How to wire Four Speakers to One Amplifier

In an earlier article we looked at the issues involved in connecting multiple speakers to one amplifier. In this article we look at some of the practical ways of wiring four speakers to each amplifier (left and right) . For example, it is normal to have your main HiFi amplifier in the lounge room. It is also common to want to have some speakers in the family room, outside (patio or pool area) and in the workshop or garage.

So let’s look at the various ways of wiring at least 4 pairs of speakers to one HiFi amplifier. If you need to connect just 2 pair of speakers to a HiFi stereo amplifier (that is, 2 speakers to 1 amp), see my article on How to connect 2 speakers to 1 amplifier.

I have had many people over the years tell me it is easy to connect multiple speakers – all you have to do is wire the speakers in series. When I’ve grilled them dasiy Chainabout how they did that, they say they simply wired them as a “daisy chain”, one after the other. When questioned further, I find they have actually wired them in parallel, and have wondered why the amplifier doesn’t like it.

In the following diagrams I will only show the wiring for one side of a stereo amplifier, lets says the left side of the stereo. In reality this wiring needs to be duplicated for the right side speakers too.

Four speakers wired in parallel

This diagram shows how to wire four speakers in parallel. four speakers in parallel schema

Some people call this “daisy chain” as it connects one speaker after another, but it is really wiring them in parallel.

It is the same as wiring each speaker directly from the amplifier, like this:

four speakers in parallel at amp

Wiring speakers in parallel is not a good way of connecting three, four or more HiFi speakers as it puts too much load on the amplifier (as explained in earlier article)

Four speakers wired in series

This diagram shows how to wire four speakers in series.

four speakers in series

Again this is not a recommended way of wiring four speakers (although it will work), nor is it very practical. Apart from the hassle of having to wire from one speaker to the next, if one wire is disconnected, then all speakers will stop working. Also each speaker affects the total load seen by the amplifier which will only allow it to work up to one eighth of its potential. This is closer to a daisy chain as each speaker and corresponding single wire forms part of a daisy chain loop.

Four speakers wired in Series-Parallel

This diagram shows how to wire four speakers in series-parallel.

four speakers in series-parallelThis is a safe way of wiring four speakers (without a switch box or separate volume controls). It is a combination of series and parallel. Providing all the speakers are 8 ohms, this will work as the total impedance is also 8 ohms,

While this will technically work, it is often not practical as you need lots of wires interconnecting all the speakers and there is no control over any one speaker – they all are controlled by the amplifier volume control at the same time. This is not good if you only want music in one area of the house, and not everywhere at the same time – apparently neighbours don’t always like listening to the same music as you (through the outside speakers).

Speaker Selector Switch

The easiest and a safe way to connect 4 pairs of HiFi speakers is to use a 4 zone speaker selector switch.

4 speakers witj switch box
This is relatively simple to wire, just run a wire from the central location (lounge room) to each speaker. The box should also look after any impedance matching to prevent amplifier overload. Although the volume will be similar in all areas, at least it is possible to turn off the speakers in the areas you don’t want sound. It is normal to locate the selector switch adjacent to the amplifier. Remember to connect the lounge room speakers to one switch so they can be turned off when you only want music outside.

Speaker selector switches can use various techniques to allow Four speaker zone selectormultiple speakers to be connected to the one amplifier, namely:

  • a series resistor (around 2½ – 5 ohms) to restrict the minimum impedance of the speakers circuit to this value. This simple series resistor if often marketed as “manual impedance protection”. They are normally good for lower powered speakers, and the resistor can get hot at high volume levels. If this switch is not selected, you have no protection when running all the speakers together.
  • combining the different speakers in series and/or parallel to keep the overall impedance above 4 ohms. This is similar to the series-parallel wiring above, but it all happens in the box for you.
  • matching impedance transformers – this is the best, but it is also the most expensive.

