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What is an Architectural Speaker?
An architectural speaker refers to a speaker installed in the ceilings or walls of your home.
I often refer to an architectural speaker system as car audio for your home;
Both cut a hole and insert a speaker into a wall/panel boundary.
The car audio comparison is not intended as a slight.
An architectural or car audio speaker system can deliver satisfying dynamic audio.
But let’s be clear – they are not in the same league as high-fidelity floor-standing or stand-mounted loudspeaker systems.
Three Fundamental Speaker Guidelines
• Bigger loudspeakers are better and more fun than smaller speakers.
• Align the loudspeaker mid-range/tweeter height at the listener’s ear level.
• Place the speaker away from room boundaries.
The guidelines are compromised when you cannot or will not allocate space to accommodate
a floor-standing or stand-mounted loudspeaker. Yet, you can still maximize the choice of an architectural speaker by minimizing the compromise with the following tactics.
Quality Custom Speaker Brand
Choose a speaker brand constructed with high-quality parts – woofer, tweeter, and crossover.
Invest in brands such as Dali, Paradigm, B&W, Dynaudio, Origin, and others that offer better potential audio than cheap generic-contractor-type in-ceiling/wall speaker brands.
Choose a speaker with at least a 6-inch or 8-inch woofer. By Hi-Fi standards, this is still a small woofer.
So, protect the ‘small woofer’ from loud lower-frequency audio with a high-pass crossover, or select the
small-size option in an AV receiver speaker setup menu. Redirect the remaining lower-frequency audio
to a discretely placed sub-woofer which requires allocating about 2 square feet of floor space.
Near Ear Level
Select and mount in-wall speakers at ear level. At a minimum, consider in-walls for the front in a surround sound system. If that’s not an option, install left/right in-ceiling speakers plus a conventional enclosed-cabinet center speaker placed at the TV location. The center speaker can appear to draw the left/right
in-ceiling sound closer to the ear level. If that is still not an option, choose in-ceiling speakers that can be aimed toward the listener.
Place the speaker away from the room boundary
Architectural speaker systems forfeit this guideline.
A speaker located at a room boundary will create distorting near-field diffraction & may excite room modes.
Fortunately, a high-pass filter or the small speaker AV receiver menu setting can minimize room mode problems. If a sub-woofer is engaged, use floor placement to tame distorting room modes while extending low-frequency audio performance.
Should I install a custom speaker back box enclosure?
This question shows up in online web searches.
As a rule, the answer is no, unless specified by the manufacturer to improve performance.
Some seek a back box to keep fiberglass insulation from falling into the speaker frame/basket.
A layer of cheesecloth behind the speaker is a better option.
As a rule, why not use a speaker back box?
Do not use a back box because the enclosure can compromise performance.
I sourced the following information from reputable manufacturers, plus decades of audio experience.
Engineered Architectural Speakers
High-quality manufacturers engineer their architectural speakers for an intended enclosure volume.
Custom In-wall Speaker
Unless the speaker includes an engineered cabinet, better in-wall speakers are designed for a sealed enclosure of about 2.79 cubic feet — 2-inch x 4-inch wood studs, 16 inches on-center, and drywall by
eight-foot-high. This describes typical residential wall construction.
A smaller cavity compromises low-frequency bass performance.
Seal the enclosure at the drywall and wood studs with adhesive and additional drywall screws.
Custom In-ceiling Speaker
Unless the speaker includes an engineered cabinet, better in-ceiling speakers are designed for an infinite baffle enclosure. This is based on two criteria. A typical residential ceiling meets both.
1. The enclosure volume equals more than ten times the Vas specification of the woofer.
Yeah-right, try to find the Vas specification of an architectural speaker.
However, two reputable manufacturer techs told me that five or more cubic feet qualify.
2. Isolate the front sound wave from the back wave.
Construction is Critical
Wood wall studs and ceiling joists are a solid start.
But drywall (paper, chalk, & glue) severely compromises the enclosure’s rigidity.
Drywall mechanical/acoustical resonance creates audible distortion.
It produces significant loss from the mid-bass through the vocal range.
Drywall robs the performance you paid for.
Three Recommended Construction Options
1. Construct the wall or ceiling surfaces with hardwood.
2. Or construct a wood sub-baffle of medium-density fiberboard (MDF). Attach to studs.
3. Or install the SandTrap Architectural Speaker Tuning System.
The 1st option is expensive.
The 2nd option is easier if installed before the drywall.
The 3rd is my favorite and easiest-to-install option.
Plus it offers more mass/weight than MDF, the staple of speaker cabinet construction.
But I’m highly biased.
I am the creator of the SandTrap Architectural Speaker Tuning System.
It received CEDIA’s Tech-Starter Award and a U. S. patent.
It minimizes distorting drywall resonance which rescues the speaker system’s potential fidelity.
It revives your music and movie sound without the higher time & materials costs of the first 2 options.
Architectural Speaker Tuning System
The SandTrap easily installs after the drywall installation through the speaker cut-out.
Simply insert your architectural speaker and clamp it to the SandTrap sub-baffle.
The SandTrap minimizes the compromise of drywall resonance.
The SandTrap reclaims the performance you paid for.
And we have the data to back this claim.
Check it out at SandTrapAudio.com