It’s not always as simple as it may seem…
In many cases installers may not really understand such subtleties as speaker positioning in custom (or even not so custom) install applications. So we’d like to offer some guidelines that you may or may not be aware of. Should you know all this stuff, just consider this a refresher.
We also want to remind you that the entire Terra CA series is IP 65 rated and can be exposed to pretty much any typical environmental conditions you’ll find in a home or light commercial application. They are also an excellent choice for marine installations, saunas, pool houses, etc.
The higher the ceiling, the broader the angle of coverage will be at ear level. This applies especially to the upper mids and high frequencies as these start to beam as the frequency rises. That means you can place the speakers further apart and still get decent coverage. If you have low ceilings, depending on the coverage area you need, you may want to add more speakers or consider in-wall instead of in-ceiling models.
If you can get dispersion specification for the speakers you’re installing from the manufacturer you’ll have a better idea of their coverage. Unfortunately, most suppliers don’t provide this info. (We’re actually working on this for our CA series models.)
If you install speakers that include angled assemblies or that let you aim the tweeters, think before you aim them. Note that models which only allow aiming of the tweeter will be less effective than those that angle the entire driver assembly because the lower midrange comes from the larger driver.
If the speakers are being used in a home theater or TV application you’ll want the front speakers aimed towards the viewers. However, if they’re being used for primary (side) or secondary (rear) surround locations you might want to consider aiming them at the adjacent wall to create a more diffuse surround field (Better for movies and TV, not so much for music. And since clients always seem to want to hear the surrounds constantly, perhaps aiming them at the audience is best no matter what) For Dolby Atmos/DTS-X ceiling locations they should be aimed at the listeners.
Place the front L/R speakers no more than 3 feet to the side of the screen, if possible.
Primary surround speakers are best located to the side of the listeners, a little back from the seating position. Putting them on the back wall really isn’t a great choice unless you have no side options (the surround sound installs in the model homes mentioned at the beginning of this article all had the surround speakers in the backs of the rooms, of course).
In zones where the primary goal is background music, it may be best to locate the speakers away from the main areas or aimed towards a wall or other section of the zone. The idea is to make their sound less distracting. Placing speakers to the sides of the table, aimed at the side walls instead of directly over a dining room table is a good example.
Two speakers may not be enough
You’re generally much better off installing several speakers spaced throughout the room all playing at reduced volume rather than one or two speakers cranked up to cover the whole room. You can install multiple single-point-stereo speakers wired for stereo or mono throughout the zone as well.
Speaking of mono, at the risk of becoming redundant, we always recommend that you consider mono for any distributed audio system. Rather than having people hearing only one channel of a stereo pair, mono lets everyone hear everything. If your installed system doesn’t have a mono switch you can always use something like this: RDL-TX-MX2R plus a PS-24AS power supply
This will efficiently convert two-channel stereo to dual mono outputs. Please don’t just use a “Y” connector on a pre-amp output to make mono. It’s not the right way to do it.
Many of the latest flush mount speakers have grilles with minimal bezels making them less obtrusive. Most of these are held on with magnets which means the grille material is ferrous. We’ve even seen some “all-climate” speakers built this way. This is a big problem because even if the steel is powder coated, there’s little doubt that eventually the steel grilles will rust. The Terra CA series, on the other hand, employs powder coated aluminum grilles that are pressure fit to the speaker assembly, totally eliminating any concerns with rust.
It’s a good idea to carefully install some sound absorbent materials behind a flush mount speaker in the ceiling or a wall. Although fiberglass is a great choice, it’s not so great to work with. Tufted Dacron™ like pillow stuffing that you can get at any fabric store or hobby center is a good second choice. We recommend covering the back of the speaker with a piece of cheese cloth to prevent the stuffing from contacting the speaker components. If it’s an outside wall, be careful of any existing insulation that’s already there and don’t cut the vapor barrier. If you do, tape the cut with duct tape or another durable tape.
In-wall locations sometimes encounter decorator obstacles. Between existing or planned wall decor and the dreaded WAF it’s a toss-up as to whether or not speakers can go in the walls. But if there’s an area where someone will actually want to listen to music, in-wall locations always trump ceiling installs.
If you think back to the dining room example above, in-wall speakers can be installed high up or down low on the walls so their sound is less attention getting, and so less distracting to diners sitting at the table.
In a home theater situation it’s almost always better to have the three front speakers (LCR) mounted adjacent to the screen so the sound appears to come from the picture you’re watching. Even the best ceiling speakers, tilted or not, have a real problem with that.
If the three front speakers aren’t co-axial and have to be mounted higher than you’d like, you can always install them upside down with the tweeters at the bottom, to get them closer to seated ear height. If you can, place the L/R and center channel as close to the same height as possible remember that seated ear height is the goal.
Speaking of ear height in stereo listening, just like with enclosure speakers you’d like to have in-wall speakers situated with the tweeters at ear height in those spaces where sound quality is important. They should be spaced between 6 and 8 feet apart for best imaging too.
Some flush mount speakers are acoustically compensated for their mounting within the wall. Since they’re mounted in a 2pi space (with the wall/ceiling extending out from their mounting location) their frequency response is impacted. Our CA series is built this way and will tend to sound more balanced and less boomy than many in-wall/in-ceiling speakers.
Most better all climate speakers (like our CA series) are made from UV resistant materials. But the sun is a powerful adversary and if a speaker is exposed to direct sunlight for long periods of time it will eventually change color to some degree. Paint can be your savior in such situations.
When installing the CA series exposed to the elements, always run a bead of silicone caulk around the back of the assembly before installation to seal the rim of the speaker. Be careful to only use silicone as some other caulks can severely damage the plastics used for these kinds of speakers.