NAD CI 940 and CI 980 Multi-Channel Distribution Amplifiers

The Wired Multi-Room Audio Solution

NAD CI 980 (Top) and CI 940 (Bottom) Audio Distribution Amps
NAD CI 980 (Top) and CI 940 (Bottom) Audio Distribution Amps. Images and Logo provided by NAD Electronics

So, you have a great home theater system, but you also like to distribute audio sources connected to that system throughout your house.

The Wireless Audio Distribution Option

One increasingly popular option is to take advantage of wireless multi-room audio systems, such as Sonos, HEOS, Play-Fi, or MusicCast and just transmit audio wirelessly from a compatible home theater receiver, sound bar, or smartphone to compact wireless speakers that can be located throughout the house.

However, as convenient as those options are, you need a home theater receiver, central source device, or wireless speakers that are compatible with one of the above systems. In addition, most speakers available for those systems aren't necessarily up to the standards for serious sit-down music listening, and the cost of the better quality wireless speakers isn't cheap.

The Wired Audio Distribution Option

A second solution, especially if you have a home theater receiver with multi-zone capability, is to install a distribution amplifier that can extend some of the sources connected to your home theater receiver and distribute them to several additional Zones.

Although wire clutter may be the downside to this approach, on the positive side, you can use your own speakers or purchase speakers from any brand of your choice. This is a great way to "resurrect" those old speakers that you may have retired to the garage or have put is long-term storage.

The NAD CI 940 and CI 980 Distribution Amplifiers

To satisfy those that would like this option, NAD offers up two multi-channel/multi-zone amplifiers, the CI 940 and CI 980.

With both amplifiers, you have the option to simply connect a single source, or the Zone 2 output of a home theater receiver or Preamp/Processor, to the Global Input on either the CI 940 and CI 980, which will distribute the audio from that source to all available Zones, or you connect separate sources to each Local Input that will output to one Zone each.

The basic difference between the CI 940 and CI 980 series amplifiers is that the CI 940 provides up to 4 channels of distribution (for stereo applications, that would be 2 Zones - or rooms), while the CI 980 provides 8 channels of distribution (for stereo that would be 4 Zones - or room).

Under the hood, both units provide house discrete amplifiers (that means a separate amplifier for each channel), with the CI 940 rated at 35 wpc (rated with all channels driven at 4 or 8 ohms from 20 Hz to 20kHz) and the CI 980, using the same measurement parameters is rated at 50 wpc. For more details on how this relates to real-world performance, refer to my article Understanding Amplifier Power Output Specifications.

In addition, the CI 980 allows channel bridging. What channel bridging means is that any two channels can be "combined" into one channel in order to provide more power output - in the case of the CI 980 that would be 100 watts once two channels are combined.

For integration into custom install home theater setups, both units are equipped with 12-volt triggers.

It is important to note, however, that both of these units are distribution amplifiers and are designed for mono or stereo use in multiple zones, they do not feature any additional audio processing (no surround sound), and although maximum gain levels are provided for each channel, continuous volume control is provided by the source device or external preamp/controller (such as home theater receiver or AV processor).

It is also important to note that both distribution amplifiers only have RCA-style analog audio inputs. There are no digital optical/coaxial or HDMI connections provided.

The CI 940 and 980 are both fan-cooled.

For ease of installation, both units are also rack mountable. Cabinet dimensions (in inches) for the CI 940 (in inches) is 19 W x 4 3/16 H x 12-3/4 D), while the cabinet dimensions for the CI 980 (also in inches) is 19 W - 3-1/2 H - 12 3/4 D). The CI 940 weighs 15.35lbs and The CI 980 weighs in at 12.6 lbs (it is interesting that the CI 980 has a lower stated weight, despite the inclusion of 4 additional amplifiers).

For full details on the features, specs, and operation of both units, including free downloadable quick start guides and user manuals, as well as pricing and availability, check out the Official NAD CI 940 and CI 980 Product Pages.

NAD products are only available via Authorized NAD Dealers.