Sometimes we all need some good music to get motivated for a good workout or heavy lift. What’s the best way to play some tunes in your iron temple? I’ve done some research and found out what your options are.
For the majority of people an in ceiling speaker system is the best setup since it sounds good and can produce decent sound quality while not taking up any floor space. Not all ceilings are suitable to install speakers in. In that case, a normal speaker setup or Bluetooth speaker are good options
There are a lot of important details below you should know about to decide what type of system is suitable for you. But if you just want the solution; Sonos Ceiling speakers have great quality and remove a lot of wiring hassle. Check them out on Amazon.
What should a gym sound system do?
What are we expecting a sound system in a gym to do? To know that we should take a look at why people like to have sound in their gym;
- Get motivated
- Get hyped up for a heavy lift
- Cover up your lifting noises
- Listen to a podcast or audiobook while working out to use time efficiently.
- Just listen to music as background noise
Keeping that in mind, what do we expect from a sound system in our gym?
- Reasonably loud. Doesn’t have to be nightclub level but certainly louder than a phone speaker. To get hyped up you need a decent volume level.
- Clarity. For people that try to listen to podcasts while working out, voices have to be heard
- Sound quality. This means something different for everyone.
While sound quality is important, it means different things for different people. Some people are audiophiles that are used to very high quality sound systems with accompanying price tags. Other people think a phone speaker produces decent sound. Most people will be somewhere in between.
That makes talking about sound quality difficult since it’s very subjective. FYI, I’m somewhere in the middle. In my living room I’ve got a decent stereo setup that cost around $1500. Nothing crazy but a bit better than average. Now, if I write ‘good sound quality’ you have a rough idea what I mean.
We have to keep in mind that this is a sound system for a gym. I completely understand you want to listen to some music in your gym but it’s not a home theater or dedicated listening room. It’s really not necessary to go crazy and spend tens of thousands on a gym sound system. I would recommend to keep it simple although what you think is simple on what you’re used to like I’ve mentioned above.
While it’s attractive to turn up the volume to get hyped up for a big lift, you really don’t want to do that too often. Check out this chart of Db. levels and how long it takes before that level damages your hearing. You probably need a lot less volume than you think to damage your hearing.
That said, it’s nice to have something that can handle higher volume levels for a few reasons;
- Your hearing can handle a higher volume for a short period of time. So you can turn it up for maybe one or two minutes to get the motivation you’re looking for.
- A bit of headroom is always good. Audio equipment usually doesn’t sound the best when it’s maxed out. It’s better if you’ve got plenty left in the tank at normal Db. levels.
To understand how loud a speaker is and how many watts you need, read this post at LifeWire. It’s not as straightforward as you might think.
Which type of sound systems are possible in a home gym?
People have very different requirements for sound systems. I’ve picked three general categories that are viable options to get some music into your home gym. Even though there are three general categories, there is still a lot of variability inside them.
They all have their pros and cons and are on different levels of difficulty to set up, sound quality and price.
The easiest, cheapest and simplest to set up is a Bluetooth speaker. Bluetooth speakers come in all shapes and sizes you can imagine. In general, the sound quality and volume level that these speakers produce is a bit limited.
- Available at every budget
- Super easy to set up, no separate amplifiers and wiring required
- Some produce a decent volume and sound quality depending on model.
- Easily control everything from your phone.
- Has to be recharged except for a few models
- Not the loudest
- Most models are not focused towards sound quality
In short, you’re sacrificing sound quality for ease of use with Bluetooth speakers. It’s possibly the cheapest option but not necessarily. There are some really expensive ones out there.
For home gyms, in ceiling speakers make a lot of sense. Sure, they’re not very loved by audiophiles because of several reasons but for normal people they make a lot of sense.
- They’re in the ceiling and not taking up precious floor space.
- Clean look. No big boxes anywhere although in a gym this isn’t too much of a concern
- Out of the way, which makes it much more difficult to damage them during a workout
- Flexibility. You can choose how many speakers you use and where. You can tailor your sound system to your gym.
- Can’t be mounted in all ceilings.
- Requires wiring above the ceiling. This can be difficult if it isn’t already there.
- Requires a separate amplifier
Bookshelf on wall
It’s also possible to go for a traditional hi-fi setup. This means an amplifier and two (or more) speaker boxes. This way you have the most options since there are tons of different speakers and amplifiers available. You can create the best sound quality possible but there are some drawbacks.
- Many, many options
- Available at many different price points
- Possibility to have the best audio quality
- More difficult to set up.
- The speakers will take up more space in your gym.
Which setup is the best really depends on your needs and expectations. For a really basic setup that has produces some sound, a Bluetooth speaker is a good solution. Don’t expect too much from this type of speaker. The volume they produce might seem decent in the shop but when you’re working out, breathing heavily and throwing weights around they get drowned out pretty easily. There are speakers available that are “full sized” but also Bluetooth enabled. Those are a different story.
