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Every room in my new home has at least one in-ceiling speaker. It's a nice feature even if the speakers themselves are probably not so hot. As nice as it is it is missing some elements to get it working and I'm kind of lost in figuring out where to start to get it up & running.

 

All the speaker wire terminates inside a cabinet in the utility room. Open the cabinet and there are two massive sets of bundled wire. It's not normal speaker wire either. Each cable has 3 separate copper strands (is the 3rd a ground??). Luckily the cables are all labeled so once I figure out how to power the system I'll know which is which. Each room (& exterior area) has its own volume knob near the light switch.

 

My question is: Where do I start?

 

Obviously, I need a source but how do I amplify all these speakers?? I haven't counted them all yet (I just started moving in today) but there must be 15 to 20 speakers in total. I stopped by a Best Buy tonight and the guy said the fact that the system has volume knobs in each room may indicate it is powered at each volume knob. Is that likely? It would sure be easier than finding an amp capable of driving 20 speakers simultaneously.

 

I plan to remove one of the wall mounted volume knobs and poke around for evidence they are anything other than a passive volume control.

 

Anything else I should look for? I'd appreciate anyone's experience with such systems before I start breaking things. :)

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What kind of volume control knobs are they Camp? What manufacturer and is there a model number? Chances are these are impedence matching volume controls. Likely, mono if you only have one speaker in each of the rooms. These speakers would be powered from an amplifier of some type (receiver, stand alone amp etc.) and the source would be fed into that device. The volume controls likely have jumpers or some switches that allow you to set the impedence match (determined by the amount of speakers you have on the system and the load you're placing on the amp).

 

The company I work for offers a similiar system. The difference being that our volume controls are stereo. Our controls terminate at a 6 room audio module:

 

http://www.onqlegrand.com/products/364454-01

 

That product allows you to terminate the speaker wire from the volume controls to the 6 connection points listed. The bottom connection is your connection from the amplifier. Our volume controls are here:

 

http://www.onqlegrand.com/products/364769-0

 

I would need to know a little more about the system you have before I can troubleshoot a bit more with you. Let me know part numbers or more info and I'll see if I can dig up some more info on how these volume controls work. Structured wiring, whole house audio etc. is what I do bud:).

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Great info. Thanks. I'll check into brands & model #'s tomorrow. I don't have anything like that 6 room audio module but the wall units look exactly like those in your 2nd link. At this point, I just have a bunch of raw speaker wire at the termination point.

 

Any idea what the 3rd copper strand is in the speaker wire? Left channel, right channel and...?

 

Another thing that is bugging me is how a single amp can power all these speakers at once. When we first toured the home the audio was 'on' in every room. That's 15-20 speakers running at the same time. That just seams like a mighty big load.

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Another thing that is bugging me is how a single amp can power all these speakers at once.

It comes down to how much load you're trying to carry. The entire purpose of an impedence matching volume control is to compensate for the load you're placing on your amp. So lets say you have an 8 ohm amplifier with one speaker output. You can, of course feed, an 8 ohm load or one 8 ohm speaker onto that amp. Now, if you were to try and feed two speakers in series you have now doubled the load you're placing on that amplifier. It's now a 4 ohm load. Most amplifiers worth thier ilk would still be able to handle that load but you would see a degredation of volume and you're placing a good bit of wear and tear on the amp. If you add another speaker you're not down to a 2 ohm load and you're likely going to start causing the amp to clip or cut out entirely because you're over-driving it. You probably know a good bit of this already but I figure I'll cover it just in case.

 

Now, the purpose of the impedence matching volume control allows you to match the impedence (ohm load) you're placing on the system with the load you're amplifier is capable of handling and compensate as needed so that you don't clip or blow your amp. That's where those jumpers come into play.

 

As to that third speaker wire, I'm not sure what it's for. The "ground" should already be covered with the primary speaker terminal connections and I've never seen that type of installation. I 'll look into it for you though.

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Here is a (blurry iPhone) photo of one of the exposed volume knobs:

3329405334_e6634f5183.jpg

 

The brand name is "Proficient audio systems". It has one set of cables labeled "to amp" and the other set "to speaker". Looks pretty straight forward (even to me). Much less confusing than the area where the speaker wire terminates.

 

Also, I noticed today that many of the rooms have 2 speakers. Is it possible some rooms are wired in stereo while others are mono?

 

I guess I should just get a cheap amplifier. Perhaps one of those 6-room audio modules too. Any suggestions on an amp? Audiosource, maybe?

Is there an online supplier of the multi-room audio modules I should try?

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Hmmm, where to start :)

 

Ok there are quite a few options to think about. The best place to start is to figure out what it is you want to do with these speakers. With what you have wired up right now you could setup a multi channel amp or a couple of them and listen to the same thing on every speaker quite easily. Add a receiver with XM and ipod interfaces and a RF remote to control it to spice things up with a few different sources, you just have to connec the preouts to the bus in on the amps.

 

I use Speakercraft in a lot of my clients houses and in my own. For the above description check out the big bang amps from them.

