Installing In-Wall Speakers - A General Guideline

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Cutting The Holes for In-Wall Speakers


IMPORTANT NOTE! Not all In-Wall speakers install in the same way. These instructions are a general guideline. The Speaker Guys are NOT responsible for you messing up your walls or personal injury

Architectural/Construction Issues

Although you can install In-wall speakers in plaster/lathe walls, most of you will encounter drywall (or “wallboard”) construction in which 5/8” sheets of drywall material are fastened to 2” x 4” vertical wood studs located at 16” intervals behind the wallboard. (Note that some local construction codes mandate metal studs. Check with your local government’s building authority.)

The following suggestions assume that you’re installing your In-Wall speakers in an existing home. If you’re building a new home, your contractor or architect should make all the provisions you’ll need for In-Wall or In-Ceiling speakers. Be aware, however, that it’s often difficult to determine proper speaker placement before you’re actually living in the space.

Tools Required

  • Stud Finder
  • Drywall saw
  • Screwdriver
  • Pencil
  • Common Sense (hire a professional if you're not handy!)

Safety First when cutting holes for In-Wall speakers

When you’re selecting final placement for your In-Wall Speakers, first determine where the studs are. Don’t “bet the farm” on always finding them on 16” intervals. Use a stud-finder and mark the location of all studs near your preferred speaker placement position in light pencil.

Make sure you won’t be cutting into or through electrical wires, plumbing, or ductwork when you cut the holes for your speakers. First, cut a small test hole and use a flashlight to check for any obstructions.

  • Leave at least 1” of space between the edges of the hole you intend to cut for the speakers and any stud. This leaves room for the cam locks that MAY be used to attach the speaker to the drywall material.



IMPORTANT NOTE! Not all In-Wall speakers install in the same way. These instructions are a general guideline. The Speaker Guys are NOT responsible for you messing up your walls or personal injury.


After you’ve picked out your speaker locations, use the template/paint shield that came with your In-Wall speakers to mark that location.

  • Place the template carefully so that it outlines the exact spot the speaker will occupy after installation.
    • Do not “eyeball” the template location. Use a measuring tape and level to carefully line up the template.
    • Once you’ve located the template precisely, you can use short lengths of tape to hold it in position.
  • Using a soft pencil, carefully draw a line around the inner edge of the template. This will mark the cutout you will make in the drywall.

Once the hole is marked:

  • Place a tarp or drop cloth under the location before you start cutting.
  • Use a drywall saw to carefully cut along the lines you’ve just drawn.
    • You can either “punch through” the drywall material with the saw or drill a small hole at one corner of the cutout to place the blade accurately.
  • When you’ve finished, remove the cut-out rectangle.
  • With lengths of 1” wide masking tape, seal the exposed edges of the drywall material so that the tape overlaps the front and rear sides of the hole you’ve just made.

Now that you’ve made the hole check your manual for installing the In-Wall speaker in the hole. Some speakers require a bracket while some will simply be placed in the wall and secured in place with screws from the front of the speaker which cause a bracket to tighten against the inside of the wallboard.

In-Wall Speaker Placement

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With In-Wall/In-Ceiling speakers, placement is a doubly important consideration. Here are three guidelines to follow:

  • You should install your new In-Wall speakers where they’ll deliver the best sound to the area you’ve chosen.
  • You should install In-Wall speakers where they’ll have minimum impact on your d├ęcor.
  • You must install In-Wall speakers where they won’t impinge on existing wiring, plumbing, or HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) ducts. If you’re not sure, Find out!

If you’re concerned that you might not be able to select a good location and install the speakers to your satisfaction, call a carpenter or someone with drywall experience to help. However, if you’re handy and aren’t intimidated by drywall or what may be behind it, you’ll need just ordinary coordination and a few tools to do the job well.

In-wall speaker placement

Sound Issues

Acoustically, In-wall speakers are similar to bookshelf or floor-standing speakers. They’re subject to the same conditions rooms impose on all speakers. With that in mind, here are some suggestions.

Main Speakers: Try to put the main speakers (Left and Right for stereo; Left, Center, and Right for home theater) in the same wall of your listening/viewing room. If you can place your speakers in the long wall, so much the better.

Use the “Rule of Thirds” whenever possible. This suggests that the best placement for your Left speaker is approximately 1/3 of the way along the wall in which you’re going to mount the speakers. Similarly, the best place for the Right speaker is usually 2/3 of the way across the same wall.


Make sure that the speaker-to-listening/viewing position distance is the same for each speaker.

Remember that the “Rule of Thirds” is a guideline only. Some professionals recommend placing the main (Left and Right) speakers so that they form an equilateral triangle with the prime listening/viewing position

and from each speaker to listening/viewing position.

Caption: Speaker rule of thirds

If your room won’t allow this, don’t be overly concerned.

Just place your speakers as close to this ideal as possible and enjoy the sound.

Reflections from side walls have a major impact on your sound so try not to place your main speakers close to them. Remember that the “Rule of Thirds” is a guideline only. Try not to place your main speakers so they’re exactly the same distance from the closest side wall. A bit of asymmetry here is actually preferable.

When you take the time to place your Main speakers, you’ll enjoy better “imaging” (the apparent placement of individual instruments or voices), and more depth.

Also, remember that the tweeters in your In-wall speakers can usually (check your manual) be positioned so that they aim directly at your listening/viewing position.

