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Grille-free speakers vs. traditional speakers.
Last Updated: 07/01/2016

We evaluate three criteria — aesthetics, coverage, and output — when choosing whether to specify a grille-free or traditional speaker.

When Aesthetics drive the specifying process, our Ar11 and Ar12 grille-free speakers are the right choice. No ugly grilles, no yellowing, no sagging. The Ar speakers are the designer’s choice.

Coverage requirements range from broad to narrow. You want broad coverage from whole-house music speakers — with sound dispersed throughout the room.

When broad coverage is required, Ar grille-free speakers, with their 160° dispersion are the right choice. Traditional grilled in-ceiling speakers have narrower dispersion characteristics — a natural byproduct of the “bass unit/tweeter” configuration. To overcome narrow dispersion, Integrators increase the number of speakers in the room. The downside is additional cost and ceiling clutter.


There are instances when a narrowly-focused in-ceiling speaker may be desirable, particularly in less-than-perfect home theater installations. When planning the front stage in an in-ceiling theater, specialized in-ceiling grilled speakers make the most of a compromised situation.

Here are some traditional in-ceiling speakers we like for their accuracy, build-quality, and extension:

PSB In-Ceiling Speakers
Revel In-Ceiling Speakers

There is some disagreement on ideal dispersion characteristics for surround speakers. Some acoustic engineers prefer a diffuse sound from their surrounds, others prefer a more direct sound. We’re of the mind that direct sound is more appropriate — particularly since the best sound engineers use direct-radiating surrounds in their mixing suites. For this reason, we recommend a wall (not ceiling) mounted direct radiating surround speaker, like our LW1200 or LW1220 Al.

Output refers to loudness. The Ar11 and Ar12 have enough output to produce loud music within the room. (See: How many speakers do I need in a room?)







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