 

Now you could do something similar to what I have in my house by adding an MZC66 and a mode free. What this does is open the possibility to listen to 6 different sources in any of the rooms independently. That means you could listen to a cd in the living room while someone else listens to the radio in a different room at the same time....adds up to 6 different zones that can listen to 6 different sources plus you can link rooms together as well like kitchen/dining or master bed / ensuite and so on. The nice thing is with the mode keypads you can add ipod docks to the system and have full meta data on the pads. If this sounds more like what you want to do let me know and I can help flesh out the specifics on what you would need to make it happen.

 

There is also a system called Matrix that uses the speaker wire for control of sources, it works well but is pretty basic.

 

The other one that I use a lot and quite like is the Request IMS IQ system. This would also work quite well for your setup if you used a couple of nokia wireless pads and your computer to control the rooms. Unless you're able to run a cat 5 to those volume control locations....adds a hole bunch more options.

 

Anyway, I could write for pages and pages on what you "could" do so I'll let you figure out a couple of things to narrow it down a bit. What type of budget?, how many people are going to use the system? what do you want to listen to? (TVs can be sources too).

 

Oh and one last thing, there are dual tweeter speakers that are built in to a single housing. one hole, one woofer, two tweeters so its hooked up like two speakers and gives a stereo playback. I use them all the time in smaller rooms like an ensuite. This may be what was put in to your house....wouldn't be the first time I've seen it done that way.

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Wow...that's a lot of great options. While I'd love to do something more advanced my budget is likely going to only allow the most simple of options. I would be quite happy with a system that could drive all the speakers with the same solitary source. I don't even need remote control capability. It may be nice to have the flexibility to upgrade to a more advanced multiple-source down the road but for now cheap & simple would be best. ;)

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Well that makes things easy then, grab a Big Bang 1235 and don't look back.

 

Very nice. Good prices on ebay too.

Funny thing...my fiance was unpacking the kitchen when she found the audio hardware used to power the system. Someone just threw it inside a kitchen cabinet and forgot about it.

 

I just don't understand how to hook it up.

 

It's a 2-channel 100 watt Audiosource amp and a really crappy Sherwood receiver. I'll spend some time getting more details (and perhaps pics) this weekend to see if you guys can give me some suggestions. I like the idea of the BB1245 amp but why spend $ if I already have the basic hardware?

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It looks like the volume control has wires for two speakers correct? If that's the case, then what Solitice mentioned earlier is very probably (i.e. you have one dual voice coil speaker installed that essentially carries both the left and right channel). Have you tried removing the speaker from the ceiling to see what type of connection it has?

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The quick and dirty way...hook the speaker wires up the the output of what youv'e got there one at a time. Looks like you have impedence matching volume controls so all you have to do is hook everything up in parallel. If you're unsure, just add one pair at a time. From your picture there , use red and black for the right speaker and white and green for the left (red and white are positive).

 

For your question as to why a multi channel amp, you'll get a lot more output when you have a channel for each speaker and more importantly you can set the gain for each channel to even out any speakers that are too loud or quiet. Its all about better sound.

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Here's a down and dirty way my friend got his working. It's very simple and not elegant but works.

 

All of his cabling runs to a closet where his receiver is. His source is his WIndows PC with a sound card connected via RCA to his receiver. His PC has 2 500 gig hard drives with 64,000 songs on the drive giving him plenty of music via I Tunes.

 

He then uses his Iphone with the remote app loaded to be his interface(think keypad) to the system. he can run the volume and select tunes via the IPhone interface from anywhere in his house. He then syncs his iphone with his PC and uses it as a wifi device in his house

 

The negative is he doesn't have true zones setup so his wife can't be listening to her music while he listens to his etc. If he wants a 2nd zone, he uses the 2nd zone output of his receiver and connects it up to another sound card installed on the PC. For every sound card you have a zone.

 

What he found was the alternatives were going to cost him $3-5K to make it right including the controllers so he went with the I Phone with. Here, he's only out a PC, his already purchased Iphone + the app and a receiver he wasn't using anyway so the cost was nill.

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I would just hook up what they left in the cabinet and see how it works. It is a crappy amp and pre/pro, but likely it matches the quality of the crappy speakers they installed. Why buy anything more to push through those speakers?

 

I say hook it up, use it, see how you like it. You can play around with hooking up different areas in different ways and experimenting with only hooking up half the speakers for better sound, etc. Once you figure out how you like to use it (wow, I listen to music a lot in the garage but never in the bedroom. I would have never guessed...), you can start to think about what to buy, or even if some of the rooms might need better speakers as main listening areas and others can stay as they are (or even unconnected.)

 

Our house has a lot of pre-wiring through the different room and out on the porches (we have 2.) I've found I really don't desire much music outside of the living room, basement (which was unwired and is now our HT ;)), and occasionally on the decks. In the garage I have a portable boombox at the workbench, which I like better since it's mobile.

 

Just hook it up and have some fun playing with it. Sounds like a hoot, and congrats on the new house my man ;)

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