Placement of Surround Sound Speakers

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Surround speaker placement is challenging. If you’re using a pair of bookshelf speakers, you have two options.

If you’re primarily a music listener, place them on the back wall of your listening/viewing room but a bit closer to the side walls than the “Rule of Thirds” indicates. Make sure the tweeters are at approximately the same height as are the tweeters of your front Left, Center, and Right speakers

>>> Diagram of surround sound speakers for music listening

If you’re a movie mogul (or just enjoy ‘em), mount the surround speakers on the side walls flanking your primary listening/viewing position. Make sure they’re slightly behind your couch or chair and at least 1.5 to 2’ above ear level.

>>> Diagram for surround sound speaker placement for movies 5.1 system (without subwoofer)


Try not to place furniture between your speakers and your listening/viewing position. Make sure you can see all your speakers when seated there.

Where to place speakers in a room

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Main Speakers placement

Try to put the main speakers (Left and Right for stereo, Left, Center, and Right for home theater) along the same wall of your listening/viewing room. If you can place your speakers along the long wall, so much the better.

Use the “Rule of Thirds” when placing your speakers if possible. This suggests that the best placement for your Left speaker is approximately 1/3 of the way along the wall behind your speakers. Similarly, the best place for the Right speaker is usually 2/3 of the way across the same wall.


Make sure that the speaker-to-listening/viewing position distance is the same for each speaker. Remember that the “Rule of Thirds” is a guideline only. Some professionals recommend placing the main (Left and Right) speakers so that they form an equilateral triangle with the prime listening/viewing position.


Reflections from side walls have a major impact on your sound so try not to place your main speakers close to them. Remember that the “Rule of Thirds” is a guideline only. Try not to place your main speakers so they’re exactly the same distance from the closest side wall. A bit of asymmetry here is actually preferable.

When you take the time to place your Main speakers, you’ll enjoy better “imaging” (the apparent placement of individual instruments or voices), and more depth.

Surround Sound Speaker Placement for Music

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Multi-channel music is usually mastered in a studio with direct radiating speakers placed in pre-determined spots. The standard for surround sound speaker placement calls for them to be on or close to the back wall, so my placement suggestion for surround sound speakers is to place them on the back wall facing the front speakers. With music, the artists and producers want you to hear where the sounds are coming from so the best way to do that is to use monopoles (speakers that radiate in only one direction) aimed directly at the listener. That way, you can tell that the rhythm guitar is back left while the lead guitar is front center (or whatever . . . ).

Movie soundtrack reproduction is a different beast. Originally, surround sound info in a theater was reproduced by an array of speakers located along the side walls. (Still is, at least in most theaters). Thus, the surround information was not firmly placed in space – you could tell it was there but you weren’t supposed to know exactly where “there” was. Remember that most movie surround information is what’s called “ambient” information – crickets, wind, rainfall, leaves rustling, etc. – and didn’t carry any really important cues.


The whole point of home theater is to try to “shrink” the theatrical experience so we can enjoy movies at home. One of the ways to duplicate the aural atmosphere is to make sure that we can’t precisely locate the source of this ambient information. THX originally specified dipole speakers for surround use as they presented a very diffuse, non-localized soundfield. The only way to do this with direct radiating monopole speakers is to locate them so they aren’t aimed directly at you. That way, the sound bounces off of walls and ceilings enough to confuse the ear/brain combination so that it can’t figure out exactly where the sound is coming from.

Hence my suggestion that the surround speakers go slightly behind the prime listening/viewing position and well above ear level.

How to choose a good loudspeaker

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There are many different types & styles of loudspeakers in the market today. There are your traditional bookshelf speakers, floor-standing speakers and satellite speakers with separate woofers or sub-woofers. There are also a lot of choices in size and shape.
Once you choose the type of speaker that fits your living environment you should look for the following sound qualities to help you choose the best speaker for you.
Listen for Tonal Balance
Listen for how natural instruments and vocals sound. The best way to do this is to use acoustic or non-amplified music if possible. Since your familiar with how voices, pianos, guitars and other acoustic instrument sound you’ll get a good feel for if the speaker is reproducing the sound naturally. When choosing a speaker it is best to stay away form rock music and movies won’t work well since you have not good reference for how they sounded when they were recorded. Good loudspeakers will sound very natural.

Listen for distinct instruments and voices from different places.
When choosing loudspeakers listen to see if you can “place” the instruments and singers on a stage. Can you hear one instrument in front of another? To the left right or center? This helps determine if the speakers have “depth” Good loudspeakers will a good sound stage, presenting music as if you were there.
Can you easily distinguish different sounds?
Listen for good loudspeakers to let you hear every instrument. Do you hear the percussion, voice, guitars, horns separately? Is the sound of a cymbal or bass easily distinguishable? Good loudspeakers will let you hear each instrument distinctly.
Dynamic Range
Good loudspeakers will produce clear sounds at both soft and loud volumes. When a horn section cuts in does it sound clear? Do they still sound clear if you turn up the volume? Choose a good loudspeaker by looking for ones that don’t sound “harsh” or “muddy” when the music quickly changes from soft to loud.
Choosing a quality loudspeaker is easy if you listen for tonal balance, a wide and deep sound stage with clear distinct presentation of all instruments and voices and the ability to play both soft and loud sounds without sounding harsh or muddy.

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