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Best in-wall and ceiling surround sound speaker systems

Our top choices for an elite, clutter-free home theatre

Before I moved into my house, I installed in-wall speakers as part of my surround sound system. My family loves how our home theater sounds! The best part? There are no bulky speakers or pesky wires cluttering up the floor. 

These days I spend most of my time researching and writing about speakers. But I also spent seven years designing in-wall and in-ceiling home theater systems. So I'm a firm believer that you can get top-shelf audio performance from speakers that disappear into your décor.

Are you in the process of building your dream system? This article highlights the best custom-install speakers we carry, along with tips on how to build a high-end home theater without any footprint. 

5 features that make in-wall and ceiling speakers great for home theater

Premium in-wall and in-ceiling speakers are engineered to reproduce sound as accurately as possible. Here are a few key features to look for in high-end models:

1. Contain and improve sound with a back-box

A built-in back-box gives the speaker its own enclosure, much like a traditional bookshelf speaker. This helps create consistently focused, well-balanced sound — regardless of the space is behind it in the wall or ceiling.

Picture of a Black box.

Back-boxes help prevent audio from bleeding through to an adjacent room. They also protect your speaker from dust and dirt.

2. Tone controls let you adapt the sound to your room

Look for speakers with built-in tone controls that let you adjust woofer and tweeter output levels independently. That way you can boost or cut lows and highs to best match your room's acoustics.

Top section of a speaker with tone controls.

Speakers that have integrated tone controls let you tailor the sound for your room.

3. Use three "LCR" speakers for a seamless front soundstage

Some audio enthusiasts prefer using the same speaker in each location of their home theater. This creates a unified front soundstage, with tonal consistency throughout the room. 

LCR (left, center, right) in-wall speakers can be installed horizontally as a center channel, or vertically as left and right front speakers for seamless sound. 

LCR speaker.

Using an LCR as a center channel gives you evenly distributed high frequencies, since the tweeter is located in the middle of the speaker. If you simply turned a "regular" in-wall speaker sideways, the tweeter would be off to one side.

4. Consider speakers that share technology with high-end floor-standers

Some premium in-wall and ceiling speakers share engineering and design characteristics with their traditional box speaker counterparts. 

For example, Monitor Audio uses the same gold dome tweeter and C-CAM® woofer material in their in-wall CP-WT380IDC as they do the highly acclaimed Silver 500 floor-standing speaker. These speakers share a tonal "voice," and have similar power handling capabilities.

Like a capable tower speaker, high-end in-wall models let you get the most out of dynamic — and often sonically demanding — movie soundtracks. 

By comparison, modestly priced in-wall and ceiling speakers are often designed for background music. They can be subpar when it comes to home theater applications.

Comparison of standing and wall speakers.

These two Monitor Audio speakers have very different enclosures, but share the same high-end driver materials and sound quality.

5. Angled drivers direct sound toward you

I don't often recommend in-ceiling speakers as the front channels of a home theater system. That's because most models fire sound straight down from the front of the room. Sound feels like it's coming from above your TV, instead of directly from it. 

Thankfully, there are exceptions to this rule! Several of the speakers highlighted below are ideal for front-channel installations.

how the overhead speaker angles toward the listener

Some high-end ceiling speakers use drivers that are mounted at an angle. This brings sound toward you, creating a much more believable connection between what you're seeing and hearing.

Our top in-wall and in-ceiling speaker systems

Here are our go-to choices for the best surround sound experience. Choose in-wall speakers for the front, and ceiling-mounted speakers for the rear, or vice versa — it ultimately comes down to what configuration best suits your room.

I recommend staying with the same brand for all of your speakers. This ensures tonal consistency ("voice matching") throughout the room.

One exception is the subwoofer. Some brands don't offer an in-wall sub, so you'll have to choose a different brand or buy an out-of-the-wall sub.

If you want free, personalized advice putting together a system, just give us a shout.

1. Monitor Audio speaker system

Placement  In-wall In-ceiling 
Front L+R CP-WT380IDC 
or 
CP-WT240LCR 
CP-CT380IDC 
Center channel  CP-WT240LCR CP-CT380IDC
Rear surround CP-WT380IDC 
or 
CP-WT240LCR
C380-FX
Subwoofer IWS-10

Enjoy consistently excellent sound

Our customers love Monitor Audio's stellar bookshelf and floor-standing speakers. The company's Controlled Performance Series in-wall and in-ceiling speakers share many of the same design elements of Monitor's traditional speakers, including the company's signature gold dome tweeter and C-CAM driver material. 

Build a complete Monitor Audio system

I recommend using the three-way CP-WT380IDC for left and right channels of system. The CP-WT240LCR is an ideal center channel. For overhead surround effects, the bipole/dipole C380-FX offers stunning sonic immersion.