For the vast majority of people an in ceiling speaker system is the best solution. It looks clean, there are no speakers in the way of your workouts, you can tailor the system to your gym and produces pretty decent sound and volume. Of course there is also a range of different speakers available here they range from decent to pretty good.
For the critical listener, the only good option is to go for proper speakers and a good amp. That will yield the best results although it also largely depends on the equipment you choose. You’ll have to make some sacrifices in regards to use of space since they are not as small or out of the way as the other options. You’ll also have to be careful not to damage them with the weights or other gym equipment.
Since Bluetooth capability is very useful, especially in a gym setting, you really want that. Just control everything from your phone. Luckily nowadays there are full sized speakers and in ceiling speakers that are Bluetooth enabled. This is the best of both worlds and what I would recommend for the majority of people.
3 different audio systems and setups
What do you need for these different types of setup? Let’s take a look at the three setups;
All in one Bluetooth speaker
This type of setup is very simple. These little guys have everything you need built into them. The only other thing you need is a phone or other Bluetooth enabled device and you can play whatever you want. Most smaller versions are battery powered so you don’t even have to plug them in, just recharge. Other versions do need grid power but that’s just a single wire.
An in ceiling system is a bit more involved and probably the most difficult to install and set up. What you need;
- Suitable ceiling
Installing a ceiling speakers is the most DIY intensive option here. The speakers need to be installed in the ceiling. That means you need a suitable ceiling to begin with. If you’ve got a concrete ceiling, it’s not going to work. Houses that have ceiling joists covered with drywall or sheetrock are perfect. If you’ve got a suitable ceiling you have to do the following;
- Cut a speaker sized hole in the ceiling
- Install wiring
- Install speakers
- Hook up wiring to amplifier
- Plug in amplifier
Once you’ve done all these things, you’ll be rewarded with a very clean looking sound system since it’s almost all integrated into your ceiling. The only thing you have to do now is find a good, safe place for your amplifier.
Which size ceiling speakers do you need?
When you start shopping around for this type of speaker, you will notice there are different sizes. The most common ones are 6.5” and 8”. In general bigger speakers will have a deeper bass and produce more sound. That’s a very general statement but generally true.
If you can fit them between the joists, go for the 8” speakers. Another dimension to keep in mind is the depth. How much space do you have available between the sheetrock and the ceiling above? That’s important to know when shopping so you’ll actually be able to mount them properly.
How many ceiling speakers do you need?
You might be wondering how many ceiling speakers you need to install in your ceiling. It depends on a few things;
- How loud do you want your music to be?
- How big is your home gym?
For a smaller gym up to 15’ x 10’, two good quality speakers will be enough. Paired with a decent amplifier this will give you enough volume and sound quality. For a larger gym or really high sound levels you can consider upgrading to four speakers but make sure your amplifier can handle it.
Not every house is suitable for a ceiling setup and some people won’t be satisfied with the sound quality such a system can provide. The only solution that’s left if that’s you is a traditional speaker setup. I’m calling it a bookshelf setup since that type of speaker is easy to be mounted off the floor.
Tall floor standing speakers have their benefits but in a gym this type isn’t great. In a gym you’ll drop weights and are active. The weights might roll into the speakers and damage them. They also take up a lot of floor space many home gyms can’t afford to lose. Many home gyms are quite small already and taking up space with speakers isn’t what you want.
Bookshelf speakers are shorter, lighter and smaller. That means they take up less space but the biggest benefit it that they can be mounted on the wall with the right accessories.
Active Vs. Passive
It’s important to know the difference between active and passive speakers. It’s quite simple;
- Active speakers have an amplifier in the speaker. That means that all the inputs, outputs and controls are on the speaker as well. Sometimes they come with a remote control.
- Passive speakers are just speakers. There is no amplifier inside so that means you need a separate one.
Most speakers are passive but there are more and more manufacturers who come out with active models. Active speakers have the benefit that they are much easier to set up and getting a set takes all the guess work out of buying equipment. You can be sure that the amplifier and speakers are matched to each other and work properly.
It also makes the set up much easier since you only need two wires. One power lead and one speaker cable to connect right to left. Even a person with two left hands can manage setting up this type of speaker.
The drawback of active speakers is that you have fewer choices and you can’t match speakers and amplifiers yourself.
In a home gym setting, I would say that active speakers are the way to go. They are often Bluetooth enabled so you have the same ease of use as an all in one Bluetooth speaker but with better sound quality. It also means you don’t have to find a space for a separate amplifier. This saves space and saves you the risk of dropping a dumbbell on an expensive piece of equipment.
Active speaker setup
You really don’t need much for an active speaker setup since almost everything is built into the speakers themselves. The only things you need;
- Speaker set
- Mounting hardware
- Media player (usually phone)
Since most active speaker sets have Bluetooth connectivity, the easiest way to play music is from your phone or tablet. Most people will have those around them in the gym anyways. If you want to avoid screens, you can always connect any other media player as well through a ton of different inputs.
Passive speaker setup
For a passive speaker setup you need a few more parts;
- Mounting hardware
- Media player
As you can see the difference is that you need a separate amplifier and a bit more wiring. There are many new amplifiers available that have Bluetooth connectivity so you don’t have to miss out on that part.
