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With the popularity of in ceiling speakers increasing in the past few years many people are looking to install them. They are a discreet way to get room filling sound without the need for big bookshelf speakers taking up a ton of room. Before you buy in ceiling speakers however, you may be wondering if you can use ceiling speakers with Alexa, Google Home or Apple smart assistants and control them with voice commands.
You can use in-ceiling speakers with Alexa, Google Home and other smart assistants and control them with voice commands. There are 3 ways to connect your speakers to smart assistants; bluetooth connection, Wifi network connection or a wired connection via an amplifier.
I look at all the options in the rest of this article so that you can choose the best method for you depending on your circumstances.
Bluetooth, Wireless or Hardwired?
If you are looking to install new in ceiling speakers and use them with Alexa or other smart assistants, as mentioned above there are 3 basic methods that will allow you to do this. Below I look at each option and the pros and cons of each.
1. Bluetooth Speakers
If you want the simplest and cheapest method to use in ceiling speakers with Alexa, Google etc then Bluetooth enabled ceiling speakers are a good choice.
Pros of connecting via Bluetooth:
1. Simple and easy to connect up to Alexa or Google. As long as the ceiling speakers you use have Bluetooth functionality then you easily connect Alexa, Google home and most other smart assistants via Bluetooth.
2. Generally the cheapest option. Bluetooth speakers tend to be cheaper than Wifi enabled speakers.
3. Easily connect other devices. You can easily connect other devices, phones, tablets etc and stream audio via your favourite apps.
4. Wont impact Wifi Bandwidth. Using Bluetooth won’t impact or slow down your home Wifi /internet connection.
5. Some have built-in amplifiers. Most Bluetooth ceiling speakers are ‘passive’ and need to be connected to an amplifier for power. But there are an increasing number of ‘active’ Bluetooth ceiling speakers on the market recently. These include an amplifier which means you don’t have to run cables from the speakers to a separate amp/ receiver.
6. Can connect to lighting circuit for power. If you choose ‘active’ Bluetooth ceiling speakers, the built in amplifier can connect to your lighting circuit for power, which means you don’t have to install additional cabling in the ceiling.
Downsides of connecting via Bluetooth:
1. No multi-room. You can only connect to one system at a time and play in one room at a time. Bluetooth speakers are not designed for multi-room setups. If you want to have a whole-house system where you control all the speakers centrally then you will need to look at Wifi or wired setups.
2. They have a limited range compared to Wifi. Most Bluetooth speakers have a range of between 10-30 metres. If the device you are connecting to the speakers doesn’t have Bluetooth 5.0 or higher then you will be limited to just 10 metres.
This isn’t a problem when connecting newer smart devices like the latest Google mesh Wifi devices or the new Amazon Echo, as these all have Bluetooth 5.0 which will give you up to a 30 metre range.
It is worth checking your phone and other devices that you might want to use to control the speakers to see if you have Bluetooth 5.0 or higher. If for example you have an older iPhone or Android phone and want to stream music directly from the phone you might only have a 10m range.
3. You might get interrupted. You might get interrupted by phone calls and other notifications if connecting your phone to the speakers. If you’ve ever connected your phone to an Alexa or other smart speaker you have probably already experienced this. Whilst not a huge problem it can be quite annoying at times.
Best Bluetooth Speakers
If you go the Bluetooth route, make sure the speakers have Bluetooth 5.0 or later. There are a lot of disgruntled customer reviews on the internet regarding 4.0 speakers with many people complaining about the sound cracking up because of the lack of range.
The Bluetooth 5.0 speakers that I’d recommend are from Lithe Audio. These are active speakers, which means they have a built in amplifier.
2. Wifi Speakers
If you have a larger home and want a multi-room system where you can connect to and control all of your speakers centrally then Wifi enabled speakers are going to be a good option.
WiFi enabled ceiling speakers connect up to your home Wifi network and can be controlled with Alexa, Google Home and other smart assistants the same as Bluetooth speakers.
