How cool would it be to command music all over your house with a flip of a switch?
Technology nowadays allows for that kind of convenience. This convenience can turn your house into an entertainment center for family parties and get-togethers.
If you’re going to have a party and install loudspeakers around your whole house, get a speaker selector.
It’s a great investment if you want to throw a party and have music playing everywhere at anytime.
What Is A Speaker Selector?
A speaker selector is a device that lets you play audio through 2 or more speakers simultaneously.
Whether it’s an amplifier or receiver, whichever way you direct the speaker switch is where the signal will be relayed.
Most speaker selectors will have you connect to 2-6 speaker sets.
This could mean one speaker set in your backyard, front yard, and sides of your house leaving you with 2 more sets you wouldn’t know what to do with.
A speaker selector in general is a passive device which gets power from an amplifier, think of it as an accessory in the middle which connects a receiver to a speaker.
This could all be yours at a fingertip if you make the investment. All it takes is understanding how it works….and of course, money.
Types Of Speaker Selectors
There are only two types of speaker selectors.
One with volume control, and one which doesn’t have volume control.
With a speaker switch not containing a volume control; the receiver’s volume will be the master volume meaning it controls all the volume for all your speaker sets.
Say for example you were in the front yard of your house; guests are in the backyard of your house. They hear music playing in the front but don’t hear anything on their end. Not only are you the host of the party, but you’re also the cook which makes it hard to go over towards the backyard.
A solution to this problem is to purchase a speaker selector so you can adjust the volume from wherever you are.
This makes hosting a party convenient and efficient.
Be wary that volume control isn’t available in every speaker selector though.
What’s more important is speaker switches provide protection to amplifiers and receivers.
The more speaker sets you connect, the more electricity will flow, this forces the amplifier to do more work then it’s used to.
To protect itself, the amplifier shuts off preventing further damage.
Usually, the preventing circuit will trigger if there is excess current delivered, or it starts overheating.
Another aspect to note for is power handling.
Just as not all loudspeakers and amplifiers work together, the same holds true regarding speaker switches.
What you want to look out for is the ohms. An appropriate ohm load is 8 which is common for a speaker switch.
As long as the ohm load is good; you should be fine.
Once you have power handling figured out you have to check on impedance load.
Make sure to acknowledge impedance specifications on an amplifier, speaker set, and speaker switch.
Using multiple speakers without a speaker selector can also prevent impedance load.
Since you’re going to operate multiple speakers, it’s imperative to know the rated impedance.
Because more speakers means more current and pressure.
When there’s no resistance to both current and pressure you’ll yield low impedance.
Here’s an example of what we mean:
Pretend you have a set of speakers at 8 ohms, when you combine that with another set of 8 ohm speakers, you’re impedance will drop to 4 ohms.
If you don’t, you risk further complication by making it more likely to trigger the preventing circuit.
There’s also an important distinction for the type of protections.
The first one is “over-current protection”.
Over-current protection is like an overflow of electricity. Once current is going above the specifications of an amplifier; you get over-current protection.
Another type of protection is the “short-circuit”. This type of protection turns the source device like the amplifier’s impedance as its load.
Both protection types are critical to understand because if you’re specifications between speaker switches and amplifier goes wrong, you’ll know what to do.
Another part of installing a speaker switch is running wires. Depending on your house, speaker wires can take hours to put together.
Keep in mind speaker wires need special cabling depending if you’re going to put them through walls or ceilings. But if you need a guide on house wiring, then this is a basic primer.
In the case where you want to put your wires through ceilings and walls, you’ll need to use CL-2 or CL-3-rated speaker cables.
Another important note for speaker selectors is their terminals. Most of the speaker selector switches don’t accept banana or spade terminals.
The design on a speaker switch commonly uses either a spring-loaded push design, or screws for speaker wires to connect.
There are numerous types of designs when it comes to springs. For spring-loads, mechanisms are compression springs.
Compression springs create a force to counteract in the other direction. A close similarity is a see-saw in a playground. If a light person is on one end, and a heavier person comes crashing down on the other side, prepare for the lighter person to fly out of the park.
Once the tension is released, the spring will keep bouncing back and forth until there’s no kinetic energy.
