Surround Sound Speaker Systems

Paradigm SA-15R-SM In-Ceiling Speakers


Design and Setup

The SA-15R-SM are an interesting design, with one 8" S-PAL™ bass and midrange cone, and TWO 5-mm (1 in) G-PAL™ dome tweeters. There are also 2 sets of inputs on the back to run a stereo signal to one speaker. This is a great idea for in-wall audio, where ceiling speakers are spread throughout the house. For my setup as surround speakers, I bridged the 2 inputs and fed each speaker a mono signal: separate left and right surround channels. All it takes to bridge the 2 terminals is a small piece of speaker wire running from one terminal to the other. Then you insert your input cable into either one of the 2 binding posts, it doesn't matter which one.

Since I was fortunate enough to have our house pre-wired in the family room for surround sound in the ceiling, there wasn't too much work for me to do to get them installed. The SA-15R-SM features a Full Perimeter Bracket Design, which basically sandwiches the driver around the drywall, creating a tight fit in the ceiling. All you need to do is cut a hole in the drywall using the provided template and then wedge the speaker in, one side at a time. I'd recommend having an extra set of hands around to hold the speaker or hand you tools.

I was happy to have our house pre-wired, but I did not get to specify how the wiring would be setup. In the family room there are 2 pre-wired terminals in the surround positions then one terminal in the kitchen and one in the kitchen dinning nook. I presumed these to be for multi-zone music. I would soon learn to never make assumptions as to how a house is wired.

The Paradigms come with a stencil for marking the hole to be cut for the speaker and since the location of my speakers had already been determined and marked by some wall plates, I didn't have to bother with a stud finder and tape measure (yah! I don't know about yours, but my stud finder is not all that accurate).

After unscrewing the wall plates and disconnecting the speaker wire, I took a peak around in the ceiling hole to make sure there was enough clearance for the diameter of the speaker. Then I placed the template, marked the hole to be cut and used a small hand saw to do the work. One thing to note, I do not recommend sawing holes in your ceiling drywall right after having bronchitis as it creates quite a bit of dust that could bring on a serious coughing fit whilst standing on a ladder. I can't stress enough how important it is to have someone help you with this installation. The extra set of hands would have made everything a lot easier. After the hole was cut, I inserted some standard insulation into the ceiling to help with sound dampening.

However, with some clever balancing, I got the speaker cable connected and wedged the Paradigm into the ceiling. Before tightening the screws I decided to run a test signal from the Onkyo to the speaker. So glad I did, since there was no sound to be heard! Sadness and frustration settled in as I knew without the proper gear it would be very difficult to figure out the problem. That's when I decided to call the company that wired the house during construction and have them send someone out.

The technician brought out his cable tester and, oddly enough, we were getting a signal through the speaker cable, but still nothing from the speaker when hooked up. Hooking the signal tester directly to the speaker yielded sound, so we knew it wasn't the speaker. After some calls to his supervisor and more testing we discovered some volume control plates in the kitchen. Ah ha! These must be controlling the volume on the surrounds! Alas, this was not the case. Turning the volume up and down on these did nothing for the surrounds. After even more discussion, the technician saw a bare plate next to a light switch in the family room and he asked what it was for. Which, of course, I had no clue. After unscrewing the plate we found a bunch of speaker cable wound up and stuck in the wall. We deemed it possible they had planned for another volume control in this location, but never installed one. In any case, the speaker wire was completely disconnected, two separate sections of wire, one leading from the source and one heading towards the speaker. Having the cables wound up tightly together was just enough to pass the cable tester's signal, but nothing that would ever drive a speaker. We simply spliced the cables together and presto! Finally, I had working surround speakers!