Whole House Audio Question


I'm currently working to expand my current audio system to provide whole house coverage.

At the moment I have a fairly typical single room setup with some satellite speakers on the deck. Specifically, I have a Marantz SR5200 A/V Surround amplifier that drives five Athena Point5 speakers in my living room and two Polk Atrium 55 speakers on my deck. The two front speakers in the living room and the deck speakers are connected to the front channels on the amp via an impedance matching switch.

Although this has worked okay to this point (but not great), I would now like to add additional pairs of speakers in the kitchen and the master bedroom. Although the Marantz has a decent power supply, I'm not a big fan of running lots of speakers off a single amp so now I'm planning on using separate amps to drive each set of speakers. I honestly don't care about implementing multi-zone functionality; single-zone will work fine for us at this point but I'd like to allow for multi-zone in the future if it is justified by a higher WAF.

What I would like to do is use the Marantz amp to drive the 5 living room speakers AND use it as the overall control amp for selecting the source device. (It currently has connections to my music server PC, CD player, DVD player and has a tuner for radio.) I would then use three separate amps to power the deck speakers and the new speakers in the bedroom and kitchen. All the amps will be located together in my media cabinet in the living room but it would be delightful if there were volume controls for the speakers in each room....

I know this is probably utterly simple but how do I hook all this stuff together? All the info I find online seems to be for multi-zone systems.

Also, if anyone has a system set up like this, I'd appreciate recommendations on the three stereo amps I'll need.

As always, TIA for all the help!

I have a similar setup to yours, although I have 7 pairs of speakers driven off of two whole house stereo amps. Several years ago I picked up two Sonance Sonamp 260x3 amps off of ebay for about $99 each. You can still find these on Ebay once in a while. They are really good low impedance amps with zone disable switches on the front which come in handy. You can also find similar amps made by Niles Audio that are not multi-source multi-zone. You can browse crutchfield and read up on some of these just to get more information.

For the local room volume control your best bet is to go with some Niles volume controls in each room. These are easy to find too and are better build quality than the ones you can find at BestBuy or Smarthone.
Hi John.

Yeah I did see that thread. In addition to being utterly impressed by your "Now Playing" interface, I had printed out the diagram showing your setup.

My big question is whether or not I can use my existing Marantz A/V receiver as the control amp for a multi-amplifier single-zone system. I can probably get my wife to go along with an initial purchase of 3 inexpensive stereo amps to drive the speakers in the bedroom, kitchen and deck (the stuff about how impedance marching switches sometimes melt in the walls helped a lot!) but I don't think she'll go along with the project if it means buying distribution amps and too much other stuff up front.

I currently have my music server computer hooked in to the A/V amp through an Airport Express. Everything works okay for a single room audio system but from a home automation POV it leaves a lot to be desired. Given the ongoing challenge of maintaining a comfortable WAF though, I have to kinda take baby-steps in building toward something like the system you have.

Anyway, as I said earlier, I think my question is probably moronic. What I'm trying to figure out is how to actually hook the amplifiers together. Specifically, right now I have my DVD player, CD player, tape deck and airport express/music server all hooked into the Marantz amp. Coming out of the amp, I have lines directly to the center and back channel speakers in my living room surround system and then have the front speaker channels connected to an impedance matching switch. That switch splits the front channel signals to the front speakers in the living room and to the speakers on the deck.

What I really want to do is to still leave all the input devices connected to the Marantz but then have the output for the front channels sent to separate amplifiers for each set of "satellite" speakers rather than to the impedance matching switch. And to start with I'd like to find a way to do it with the minimum hardware purchase possible. (WAF is definitely the real control system for my HA efforts!) Since I know next to nothing about audio, I'm not sure if this is a hard thing or a ridiculously simple thing. I'm not even sure if its a possible thing.

Does anyone out there know where I can find a kinda simple reference to setting up a single-zone multi-amp system? Everything I can find on single zone systems seems to center on impedance matching switches and I really don't want to do that.

Sorry I'm so ignorant about this.


How are the amps connected together? In addition to the two Sonance amps driving the stereo speakers throughout the house, do you also have something like my A/V receiver for selecting the source device?

I feel so dumb!


