Residential Systems- Inwall & Ceiling Speaker Installation Guide
Use jacketed, CL2 or CL3 rated cable, whichever is readily available. CL3 has a higher voltage rating, but CL2 is sufficiently rated for home audio systems. Use 14- or 16-gauge wire for speakers and volume controls. 18-gauge will work if you have no other choice, but the smaller the wire, the more power that is lost along the way. The longer the run, the larger the wire should be. Larger than 14-gauge can be used, but many connectors on your devices only handle up to 14-gauge. You run the risk of shorting your amplifier outputs with wire that is too large to fit connectors properly.
If you plan to install wall volume controls in each area, you can run 4-conductor wire from the amplifier location (aka head end) to the volume control to reduce cost and labor. Then run 2-conductor to each speaker location. For a single-zone system (all areas play the same source), it is possible to daisy-chain your wire run from the head end (one wire run jumps from volume control to volume control). However, home running (from each volume control back to the head end) is much preferred. It gives you the flexibility of creating a multi-zone system in the future without changing the wiring. Also, if a wire were to get damaged later in the construction process, you are in a better position to end up with a working system.
Route your cabling away from electrical wiring to reduce the chance of noise in the system. Cross electrical wiring at 90 degrees where you have to, but avoid running parallel to it in close proximity (keep at least one foot away as rule of thumb) for more than a few feet.
Obviously, installing the wiring for your system devices during a new construction or remodeling process is simpler and provides more flexibility and accuracy in device placement. Typically, wiring and rough-in for devices is done after the other trades- HVAC, plumbing, and electrical- have roughed in, and prior to insulation and drywall. Here are a few suggestions: Before starting, get an overview of all the wire runs you will need to pull and see if there is a path you can take that will minimize the length of your wire runs, minimize the number of turns, and/or avoid obstacles. Pull multiple runs at once through a common chase. The friction of pulling a cable across or next to existing cables can burn through the insulation of existing cables. Use of wire pulling lubricants (available from local electrical suppliers) can also help avoid burning. Protect your wiring where possible. Be aware of other trades involved in the construction process. Avoid getting in the way of ductwork, piping, etc. that may be installed later. Use stud protection plates or conduit stubs when penetrating studs to keep drywall screws from damaging wiring. Use proper wire bridle rings and cable ties to support cable- various types are available. Avoid stapling as it can easily damage the insulation and short out your amplifier. Installing an empty PVC chase from attic to basement for future wiring can be a wise investment.
As a final step when pre-wiring in new construction, take the time to mark your prints with wiring locations and any notes that you think might help you later. Taking pictures and/or video of device locations can help you avoid mistakes or find buried wiring later.
Installing wiring in existing construction can be something of an art form. It requires a lot of investigation to find ways around and through obstacles. There are a few tools and products available that can help: Stud finder- helps locate hidden obstacles Fish tape- use to get wiring through wall and ceiling cavities. A 1/8" tape is good for tight spaces and longer runs. A 1/4" tape helps in insulated walls. Long, small diameter drill bit- To help you identify where you need to drill, you can pull back carpet or trim at the base of a wall and drill down with a long, thin bit (maybe 1'8" diameter by 14" long). You can find your bit from below in a basement or crawl space and know where to drill up into a wall.
Flat wire- If there is no other way around, flat wire can be fished under carpet or even run up the face of a wall and covered with patching compound and paint or wallpaper.
Surface track- Also a last resort, there are various surface-mount raceways (i.e. Wiremold, Panduit) available for enclosing wiring that is run on the face of a wall or ceiling. You might also be able to use wood trim to cover surface wiring- just make sure you don't pinch of nail through wires. Sometimes, you can't avoid making a hole that won't be covered by a speaker, volume control, etc., so you will have to patch drywall once your wiring is installed. You might also consider using interior closet walls where patching won't be as noticeable. You might even cover the hole with a blank electrical plate to save time and allow for future access.
Volume Control Installation
Once your wiring is in place, you can begin installing devices, such as wall volume controls. The typical control mounts in a standard 1-gang electrical opening (the same size as a light switch). Check your local building code, but an electrical box is typically not required for low-voltage devices. Using a plaster ring for new construction or clamping ring in an existing wall will provide more room for wiring. If you do use a box, make sure it has enough depth for the control and wiring.
You should have four conductors (Left +, Left -, Right +, Right -) coming from your head-end equipment location. This will be the input to your volume control. The wiring to the speakers will be on the output side. Strip just enough insulation off each conductor to be able to fully insert bare wire into the connector on the volume control, without any bare wire hanging out of the connector. The quickest way to blow your amplifier is a direct short across the + and - conductors... even just one strand. This is equally important at the amplifier and speaker connections. Some controls have jumpers on them to help match the impedance of the total speaker load to your amplifier. See the instructions with the control to select the proper setting.
