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Last Updated: 07/31/2013

Wiring Guide: How to Install Ceiling and Wall Speakers

A simple guide and introduction on installing ceiling speakers and wall speakers

If you are building a new residential or commercial structure or remodeling an existing property, Now is the time to plan for a Music Distribution System. It's easier than you may expect. 

All you need to start with is an existing HiFi Stereo System. If it has at least 50 watts per channel of output power, and provisions for 2 pair or more of speakers (outputs on the back for "A" and "B" speakers) it should be suitable as the heart of an entire residential or small scale business music system.

Speaker cabinets already exist everywhere in your building. Of course, you have probably been thinking of them as Walls and Ceilings, but due to the nature of their construction, they are ideal speaker cabinets. A typical 8 foot tall wall with 16" stud centers has nearly 3 cubic feet of interior space. That is equivalent to a speaker cabinet 1 foot wide, 1 foot deep and 3 feet tall. You know speakers need cabinets to develop bass response, that is why speakers in big cabinets are capable of great bass.

When you buy and install In-Wall Mounted speaker systems you are only paying for the Woofers, Tweeter & Frames, it's the cabinets that make up the bulk of the expense, not only in materials and labor to construct the enclosures but in the excess packing materials, added freight, handling and warehousing (space) expenses that large - heavy items dictate.

The walls & ceilings which make up the building serve as terrific speaker enclosures, at no additional expense and furthermore allow you to place the sound source(s) unobtrusively almost anywhere you wish.

In the case of new construction, by planning before the drywall goes up, you can easily provide for Stereo Music in every room.

Step 1

Determine which rooms or areas you wish to provide sound, keeping any outdoor areas in mind. This will determine whether you select a 4, 6, 8, 10 or 12 pair Speaker Selector
Phoenix Gold ISM6 Speaker Selector
Phoenix Gold speaker selector shown above.

Visualize where the furniture and fixtures will be placed in order to identify optimum speaker and decorator jack plate locations. Generally, in areas where there isn't a centralized seating or listening/viewing position, ceiling speakers are best.

If there is a defined listening/viewing position such as a sofa, the speakers should be wall mounted facing the defined listening/viewing position. In Home Theater applications you can incorporate 4, 6, even as many as 8 speakers for ultimate surround sound systems.

Step 2

Decide in which room the Stereo System (Receiver/Amp, CD, Cassette, etc.), will be located. This will be the Home Run location to which all of the remote speaker wiring will be run. 

In the wall area here (behind the stereo equipment), you can optionally mount the Decorator Style Banana Jack Plates or Binding Post Plates. These terminate the wiring from the inwall/ceiling speakers to one main location.

Speaker Wall Plate
WP8 Banana style wall plate for speakers

Step 3

In each room determine where to position the Decorator Style Autoformer Volume Control(s) . It is necessary to install one volume control for each pair of speakers. The maximum volume for the entire building will be set from your centralized receiver/amplifier. Each room's relative volume level is controlled by its own localized volume control. 

The volume controls mount in standard deep "J" boxes or low voltage rings

Step 4

While doing your wire runs, remember, to meet Building Codes in most municipalities, you must use CL2 or CL3 rated wire. While there are many types of wire that are of a heavy enough gauge to carry the audio signal, if they are not CL2 or CL3 Rated they will not be approved in the electrical inspection process.  The difference between "regular" speaker wire, like the kind you see with clear jackets, is the jacket itself.  CL2 or better wire will have a jacket that doesn't burn as easily or release toxins, making it safer to use inwall.  All of your wires in the walls of your house have this property...or should.

The common practice is to run 4 conductor wire from the location of the speaker switcher to each volume control. Then, from each volume control to each of the two associated speakers, a 2 conductor wire should be run. Each speaker requires a "+" and a "-" wire. Use at least 16 gauge wire, and if the "runs" exceed 100 feet, use 14 gauge wire. Wire of 18 or smaller gauge can cause overheating of your amplifier or in extreme conditions may even damage the amplifier. 

See a basic wiring diagram here

Try to run wire to ALL the locations you think a speaker may go.  Remember, a house in framing stage looks much different than a finished house with walls painted and lighting fixtures installed.  See below what we do when wiring a home.  Note the wire is run in adjacent stud bays to allow movement either left or right, up or down on the same wall.  And we took pictures of all the locations!!!
Wiring inwall

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