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In-Ceiling vs On-Wall vs Horn Speakers - Which one should you choose?

In-ceiling and on-wall speakers are the two most common speaker types for domestic and commercial audio installations.

We often get asked what the difference is or which one is better, and it always comes down to a few simple factors - the application they are to be used for (background music in a restaurant, a home cinema room, a gym etc), and what can be accomplished from an installation perspective.

They both have their pros and cons and there are benefits to each type in certain scenarios.

In-ceiling Speakers

In-ceiling speakers offer a discrete solution with little to no footprint. As they are recessed into the ceiling, they provide a very clean aesthetic and can be installed into almost any room.

They fire sound downwards in a 360-degree 'cone' shape which disperses the sound much more evenly than a wall speaker, and because they are in the ceiling they can be placed centrally and more consistently throughout the room for even coverage.

In-ceiling speakers are ideal in domestic environments and offices as there is no obstruction, and provide great sound quality for films, TV, games, background music and announcements.

In-ceiling speakers by design have a limit to the power output and frequency response they can produce, however. Since the back of the speaker is open, they do leak sound which can make its way to the floor above installation, and due to the size constraints, they do not have as deep a bass response when compared to a wall speaker.

This is alleviated slightly by the ceiling void, but it is still limited compared to a cabinet speaker.

While easy to install, in-ceiling speakers are difficult to retrofit due to the wiring constraints so they are only a viable option on the first fix or if there is a false ceiling with easy access to wiring above.


  • Discrete & low-profile

  • Easy to install

  • Wide dispersion & consistent coverage

  • Perfect for background music & home audio


  • Limited power output and frequency response

  • Difficult to retrofit

  • Can potentially leak sound to floor above

On-wall Speakers

On-wall cabinet speakers are very easy to install and can be easily retrofitted into any room, as all they require is a bracket to be screwed into the wall.

They can be used for background music, but are the go-to for environments that require something more than BGM. Due to the nature of the closed cabinet design, on-wall speakers typically have a lower frequency response and can get much louder than their in-ceiling counterparts. As such, they are great in bars, gyms, or any area that wants a more foreground sound, and generally will objectively sound better in quality than a ceiling speaker.

On-wall speakers are not as limited in size as in-ceiling speakers and range from compact 3" sizes to 10"+. When choosing a wall speaker, however, size needs to be taken into account relative to where they will be placed in the room as they are more obstructive than a recessed ceiling speaker.

Wall speakers are more directional than ceiling speakers and fire sound in a focused manner. This means you have to angle the speaker towards the area you want the sound in, which is why they are commonly placed in the corners of rooms facing inwards.


  • Better overall sound quality compared to ceiling speakers

  • Lower frequency response

  • Can be retrofitted into any room

  • Available in a wider range of sizes

  • Ideal for foreground music


  • Can be bulky and obtrusive

  • Some cheaper speakers can detract from the decor, depending on the room and speaker shape/size

  • Can be more expensive than a ceiling speaker


Horn Speakers

Horn speakers are perfect for large-scale announcement systems as they can project sound over large distances. They can typically be found in warehouses/factories, or outdoor PA systems such as train stations, loading areas and forecourts.

Horn speakers come in two shapes - conical and rectangular. Conical speakers throw sound over a wide area, whereas rectangular speakers are more focused.

Horn speakers are suited for speech and announcements as their frequency response is very mid-heavy - something the human ear is particularly sensitive to. This means the sound produced by the horn speaker can easily be picked up.

The downside of this is they are not suitable for music playback as they lack a bass and treble response - music will sound tinny and muffled.

To combat this, there are music horn speakers available which offer a full frequency range, filling in the missing bass and treble frequencies missing from a standard horn. These are more expensive, however, and will not offer the same level of audio quality as a cabinet speaker. Still, they sound a million times better than a traditional speech-only horn speaker!


  • Projects sound over a large distance

  • Perfect for announcements

  • Most horn speakers are weather-resistant


  • Not suitable for music (excluding music horn speakers)

  • Industrial Aesthetic



So which is better? This will ultimately depend on your preference, installation requirements and the sound you are looking to achieve.

In-ceiling speakers are discrete, easy to install and disperse sound over a large distance, but they are primarily used for low-mid level background music and lack low-end frequency response.

Wall speakers are more bulky, but offer a much better frequency response, especially in the low-end, and can easily be retrofitted into any room. This makes them great for background and foreground applications when you want the music a little more pumping.

Horn speakers are perfect for announcements in large areas such as a warehouse or outdoor area, but are not so good for music playback.

If you require any further assistance regarding purchasing a Lithe Audio product please contact us on 02476 369890 and one of our experts will be happy to help. Or use our Request a Call Back page for a FREE no obligation system design & consultation service.

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