Hidden Speaker Wires
April 2, 2005 8:14 AM   Subscribe

I just got a new TV and a six speaker home theater audio system. The front and satellite speakers are small and sort of designed to be wall mounted. I want mount them (at about chest level) without obvious speaker wires.

Because there are six speakers there are at least four sets of speaker wires that have to travel to the sides and back of the room.

I also plan to put my old speakers in another room and have to run wires to another part of the house (40' or so away).

Any good hints on consolidating and hiding speaker wires?
posted by aspenbaloo to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You can buy long plastic channels that are meant for exactly this sort of thing in any Home Depot/Lowe's. It's got an adhesive strip down one side, so you can stick it to the wall or along the baseboards--looks kind of like molding. There's a whole bunch of different lengths you can get, and different connectors to run it around inside/outside corners, etc.

You can pretty easily blend it in to the geometry of a room, especially if the walls are white. It won't be completely _hidden_, but it's a lot more subtle than just running the wires around.
posted by LairBob at 8:25 AM on April 2, 2005

(And as a general rule for how to lay this sort of thing out, I find it's best to keep it along corners/edges until you're as close to the speaker as possible, and then run a short length straight to the speaker. Even if that's technically a longer route, the less channeling you've got running out in the open across a flat surface, the better.)
posted by LairBob at 8:30 AM on April 2, 2005

Best answer: The more advanced course is to fish the wire, at least the vertical run, through the wall. This will involve, of course, punching two holes in the wall.

This also presumes stud construction. The tool you need is a long fiberglass rod with a loop at the end. The standard replacement is an old fishing rod that you cut the guides off of. (leave the tip guide.) Steel fish tape is harder to work with, because of the curve.

The cleanest install uses boxes and wall plates to cover the holes. Done cleanly, it looks profession. If you can get under the floor or over the ceiling, even better -- you can then run the wire up/down to the attic/basement, across to the receiver, then down.

All of this is, of course, more work. But the run in the wall with a fishpole is easy. You make the hole where the speaker will be, and (assuming just wall runs) a whole at the floor. Fish the rod into the hole, down to the hole by the floor. Tie the wire to the loop, and pull back through. Done.

Of course, now there's these holes. That's where things like this come in. The lovely thing about keystone plates is that you can build up what you need. The easiest to work with are the bulkhead "feedthrough" connectors. The idea is that they have the same connector at the end. So, if you used RCA, you'd pull an RCA cable through the wall, then plug the cable into the backs of the plates. Then, you plug the speaker and amp cable into the front.

Note that RCA is really only good for low power. Better jacks are available. Your local Home Supply MegaStore will have a selection. If you can go horizontal through the floor/ceiling, then you'd need a 4 gang plate at the amp (two left, two right) and two two gangs at the speakers.

Finally, running cables on floor that's walked on is bad. It doesn't take that much damage to crack a conductor, worse, if you short the conductor, the amp sees a dead short, and without impedance, tries to put a *whole bunch* of power through the wire. This usually ends up badly. How badly depends, really, on what blows up first.
posted by eriko at 8:48 AM on April 2, 2005

Assuming stud construction, I'd go for fishtape and wall plates. It's harder than using "invisible" speaker wire, or channels, but you can still get everything up and going in a day. Not a terrible installation time for something that you probably plan to have around for the next decade.
posted by mosch at 9:21 AM on April 2, 2005

I run my rear speakers by wires that travel under the area rug in my living room. It sounds bootleg but it's remarkably easy and subtle. Very effective, if you have an area rug.
posted by knave at 9:22 AM on April 2, 2005

If your room is carpeted, there is a gap between the carpet and the footer stud, underneath the baseboard molding and gyproc. With a bit of work, you can push a couple cables into that gap, running 'em 'round the room until near the speakers.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:41 AM on April 2, 2005

Previously, on Ask Metafilter.
posted by zsazsa at 10:33 AM on April 2, 2005

Note that if you go with the "fishing it through the wall" scenario, but the wall in question is an exterior wall, it could be filled with insulation which makes fishing wires through a pain in the butt. Just sayin'.
posted by Doohickie at 8:08 PM on April 2, 2005

Flat Paintable Speaker Cable, or just Google for the term.

If you fish regular wire through the walls, like I do, you have to watch out for the fireblock, a stud that runs horizontally across a stud bay and is placed there for the express purpose of making it hard to fish cable through it (OK, it just seems like it). The trick to getting through one of these without hacking up your wall completely is to use a hole saw about, oh, 2-3" in diameter and cut a precise hole in the drywall directly above the blocking. Now that you've exposed the fireblock, notch as needed and then replace the circle you cut out with a drywall screw or two. Now, you only need to patch the saw kerf and the pilot hole.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 9:35 PM on April 2, 2005 [1 favorite]

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