A Home Theater DIY guide on how to install in-wall and in-ceiling speakers for your home theater or media room. This video walks you through a live installation of Bowers & Wilkins in-wall & in-ceiling speakers for a home theater....
Bowers & Wilkins Architectural Speakers for Home Theater Systems
In-Ceiling Speakers | In-Wall Speakers | LCR Speakers
Bowers & Wilkins is one of our favorite speaker brands at Audio Advice. We have been a dealer since 1981 and love the fact that they keep pushing high-performance to the limit, then filter down what they learn into their more affordable products. Bowers and Wilkins has been one of the top high-performance speaker brands for decades and are utilized in Abbey Road Studios, Lucas Films, the BBC, and more.
The B&W lineup of speakers you can build into your walls or ceilings is one of the largest on the market, with a model for just about every possible situation. For home theater use, we like to break built-in speakers into three categories: in-wall, in-ceiling, and purpose-built left, center, right (LCR) speakers.
If you look at all of the B&W models, just picking ones within these groups gives you over 20 models to choose from. To help you find the best one for your system and budget, we decided to pick what we felt are the top three values in each of the categories.
For those of you who want to learn more about the different types of built-in speakers, check out our guide on how to choose the best in-wall & in-ceiling speakers for your home theater, where we look at the different kinds on the market and give you some advice on which types work best for different use cases.
General Overview of B&W Built-In Speakers
First, we wanted to go over why we like the sound of the B&W built-in speakers so much. You probably know Bowers & Wilkins makes some of the best and most expensive speakers in the world. What you may not know is how much they invest in R&D to push the performance envelope. In 2019, they moved from their old facility into an even bigger one at 30,000 sq feet full of the latest test equipment with multiple anechoic chambers. They even built a recreation of the original listening room John Bowers used to help them stay true to his original visions.
All of the R&D they do results in some amazing state-of-the-art speakers, but the aspect we love is the ways they find to put new technology into very affordable products over time. Many of the built-in B&W speakers share similar technology to what you will see in their best speaker systems.
B&W developed a way to use Kevlar as a driver material decades ago in the top-of-the-line 801 speaker. It was revolutionary at the time due to its lack of distortion compared to paper or plastic-based drivers. We love the fact many of these current models use a Blue Aramid Fibre cone which is their latest version of Kevlar.
A couple of revisions ago, again in their best 800 models, they started using a tapered enclosure behind the tweeter. This was developed using laser analysis to find a way of reducing tweeter distortion. A version of that technology can be found in a lot of these built-in speakers too.
We also love the way all of the models have a very consistent sound that is pleasing to the ear over long periods of time.
In-Ceiling Speakers For Home Theater
This is a category where there is an abundance of models to consider in the B&W lineup. If you count them all, there are 11 B&W models of in-ceiling speakers.
For today’s home theaters, in-ceiling speakers will primarily be used for Dolby Atmos height channels. Or if you are doing a 5.1 system without Dolby Atmos, they might be used for the surround channels. In either case, we feel you are better served with a speaker that allows you to aim the speaker drivers at the primary listening area, if possible.
There are three in-ceiling B&W models that stand out to us as great values in this category. Don’t get us wrong, they make a couple of amazing models in their Reference series, but we are focusing here on the better values.
Bowers & Wilkins CCM664 6" Two-Way In-Ceiling Speakers
The CCM664, which stands for Custom Ceiling Mount with a 6" driver, is the first model in the series that has a tweeter you can aim at the listening area. All of the B&W models with a rotating tweeter even have an EQ switch to change the speaker’s response curve based on how steep the angle is. You have a setting for 0, 15, and 30-degree angles.
This model uses a 1” aluminum soft dome tweeter and B&W’s special black glass fiber cone for the 6” bass/midrange driver.
This is our most popular in-ceiling speaker at Audio Advice as it has great sound for the money. The CCM664 can work very well as your Atmos height speakers when you want to stay around Regular Price $599.99 $599.99 . We also see many people using them as the main surrounds in a discrete home theater system in family rooms.
Bowers & Wilkins CCM683 8" 2-Way In-Ceiling Speaker
When you move up to the CCM683, you will spend more, but you start to get into much better tech.
The CCM683 has a rotating tweeter with the same type of EQ controls as the CCM664, however, the speaker components are all upgraded. These use a 1” Nautilus™ swirl-loaded aluminum dome tweeter coupled with a larger 8” midrange/woofer. The cone material used for this driver steps up to their blue Aramid Fibre. The CCM683 is the least expensive model where you get the larger 8” woofer and these better drivers which is one reason we have it on our list.
The other reason is, these just sound fantastic for their price. If you are using the B&W 600 Series Anniversary or 700 series speakers for your main front three, these match up very well for Atmos height speakers or the surround speakers in a less elaborate 5.1 system. But, if you are using 700 level speakers for your mains, you should probably consider the next model we go over as it matches up even better.
Bowers & Wilkins CCM 7.5 S2 5" 2-Way In-Ceiling Speaker
Now we start to get into a very serious in-ceiling speaker. If you own a 700 series B&W speaker or even some of the top-of-the-line 800 models, you probably know all about the Continuum mid/bass driver they use. B&W developed this special driver a few years ago for their new 800 models and has been moving its great tech into more affordable products like the 700 series.
We were really impressed to see the S2 version of the 7.5 added this tech with a 7” version of it. The great news for home theater is in the CCM 7.5 S2, the entire driver assembly is at an angle, so you simply rotate the entire speaker at the listening area when you install it.
Even more impressive is just how low in bass response this speaker can reach. Their 3dB down point is 32 Hz which is incredible for an in-ceiling speaker! These move up to the same Carbon Dome tweeter found in the 700 series. For more information on the great tech in these, check out our full overview of the 700 S2 series.
