ceiling or in-wall speakers. Following is a condensed overview of the offerings available today. Hopefully this will give you an objective method with which to make decisions and guide your customers.

Fundamentals. Flush-mounted speakers typically come in two formats: in-ceiling and in-wall. They are utilized in two scenarios, background/foreground music reproduction and in home theater (surround sound) applications.

In-ceiling speakers generally are used in conjunction with ceiling lighting fixtures or when the in-wall application will not work due to location of artwork, windows, furniture, etc. Many times the reasoning behind choosing in-ceiling speakers is driven by their shape.

The flush-mounted speaker is either visible with a grille, or in special circumstances totally invisible with a thin coat of plaster hiding the speaker itself. The invisible speakers are aesthetically superior because they are invisible but do not provide the sound quality of a flush-mount design with a grille.

Sizes, configurations. The sizes of flush-mounted speakers are relatively standardized with some exceptions. They generally are 4-, 5.5-, 6.5- or 8-in. in diameter in the round variety and 5.5-, 6.5- and 8-in. in the rectangular format.

Round speakers generally are of coaxial design or a speaker driver within a speaker driver utilizing a woofer, and a tweeter mounted in the center of the woofer.

In some cases pivoting tweeters may be utilized but this generally is true where the high-frequency tweeter performance is less than optimal and needs to be aimed to achieve properly balanced sound.

Rectangular speakers generally are configured with a woofer mounted adjacent to a tweeter in a linear format vs. the coaxial design.

Material construction. The majority of flush-mounted speakers are constructed utilizing plastic frames and bezels to mount the woofers and tweeters. The actual speaker drivers usually are fabricated using paper, plastic, silk, aluminum or in some cases, exotic materials like Kevlar. As is indicative in standard bookshelf or floor-standing speaker design, performance generally is dictated by the level of design, quality of parts and structural integrity.

Performance. For the most part, flush-mounted speakers will not perform as well as the standard bookshelf or floor-standing speaker system, but some are distinctly superior to others. This is due in part to the flush-mounted speakers being installed directly on a sheetrock or gypsum surface and utilizing that surface as the speaker box.

One of the most compelling and successful methods to vastly improve performance is to provide a tuned back box, hidden behind the sheetrock, for the speaker designed to work specifically with the device itself.

I recommend you consult with your residential electronic systems contractor partner. Your technical partner will be able to show you the differences in the vast menu of products.