Designing a Home Theater - Choosing The Right Speakers
When you're designing your home theater, it would be best to look at your amplifier and speakers at the same time.
Your choice for one affects the other so researching them both at the same time will help you make the best choice for both.
What Was I Looking For In Speakers
My initial criteria was quality speakers and a good price. After a little bit of search I soon realized that I needed to find a good price above anything else - these things are expensive!
If money was no object I would have gone with Klipsch speakers, but those were many thousands of dollars - way outa my budget.
Back to my criteria, they needed to be affordable, in-wall and good enough wattage that I could feel the sound from them. I figured a couple of hundred watts would be in the right ballpark.
I wanted in-wall speakers because I liked the finished look it gives. Having speaker enclosures around the room doesn't give it as much of a finished look, in my opinion.
I did a good amount of searching, but honestly the prices I kept coming up with were knocking the wind out of my sails.
Then I came across a company called Acoustic Audio. They had sets of in-wall speakers that were very reasonably priced.
Now I'm sure these speakers wouldn't compare to the high end speakers I kept finding in my searches, but at less than 1/10th the cost they were a good choice for me.
The speakers I chose are the Acoustic Audio HD728 7.2 Home Theater Speaker System. There is a HD726 model as well which is the same amount of speakers, just smaller speakers with a bit less power.
I'm really happy with these speakers, they sound really nice and look great.
One thing that they don't mention on Amazon's listing was the rotatable tweeters. All the tweeters can be rotated so the high pitched sounds can be directed toward the listener.
I have a few tips with these speakers that I'll share, which in the end should make these speakers a great buy for you.
The Speakers I Chose
Tips For These Speakers
I have a bunch of tips for these speakers. Like I said, I really like my speaker purchase and these tweaks that I used helped make this a better purchase.
Don't Judge The Speakers Until They Are In The Walls
When I these speakers came in the mail, I think I did what most people do when they receive their speakers - at least I hope I'm not the only one that did this. :)
Like a kid in the candy store, I ran to the movie theater and plugged them in without installing the speakers into the walls to see what my latest toys sounded like.
It was a bit of a buzz kill - the speaker sounded like they were all tweet with no woof. :)
Luckily I didn't act on impulse and return them. The thing to keep in mind with any speaker is that they can only provide bass when there is some sort of enclose around them to provide air resistance.
In the case of in-wall speakers, they use the walls themselves to provide that resistance.
Once the speakers were inserted into the walls the mid tones and deep basses came out and the sound was great!
Best Bang For The Boom
Since I was building out platforms for the second and third rows of seats I figured I'd install one of the subwoofers into the platform behind the third row of seats.
That was a fantastic way to get a whole lotta boom out of that subwoofer! :) The whole platform (second and third row) shakes when that subwoofer kicks in.
If you want more boom from your subs and have platforms built out, I'd recommend doing the same thing I did with my sub-woofer.
Buy Good Quality Speaker Wire
I read in many many links that you want a good speaker wire, even the best speakers in the world would not perform to their fullest if they have inferior speaker wire connected to them.
The wiring that came with the speakers was incredibly thin wire, luckily I listened to the articles I had read and ran 14AWG wiring to my speakers.
The wiring I bought was Cable Matters 14 AWG In-Wall Rated (CL2) Oxygen-Free Bare Copper Speaker Cable.
My setup required me to crawl into the attic above the movie theater to run the speaker wires.
If I was going to go to all that effort to run the speaker wire I was going to make sure I did it with great speaker wire so I only had to do it once. :)
A Modification To The Plastic Clips
The one thing the manufacturer skimped out on in these speakers is the quality of the plastic enclosure.
I ended up modifying the plastic clips that hold the speakers in place to make it easy for the clips to be screwed in and out.
Without the modification it is very easy to break the plastic enclosure when you screw in the speaker
Unmodified the plastic clips would catch the edging of the plastic enclosure when screwing in the speaker. If you continued to screw it in, the plastic where the screw head rests would break (ask me how I know that).
