It’s classic Mars and Venus: one of you craves the thrill of 5.1 surround-sound in movies, music – even many television shows today.  But the other half of your relationship is definitely not excited by the idea of five large speakers in the room.  Enter in wall speakers, a sleek option for great sound without taking up any floor space.  Modern in wall speakers aren’t restricted to just white anymore – you can get them in paintable finishes that help them really blend into the room.  Paint the speakers before you install them for the best finish.

Keep in mind that cutting into a home’s exterior wall to install in wall speakers could result in breaking the vapour barrier that contributes to a home’s R-factor.  If you can install in wall speakers on interior walls, do so.  Alternatively, look at an on-wall speaker as an alternative that preserves your home’s insulation.  And also keep in mind that you will need to run speaker wires to the speakers, so determine if you can do that through the attic or basement, using in-wall rated speaker wires.  If neither basement nor attic is an option for you, look for flat speaker wire that can stick under baseboards and on the wall, and be painted to blend in with your décor.

Now that that’s out of the way, how can you place in wall speakers for the best sound?   The rules are very straightforward:

1.  Using a speaker without a back box means you are hoping the placement of your speaker will have a favourable in-wall enclosure that produces great sound… it’s a gamble.  Instead of relying on a hope and a prayer, choose hi-fidelity speakers to work with.  It sounds pretty obvious, but you’d be surprised how far along the performance of in wall speakers has come. You’re not stuck with anonymous speakers with paper cones and tinny-sounding drivers any more.  Many serious audio companies manufacture great-sounding in wall speakers that are fully enclosed with their own back boxes, allowing the speaker designers to control the output of the drivers and create consistent high-end performance.

2.  Decide where your display is going, and then anchor the speakers near it to create a convincing illusion of sound coming from the display.  Wherever possible, you’d like to try and create an equilateral triangle between the left and right speakers, and your prime listening position (the seat where you are sitting most of the time.)  If that isn’t possible, err on the side of having the speakers closer to the TV rather than farther out in the room, in order to keep the sound realistic.    Remember that you need to locate and account for wall studs when you are placing the in-wall speakers, so use the knock test or a stud-finder to find your placement limitations before you start cutting.

Try to place speakers around ear-height – and remember, you will mostly be watching the display from a seated position, so that’s ear-height when seated, not when standing! 

3.  Place your center channel below the television or screen in order to anchor dialog at the center of the action.  Placing the center above the screen isn’t a good option with in wall speakers because it isn’t possible to point the sound down toward the listeners, and that makes the sound point straight out above your head, rather than at your ears.  We’re very sensitive to sound coming from the front channels, and our hearing is quite ‘directional’ when it comes to sound coming from ahead of us, so this is the placement you want to get right wherever possible.

4.  Although our hearing is very sensitive to sound direction ahead of us, it’s much more accommodating to sounds coming from behind us.  (Picture your own ears – the shell of the ear cups slightly forward to pinpoint sounds ahead of us, not behind us.)  Place the in wall surround speakers behind your listening area, above ear height.  Try to separate these speakers 8 feet or so, depending on the size of the room.

5.  No home theater would be complete without a subwoofer, but placing a subwoofer in-wall can be very room-dependent.  If your budget will stretch to it, consider installing two subwoofers to compensate for any nulls or peeks in the sound created by heavy furniture, room shape etc.  If not, move the subwoofer out from the corner of the room and along the front or back wall, being aware of which rooms are adjacent to the one you are installing it in.  Sound will travel through the wall and you need to be prepared for complaints if it is a bedroom next to the listening room!

Taking these five points into consideration when placing a 5.1-channel in wall speaker home theater system can help you get a great-sounding and great-looking in wall speaker system experience.


At Axiom, we have one passion: scientifically proven superior loudspeaker design based on careful lab measurements and proven double-blind listening tests conducted in the Axiom listening room with a variety of listeners who do not know the price, brand, or model of the speakers they are comparing. This results in speakers of extraordinary musical transparency and realism. For more information, visit online at or contact us by phone at 1-866-244-8796.