All these methods allow multiple speakers, but at a lower volume than using just one speaker. This is logical as the signal is being shared by more than just the one speaker. To see how the power is distributed by the different types of speaker selector switches, see my Speaker Selector Switch Simulator.

If you are interested in purchasing a multiple speaker selector, here is a link to Amazon’s range of speaker selectors in USA, Canada, UK, Germany, Spain and France.

If you are interested in using a speaker selector switch, check out my summary article on speaker selector switches – it discusses the features and uses in more detail, and summarises all the units bought from Amazon through this web site. You can also download the user’s manual for most models – before you buy it.

Speaker Selector with Volume Controls

A more practical (and a little bit more expensive) way it to substitute the selector switch with a unit that also has volume controls. This allows the volume in each zone (area with a pair of speakers) to be controlled at the central location.

Some volume control units also have impedance matching. four speakers selector volume switchThis means they have a switch (normally on the back panel – but sometimes inside) which allows you to tell it you are connecting 2, 4 or 8 pairs of speakers to the one amplifier. Once this switch is set, you don’t need to worry about overloading the amplifier. Some units don’t have a switch but are set for four speakers. Impedance matching works by appearing to the amplifier as just one speaker, while it evenly splits the signal to all four speakers – in reality, each speaker only gets 1/4 of the sound that comes from the amplifier (assuming you selected x4 on the switch).

Other volume control units (read cheaper) don’t have impedance matching. These units rely on you probably not needing to run all four sets of speakers flat out at the same time. While this is not as safety assured as using impedance matching, it may suit some installations. If you only want low level music in the workshop and family room, then this will be fine. If you are having a party and want loud music outside, just make sure the workshop and lounge room are turned down – this reduces the total load and this effectively means only one or two pairs of speakers are connected to the amplifier.

Remember to allow a volume control for the lounge room speakers so they can controlled also.

If you are interested in purchasing a multiple speaker selector with volume controls for two speakers, four speakers or more, here is a link to Amazon’s range in USA, Canada and UK.

In-Wall Volume Controls

Sometimes it is not convenient to have to go to the lounge room to control the volume of the speakers – especially if you are some distance away and the phone starts to ring. Therefore it can be useful to have a volume control in each zone (area) where there are speakers. This way, the volume for the speakers for the workshop is controlled in the workshop. The disadvantage of this is if you leave the volume control up (say for the outside speakers) and the next morning you play music without going outside – you will be entertaining the neighbours with your music in the morning as well as the night before.volume control

In-wall volume controls are similar to the volume controls mentioned above – they come with impedance matching or without impedance matching. If you are having two zones (two pairs of speakers or four speakers) then you will select the x2 on the back of the volume of the control. Similarly, if you are using 3 or 4 pairs of speakers, you will select x4.

Bear in mind that these are mostly “in-wall” controls. If you need to mount them on a solid brick or concrete wall, you will need a big mounting block, or a deep recess in the wall. The transformers on these volume controls are normally deeper than a standard mounting block for solid walls. The greater the power handling ability of the volume controls, the larger the recess required (and the more expensive the control).

Wiring these volume controls is fairly simple. Run a speaker cable (probably two, one for left side and one right side) from the amplifier to the volume control. Then run a speaker cable from the volume control to each speaker.

four speakers with volume controls

Remember to allow a volume control for the lounge room speakers so they can be controlled also.

If you need to purchase some in wall volume controls, here is a link to Amazon’s range in USA, Canada and UK. You can use this method for 2 speakers, 4 speakers or more.

Practical  Considerations in Wiring Four Speakers

The above installations will work, but they have some limitations. The biggest limitation is the volume control on the amplifier. This controls the maximum volume to all four speakers. The individual volume controls for each speaker only reduce the level coming from the amplifier – they can’t make the sound louder than what the amplifier produces. This means the amplifier volume control needs to be set at the level of maximum volume you want for any given speaker. However it is not wise to set it at full volume. You don’t want the amplifier running flat out but all the speakers turned way down (this is like revving the car engine at maximum and then only letting the clutch out a little bit) – far better to run the amplifier only to the maximum required.