Be sure to maintain polarity on connections all the way from the amplifier to the speaker. Speakers will still work when polarity is not maintained, but will operate out of phase, resulting in cancellation of lower frequencies (less bass output).
Once all connections are made, use electrical tape to secure the wires to the control and screw it into the plaster ring. Use a small level when installing the trim plate.
Operation Note: The wall volume controls described here do not increase the output of your amplifier, they step the output down. The master volume control on your amplifier sets the level that will be heard when your wall volume control is all the way up. To avoid over-working your amplifier, turn your wall controls up when you want more volume, not your master control. If your master control is way up because all your wall controls are way down, your amplifier is working harder than necessary, wasting power and shortening its life.
Some flush-mount inwall and ceiling speakers have rough-in brackets available. When installed at the pre-wire stage in new construction, these brackets provide the proper opening for the drywall installer to leave to accommodate your speaker. These brackets are entirely optional. Advantages to using them are: Lets other contractors know that a device is going to be installed there. Reduces the chances or your wiring getting buried under drywall. Saves time and effort when installing devices.
There are some disadvantages to consider: The drywall installers may come back with patching compound if the hole is not cut perfectly, which could crack later when the speaker is installed. You have more flexibility in adjusting the speaker position to aesthetically line up with other things (vents, trim, etc.) that weren't there when wiring was roughed in.
If you opt not to use the rough-in brackets at the pre-wiring stage, you need to position the end of the cable in the center of your final speaker position withing the wall stud or ceiling joist cavity. You can use a scrap of cable or a strap to hold the end of the cable in position so that the drywall installer will pull it through when hanging drywall. Secure excess cable in the cavity where it won't get damaged. Let the drywall contractor and/or general contractor know what you are expecting from them so that there are no mistakes.
When you are ready to install the speakers, use the supplied template to mark where you will need to cut. You can also use the speaker grill, and cut just outside the line. Always do a final check with a stud finder to make sure you will be cutting in the right place. Then cut your opening with a keyhole saw or rotary cutter.
Be sure to leave enough cable length to be able to make your connections while resting the speaker on top of a ladder. Strip just enough insulation off each conductor to be able to fully insert bare wire into the connector on the speaker, without any bare wire hanging out of the connector. Maintain polarity on connections to keep speakers in phase. Hide the excess cable behind the speaker, making sure that it does not touch the back of the speaker cone. Cables, debris, insulation, etc. touching the back of the cone can impede movement and/or cause vibration noise, either of which will impact sound quality.
There are a couple of ways that flush-mount speakers clamp to drywall. One design uses plastic "legs" that rotate out and clamp as the mounting screws are tightened. This is most common on round ceiling speakers. The other type of clamping system uses a rectangular metal bracket that overlaps two sides of the opening and clamps as the screws are tightened. Use a level or tape measure to make sure speakers are level and square before final tightening. Installing the perforated grill is the final step.
A paint shield is typically supplied with the speaker. Installed behind the grill until construction is complete, it will help protect the speaker from paint. Whenever possible, install speakers after primer has been sprayed on the walls and ceilings. Speakers can be painted to match the wall. Use a dry brush (very little paint on brush) to keep from plugging holes in the grill.
Commercial Systems Installation Guide
Many of the tips in the residential systems section above apply to commercial systems. We provide more tips that are unique to commercial systems here.
Commercial systems are mono, so no matter where you are you hear all of the music. Commercial 70-volt amplifiers and speakers use transformers to increase the number of speakers and the distance of the wiring. There are no practical limitations to a properly designed system.
A mixer/amplifier at the heart of the system provides inputs for your music source, connection to a paging port on your business telephone system, and microphone inputs.
Speakers in 70-volt distributed systems can be wired in daisy-chain fashion. Connect to the "70V" and "COM" connections on the amplifier. The speakers have transformer tap settings that determine how much of a load they present to the amplifier, and how loudly they will play. We will send you directions for setting transformer taps that are specific to the system you purchase. Some ceiling speakers have wire leads to set the transformer tap. You will only need to connect to two of these leads, the lead that corresponds to the 70v/2.5w tap (green/positive 70V), and the COM lead (black common/negative COM). Tape off the unused leads so that they do not short or touch the speaker cone.
Some ceiling speakers have a rotary switch behind the grille that you can turn to set the tap. Surface-mount speakers have similar rotary switches on the rear panel. Again, we will send specific instructions for the proper settings.
If you are installing in ceiling tiles, use a couple of T-bars/cross tees (available at Home Depot etc) for the ceiling grid to help support the speaker by inserting them in the clamps when clamping the speaker to the tile.
Be sure that you DO NOT use the 8-ohm setting and don’t connect any additional speakers without checking with us first.