Monitor Audio C380-FX in-ceiling speaker

Want crazy-good overhead surround sound effects? Monitor Audio's C380-FX uses tweeters that fire in different directions for immersive overhead sound.

Round out your system with the IWS-10 in-wall subwoofer. It installs into the IWB-10 enclosure, and gets its power from the IWA-250 amplifier.

Each Controlled Performance speaker has an integrated back-box for the best performance.

2. MartinLogan speaker system

Placement  In-wall In-ceiling 
Front L+R Edge 
or 
Axis
Vanquish 
Center channel  Edge  
or 
Axis
Vanquish
Rear surround Edge  
or 
Axis
Vanquish
Subwoofer Def Tech IWSub 10/10

MartinLogan is famous in the audio world for their unique Electrostatic loudspeakers. They also create an exceptional line of custom-install speakers. Their Stealth Architectural Series consists of three models: the in-ceiling Vanquish, and the in-wall Edge and Axis

These three ultra-high performance speakers offer similar voicing to many of MartinLogan's box speakers. That's thanks in part to its Folded Motion® XT tweeter, which is the same one used in many of their popular floor-standing and bookshelf speakers. 

MartinLogan Axis in-wall speaker

MartinLogan's Axis in-wall speaker pairs superb sound quality with a clean, elegant look.

3. Dynaudio speaker system

Placement  In-wall In-ceiling 
Front L+R S4-W80 
or 
S4-W65 
S4-C80 
or
S4-C65 
Center channel  S4-W80 
or 
S4-W65 
S4-C80 
or
S4-C65 
Rear surround S4-W80 
or 
S4-W65 
S4-DVC65
Subwoofer Def Tech IWSub 10/10

Dynaudio has garnered worldwide recognition for their superb speaker lines for homes, cars, and recording studios. They also apply their design expertise to custom-install speakers.

Mix and match the S4-W80 in-wall speaker with the S4-C80 and S4-DVC65 ceiling speakers for a killer surround sound system.

Dynaudio S4-W80 in-wall speaker

Dynaudio in-wall speakers use uniquely designed baffle latches for quick and simple tool-free mounting.

What about the bass?

Some of the brands I've listed offer a passive in-wall subwoofer for high-quality, hideaway bass. These subs each get power from an external monoblock amplifier. We sell some packages that include a sub and matching amp, or you can buy a standalone amp to drive your sub.

If you don't want to go in-wall with your sub, use a traditional powered subwoofer with your system with confidence.

Monitor Audio in-wall subwoofer and outboard amplifier

Monitor Audio's IWS-10 in-wall subwoofer pairs perfectly with their IWA-250 sub amp for potent hideaway bass.

Planning and installation tips

Here at Crutchfield we're big on DIY. So we want to make sure you have all of the information you need to get started.

Read my speaker placement and installation guide to learn how to map out the locations of your new custom-install system. And check out our in-wall wiring guide for a deep dive into how it all connects together. Are you designing a home theater system for small room? Read our small home theater ideas article.

We provide free lifetime tech support with your purchase. Our Virginia-based team is here seven days a week to help with any questions that you have.

Crutchfield Advisor Norm installing a wall speaker.

We have an in-house team of A/V experts that are here to help you before and after your purchase.

Get free personalized help from an A/V expert

Want some help choosing the right speakers for your new system? Give one of our friendly Advisors a call for free expert advice.

  • Edward from Menlo Park

    Posted on 1/15/2022

    Hi Kramer. Thanks for the informative article. Can you recommend a center channel for this challenging setup? My TV is mounted above the fireplace, with no room below and only 7 inches between the top of the TV and the crown molding above. I could get 10 inches if I remove the crown molding. While this might be enough room for an in-wall center, I haven't seen any angled in-wall's, and I suspect the sound field would be too high. That leaves in-ceiling speakers. The MartinLogan Vanquish that you recommend seems to be discontinued; what would you recommend in its place? For the L/R I'm currently using a pair of (ancient) floor-standing Polk S10 speakers. I wouldn't be against upgrading those to a pair of in-walls while I'm at it. I'm currently remodeling, and that wall is open, so I'd like to get this right while I have the chance. Thanks

    Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 1/17/2022

    Thanks for reaching out, Edward. Based on your room's layout I think going in-ceiling for your center channel is your best option for clear, natural dialogue that feels connected to what you're watching.