The best method for setting up a system with speaker volume controls is:

  • turn all the speaker volume controls all the way up
  • gradually increase the volume control of the amplifier until the music is just louder that you would normally want it.
  • This is the position for the amplifier volume control.
  • you can now turn each speaker down a few steps to the level you want.

The above method will work fine until someone uses the remote control and changes the volume. This will happen regularly if you watch movies or TV and listen to the sound through your HiFi amplifier/speakers. One solution is to hide the remote control – but this isn’t always convenient. There is a better solution, but you may not need it.

The installations above with the speaker selector switch, or with the volume controls suit a number of situations. They are very suitable when you want the same music (from an MP3 player or media centre) available throughout the house and you don’t touch the amplifier. I have installed many of these systems in houses where the amplifier is only turned on in the morning and turned off at night. Sometimes the amplifier is installed in a ventilated cupboard so it is never seen nor touched. This allows the household to move around the house listening the same music in every room.

However if your amplifier is used while watching TV or movies and the volume is constantly being adjusted with the remote control, then the other speakers in house will also be adjusted accordingly. The easiest way to solve this problem is with a second amplifier.  This is my preferred method. Connect the line out of the main amplifier into the “slave” amplifier. This way, the program is the same in every room, but the HiFi amplifier volume can be changed as much as you like, without affecting the other speakers. The volume on the slave amplifier can be set (as outlined above) and then never touched.

four speakers with volume control

The slave amplifier can be a second hand amplifier, an old “stereo”, or a new stereo amplifier. Some HiFi (main) amplifiers have a power socket at the back to allow other equipment to be connected. If this is the case, then plug the slave amplifier in to this power socket and it will be turned on and off with the main amplifier.

In Closing…

I hope this has helped you understand how-to, and how-not-to, wire four (or more) pairs of HiFi speakers around your house. The video in the article Understanding Speaker Impedance explains how each of the different types of Speaker Selector Switches provides impedance protection or impedance matching. Also my Speaker Selector Switch Simulator provides an interactive way to see how they treat impedance and power sharing.

For a practical discussion on how to wire just 2 speakers to an amplifier (4 speakers to a stereo amp), see my article on How to connect 2 speakers to 1 amplifier.

If you need to wire more than four speakers, particularly in a commercial installation, see the article on Distributed Speaker Systems.

Keep in mind that changing the total load impedance of an amplifier will increase or decrease the power output of the amplifier. See Multiple Speakers Change Amplifier Power for more details.

Also if the speakers each have a different impedance, then there will be different power levels available to each speaker. For more detail see How Multiple Speakers Share Power. 

Many practical examples of the methods outlined above have been explored in the comments below. If you have a different situation, leave a comment below and I will endeavour to help if I can.

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270 COMMENTS

  1. Hello Geoff,

    I’m installing in-wall wiring for various sound options in a new addition to our house, and one setup that I want to include is powered-speaker jacks at several locations, originating from several pieces of older equipment (tape deck, cd deck, turntable) all run through a receiver via the headphone jack; as well as the output from the sound card in an adjacent computer. I’ll be plugging the source equipment into the wall wiring via a 1/8″ TRS plug, and am planning to run 3-wire cable to 3 or 4 separate 1/8″ output wall jacks.

    Is it okay to connect all of the jacks in series, since the output will remain a line-level signal, un-amplified until it reaches the powered speakers? This would cut down the overall length of wire required (vs home-runs from each individual jack), and allow for a single input point at the source, common to all the inline output jacks.

    I should also be able to run relatively light-gauge wire, yes? (As opposed to the 16ga cable that I used for the separate, wired speaker system, for which I installed home-runs for each individual speaker.)

    Thanks very much for your help with this.

    — James W.

    • Hi James,

      I think what you are trying to do should be OK.

