Mis à jour le 1 August 2022.
Architectural speakers deliver very high quality sound while being almost invisible. Very prevalent in stores and malls, more and more individuals are using these in-wall and in-ceiling speakers at home. Visually discreet, they also have excellent audio qualities, as they inherit the technologies developed for conventional speakers. The biggest acoustic speaker manufacturers therefore offer many in-wall and in-ceiling speakers.
Architectural speakers are equipped with either coaxial drivers or separate midbass drivers and tweeters. Some are resistant to humidity so that they can be installed in a bathroom or pool house. Others feature two tweeters for stereo sound from a single speaker. This is ideal for a small bathroom or even a toilet. Almost all architectural speakers can be used for both hi-fi and home theater. However, some models are specifically designed to be integrated into a private cinema or a home theater room.
So, which architectural speakers should you choose? Find out in this comparative guide about the best architectural speakers for 2022.
Architectural speakers: integration champions
Designing an audio system to play music in several rooms means using multiple speakers. It also implies running many speaker cables to the amplifier. This can cause problems, notably for aesthetic reasons, or simply for lack of space. In this case, architectural speakers are the perfect solution. Built into the wall or the ceiling, they provide the same sound quality as bookshelf speakers and even small floorstanders. Once the architectural speaker is installed, only the grille remains visible. It is even possible to paint this grille so that the speaker is even more discreet in your home.
Moreover, in-wall and in-ceiling speakers are a more budget-friendly solution than equivalent classic speakers. They can be implemented as part of a renovation, or when building a new home.
Among the most discreet in-wall and in-ceiling speakers are the KEF Ci50R and EarthQuake ECS3.0. These models, which are the size of an LED spotlight, are equipped with a miniature 2” wideband driver. Also very compact, the Artsound FL30 speaker only requires a hole of 3.4” to be made in the wall or ceiling.
These speakers are suitable for playing background music at low volume. They are ideal for use with a small subwoofer to provide a better bass response. For a home theater system, they can reproduce rear and lateral surround effects as well as Dolby Atmos effects well mounted in the ceiling.
In-ceiling speakers: background music, surround sound and Dolby Atmos
In-ceiling speakers are often smaller than in-wall speakers and generally have a coaxial design. They are designed to be installed in hollow spaces (suspended ceilings, wood panels, etc.). In-ceiling speakers are perfect for playing background music. This makes them ideal for use in kitchens, bedrooms and living rooms. They can also be used as surround speakers or Atmos effect speakers in a home theater installation.
Renowned for the quality of its wireless hi-fi speakers, bookshelf speakers and floorstanding speakers, KEF is also known for its impressive in-ceiling speakers. The proprietary Uni-Q technology is present in the majority of the manufacturer’s models, ensuring a perfectly coherent acoustic image. With its 5” coaxial driver equipped with a 0.7” central tweeter, the KEF Ci130.2 CR covers a wide frequency range. This speaker is great for playing music or listening to news reports in a bedroom or kitchen. It also lends itself very well to the reproduction of Dolby Atmos effects in home theater.
KEF’s catalog also features a motorized in-ceiling speaker! The KEF Ci3-80QT emerges from the ceiling to play audio and disappears when not in use. It uses Uni-Q coaxial technology, which ensures that sound effects and music are reproduced with great accuracy.
A true reference in the hi-fi and home theater speaker market, American manufacturer Klipsch has a large catalog of architectural speakers. The CS (Custom Series) range offers remarkable performance at a reasonable price. They are also very easy to install thanks to the ingenious automatic Sky Hook system. The Klipsch CS-18C Sky Hook speaker is the perfect example of this, with an 8” coaxial driver offering powerful, responsive lows. The high sensitivity makes it easy to power this speaker capable of producing a high volume with few watts.