Because of the spring-loaded and screw design, there is a limit on wire size. The limit on wires are 14-16 gauge wiring. Remember, the smaller the wiring, the thicker the wire.
The proper gauge wiring should be stated on the specifications. Check both the specification on the speaker selector, and speaker wires to make sure.
To make sure your specifications are correct, it’s a great idea to check the manufacturer’s specifications.
With conflicting numbers on forums and discussions, checking a direct source is a great idea to clear any doubt you had.
How To Make A Speaker Selector Work?
Speaker aren’t the hardest devices to work out. Their function is simple, and their set-up is simple.
All you have to do is connect the amplifier/receiver output terminals to the speaker selector, and vice-versa for the speakers.
Besides practical advice you can find on the manual, let’s talk about some basic guidelines you can use to find the right speaker selector:
We’ve discussed how speaker switches have a capacity limit for speakers, but we haven’t talked about what you need to do to prepare.
Deciding whether you want 2, 4, or 6 speakers isn’t a huge problem, but if you don’t plan correctly, you could get more speakers than your selector can handle.
So figure out which speaker selector you want to go with, identify its capacity limit, and then get your speaker sets.
Or else…you’ll waste money.
Speaker Switch Placement
The first thing to look out for is where you place your speakers. Know where you’re going to put them so you know if the speaker selectors you pick actually fit.
Obviously, you’re not going to place a speaker switch far away from the speakers; but the right idea is to get it in between them so connection isn’t a problem.
Just like preparing to put wires, you have to plan on where you’re going to put a speaker switch because that’s where your speaker wires will start.
Making sure you have the right foundation under your selector is important. You don’t want it placed on a shaky foundation potentially breaking if it falls; your set-up and investment of time would go down the drain.
Speaker Selector Protection
Besides worrying about your shelves is worrying about how your speakers will be protected.
There are two types of technologies used by a speaker switch. These tools prevent the amplifier from overloading.
The first protection is a series resistor.
A series resistor acts like a governing force. It limits resistance so the amplifier won’t get damaged from overheating. If too much electricity backfires and overloads the amplifier, it can cause overheating which causes short-circuits.
Resistors also overheat depending on volume control. This is why speaker selectors have vents and open air circulation.
If you plan on using more than one speaker set then turn on your “protection switch.” Besides that, as long as you have impedance matching (amplifiers and speakers apply too), or you only have one speaker set, the “protection switch” doesn’t have to be on.
For higher end speaker protection there is impedance matching transformer. Think of this protection mechanism as the adult in the room. Pretend there were 4 kids and only 1 pizza.
To make sure everyone gets a fair shake; assuming they’re a good parent, would give each kid 3 pizzas each. To apply this to speaker selectors imagine 4 speakers.
In total, all 4 speakers have an overall 32 ohms. To make sure every speaker gets the same portions it’s evenly distributed into 8 ohms a speaker. This way every speaker stays within its operating load while maximizing its power like a weightlifter squatting.
If a weightlifter leans one way too much then they won’t be able to use all of their body, thus not lifting to their full potential.
Protection mechanisms for speaker switches are a huge factor. Some selectors have it, but others don’t. This 4-zone stereo speaker by AVX Audio specifically states, “impedance protection prevents amplifier from damaging low impedance loads.”
To summarize, specifications also state how many speakers you can control without damaging the amplifier.
Simply put, remember how many speaker sets you need to get before purchasing.
Ask yourself where you want to control volume from. Is it where the speaker selectors are? Or is it where the speakers are?
It’s a couple simple questions but it will save you from hassle later on.
Where Do I Buy?
There are specific brands to watch when purchasing a speaker switch. Top names that come to mind are Specialty-AV, J-tech Digital, and Monster.
Obviously there are more to choose from, but the reputation which comes from these brands are excellent, and to earn that reputation takes consistent quality products.
The top speaker selector switch coming from Specialty-AV is great because it has 10 pairs of speakers which can be controlled independently. But ask yourself, are you actually going to need 10 pairs of speakers, or does it feel good just to have that many speakers?
These types of questions will not only save you money down the line, it’ll make you more resourceful.
Another tip we would add is to take the time to go to your local store and see them for yourself. While there you can ask the sales team any questions and test the products on the spot. Waiting to receive your product to find out if it works or not is a waste of time.