      You will be wiring the outputs in parallel, which is the same as them all running back home and being joined in parallel. So from that point of view there are no worries.

      Many people will say you shouldn’t run unbalanced audio (which you are doing) for any distance much over 10ft. Others will say you can. The main issue is the high impedance mixed with long distances does affect the frequency response at the far end. How much it affects it depends on a number of things. My suggestion is to give a give it go. If you can, run the cable on the floor for the longest length you will need. Then connect your powered speaker and see how it sounds to you.

      I also am a little hesitant about running from your headphone socket, as this is not normally good quality sound. But again, give it go. Also try running it from the tape out or line out of the amp.

      hope this helps

      Geoff

  2. Hey Geoff,

    Thank you for great insight. Any thoughts on leveraging a speaker distribution panel like this:

    http://www.osdaudio.com/speizospdipa.html

    …in conjunction with impedance balancing volume controls ? Any pitfalls or considerations ? The plan would be to utilize (2) networked Yamaha Receivers to power a total of 8 pairs. Viable ?

    Thank you,

    Rich

    • Hi Rich,

      Using a distribution block is a good idea. While you don’t need them, they do make it easier to connect (and disconnect) each speaker cable. They work really well if you put them in the ceiling and run the speaker to it there, then just 2 cables run to the amp.

      As you know, distribution blocks are just for connections. They do nothing about impedance protection. Therefore you need to have some other form of impedance matching. In your case, using impedance matching volume controls is a good idea. You’ll need to set each volume control to x8.

      My main concern is your comment about using two receivers. I don’t know how you will use the distribution block with two amplifiers. Nor do you need two amplifies.

      Geoff

      • Hey Geoff,

        The idea around (2) receivers was to ensure the the (16) total speakers were sufficiently powered if many were being operated simultaneously. The idea was to create (2) independent zones each with 8 speakers in each zone. Each zone would also have (1) distribution block and (4) Impedance balancing volume controls powering the 8 speakers.

        The receivers are: Yamaha RX-V479 – http://usa.yamaha.com/products/audio-visual/av-receivers-amps/rx/rx-v479_black_u/

        The speakers are:Yamaha NS-IW280CWH 6.5″ 3-Way In-Ceiling Speaker -http://usa.yamaha.com/products/audio-visual/speaker-systems/inwall-inceiling-speakers/ns-iw280c_white/?mode=model

        Would you recommend 6.5″ or 8.0″ speakers ? Will there be a noticeable quality difference considering the receiver and the setup ? Thank you Geoff. Sincerely.

        Rich

        • Hi Rich,

          Your proposed set up would certainly work well. Especially if you want two different sound sources playing in the house at the same time. However if you are normally only wanting the one source, then it may be fiddly to sync the source and volume of both amps.

          It all depends on your perceived use. If you want background music, then one amp will cope nicely, and the smaller speakers will be more than adequate. If you want head banging bass, then probably even the larger speakers wont deliver, although they do have slightly better bass.

          I could technically argue that adding the second amp will double the power output, which is only an increase of 3dB. Each click of the speaker attenuators is 3dB, so you are only gaining one click of extra volume.

          Personally, I would buy one amp initially, and even one set of the smaller speakers, and install them a smaller room. If they are adequate, then buy the rest and try them all with one amp. If you’re not happy with the level, then buy the 2nd amp and then 2nd distribution block.

          Even with one amp, and one set of speakers, setting the attenuator impedance setting to x8, will show how loud each set of speakers will be. If you end up using 2 amps, you would select x4.

          hope this help some,

          Geoff

  3. Hi Geoff,

    I love your site, but I have difficulty understanding audio components and how everything fits together (and this is despite your excellent articles on the subject). I’m wondering if you could advise me on the below scenario?