    In particular I recommend the MartinLogan Motion® series for your space. The Motion CI MC6-HT has an angled baffle that directs sound down and toward you. I'd pair it with two Motion CI MW6 in-wall speakers for a high-performance front soundstage that doesn't take up any floor or shelf space.
  • tyt from Mountain View

    Posted on 11/21/2021

    Hi Kramer, Thank you for a very informative article. I'm trying to decide which speakers to buy for my entirely in-ceiling speakers setup (Front L, R, C, Rear L, R, subwoofer) for our open plan living kitchen dining room area. Due to structural constraints doing in-wall front speakers is not an option for me although those would have been preferable. Due to aesthetic and space reasons, I don't want to consider wall mounted (on-wall) or free standing front speakers. So I am unfortunately constrained to use ONLY in-ceiling speakers for front and back. I can see myself using a free-standing subwoofer. Your article seems to indicate that either front or back speakers can be in-ceiling but what do you think of an entirely in-ceiling configuration (front and back). Also, I read through your recommendations and wanted to ask - if I was going all in-ceiling for my speaker configuration, is $1000 per speaker really my only option or are there speakers available in a lower price tier. Thank you in advance

    Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 11/24/2021

    Thanks for reaching out, Tyt. I think you can expect excellent home theater sound with your proposed layout — it's a solid plan that makes good use of your available space.

    In your shoes I would go with Focal's 100 ICLCR 5 for each of your in-ceiling locations. It has an angled-driver design that makes it ideal for front and rear placement. And this is one of the rare in-ceiling speakers at this price point to have an integrated back-box, which helps improve sonic performance while reducing audio bleed-through to the adjacent space.
  • John Namerow from Fishkill

    Posted on 10/23/2021

    Hey Kramer! I could really use your help bro! So here's my dilemma. I have bipole Klipsch RP-502's as my side surround speakers. I'm going to add RP-600Ms for my rear speakers for an upgrade to a 7.2.4 system. So I'm looking for an optimal Atmos system. I heard the classic school of thought that all Atmos speakers should be monopoles for proper object placement; however I have also heard bipoles for your side speakers from an Atmos perspective are ok (again 502's in my case) and the rears should be monopoles. Being that you are the Klipsch/surround sound system guru I though maybe I could get some words of advice. I want to have the best sounding Atmos system I can. Thank you in advance!

    Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 10/26/2021

    Thanks so much for reaching out, John. In your shoes I'd keep the RP-502s where they are and try them out as part of your Atmos system. They're terrific speakers, and while you might hear more precise surround effects using monopole speakers in those locations, you may also hear a drop in the fullness of the effects if you go with a different model in their place. You can always buy new speakers for your side surrounds down the road, but for now I'd stick with the RP-502S if this were my system.

    Here's a tip for your Atmos channels that I found helpful. Run your receiver's speaker calibration system, then play a movie clip with lots of overhead sound effects (like the opening few minutes of Bumblebee when Cybertron is under attack). If you find the Atmos channels aren't as loud as you like, manually raise their levels by one dB and replay the same scene. Repeat as needed until you get them dialed in — just be mindful of distortion.
  • Yogesh from Dallas

    Posted on 10/14/2021

    Hi Kramer, thanks for this very helpful article. I am setting up my media room with 7.1.2 set-up and trying to decide between two set-ups: Martin Logan 40i towers with ML surround and in-ceiling speakers VS Bowers and Wilkins 703 S2 with B&W surround and in-ceiling speakers. I tried a live demo and read a few articles but cannot find an obvious winner. What would you suggest between these 2 brands?

    Also, with B&W set-up, the 7 series surround and in-ceiling speakers are considerably costly compared to 6 series. I'd like to keep the 703 S2 for L, R, and B&W HTM71 S2 as the Center. Is it a good idea to pair them with the 6 series surround (in-wall) and in-ceiling speakers (CWM664 and CCM664) instead of matching 7 series (CWM7.5S2 and CCM7.5 S2)? Will it cause a noticeable drop in sound quality? Please let me know your thoughts.

    Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 10/15/2021

    Thanks for reaching out, Yogesh. What an awesome home theater space you're creating!

    There's no clear winner between those two setups. Both brands make phenomenal speakers, and I have no doubt that you'd be thrilled with the performance of either one. That said, I lean towards the Bowers & Wilkins system primarily because of the front speakers. The 703 S2s are simply amazing — especially when driven with a high-current power amp.

    You can confidently go with CI 600 in-wall/in-ceiling speakers and save the extra cash. They aren't quite at the same level as the CWM7.5 S2/CCM7.5 S2, but I don't think you'll see a dramatic drop in quality. I do recommend installing back-boxes to contain the sound and limit bleed-through to adjacent rooms.