Even more powerful, the Klipsch PRO-18RC has an 8” IMG graphite cone coaxial driver. This driver, which can also be found on the Klipsch Reference 2018 speakers, comes with an aluminum dome tweeter. The latter is mounted in a Tractrix horn to optimize the directivity of the high frequencies. This powerfully motorized speaker has a very high sensitivity of 95 dB, making it easy to power. Perfect for a hi-fi listening experience favoring clarity and precision, it is also very well suited to home theater applications and can be used for the surround and Dolby Atmos channels.
Focal also offers a wide range of in-ceiling speakers that feature the technologies used in its standard speakers. The French manufacturer’s best-sellers are the Focal ICW5 and ICW6 speakers, which feature a Polyglass cone coaxial driver. Identical to the one used in the brand’s hi-fi and home theater speakers, it produces clear mids and structured lows. At its center is an aluminum inverted dome tweeter, typical of Focal speakers. It offers clarity, smoothness and precision at the highest frequencies.
Even more efficient is the Focal 300 ICW6, which integrates a 6.5” Flax cone midbass driver. It is accompanied by an aluminum/magnesium inverted dome tweeter that delivers a precise and detailed sound. Ideal for hi-fi in any room of the house, this in-ceiling speaker can also be used for home theater. It is also able to reproduce surround and Atmos effects alongside the speakers in the Focal Aria 900 range.
Elipson also knows how to build excellent, versatile in-ceiling speakers with recognized acoustic qualities. The Elipson IC4 and Elipson IC8 speakers are the perfect illustration of this. They feature a cellulose pulp midbass driver, offering velvetiness and precision in the midrange. The silk dome tweeter brings detail and clarity to the highest frequencies while maintaining a pleasant softness.
Renowned for its multi-room speakers, portable Bluetooth speakers and connected speakers, American brand Sonos also designs architectural speakers. The Sonos Architectural In Ceiling Sonance speaker is a favorite among fans of the pioneering multi-room brand. Ideally paired with the Sonos Amp connected amplifier, it is perfect for delivering surround sound effects to complement a Sonos soundbar.
A global reference when it comes to hi-fi amplifiers and AV receivers, Yamaha also makes architectural speakers with many qualities. Its catalog includes several in-wall/in-ceiling models, notably the Yamaha NS-IC600. The success of the latter is due to its impeccable finish and sparkling musicality.
Ultra-slim architectural speakers
For ceilings and walls with limited installation depth, some manufacturers offer very slim speakers. An example is the French manufacturer Elipson with the Elipson Ultra Slim IC8 architectural speaker. Very flat, the latter is only 5cm deep. It features a total of five drivers, including three woofers and a midrange driver all measuring 3” in diameter. They are equipped with cellulose fiber diaphragms and are accompanied by a silk dome tweeter.
Klipsch also offers several slim architectural speakers, including the Klispch SLM-3400-C which is less than 4cm thick! It has a 4” IMG (graphite and copper) cone driver, which is also used on the Reference Series speakers. A 1” aluminum dome tweeter loaded in a Tractrix acoustic horn is also included, offering optimal directivity.
Which built-in or rack mini amplifier should you use to power these speakers?
If you want to use in-wall/in-ceiling speakers for more discretion, perhaps you want to hide the amplifier too. Some models are perfect for this, notably WiFi/Bluetooth amps. As long as they integrate a digital amplifier that doesn’t heat up too much, they can be easily hidden in a technical rack, or simply in a cabinet. Or even in a specially designed compartment in a wall or suspended ceiling, with a discreet access hatch.
Among the most suitable amplifiers for discreet integration are the Marmitek BoomBoom 460 and Tangent Ampster BT II ultra-compact Bluetooth models, as well as the Bluetooth, AirPlay and DLNA compatible Artsound Smart Hyde. It is best to install them somewhere that is easy to access in case you need to adjust the volume, for example.
In-wall speakers: hi-fi and home theater versatility
In-wall speakers can be installed in hollow partitions. That could be a wood panel, an MDF panel or even plasterboard. In-wall speakers can be used for both hi-fi and home theater systems. The left and right speakers should be placed on either side of the TV and the center speaker is placed below or above the screen. The center speaker can also be placed behind an acoustically transparent screen in an installation with a projector. The micro perforated fabric allows the sound to pass through the screen without losing any frequencies.