Where to put your speakers in the gym?
Speaker placement is always a bit difficult. Sure you can set up speakers perfectly if you’ve got an empty room and are just going to sit in one position. In a gym the function of the gym goes before the function of the audio. And on top of that you move around in a gym and it’s impossible to set everything up so it’s perfect everywhere. There are a few recommendations for placing your speakers;
- Mount them on the wall
- Try to mount them pretty high. Higher than the top of your gym mirrors
- If you’ve got a short and a long wall, mount the speakers on the short wall, firing along the long the length of the room.
- Avoid mounting speakers in corners. Try to keep your speakers at least 30cm away from corners.
- Use mounting brackets that can swivel and tilt so you can aim them.
- Tilt speakers slightly down
- Don’t use speakers with bass ports on the back.
For people for who sound quality is a bit more important;
- Mount the tweeter of the speaker at ear height. This will improve the sound quality but of course makes the speakers more vulnerable to damage and taking up more space.
This might not be the solution you’re looking for but, why not go for headphones. Headphones have quite a few benefits over any speaker setup.
- Cheaper for the sound quality you’re getting
- The same sound everywhere around the room
- No installation required
- Nobody else will be bothered with your noise
As said, headphones are a great alternative for speakers. There are also some drawbacks;
- They get dirty if you sweat a lot
- For some people headphones are uncomfortable. If that’s you, it’s worth trying out a few different styles before you write off headphones completely.
- You can’t share your music with anyone else you’re working out with.
- You can forget to charge your Bluetooth headset.
If you’re looking for a sound system, you’ve probably already ruled out headphones but if you haven’t, maybe give them a second thought. In some ways headphones are great in a gym setting.
There are some things to look for in headphones for gym use;
- Bluetooth. Yes Bluetooth headphones are a bit more expensive and the sound quality might not be quite as good as wired ones but in a gym they’re the better choice. Wired headphones and movement don’t mix very well. Wires get caught behind things and then get ripped off your head when you move.
- In-ears with extra clips around your ears so they stay in place.
- Over ear headphones can work as long as they’re not too big or heavy and get in the way.
In the end I can completely understand if you prefer speakers over headphones. I do too. But at some point the advantages just become too great compared to speakers. It’s worth giving headphones a try since it makes things a whole lot easier and cheaper.
Can you expect a sound system in a home gym to sound good?
A home gym is not a great starting point if sound quality is what you’re looking for. When you build a sound system, you’re building it to sound good in one location. The location you spend the most time in. A gym is a place where you move and walk around so it’s difficult to create a system that gives a great sound quality everywhere.
Besides that the equipment and decorations of a home gym are not very conducive to getting amazing sound quality. Big mirrors on the wall are not a good start (there’s a reason why there’s foam everywhere in recording studios). Then there’s all the metal and other hard surfaces that bounce sound waves right back. On the plus side most home gyms have soft foam or rubber flooring which absorbs a lot of sound.
There are of course huge differences in what people consider good sound quality. For some a $30 Bluetooth speaker sounds great while for others a $3000 system sounds like garbage. People are used to and are expecting wildly different levels of sound quality in their living room but also their home gym. That said there are probably not many people who want their home gym to have award winning sound quality.
A huge part of which sound quality you’re getting is dependent on which equipment you’ll put in your home gym. Even though the interior of a home gym isn’t great for this purpose, the most important part of sound quality is where it comes from. A room with good acoustics won’t make a bad speaker sound better.
So, can you expect good audio quality in your home gym? If you’re an audiophile: Not the best but with the right equipment and setup it will be decent.
If you’re a normal person: Yeah it’s possible to get good audio quality in your home gym, the audio equipment you choose is the most important.
A few quick tips that can help you get the best out of your gym audio system.
Having an amazing sound system in your home gym is great but maybe the rest of your family and neighbors don’t want to enjoy your heavy metal while working out. You could just turn down the volume but then why did you go through the trouble of building speakers into your home gym in the frst place.
The solution is sound proofing. Keep the noises in your gym but prevent them from leaving so they can’t bother others. That’s what you need.
I’ve written a long post about soundproofing your home gym. Check it out here. it has everything you want to know about that topic. In this case, you’ll gain some sound proofing and also sound quality by putting some acoustic foam behind the speaker.
Bass reflex port
If you choose to use normal speakers and mount them on the wall, be aware of something called a bass reflex port. It’s the little hole in some speakers that helps the speaker produce more/deeper bass. Some speakers have them on the front, some on the back while others have none.
In a home gym, you’ll likely mount these speakers somewhere on the wall. If the bass port is on the back, you can block it by mounting it against the wall. That will negatively impact the sound and volume from these speakers.
Does music give you a better workout? While there is no scientific evidence that listening to music increases your maximum strength, there is evidence that it can increase your endurance and rep speed. Listening to music releases several endorphins and types of adrenaline helping to dissociate from fatigue. How much of this effect is a placebo effect isn’t clear.
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