    I hope that helps! Feel free to reach out with additional questions — you'll be watching awesome 4K movies in your theater in no time!
  • Ken Reed from Raleigh

    Posted on 8/6/2021

    What Klipsch in-ceiling speakers can I purchase to serve as height speakers in a 5.2.2 channel surround sound system consisting of a pair of Klipsch RP 600M front speakers, a Klipsch RP 600C center speaker, and a pair of R-5650-S II surround speakers? My room is 16 ft x 17 ft ans my receiver is a Devon AVR-X3600.

    Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 8/6/2021

    Thanks for reaching out, Ken. That's a sweet setup you've got there.

    In your shoes there are two Klipsch in-ceiling speakers that I'd consider: the CDT-3650-C-II, and the CDT-3800-C II. They're essentially the same speaker but with two different size woofers. I prefer the larger 8" version since it offers fuller sound, but I don't think you'd hear a dramatic difference between the two. Both use the same woofer and tweeter design as your main speakers, so they'll voice-match nicely with the rest of your system.
  • Derrick from Austin, Tx

    Posted on 7/14/2021

    Hi, I'm considering installing some Polk in wall speakers into my home theater room. The wall with the front speakers is adjacent to the stairwell/hallway upstairs. I've never heard in-wall speakers and I'm concerned about the amount of sound that may bleed through to the other side of the wall. Since the wall isn't a bedroom, I am prepared for reasonable sound, but is it excessively loud? Thank you

    Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 7/16/2021

    Hi Derrick, thanks very much for reaching out. I use in-wall speakers for my rear surrounds, and on the other side of that wall is the master bedroom. If a movie or video game is playing you can definitely hear it through the wall, so it's great that you're thinking about this prior to installation. It's likely you'll hear something through the wall when you're system is on.

    There are two main ways to mitigate audio bleedthrough. The first is to go with speakers that have built-in back-boxes. This is the best option, but also the priciest. You can also install sound-damping material inside the wall — Dynamat offers a kit that makes this easy for DIYers.
  • Ken from Hillsborough NC

    Posted on 5/19/2021

    Do you have any less expensive recommendations for L-R ceiling speakers? I have a pre-wired new construction home with 4 ceiling speakers (2 front, 2 rear). Thanks!

    Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 5/28/2021

    Hi Ken, thanks for reaching out. Take a look at the Definitive Technology DT8R. It's a fantastic choice for listening to music and movies without breaking the bank, and has potent bass thanks to an 8" woofer.
  • Louie from Roseville

    Posted on 4/8/2021

    Hello Kramer, I was wondering what are your thoughts on the definitive Technology in ceiling speakers that recently became available? Thanks, Louie

    Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 4/9/2021

    Hi Louie, thanks for reaching out. I recently overhauled my home theater and used Definitive Technology speakers for each channel (including in-wall surround speakers). I think for the money Def Tech offers some of the best performance and value available. I recommend their in-ceiling speakers with confidence.
  • Vikram Nandyala from Frisco

    Posted on 2/1/2021

    Hi Kramer, I have installed Martin Logan Axis(LCR) in Media room, Dynamo 1100X subwoofer and planned for EM-IW for surround speakers(4)...due to production issues I m not able to get EM-IW. can you suggest replacement for surround speakers matching other installed Martin logan. Thanks for help !!

    Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 2/3/2021

    Hi Vikram, thanks for reaching out. For what it's worth, we do have the MartinLogan ElectroMotion IW in-stock as of today. That's the only MartinLogan in-wall speaker I'd recommend using with your Axis (unless you go with four of those for your surround channels).

    If you're able to do on-wall speakers, the MartinLogan Motion FX is an excellent alternative. It uses Folded Motion tweeters, and will voice match nicely with the rest of your system.
  • Vedant

    Posted on 7/19/2020

    Hi Kramer, thanks for a great article. I'm doing up 2 of my living rooms that sit side by side and open up to each other through a openable divider when needed. The rooms are 20 feet (long) x 30 feet (wide) and 20 feet (long) x 20 feet (wide) (picture a 20 feet by 50 feet space). They both have 15 feet height upto the false ceiling. They also have 60% glass on the length of one side of the 50 feet as it opens up into the patio (the other three sides are brick walls). The main usage would be more of music and parties for medium to large gatherings and the occasional movies. The furniture layout is equally divided into 3 areas - the two ends being sitting areas and the central area being a bar unit & pool table zone. I have currently planned for monitor audio c280idc (6 nos for the larger room and 4 nos for the smaller room) with Denon amplifiers and floor standing subwoofer (not decided on the brand). Other options were the Polk Audio RC80i / Sonus Faber PC562. Would you suggest any of these to be a good solution? I'm even open to the idea of on-wall speakers if need be. Look forward to your recommendation. Thanks.

    Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 7/20/2020

    Hi Vedant, thanks for reaching out. I'm going to put you in touch with someone from our A/V Design team. They'll get a little more information about your room, so that we can best help you plan out your system.