I have to say after a recent demo of Polk Audio's new TOTL in wall speakers in a dedicated custom built HT room, my answer to your question is, hell yeah!
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For HT, mebbe, but I have yet to hear any in-walls that can compete with free-standing speakers for music.
Yes but like most audiophiles mebbe you have not heard or are aware of this or this or this...all in walls and there are so many more (and not just HT as this was also done for two channel as long as anyone can remember). You may even begin to wonder why they go to all this trouble in the most prestigious studios all over the world yet most 100K+ audiophile systems do not bother with this, not even the world's number one audiophile, as seen on another thread recently?
Perhaps audiophiles do not need to impress the world's top musicians/engineers with the realistic sound of their systems? Studios do. Perhaps audiophiles know they will get tired of their speakers and plan on changing next year. Studios don't. Perhaps audiophiles prefer to pretend that room acoustics has minimal impact on what is heard? Studios don't. Perhaps audiophiles don't need systems that one can listen to all day without fatigue. Studios do. Perhaps audiophiles expect to change house in the next few years? Studios don't.
Nothing wrong with audiophile preferences as domestic needs are very different from a studio and in walls can look pretty ugly....but these domestic preferences can easily mislead anyone into thinking that all in walls are bad sounding...and this is simply not true. Acoustic theory suggests very strongly that they should sound much better...at least for all box speakers!
Not all pros like in walls - it ain't a slam dunk! However, audiophiles that revere Doug Sax's "golden ears" for his wonderful D2D recordings from Sheffield Labs might investigate why Doug chooses to use in walls. Or do the "golden ears" have "tin ears"?
Trickey question, Remember 50% of the sound is the room so if the inwalls work in the room and the regular do not or are not in a good spot they can sound better but in general I have found you can not get better sound from a inwall. The trouble is they are limited by size and by not controling the enclosure the way the wall is built effects the sound.
I see you are using Magnepane for HT, these are not known for good base and smooth sound. Something you want in HT. These speakers are better for vocals and things without alot of bass. Also what are you using for a center?
I would start looking at your center, your sub and the room for main speakers although not ideal the Magnepane should be fine. Remember 70% of the sound in a HT cames form the center speaker.
I have heard many such systems and they can be quite fine but they are rarely made from consumer stuff. Even so, the best studios I have heard (in) used stand-alone monitors in controlled environments. I am thinking of Bob Ludwig's big room in Portland and some of the rooms at Sound Mirror near Boston. Besides, once the budget and space accomodations get into this realm, there are few limits other than the intelligence and art of the designer.
For the vast majority of people who even ask this question, though, my answer is more relevant, I believe.
I have heard many such [in wall] systems and they can be quite fine but they are rarely made from consumer stuff.
Agreed. You may not prefer them but they can sound good too. To me the absence of edge diffraction and rear quarter wave cancellation is a big plus for in walls, however, room modes can be more of a problem in this configuration and it can't be done as cheaply as a conventional setup.
The average consumer audiophile lacks the sophistication and money to design a room (and thus the in-wall speaker enclosures and their placement) to achieve what he could by experimenting both with his choice of free-standing speakers and their placement. For him, the best results will be achieved by trial and error, a strategy not well-suited to in-wall placement. Most people who choose in-wall are ruled by WAF, wife acceptance factor; the aesthetics of the room trump the quality of the reproduction.
"Acoustic theory suggests very strongly that they should sound much better."(Shadorne on in-walls).
Some acoustical theory suggests that a flush mounted inwall speaker has acoustical advantages, in regards to speaker to boundary frequency cancellation, maybe even boundary reinforcement, and lack of diffraction or back wave reflection. The main acoustical dis-advantage is bass mode reinforcement. (basically YOU NEED an EQ involved with in-walls, regardless. So, in HT systems with small acoustical spaces, you'll need to get an EQ or DSP correction involved.
Another problem with inwalls, is that only the sealed designs are really workable from an audiophile stand point. Still, you can't "aim" the speakers for tonality, from a variety of seating situations, even stereo listening, likely. (another drawback for "dialing in" speakers). Also, plotting speaker locations is harder with in-walls than free-standing speakers.
I do admit it seems that in-walls are improving, yes. IN some situations, they make sense, and might be necessary.
Still, I like the flexibility and predictability of box speakers.
I have both. My in-walls are at the high end - Paradigm reference. My floorstanders are only average. It depends on what you mean by "as good as".
IMO, it is extremely difficult (I'd say impossible) to make the wall as inert as a well designed cabinet. And, it's very difficult to properly place in-walls for optimum listening while also minimizing wall movement.
In walls are a cosmetic choice that function quite well if chosen well and care is taken in their installation. With respect to frequency response and detail - my in-walls (w/ sub) have greater range and as good transparency as my floorstanders. With respect to imaging? No contest. The in-walls are not even close. I can hear the wall movement interfering w/ frequency response. And, trim work, my TV, etc, all interfere w/ the imaging of the in-walls.
All in all, I'm very happy w/ my in-walls. The sound is more than acceptable for movies and casual listening. But, it's nowhere close to that produced my very average floorstanders.
I have been wondering about this issue myself. I had planned to use a pair of inwalls for the main speakers in a music room, as the existing stereo system uses larger sized speakers, and the second pair of home theater speakers is somewhat cluttered. My only experience with in wall occured 40 years ago, when a friend tried to mount a pair of (AR 3As in wall, between his listening room and the garage. WAF here) All theory aside, it did not sound good at all, soundfield collapsed, and generally was a major disappointment. They were promptly removed, and the wall repaneled.
Home theater has the addional benefit of 5+ channels of sound, which could reduce the soundfield collapse issue.
I just hate to cut holes in the wall, and discover I don't care for the result. Anyone out there with an in wall installation who had used free standing speakers who can comment?
I prefer the imaging from floorstanders (or monitors) deployed in free space. OTOH, Shadorne's observations re: smooth bass response are spot on - in wall placement will make a lot of room related issues in this range "moot". Personally, I use floorstanders and EQ'd subs. This arrangement addresses both issues while still allowing a (reasonably) "purist" signal path for the main speakers. Just my preferred approach. YMMV.
I'd like to add one more point. Floorstanders placed for best performance will limit sight lines. The arrangement I described in my previous post was for 2 channel use. Given the space restrictions in my home theater room (and I had the same issue in the much larger HT room in my previous home), I've used in-walls (Sonance) or decorative on-walls (Vienna). The former sound quite a bit better than the latter. Caveat: different system, different room.