Wiring Whole House Audio Systems, Multi-Room, & Multi-Zone Sound Pros & Cons

In the past, having sound throughout the home was an option for the wealthy.  Nowadays, though, having a Whole House Audio System that plays and controls the distribution of music in multiple rooms is easily attainable, and isn’t necessarily as expensive as you may think.  With the right gear and proper know-how, having a multi-room/multi-zone Home Audio System is easier than ever.  However, wiring one together can quickly become a headache for the underprepared.  We at Pro Acoustics are always happy to help you out; so much so that we’re posting some help on ways to go about wiring these Muti-Zone Home Audio Systems.

It should go without saying, but starting off with an excellent receiver (such as the Yamaha Aventage RX-A3010) is key.  Since these projects begin at this main point, having something reliable and robust can ease the rest of the process immensely.

Yamaha Aventage RX-A3010

At this point, there are a handful of ways to go about your multi-room sound system- and, of course, with each option comes a different result, a different set of pros & cons.  Perhaps the following diagrams can help you decide what system you’re looking to attain:

Single-Receiver Systems

Audio for one additional room using “A” and “B” speaker outputs

Pros:
•    Simple and affordable. A great way to get started with multi-room sound.
•    Receivers with powered dual-room/dual-source capability will let housemates listen to two different sources simultaneously (e.g. an FM station in your main room and CD sound in your second room.)

Cons:
•    With some receivers, you can’t play surround sound in your main room while playing music in your second room.
•    A few inexpensive home theater receivers won’t allow you to play stereo music in both rooms simultaneously, either.
•    Speakers in both rooms must be 8-ohm speakers.

Tips:
•    Your receiver must be designed to handle a 4-ohm load.
•    For maximum convenience, each room should have its own independent volume control.

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Audio for two additional rooms using a second stereo receiver

(main-room home theater system not pictured)

Pros:
•    Simple and affordable.
•    You’ll always be able enjoy surround sound with your main system and play music in your second and third rooms simultaneously. If you’ve got outdoor speakers (as pictured above), your backyard can be your third music zone.

Cons:
•    Both pairs of speakers must be 8-ohm, unless you use impedance-matching volume controls.

Tips:
•    Your receiver must be designed to handle a 4-ohm load.
•    The receiver must have parallel connections internally. Ask your Crutchfield Product Advisor if the receiver you are planning to buy has series or parallel connections internally.

Audio for additional rooms using a second stereo receiver and a speaker selector

(main-room home theater system not pictured)

Pros:
•    The speaker on/off controls are centrally located. You can be certain the music won’t come on in the bedroom if you don’t want it to.
•    You can deliver a lot of power to one room when you turn the other rooms off.

Cons:
•    When more than two rooms are selected, you get limited power to each room.
•    Receiver or amp must be capable of driving a 4-ohm load.
•    If anyone accidentally turns the speaker selector’s protection circuit off, your amplifier and speakers may be damaged.

Tips:
•    No speakers are connected to the B speaker outputs. If you hook speakers to the B outputs, your amplifier may distort and overheat.

Audio for additional rooms using a second stereo receiver and impedance-matched volume controls

(main-room home theater system not pictured)

Pros:
•    Amplifier protection is assured, assuming proper setting of the volume control jumpers.
•    Convenient, intuitive operation for all users.

Cons:
•    The more speakers you add, the less power they get. With more than 4 pairs of speakers, you won’t have enough power for high-volume listening, particularly in an outdoor setting.
•    You can’t increase the amount of power delivered to one pair of speakers by turning off your other speakers.

Tips:
•    Each speaker pair must be connected to an impedance-matching volume control. All of the volume controls must have the same protection setting.
•    You will need a special connecting block to merge all your speaker wires into a single set of output terminals.

Audio for additional rooms using a multi-zone receiver and a multichannel amplifier


Pros:
•    Versatility. You can easily distribute varying amounts of power to different areas of your home, as needed.
•    Plenty of power for every room, and you free up the receiver’s amplifier section to deliver surround sound in the main room at any time.
•    You can steer mono sound to small rooms and hallways while maintaining stereo in other rooms.

Cons:
•    A relatively expensive solution, compared to other options.

Tips:
•    Volume limiters on the 12-channel amp’s back panel let you match the volume from one room to the next. Then, when you turn any volume control to 1 o’clock you’ll hear the same volume, regardless of room size.
•    You’ll need to find a well-ventilated space for the amplifier near your receiver.

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