August 27, 2009
| by CE Pro
Q. Is it possible to use two different amplifiers or tuners on the same set of speakers if they are never used simultaneously? The example is that we have two floors with the wiring and speakers to play music in multiple rooms on both floors. We would like to use a tuner for music in the main floor rooms but still have the ability to use the downstairs speakers as part of a home theater setup. - James/Hilliard, Ohio
The following tips come via CE Pro.
Bob Archer says: The key to this type of setup is the preamp or home theater receiver that you use.
If you buy a preamp/processor or receiver with a second zone capability, you’ll be able to use your theater in a normal fashion and the second zone capability to amplify the other room (zone) speakers and control everything from your home theater system.
There are other setups where you could have a wall plate with inputs installed in that secondary room (zone) to plug in local sources such as a TV, iPod or CD player, with the receiver or A/V preamp/processor and amplifier combination controlling and amplifying the set of speakers in the secondary room (zone).
I think the best thing to do is to call a custom installer. They will be able to work within your budget to not only meet your A/V entertainment requirements, but also your ability to control these products in a convenient manner.
CE Pro forum reader Brian Schumacker adds: You can do this using a piece from Niles Audio. It is an in wall amp selector (A/B). The model number on it is ABA-1D. It is available in white, bone, or almond colors. It retails for about $45. All you do is plug your two amplifiers into it and then run the output to the speakers. A press of the button switches between the two amps.
Rob Schultz of Inspired Electronics says: First, I’d strongly advise against just connecting the output of two amplifiers (or receivers) to the speakers. Even if you think you’ll never do it, I’m confident that at some point you will either accidentally leave one system on and then turn on the other, or someone in the home (friend, mother-in-law, etc.) will want to listen to something on one receiver while you listen to something else on the other.
The use of an A/B selector prevents you from accidentally sending inputs from both amplifiers into the speakers (which could overload and blow the speaker, or feed back to the other amplifier and blow that). There are several A/B selectors available, both manual and automatic. With a manual selector, you press a button to switch the source. With an automatic model, if the selector senses power on either input, it will direct that input to the speakers. If it detects power on both, it will direct one of them (usually the A input - your home theater in this case) to the speakers.
The use of an automatic selector lets you never again think about what you want to play over your speakers - the right thing will always play.
Alternately, you could use a receiver that has second zone capabilities. That will allow you to share a single set of sources between the rooms, and get the equipment out of the second room. It’s generally a more elegant and cost effective solution than an A/B selector. You will need to make sure the second zone remote is capable of reaching the receiver (either an RF remote or an IR extender).
My specific recommendations would depend on your specific application, budget, and existing equipment.
CE Pro forum reader jnemesh responds: The Niles ABA-1D is an excellent suggestion, but I would recommend another of their products, the ABS-1. This is an audio-triggered A/B switch. You connect the output of the distributed audio system to one input and the home theater to the other. The output connects to the speakers. When an audio signal is detected, it will AUTOMATICALLY switch to the source being used. Much more friendly to the home owner/user! Cost is $99 Retail. The unit is, however, an ugly little black box, so hide it in the equipment closet or somewhere out of sight. If installed properly, the user will never have to touch it at all.
Update: CE Pro forum reader drgreenstein55 added this advice: You can also use a product like the Russound AB-3.2, which allows you to have a priority amplifier automatically selected for the speakers, so you never have to concern yourself with choosing between two separate amplifiers.