The Focal 100 IW6 is equipped with a 6.5” Polyglass cone midbass driver and an aluminum inverted dome tweeter. The acoustic performance of these two drivers can be adjusted using a switch on the front panel.
More powerful, the Focal 300 IW6 in-wall speaker boasts an EISA award. Its midbass driver has a Flax cone, which is a glass fiber and linen composite. The lows are energetic and well structured. The aluminum/magnesium inverted dome tweeter brings clarity and dynamism to the sound. This Focal speaker is ideal to be used as a surround speaker with a Focal Aria speaker system.
Another popular in-wall speaker is the Elipson IW, part of the Elipson Architect In line. The Elipson IW6 and Elipson IW8 are ideal for playing music in a living room. They can also be paired with the Elipson IW14C in a home theater room or private cinema. Elipson also offers a full range of speakers for home theater integration: the Elipson Infinite line.
American manufacturer Klipsch also has a wide range of very efficient in-wall speakers. Providing an energetic and lively musical experience, the Klipsch CS-16W Sky Hook speaker is also easy to install thanks to its patented mounting system.
For hi-fi and home theater use in a living room, or a dedicated room, the Klipsch DS-250W-LCR Sky Hook is an excellent choice. It can be used in stereo or for the three frontal channels of a home theater system.
In the UK, Bowers & Wilkins also creates excellent in-wall speakers with obvious musical qualities. An example is the B&W CWM664 with its 1” aluminum dome tweeter and Nautilus enclosure. It offers soft and precise highs up to 50kHz. Its 6” glass fiber midbass driver combines impact and responsiveness in the lows.
The British manufacturer KEF also has a good range of in-wall speakers. Among the best KEF in-wall speakers are the KEF Ci100 QS and KEF Ci200 QS with a coaxial Uni-Q driver. Thanks to the crown waveguide, the tweeter ensures optimal high-frequency dispersion. Its perfect phasing with the midbass driver guarantees a very uniform musical reproduction. These speakers are also resistant to corrosion. They can therefore be used in a bathroom, near a swimming pool, by the sea and even on a boat.
Hailing from northern Europe, Danish manufacturer DALI impresses with its Dali Phantom architectural speaker range. Most models feature a wood fiber cone midbass driver. Recognizable by its dark red color, it is characterized by powerful and well-structured bass. Opening the range, the Dali Phantom H-60 R and Dali Phantom H-80 R speakers are great value for money.
Stereo models and Bluetooth architectural speakers
Stereo architectural speakers
Equipped with two side-firing tweeters, stereo architectural speakers are ideal when space is at a premium. They can be installed in the ceiling in small spaces that don’t allow for multiple speakers. A single speaker can deliver stereo music to a small space. Most manufacturers offer at least one in-ceiling stereo speaker in their catalog.
Among the most powerful models are the Elipson IC6ST, the only stereo model offered by the French manufacturer. At Cabasse, the stereo architectural model is called Cabasse Archipel 17 ICPS. It features a dual coil midbass driver and two tweeters.
British brand KEF has the KEF CI160 CR DS stereo speaker, whose coaxial driver is equipped with two tweeters. They benefit from a Tangerine waveguide that reduces resonance and optimizes the distribution of high frequencies. They are positioned in front of a 6” woofer. This KEF stereo architectural speaker is humidity resistant, so it can be installed in a bathroom or indoor pool.
Out of the three stereo architectural speakers produced by Klipsch, the Klipsch DS-160CSM Sky Hook has the best value for money. It is equipped with a 6.5” polypropylene driver that guarantees a precise and clear sound in the lows and mids. The two silk dome tweeters offer a soft high frequency reproduction. They produce a harmonious and balanced sound.
At DALI, the only stereo model is called DALI Phantom E-60 S. Its output power of 2 x 80 watts and sensitivity of 90 dB allow it to be paired with many stereo hi-fi amplifiers. It is perfect in rooms measuring up to around 20m².
