Home Technology Blog

Speakers Meant to be Heard and Not Seen

February 8, 2013 | Comments

Traditional in-wall speakers offered by virtually every major speaker brand are great space savers capable of delivering sound that approaches that of their freestanding counterparts. They sit flush with the wall, concealed by grille covers that can be painted to match the room, making them ideal for home theater spaces that don't have room for the five speakers needed to create a convincing surround-sound experience.

Problem is, as unobtrusive as those speaker grilles might be, you can still see them. Wouldn't it be great if you could make those speakers fully disappear?

In-wall speakers in master bedroom
In-wall speakers above bed in master bedroom

Walls that Speak

Enter the "invisible speaker" - a shallow, rectangular panel designed to be mounted between the studs in standard 2 x 4-construction. Small, puck-like transducers or flat-diaphragm drivers attached to the side of the panel that goes into the wall produce sound by vibrating the exterior surface, which becomes part of the wall or ceiling.

Like conventional in-wall speakers, installing an invisible speaker also requires some know-how, so unless you're handy, installation is best left to the pros. Here is the basic process:

  1. Cut a whole in the drywall just big enough to fit the sound panel in the wall.
  2. Snake speaker wires through the wall to the opening so they can be attached to the back of the sound panel.
  3. Depending on the type of speaker, secure the panel directly to the studs or to mounting tabs that attach to the surrounding drywall. With some models, you can install an optional backbox to reduce sound transmission to an adjacent room.
  4. Tape and spackle as you would any drywall seam, apply a skim coat of spackle over the entire surface and sand.
  5. Paint or apply wallpaper.

The result is sound that emanates from an invisible speaker that is now quite literally part of the wall. Dinner parties will never be the same as puzzled guests roam around nonchalantly looking for speakers while you chuckle to yourself.

Invisible speakers example - image courtesy Sonance
Invisible speaker image courtesy Sonance

Speakers designed to be truly invisible are not likely to satisfy diehard audiophiles or home theater enthusiasts, but the newest models deliver surprisingly decent sound that will please many listeners. Just don't expect them to sound as good as the best freestanding speakers, and don't expect deep bass - you'll need a stand-alone or in-wall subwoofer for that.

For more ideas on making speakers disappear in a media room, home theater or other space, consult a professional. Click here for a list of CEDIA-member home technology professionals in your area.