Pros of Wifi In Ceiling Speakers:
1. Multi-room. The biggest difference in comparison to Bluetooth speakers is that you get multiroom!
With a multi-room system, you can start playing music in one room, for example the living room, and then seamlessly move your music to the kitchen or any other room.
2. Broadcast / Drop-in. With Wifi speakers, because it’s multi-room, you can take advantage of the broadcast / drop-in functionality of smart assistants like Alexa to make announcements to the whole house. No more shouting up the stairs when dinner is ready!
3. No range limitations. Another benefit of WiFi over Bluetooth is there is no range limitation. As long as you have a strong Wifi signal (mesh Wifi is recommended for this) then you can have music playing all over the house at once or different audio in different rooms.
4. Can connect over Apple Airplay. If you have Apple devices, many Wifi enabled speakers have Apple Airplay built in which means you can stream from any IOS device without an app.
Downsides of connecting via Wifi
1. Can put a strain on Wifi Bandwidth. One possible downside to having several speakers running over WiFi is that it can put a strain on your Wifi network causing drops and data latency. This is less of a problem nowadays however if you use a good quality mesh Wifi network like the Google Nest Mesh Wifi.
2. More expensive. Wifi in ceiling speakers do tend to be a little more expensive than the Bluetooth speakers.
Best Wifi Speakers
My recommendation for the best Wifi in ceiling speakers are the Sonos Speakers By Sonance.
These are a little pricey, but they are the top rated Wifi speakers for a reason! They are top quality with crisp, clear sound quality. They integrate directly with streaming services such as Spotify, Deezer and Apple Music and because they connect to your Wifi network you can setup a multi-room system with them.
3. Hardwired Ceiling Speakers
Hardwired ceiling speakers do not have any wireless connectivity. To connect these to smart assistants, you will connect the speakers to a separate amplifier receiver and then connect your smart assistant device to the amplifier. This setup is best if you want to guarantee no connection or latency issues.
Pros of hardwired ceiling speakers:
1. Less latency and connection issues. The biggest benefit of hardwired ceiling speakers over both Bluetooth and Wifi ceiling speakers is that you will experience less connection issues and latency. This kind of setup is usually recommended if you want to use your speakers with a home cinema where latency can cause the picture and sound to be out of sync.
2. Cheaper than Wifi or Bluetooth. The speakers themselves are generally cheaper than Bluetooth or Wifii speakers.
3. Won't affect your Wifi Bandwidth. Using a wired connection means it won’t affect your home Wifi bandwidth.
Cons of hardwired ceiling speakers:
1. Always needs an amplfier. Wired speakers that do not have Bluetooth or Wifi connectivity will always need to be wired to a separate amplifier.
2. Amplifier needs to be on. The amplifier/ receiver needs to be on in order for voice commands to work. That might not sound like much, but it can be a frustration when you first have to turn it on and wait for a few seconds before you can issue voice commands.
Best hardwired speakers
My recommendation for hard wired speakers are the Polk Audio RC60i.
These are an Amazon top rated set with almost 1000 5 star reviews. Customers love the ease of installation and the sound quality.
Other Things to Consider When Using Ceiling Speakers With Alexa, Google & Apple
With Google Home & Apple Homepods, there are no output connections on any of their devices. This means you will need a Wifi or Bluetooth enabled amplifier in order to control speakers via voice commands.
If you are using Alexa, the Amazon echo devices all include 3.5mm analog output. You’ll need an aux to RCA cable like this one. You plug one end into the back of the echo and the other end to an input on your receiver /amplifier.
Amazon now also has a dedicated amplifier that you can use with your Alexa Echo devices called Echo Link. This allows you to connect your Echo device and use it with voice control for music selection, volume and playback. It also connects with music streaming services like Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify and Deezer.
So there you have it! You can connect in ceiling speakers to smart assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri or Google Home. How you go about doing this depends largely on whether or not you want a multi-room audio setup. I hope the above helps you to make a more informed choice when you are looking to setup in ceiling speakers in your home.