How to Use a Speaker Switch for Easy Multi-Room Audio

Two hours and a simple switch is all it takes

What to Know

  • Connect left and right channel outputs of amplifier/receiver to switch inputs > connect speaker sets to outputs.
  • Next, match the speaker connection to the speaker selector switch.

This article explains how to use a speaker selector switch to easily create a multi-room audio setup. Additional information covers how to choose a speaker selector switch and why you should use one.

How to Use a Speaker Selector Switch

An external speaker selector switch routes the signals from a receiver or entertainment center to any specific arrangement of speakers that the switch can support—regardless of the room they're in.

  1. Connect the left and right channel outputs of the amplifier/receiver to the inputs of the switch.

    Check the wire gauge specifications on the speaker selector switch to make sure it's compatible (typically 14 to 18 gauge) with the speaker wires you plan to use.

  2. Connect the speaker sets to the speaker outputs. Depending on the types of speakers and where you plan to place them, it can take a few hours to run the speaker wires to all the other rooms in your home.

  3. Match the speaker connection (banana plugs, spade connectors, pin connectors) to the speaker selector switch.

    Consider installing a volume control module between each speaker set and the switch. It requires more time to do the wiring, but the upside is that rooms will have adjustable volume controls within easy reach. If the speaker selector switch doesn't have a labeling system for zones (many do), create your own labels and stick them above and below each switch.

Why Use a Speaker Selector Switch

What if you want to connect additional sets of speakers and wire other rooms? The easiest and safest solution—and also the most cost-effective—is to use a speaker selector switch. It acts much like a hub or splitter, allowing you to connect and power as many as four, six, or eight pairs of speakers to a single receiver or amplifier. Some models also offer independent volume control over each pair of speakers.

This kind of switch handles more speakers, and it protects the amplifier or receiver from damage. Low-impedance problems arise from playing multiple speakers at the same time. Amplifiers and receivers are usually rated for speakers with 8 ohms of impedance. Some are rated between 4 and 8 ohms, but 8 tends to be the norm.

The impedance specification is important because it determines how much electrical current flows to the speakers. Connecting additional sets of speakers increases the total amount of current. For example, if two pairs of 8-ohm speakers are connected and playing, the resulting impedance is 4 ohms. Three pairs results in 2 ohms of impedance, and so on.

If the current flow increases much, it can exceed the ability of the receiver. The result can lead to the receiver activating its protection circuit and temporarily shutting off, which can cause permanent damage to the amplifier or receiver over time.

Choosing a Speaker Selector Switch

A wide selection of speaker selector switches is available. A quick Amazon search shows a number of them that you can compare for the features and price point you're after.

Internal Selector Toggles

Your stereo receiver offers a built-in switch to toggle A and B speaker sets. This option supports a second pair of speakers, typically for a different room. The speakers set to the A switch might be meant for the main TV or movie entertainment, while the speakers set to the B switch could be set for music.

Typically, the receiver can safely handle both sets operating at the same time. Some receivers have multi-room capability to power speakers in as many as four rooms or zones in your home, although not all zones may be able to play simultaneously.

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