Getting the perfect picture of your dream speakers can be quite cumbersome. Probably, you are on this article because you’ve narrowed your choices down to these two kinds of speakers: the In-wall versus the Bookshelf.
Truthfully, comparing both would be a fierce one as each speaker has its own unfair advantage over the other. Nevertheless, we’ve highlighted which is better on the basis of sound, style, and cost.
While in-wall speakers are minimal and sleek in appearance, getting one with similar quality to the bookshelf speakers can be 2 times costlier. That’s not all – bookshelf speakers too often take up space in small home theatre rooms, and might not provide enough sound to cover larger home theatre rooms.
In-wall vs. Bookshelf Speakers: 5 Big Differences
To help you easily weigh both speakers against each other, let’s look into the biggest differences between in-wall and bookshelf speakers side-by-side.
|Feature||In-Wall Speakers||Bookshelf Speakers|
|Size & Space||Extremely minimal, some In-Wall speakers are hidden.||Size is moderate, placed on shelves|
|Flexibility||Can’t be repositioned once installed by a professional.||No installation is required, can be easily readjusted.|
|Style & Aesthetics||Blends well with room design||Difficult to, but can be, integrated with the room design.|
|Sound Quality||Audible advantages, but give off low bass.||Good audio quality, plus moderate bass response.|
|Cost||Relatively cheaper, but installation attracts cost.||Not overpriced, plus tons of brands available.|
In-wall or Bookshelf Speaker: Factors to Consider
Here are the most important things to consider before picking one speaker over the other:
1. Size & Space
If let’s say you are looking to maximize space in your room, the size and compactness of the speakers you’re about to get should matter to you.
Though in-wall speakers can come a bit sizy, they are obviously more compact than almost any kind of home theatre speakers – since most of their bodies are placed inside the wall. Though they are better suitable for large rooms, you can still have 2 to 3 of them in a small-sized home theater room to recreate that cinema experience.
Modern bookshelf speakers aren’t bulky either; with most of them being a little more than 20cm tall and deep. You’d appreciate them more if you already own a sleek shelving unit with dedicated compartments. Bookshelves speakers are really a perfect fit for a medium-sized room, but let’s give space conservation to the in-wall speakers!
2. Mobility & Flexibility
The “traditional” bookshelf speakers are just easy. If you are only planning to adjust the look of your room, you can easily play around with different positions. The same is not the case with the in-wall speakers – they become rigid once installed.
So, you should have done your gauges well before securely fitting these speakers into the wall EXCEPT you want to place them behind an acoustically transparent screen. A screen like this will allow you the flexibility of moving your speakers around.
An acoustically transparent screen is usually made of a woven material that blocks light from passing through but allows sound to pass through without being distorted.
Another thing to consider with in-wall speakers is they may eventually become a fixture of your house if you sell it. But it’s really easy with bookshelf speakers: you can adjust them around your shelf as you deem fit.
3. Style & Aesthetics
Bookshelf speakers are a great choice when you are considering a less robust appearance. Though portable, they are sizeable enough to add versatility to the room or fill up otherwise aesthetically empty spaces on your shelf. You can see them as a way of playing around the aesthetics of your home theatre, while still getting the HiFi audio experience you deserve.
In-wall speakers often give off a more professional facade. They are the kinds that you’ll often find in movie theatres, and immersive cinemas. In a way, this removes the viewer’s distraction and allows for more focus on the screen alone. It’s especially great if you are a fan of minimalism, in which case you do not want your speakers sitting around your shelf.
4. Sound Quality & Bass
Sound quality is not a “one-size-fits-all” thing; it is subject to lots of factors like personal preferences, dimensions of the room, the position of speakers, number of subs, and so on.
That said, the in-wall speakers – if installed correctly – have audible advantages over bookshelf speakers: can eliminate SBIR from the mounted wall and baffle diffraction.
Again, in-wall speakers produce high-quality sound because they are further away from the listener, and if more than one are placed at the right angle, the quality can be surreal. However, bookshelf speakers boast of a better, middle-line bass than in-wall speakers which have a low bass.
Bookshelf speakers would come extremely valuable in achieving high-quality sound in a small to medium-sized home theater, while “multiple” in-wall speakers can help you achieve a surround sound experience in larger rooms, albeit at a greater cost.
5. Cost of Purchase
Though necessary, the cost is actually the last thing you should consider in choosing between an in-wall speaker and a bookshelf one. The reason is that putting cost first might influence you to pick the not-so-preferrable one, while you are only trying to “stay on budget”.
Speaking generally, in-wall speakers are the less expensive ones. To give you a glimpse of this, let’s look at Polk audio product prices: the average Polk in-wall speaker is sold at $250 while their average bookshelf speaker is priced at $550.
However, in-wall speakers may attract additional costs depending on whether or not you can install the speakers yourself. Despite that there’s been a lot of DIY tutorials on in-wall speakers installation, you will need a professional hand for a clean cut – especially if you are not comfortable doing it yourself.
Also, before making final decisions, be sure that the speaker you are about to buy does not require extra peripherals for optimum performance. For instance, if you are big on robust bass, you’ll need to include a subwoofer in your budget as the average in-wall speakers have a low bass.
Pros and Cons of In-wall Speakers
- They have sound advantages (can eliminate SBIR and diffraction)
- Multiple in-wall speakers at right angles can create a cinematic experience
- Blends naturally with room design
- Sound can fill larger spaces (as they are placed further away which increases spreading)
- In-wall speakers can maximize space in small home theatre rooms
- Low maintenance
- At the same quality as bookshelf, in-wall speakers can get pricy
- Stationary – not movable once installed
- In-wall speakers come with installation costs
- Give off low bass (as a part of them are fit into walls)
Pros and Cons of Bookshelf Speakers
- Very mobile – can be adjusted as deemed fit
- Multiple market options as more companies are into making bookshelf speakers
- Bookshelf speakers have a better bass response
- Easy to move to a new house
- They sometimes contrast with room designs
- Requires periodic cleaning
- Not so suitable for larger rooms
In-wall vs. Bookshelf Speakers: Wrap-up
Choosing an in-wall against a bookshelf speaker (and vice versa) hinges more on your personal preference and what you can compromise on. However, we hope that this article will serve as a guide in your way to finding the perfect sound system setup for your unique home theatre experience.