The modification is simple and seems to do the trick, once I modified all the speakers I've since screwed in the speakers a bunch of times without a problem.
Really it's a matter of removing the corner of plastic and angling it so it directs the clip where to go.
Just do that to each and every clip on each and every speaker and you'll be all set.
Cut This Corner Out
In Ceiling/Wall Speakers Are Great But....
I loved the idea of just having the speakers in the walls and ceiling without the speaker boxes that I personally feel are eye-sores.
The problem with ceiling and wall speakers is that you are at the mercy of the stud and joist placements inside the walls/ceiling.
In my case I had studs that were smack in the middle of where I was going to put the wall speakers - both in the front and the back of the rooms.
My workaround was to build a speaker enclosure around the projector screen.
In the end I think it gave the wall a nice look, but of course it was much more work then just making a hole in the dry wall.
I had read an Amazon review for the speakers that recommended making a plywood box for the speakers and putting the box in the wall. They said the plywood gave much more depth to the speakers.
Essentially my speakers ended up being in plywood boxes and the bass from the speakers is fantastic.
I keep telling myself it's the plywood that made the difference so I feel better about having to build out the boxes. :)
For the back wall I didn't want to have to build out large boxes. What I did instead is make small boxes that were angled so it didn't look too strange and I made a hold in the drywall that the box was covering so the speakers had some air space to work with.
The Speaker Enclosures
Here's the details for the speaker enclosure I built in case you'd like to do something similar for your setup.
The enclosure is constructed of 3/4" OSB plywood, with 1/2 drywall covering it.
Although it is basically one big box, I divided the box into three sections, so that each speaker would basically have it's own box.
I figured it was a good thing to do to prevent the speakers from interfering with each other.
The double gray lines indicate where I put the section dividers, which are made of 3/4" pieces of OSB plywood.
Speaker Enclosure For The Back Speakers
The boxes for the back were pretty simple. I needed to make the boxes because the studs didn't line up where I wanted to place my speakers.
Since the speakers were going to butt up to the ceiling I decided the I only needed the plywood for the face and the bottom.
The plywood for the face of the speaker is 12" x 12". The bottom of the box including the face is 6" x 12" x 11"
Below are pics of the back speaker enclosure, since the enclosure was tiny I decided to cut out the drywall hidden behind the speaker box I made to give the speakers a little more space to work with.
This took some time for me to figure out. Between the surround sound aspect of it and which speaker should go where, it was a lot to put together.
Unfortunately, the speakers I bought don't really specify which speaker is for what.
I did a lot of digging around in posts, forums and reviews and process of elimination helped me determine where each speaker should go.
If you decide to also purchase one of the Acoustic Audio speaker systems then hopefully this will help you save hours on guess work.
The Acoustic Audio speaker system I bought was the HD728, but I think most of their speaker systems are bundled differently but are basically the same speakers.
Here's the speakers the system came with and where I installed them.
(4) HD800 Front In-Wall Speakers - These are the rectangular speakers - I used them as the Front left and right speakers and the Front Left and Right presence speakers (in the ceiling)
(2) HD8 Rear In-Ceiling Speakers - The smaller round speakers with a round frame - I used these as the rear left and right surround speakers.
(1) HD6c Dedicated In-Wall Center Channel Speaker - The long rectangular speaker - it goes under the projector screen.
(2) HDS10 Dedicated 10-inch In-Wall Passive Subwoofers - The larger round speakers - I read a few posts that said you should spread the deep bass around the room to make it more immersive. I put one in the bottom front right of the projector wall and the other is in the platform floor behind the back row of chairs.
As far as the surround sound layout goes, I used the surround sound amplifier documentation a lot to figure out what the speaker layout would be.
The layout I used is basically 5.2.2:
5 surround sound speakers (Front left and right, back left and right and center)
2 subwoofers (in the floor in the back and in the projector wall in the front)
2 presence speakers (in the ceiling in the front, just a little in front of the front row of chairs)
Below are a couple of diagrams that show my speaker placement.