    I have two sets of passive speakers:

    – Paisley SPL 3000 Monitors (2 floor-standing speakers)
    – Specifications (page 2 of PDF): https://www.canadianhifi.com/sites/default/files/product/833/manuals/Paisley%20SPL%20Monitors%20SPL%202000,%203000,%204000%20Loudspeaker%20Brochure.pdf

    – Polk Audio Monitor40 Series II (2 bookshelf speakers)
    – Specifications: https://www.amazon.ca/Polk-Audio-Monitor40-Bookshelf-Loudspeaker/dp/B0071MSYEE

    I would like a simple setup with all 4 speakers grouped physically together and being powered using one amplifier, and everything wired up using 18 AWG wire. I think your “Four speakers wired in Series-Parallel” method would work for me, but I am unsure of three things:

    1) If this method will work, or if I will need a “Speaker Selector Switch” as you describe in the next method;
    2) If all my speakers are 8 ohms (Paisleys do not list ohmage; Polks specs list 8 ohms); and
    3) The minimum wattage my amp will need to drive the speakers (Paisleys ask for minimum of 15 watts; Polks do not say).

    For reference, these are the amps I am considering:

    https://www.amazon.ca/SMSL-Component-Amplifier-Black-SA-36A/dp/B017W13OR0
    https://www.amazon.ca/SMSL-50Wx2-TDA7492-Amplifier-Adapter/dp/B00F0H8TOC

    • Hi Steve,

      First up, it seems to me that you have four speakers, and a stereo amp, so you only need to connect two speakers to each amp, that is, two on the left channel and two on the right channel. If that is the case, then that should simplify things for you.

      If both speakers are 8 ohms, then the total load with each pair connected in parallel will be 4 ohms, which most amps will cope with directly – no need for fancy wiring or a speaker selector switch.

      However the larger speakers will be louder than the bookshelf speakers due to their sensitivity (efficiency).

      I also think the amps you mention will be a bit under powered. Despite what the marketing says, the actual amplifier chip inside (TDA7492) is rated at 30 Watts when run from a 24 volt power supply. While 30 watts isn’t too bad, they also have a minimum impedance rating of 6 ohms – which will not be happy with a 4 ohm load. I suggest using a stereo Hifi amp designed for a 4 ohms load, or has around 60 watts or more power, so that it would only be coasting when running at 30 watts (instead of being flat out at 30 watts).

      hope this helps

      Geoff

      • Hi Geoff,

        That is correct, two pairs of speakers (for a grand total of four individual speakers) and one stereo amp to drive them.

        Does this mean that, for my situation, your “Four speakers wired in Series-Parallel” method is more complicated than necessary? I am now realizing that the purpose of this article seems to be geared towards wiring four *pairs* of speakers together, not the two pairs in my own situation 🙂

        I took a picture of my speakers from the back to make this clearer, hopefully this helps. They are labelled as a Set A and Set B, as well as Left and Right. https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B4RJJEu4gNAmbFZKYWprOXppRVU

        In terms of 60W amps, do you have any recommendations? I’m happy to purchase through Amazon to support your site. My preferred budget is in the $100-$200 range and for a small footprint (i.e. small desktop amp).

        Searching on Amazon for 60W amps yields a few options that may work:
        https://www.amazon.ca/SMSL-TPA3116-Digital-Desktop-Amplifier/dp/B00PXRRM5G
        https://www.amazon.ca/Dayton-Audio-DTA-120-Digital-Amplifier/dp/B00HFG3FYA
        https://www.amazon.ca/Pyle-Class-T-Amplifier-Adapter-PFA200/dp/B0071HZ5EQ

        • Hi Steve,

          Yes, you are learning quickly. You only need to connect 2 speakers to each amp (left and right). This makes life much easier for you.

          In regard to amplifiers, the marketing departments like to over-rate these small amps. For example, the last one you link to: they say 60 watts, that is 60 watts total, but only 30 watts for each channel (left and right). Also that 30 watts is the output with 10% distortion! Compare that with a say this Yamaha amp which outputs 100 watts at 0.2% distortion.

