On-wall audiophile speaker recommendations for music?
January 30, 2013 2:28 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for recommendations for decent audiophile speakers (for music) that can be mounted on a wall.

My research so far turns up heaps of on-wall speakers, but most are designed to be part of a home theatre setup, so they're not full range but rely on a subwoofer to deliver the bass.

So, I've got a couple of sub-questions:

1. Are there any speakers light / small / unobtrusive enough to be hung on a wall, that offer something close to a full range of frequency response? 70-80Hz minimum doesn't cut it; ideally 20Hz would be awesome but something around 30-40Hz would be acceptable.

2. Is it feasible at all to hang speakers right up in the corner near the ceiling? Wiring is going to be an issue, but I should be able to get wires in to about a foot below ceiling height. Because of how the wall was built, hanging them at ear level would be challenging, unless I tear great big gouges in the drywall. The only speakers I've seen designed for corners like that are outdoor speakers. Are there any indoor versions so I don't have to pay for the robust weatherproofing required for outdoor use? Is this even a good idea at all, considering the effects of placing speakers in corners?

Assume a price guide of absolutely no more than US$2K / pair, and preferably closer to half that.
posted by UbuRoivas to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Definitive Technology has some great speakers, and are well worth checking out.

Have you considered in-ceiling speakers, if you need them to be up off the lower part of the wall? I have some Definitive in-ceiling speakers that I use as rear speakers in a surround setup, and they sound pretty good. It's definitely a compromise, but you're well into compromise territory already by going on-wall and mounting them up high.
posted by primethyme at 2:36 PM on January 30, 2013

A couple of other things:

Patching holes in the drywall isn't really that big of a deal. I have many places in my house where drywall had to be cut to run wires (I have several TVs mounted, network jacks, etc.), and it's impossible to tell where they were. If that's really the only thing holding you back from mounting them in the right place, I recommend thinking about it a little more. One-time pain, long-term gain.

Also, you probably know this, but to some extent "small/unobtrusive" and low frequency response are mutually exclusive. You need drivers of a sufficient size to reproduce lower frequencies. So the on-wall speakers that can hit those frequencies will not be as small as the ones that can't. You may have to decide what's more important.
posted by primethyme at 2:45 PM on January 30, 2013

Response by poster: I'm open to all options, including in-ceiling. From the (very little) that I know about them, I gather they can be a bit directional? ie they can have a "sweet spot" for listening, but not necessarily fill a whole room? The room in question is about 5m x 7m (16' x 22') with the speakers probably going on the shorter wall, for what it's worth.

I forgot the power handling spec: up to about 100 watts continuous per channel. They don't need to be any higher than that, although it doesn't hurt if they're rated for more.

Those Definitive Technology speakers certainly look like a candidate - assuming the input wire is at one end, long speakers like that could be hung with the cable end near the ceiling, so that approach could solve that problem...
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:46 PM on January 30, 2013

Response by poster: PS - yeah, patching the drywall is an option, although I'd prefer it to be a last resort. We just renovated about a year ago & I really didn't put any thought into running speaker cable, very stupidly. Too many other decisions to make all at once. It would be annoying to have to tear up brand new walls & painting for an oversight like that, but if it has to come to that I suppose I'd just have to do it. I'd likely be getting some pro cabling guys in anyway, so they might be able to reach a bit further than I expect.

Also, I get the size / response tradeoff. Just wondering how small / thin it's possible to go without sacrificing too much performance.

posted by UbuRoivas at 2:52 PM on January 30, 2013

Best answer: "... The room in question is about 5m x 7m (16' x 22') with the speakers probably going on the shorter wall, for what it's worth. ..."

Are you aware that, in a room of that dimension, the lowest full wave audio frequency that can occur is about 41Hz (speed of sound in air - 1130 ft/sec / length of space - hypotenuse of room dimensions or about 27.8 feet)? To reproduce a 20Hz note, without producing standing waves and deep null cancellations due to low frequency wave reflections from walls, you'd need at least some room dimension in excess of 50 feet.

So, no real need to spend for extended low range response - as putting those long waves into your room at high amplitude isn't likely to produce realistic bass or transient response. Speakers that begin to roll-off bass at 80hz, and are down 3db by 40Hz will exploit your room dimensions entirely.
posted by paulsc at 3:06 PM on January 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Well, that looks like all the answers I'm going to get, which to me confirms that what I'm looking for doesn't really exist as a mainstream kind of product or else every man & his dog would have an opinion on what's good to buy.

It's great to know - with paulsc's handy explanation of the physics involved - that I don't need to worry about finding full range speakers, and can probably get away with any pair designed for home theatre, as long as they go down to a frequency reasonably approaching 40Hz.

There are a couple of local stores that stock Definitive Technology, so I'll surely give them a listen. Apart from the Mythos Ten, there are Nine & Eight which also seem to match my specs, so at least a few options.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:34 AM on January 31, 2013

You can flush-mount ordinary speakers, but it'll give them a boost in the low frequencies (link, pdf). Genelec has a couple of tutorials on speaker placement, including flush-mounting. But since they target A/V control rooms, they can recommend stuff like building concrete alcoves for your speakers.

Large speakers tend to start being directional at a lower frequency than small speakers, so that can help avoid cancellation issues (if your speaker only emits waves in the front, you won't need to deal with back reflections). One possible problem with hi-fi style speakers is that they often use very directional high-frequency driver, to the point where you won't hear much highs if the speakers aren't aimed at +/- 15° from your ears. If you want to cover the whole room, you'll want to listen to the off-axis response.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 4:57 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks - that's another important point to look out for: directionality / dispersal. Don't want part of the sound flying right past the area we normally lounge around.

I'm thinking the home theatre space is exactly where I need to be looking, because HT speakers should be designed for a wider range of listening positions, without that sweet spot problem.

Meanwhile, I'm really dying for a pair of these KEF LS50s, but don't think my room configuration could ever do them justice.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:07 PM on January 31, 2013

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