Thinking about my last post, it seems to me that maybe all I'd have to do is connect the preamp output (tape out or line out) of my Marantz receiver to the input of something like your Sonance amp. Is that correct? If so, since you have a couple of the Sonance amps, do you just split the signal out of the control amp?

xlucent said:
Thinking about my last post, it seems to me that maybe all I'd have to do is connect the preamp output (tape out or line out) of my Marantz receiver to the input of something like your Sonance amp. Is that correct? If so, since you have a couple of the Sonance amps, do you just split the signal out of the control amp?
If you are only interested in stereo, then you can use the tape out/line out/video out jacks and go into an input of the other receiver. I've been doing something similar to this.

You should probably not split the audio signals out of the receiver to go to multiple amps. While I have done this in the past without any problems or noticable effects in the audio, I might not be as discerning as others and it is usually not a good idea electrically. It tends to mess up the impedance that different devices are expecting.

You can build simple "impedance matching" splitters with resistors that may be ok.

There are powered distribution amplifiers that will handle a single audio in (in stereo) and give you multiple outputs. I have one that has a single audio and composite video input and 7 outputs (all identical signals). In your case, you could ignore the video (unless you want to distribute it as well - which I do).

If your receiver has multiple outputs (e.g., more than on video out) in addition to the tape out or aux out, you can use them to go to different receivers. I was doing this for a while - using the extra video outs that I didn't need. The problem I ran into there was that if my receiver is set to Video-1 In, it disables the Video-1 Out. I don't know why it does this and it's very annoying. But my current setup gets around this in a better way, anyway.

That sounds like what I want to do.

Can I use something like that for multiple amps too? I mean, can I go from the line out of my A/V amp to the line in on stereo Amp A; then from the liine out of Amp A to the line in of Amp B ... etc etc for 4 amplifiers? Or would I get signal degradation that way?

Using a multi-channel amplifier like you do also seems like a viable option but good ones seem pretty expensive. Is it permissable here to ask for recommendations for a relatively inexpensive amplifier that would still deliver acceptable wattage to 3 or 4 sets of speakers?

One of the main reasons I had more or less decided to use separate amps for each set of speakers is because I want to be able to have enough power for the speakers to play at loud (party) volumes without clipping or burning out the amp. Thirty watts per channel seems okay for low-volume background music but can cause problems at higher volumes, can't it?

You can use what I used... the Xantech Distribution Amplifier.


It will allow you to split a stereo line pair in 6 pairs.

And as for the amps... Thats why I went with $50 receivers that could deliver 100 watts RMS per channel. No chance for clipping at party volumes. I doubt you will find a cheaper solution in buying just plain amplifiers as not many people need them so the demand is low and the price is high.

I hadn't thought of daisy-chaining the receivers like that (it wouldn't work with most standalone amps unless they have passthrough of some sort). It should work fine, but there may be some signal degradation due to multiple steps.

Here's the distribution amplifier that I was using (I forget where I got it):
CELabs 7-way Composite Distribution Amplifier
Same thing from www.partsexpress.com

I don't think I paid that much for it.

I'm currently using custom hardware to do this for my basic AV distribution, but am considering reusing it to distribute a common video channel to multiple displays.

I went with a multiple receiver approach because I had the spare receiver sitting there not being used. I got tired of trying to figure out where to store it.

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh....now I get it!

When I saw the "distribution amplifier" on your diagram, I thought you were talking about the kind of 12-channel amplifiers that seem to cost around $1200.

$84 is definitely totally doable. Susie spends more than that on a new shirt so WAF should not be a problem!

If I understand this correctly now, I can use the Xantech to split the line-level signal and then run from that to the separate receivers. Are you pretty happy with the Technics receivers you have?

Thanks again for all the help and patience on what are no doubt a bunch of elementary questions.

xlucent said:

Thinking about my last post, it seems to me that maybe all I'd have to do is connect the preamp output (tape out or line out) of my Marantz receiver to the input of something like your Sonance amp. Is that correct? If so, since you have a couple of the Sonance amps, do you just split the signal out of the control amp?

Hi, sorry I didn't comment on that, but for me I used the pre-amp output on my Sony STR-V444ES (not Marantz). As others have commented the tape loop should work fine too.

As for connecting all of my Sonance 260X3's to one pre-amp output the nice thing about these amps is that they are designed to daisy chain. Each one has a line-in and a line-out, so you just daisy-chain one to the other. Also, no noticable delay that I can hear. I'm sure there is small delay from amp-to-amp, but it is probably so small you would need something more sensitive than my ears to hear it.
The preamp output would be ok if you want to control the overall volume with the main receiver. If you want to control each zones volume then I would use the tape output.

I like the Technics receivers. It allows me to control each zones bass and treble to adjust for differences in speakers.