          So, I’m not fussed about any of these small amps. But it depends on what you want. If this is just to make your MP3 or laptop louder, then they will all work fine. But if you want quality, then I’d go for a proper amp.

          Geoff

  4. I have four NS-AW294 yamaha mounted speakers in a room at my fitness center. These passive AW294 speakers are 8 ohms, 50 watts each. I would like to know if it possible to use all 4 speakers with the EMX2 Powered Mixer found here: http://ca.yamaha.com/en/products/proaudio/mixers/powered-mixers/emx_box_type/emx2/?mode=model without wiring in series, parallel or series-parallel. Specifically could I connect 2 of the speakers to the regular outputs and the 2 other speakers to monitor output? In effect using 2 of the speakers as monitors even thought all 4 speakers are identical and I more or less want the same sound levels coming from each of the 4 speakers. Many thanks in advance I have learned a lot from your articles. Warren

    • Hi Warren,

      The monitor out sockets are only line level out, not speaker level out so wont drive the speakers without going through another amp.

      However if you connect each pair of speakers together, then you can connect both pairs to each of the main “speaker out” sockets. Just set the impedance switch to 4 ohms and all should be fine.

      hope this helps,

      Geoff

      • Thank you Geoff. Your prompt reply is very appreciated. These 4 70 watt 8 ohm speakers are currently wired in parallel using the first method described above which causes the 50 watt AA50PHD amp to overheatreduce Furthermore the amp was not a good choice for a fitness studio – it is for paging and background music. I want to replace this amp with a powered mixer such as the Yamaha EMX2. You are suggesting I “if you connect each pair of speakers together, then you can connect both pairs to each of the main “speaker out” sockets.”. Can you please tell me what speaker diagram above I can use to reference this wiring technique. Also, will this not reduce the sound I will be able to get from the 4 speakers? Thanks gain, Warren

        • Hi Warren,

          Basically you need to wire each pair in parallel. So you will have two speakers connected to each amp (left and right). The best diagram to follow would be the the top left one in the connection table in the article Connecting 2 speakers to 1 amplifier

          You are correct in that connecting two speakers to one amplifier halves the power to any one speaker, but the lower impedance also increases the amount of power the amp will produce, so you will not hear a real noticeable difference. It is generally an acceptable compromise to get the dispersion you want around the room.

          hope this helps,

          Geoff

  5. Hi Geoff,
    Wonderful article, I appreciate the effort and its very interesting.
    I have a question ; I have One speaker 8 Ohm, I need to control it using two volume controls at the same time, please let me know if this is feasible, or any alternative to achieve this.
    Thanks & Regards,
    Dhans

    • Hi Dhans,

      This no real quick and simple method that I can think of.

      One way would be to use a speaker attenuator. This will control the speaker up to the maximum that the amp volume control is set to. The amp volume control would be the master volume, and the attenuator would adjust the volume from a distance. It is not a complete solution but it might give you enough control.

      A better way would be to install a remote control extender at the remote location. Then the remote control will turn the amp volume up and down, and so will the amp volume control (manually at the amp).

      Sorry that is all I can think of,

      Geoff

      • Hi Geoff,

        Thanks for the reply and effort.Please be informed that the audio is coming from my TV output (6W 8 Ohm) I cant use TV IR/remote to control it so remote control extender is not possible in this present scenario, the other suggestion of yours using a speaker attenuator would be fine my next question is can I use two attenuator (at two location) parallel and the both the attenuator output tied to one speaker for doing this ?

        Appreciate your expertise and time.Thank you.

        Thanks & Regards,
        Dhans

        • Its a pity you can’t use a remote control and end extender as that is the only way I can think to do it.

          The problem with using two attenuators in parallel is that if one is turned up and one is turned down, the up one is still going to supply signal to the speaker, so that wont work.

          Sorry I can’t think of a better way that the remote control, because you really need two ways of controlling the one volume control.

          Geoff

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