Needless to say, the CCM 7.5 S2 is ideal for Atmos height channels in a serious B&W home theater system. For those of you wanting to do an all in-ceiling 5.1 system in a family room, 3 of these across the front with their angled enclosure can serve you well as your main front channels and simply add another pair for the rears.
In-Wall Speakers for Home Theater
In-wall speakers, as the name implies, mount into your walls. In the B&W lineup, they have 9 models to select from. A few of the models are also considered LCR speakers which we will cover in the next section.
The most common use case for in-wall B&W speakers is for the surround channels. In today’s world of object-based surround sound, you want to have your main surrounds and rear surrounds close to ear level. In-wall speakers are perfectly suited for this position as most home theater or media rooms do not have the space to set up large box speakers to the sides and rear of the main seats.
In some cases, you might even use this type of speaker as your main front three speakers. We do recommend if you go this route, to not scrimp on the fronts as they are the most important speakers in your theater, especially the center channel.
Bowers & Wilkins CWM664 6" In-Wall Speaker
These are great entry-level in-wall speakers that will work well for surround channels. They pair up nicely with the 600 series B&W speakers for your main three channels. The CWM664 uses a 6” glass-fiber midrange/woofer with a 1” soft dome tweeter that uses a variant of B&W’s tapered tweeter found in their more expensive speakers.
Bowers & Wilkins CWM663 6" In-Wall Speaker
When you move up to the CWM663, you’ll get a die-cast chassis with the better blue Aramid Fibre midrange/woofer driver and an aluminum dome tweeter. We find the midrange performance to be improved on these compared to the CWM664.
If your budget permits, these will be a better match for surrounds to the upper level 600 models. Or if you are putting together an all-in-wall system, we much prefer these for the front three channels over the CWM664.
Bowers & Wilkins CWM7.5 S2 5" 2-Way In-Wall Speaker
This model falls into two categories. It is basically a 700 S2 707 speaker built to be mounted in a wall. You’ll get the carbon dome tweeter with a 5" Continuum midrange/bass driver with Flowport, which is B&W’s special port technology.
The CWM7.5 S2 even comes with a special back box designed to give it the exact amount of acoustic cavity for the woofer to work perfectly. It is pretty neat how this box attaches allowing you to fit a large back box into the small hole you cut for the speaker.
We love the midrange clarity the CWM7.5 S2 provides. These sound as good or better than a lot of high-performance bookshelf speakers. With good bass response down to around 50 Hz, they will mate up great with a fast subwoofer. They can be used as the main front three channels or as perfectly matching surround speakers if you have 700 level, main speakers.
This category in the B&W line is where you get into models that rival their 700 and 800 series speakers. And that is saying a lot!
The typical use case for LCR speakers is for the front three channels. You can mount them behind an acoustically transparent front projection screen, or to the sides of a TV or screen with the center channel under. The larger ones are designed to allow you to turn the speaker sideways for a center channel.
And, if you are going for the best sound you can get, consider using these for your surround speakers for amazingly detailed effects.
Bowers & Wilkins CWM7.5 S2 5" 2-Way In-Wall Speaker
As we covered above, this is one heck of a great speaker. We use them in many situations as the main three LCR speakers.
Bowers & Wilkins CWM7.4 S2 4" 2-Way In-Wall Speaker
When you move up to the CWM7.4 S2, you get more of what makes the 7.5 S2 special. There are 2 4" Aramid Fiber bass drivers and 2 4” Continuum Cone midrange drivers mated with a 1” Carbon Dome tweeter. You get a lot of performance in a very skinny package which means these can be used on either side of a TV with the center channel turned sideways.
We also like to use these as the surround speakers in a 700 S2 series theater.
If you want your discrete, in-wall theater to sound great on music, this model paired up with the right subwoofer can sound quite amazing.
Our only negative is that the 7.4 S2 is the only 7 series model that does not include the backbox. We generally recommend that you get the dedicated backbox, but bear in mind that the backbox is bigger than the speaker which is fine for new construction, but if you are installing it into an existing room with the backbox, you will have to do some sheetrock repair.
Bowers & Wilkins CWM7.3 S2 6" 3-Way In-Wall Speaker
Now we get to our favorite B&W LCR speaker, the CWM7.3 S2. These sound just fantastic for the price. You get the sound of some of B&W’s better tower speakers in a well-designed enclosure you can mount in the wall.
The CWM7.3 S2 uses the same Carbon Dome tweeter as the other two models with a single 4” Continuum cone midrange driver and coupled with 2 of the B&W Aerofoil 6” bass drivers. These sound very similar to B&W’s Regular Price $1,999.99 $1,999.99 pair 703 S2 model — which is a fabulous-sounding speaker.
A great feature this model has is the ability to rotate the tweeter midrange section should you need to mount it horizontally under or over a screen. We also love the fact these come with a very solid backbox that can be installed by just cutting a hole the size of the speaker you are mounting.
While they cost more than the CWM 7.4 S2, we think these are a better value when you consider the great audio they can provide. Plus, they are far easier to drive than the 7.4 S2 with much more dynamic sound.
These are a great choice to go behind an acoustically transparent screen using three mounted vertically or two on either side of a large flat panel with the center channel mounted horizontally.
The clarity and midrange you get out of these is just fantastic!
With B&W you will have no shortage of great models to choose from when building your dream home theater or media room. We suggest you make use of our free home theater design tool to get started on your planning, then set up a consultation with one of our home theater experts to help find the best speakers for your plan and budget.
If you are in or near North Carolina, please stop by one of our showrooms to see things in person.
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