Are in-ceiling’s a weak link?

Discussion in 'Beginners, General Questions' started by hnrybrdsly, Sep 14, 2006.

  1. hnrybrdsly

    hnrybrdsly Auditioning

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    I’ve read in several places that front left/right speakers should ideally be at ear level. I’ve also read that that’s an outdated concept from when bookshelf speakers were more common.

    So, is the ear-level speaker conventional wisdom or an old fashioned idea whose time has come and gone?

    I’m looking to upgrade the speakers in my relatively small TV room. I’m adding rear surrounds, and due to space limitations pretty much have to go with in-ceiling speakers back there.

    As to the front, there’s not a lot of room up there either. Add to that, at some point in the next years I’ll be upgrading my 4:3 32” to a HD 16:9 of probably 50” or more. This will crowd my already limited lateral space and demand that whatever front speakers I choose now be accommodating in their placement.

    I can’t really go in-wall as I can’t tell now how wide I need them with a new wide-screen, and because the wall is a full foot and a half behind the entertainment center.

    It seems like a perfect solution to go with in-ceilings up front, too. So now I have to weigh the pros and cons of in-ceiling. Apart from reading “ear level placement is ideal” I can’t find any information on this topic.

    How much of a hit to sonic performance will I take by going with in-ceilings? Does aiming the in-ceilings towards the listening space make up for vertical ear-level? Does upgrading to a better in-ceiling make up for a lesser speaker at ear-level?

    If it makes any difference, I’ll be keeping the center channel on top of the TV, which will certainly help tie audio to the screen.

    All comments are appreciated.

    hb
     
  2. Liquid Kaos

    Liquid Kaos Extra

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    In-Ceiling fronts can be detected A LOT easier then In-Ceiling rear surrounds. I'm going to have to vote NO if you can do it another way.

    ADDED: Heck, I'm going to rate which speakers should not be in ceiling from WORST to BEST:

    1) CENTER CHANNEL (Worst - Don't even try it!)
    2) FRONT MAINS (Can be ok if built properly, but just a swiveling tweeter sucks)
    3) SIDE SURROUNDS (Average)
    4) REAR SURROUNDS (Decent)

    Also, your FRONT MAINS don't have to be TOUCHING the screen. You should be able to spread them out a bit. This should leave plenty of room if you replace a 32" TV with a larger one.
     
  3. Liquid Kaos

    Liquid Kaos Extra

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    Check out this: http://www.dolbylabs.com/consumer/ho...oomlayout.html

    Of course, it's not always possible to place your speakers exactly as shown. The diagrams give a range of placement angles, so you have some flexibility. Sometimes you'll have no choice but to mount the surrounds behind you, but if you follow the guidelines as closely as you can, you'll have good sound.

    Ideally, your front speakers, high-frequency drivers, or tweeters should be positioned at ear level (when you're seated). Our recommended height for the surrounds is above ear level, as soundtracks are likely to be optimized for that location.

    Beyond keeping it on the floor, there's no specific rule for placing the subwoofer, as bass sound is non-directional. However, the amount of bass may vary depending on room location. You might want to try a few different places to determine what's best for you (sometimes moving the speaker even a few inches can change the sound).
     
  4. Jeff Gatie

    Jeff Gatie Lead Actor

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    Fronts need to be much more directional than surrounds because they are anchored to the action on the screen. Using in-ceilings for surrounds would make every scene on the screen sound like it is coming from the ceiling, thus losing any theaterlike effect. It would also ruin any panning of sounds from L-C-R and vice versa. Instead, you would get UpperL-C-UpperR. My vote is an emphatic no.
     
  5. hnrybrdsly

    hnrybrdsly Auditioning

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    Hey LK & Jeff,

    Thanks so much for the quick and thoughtful replies.

    It makes intuitive sense that since the surrounds are behind the ear, their vertical would necessarily be less detectable. And I absolutely agree, I’d never take the center channel away. It will stay on top of the screen.

    And thanks for the link. I’d read that page, and another from Crutchfield, which said about the same thing with respect to ear-level being ideal. It was actually someone at Crutchfield who had said that that ear-level idea was more pertinent to when bookshelf speakers were more dominant in the market, and that the ideal placement was -needed- to counter for the lower quality speakers.

    I’m not looking for low quality speakers. For me, I think the real questions here are 1) what can be done to minimize any performance hit by going in-ceiling, and 2) with those steps taken, how much performance hit will a take versus a small floor stander? Or stated otherwise, Is there nothing to be done to avoid a “you’ll regret that decision” situation?

    It seems to me, the best I can tell, that in-wall speakers are actually the current state of the art. If I thought I could figure a way to go that route I would. But if they’re mounted on the wall a full foot and a half behind the entertainment center, then the left speaker will be hidden from the right side of the room and vice versa. And a 50” wide screen will add 18” width over a 32” 4:3. My space is effectively 12’x12’. So, it’s pretty difficult to go in-wall with that tight a space and that kind of future variance to account for.

    The line I’m looking at is the Sonance Virtuoso. It’s a 3-way jobber, 8”.4”.1”, which is fully-pivoting, as you suggested.

    I googled for reviews and found a number for their in-walls, and this confusing review for the in-ceiling model: http://www.automatedhome.co.uk/article1278.html
    In two adjacent sentences the reviewers says “So what do they sound like? Quite simply.....stunning! OK, they're not to the standard of a good quality set of floor standers…”

    I mean, what the hell is that? I’d certainly be happy with “stunning” sound and leave it at that. For my small space, I can’t see getting overly powerful. Speakers with that kind of gusto, I would think, would indeed sound stunning pivoted in to the listener and several feet above ear level.

    As an aside, from the photo in this review it looks like the reviewer put the center channel in-ceiling and also seems to have plenty of room for floor standers, to boot.

    The panning question is a good one, too. I guess it focuses the issue on the location of the sound source by the ear. What I have in there right now is a fairly decent pair of Bose bookshelf which are all the way to the sides of the room, and on a top shelf about 2-1/2 feet from the ceiling. This hasn’t posed a problem yet in panning.

    I supposed I could consider getting a smaller pair of bookshelf speakers that I could put inside the shelves down at ear level. It’s just hard to believe that a smaller pair at ear level will sound better than these Sonances would in the ceiling.

    Can anyone who currently has in-ceilings for the front L/R (or who -had-) chime in here with any real experience?

    hb
     

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