Bluetooth and WiFi
Recently introduced to the market, Bluetooth and WiFi architectural speakers have a major advantage. With their built-in amplifier and Bluetooth/WiFi receiver, they only need a power supply to operate! There’s no need for additional amplifiers or to run speaker cables through the ceiling. These all-in-one speakers easily stream music from a smartphone, wirelessly and discreetly.
A pioneer in this field, the manufacturer Lithe Audio offers the Lithe Audio IP44 Bluetooth Ceiling Speaker. Waterproof and dustproof with 50 watts of amplification, it can be used to provide impressive sound in a living room, kitchen or bathroom.
Architectural speakers for home theater
In a living room equipped with a home theater installation or a private theater, architectural speakers arguably offer the best solution in terms of integration. Aesthetics and space saving are their main assets, and they disappear for a fully immersive experience.
Manufacturers of traditional home theater speakers have understood this and offer a wide range of dedicated architectural speakers. Some models can be used as both center speakers and front speakers to deliver the three front channels. These models are called LCR (Left, Center and Right).
The best LCR architectural speakers
The Elipson Infinite range provides a comprehensive solution for home theater speaker integration. The Elipson Infinite 8 speaker, Elipson Infinite 14 speaker and Elipson Infinite S12 subwoofer can be installed in a partition and behind an acoustically transparent projection screen for impeccable integration.
Ideally, these Elipson home theater speakers can be used with the Elipson Infinite INF6 and Elipson Infinite INF8 ceiling speakers to reproduce Atmos or surround sound effects thanks to the directional tweeter. These cinema speakers deliver a very high sound level whilst being hidden in the walls, ceiling or behind the projection screen.
The Focal 100 IW LCR5 architectural speaker is an affordable and effective solution for a dedicated home theater. This 2-way speaker has two 5” Polyglass drivers and an aluminum inverted dome directional tweeter.
More expensive but also more powerful and precise, the Focal 300 IW LCR6 architectural speaker boasts an EISA award. This 3-way speaker is equipped with Flax drivers and has inherited the technologies used by the Focal Aria speakers.
Also from Focal, the Focal 100 IC LCR5 LCR speaker is one of a kind as it is installed in the ceiling. This unique speaker can even reproduce the left, center and right front channels, as well as the left, center and right rear channels of a 5.1 system. Exclusive Polyglass cones and an aluminum inverted dome tweeter are used in this innovative speaker design.
At Klipsch, the Klipsch DS-250W-LCR Sky Hook architectural speaker is the most affordable LCR model in the range, but is far from being the least interesting. Characterized by pleasant breadth and well-controlled energy, it delivers a detailed and precise sound.
Danish brand DALI’s catalog includes the high-end Dali Phantom M-250 in-wall speaker. It benefits from the company’s best technologies to deliver a rich sound.
THX certified architectural speakers
THX certified in-wall and in-ceiling speakers meet strict specifications to provide a performance worthy of real movie theaters. They guarantee optimal sound and immersion, faithfully reproducing the director’s intentions, both for action scenes and dialogue. In this category, two manufacturers stand out: KEF and Klipsch.
British manufacturer KEF’s KEF CI4100RL-THX in-wall speaker is highly recommended for dedicated home theater rooms but can also be integrated in a living room. This three-way LCR model has four drivers including a Uni-Q coaxial driver and three 4” drivers dedicated to low frequencies.
To accompany this KEF THX LCR speaker, the KEF Ci200RR-THX speaker is ideal for reproducing Dolby Atmos effects. This in-ceiling speaker equipped with a Uni-Q coaxial driver offers a very consistent sound and is incredibly precise.
Equipped with powerfully motorized glass fiber cone midbass drivers and a Tractrix horn tweeter, they plunge you into the heart of the action with a lot of realism.
Which architectural speakers are the best?
After looking at the different types of architectural speakers on the market and their possible uses, here is our selection of the best architectural speakers for 2022: