Setting Up a Multi-Room Sound System

By Jeff Grundy

Listen and control your favorite music from any room in your home with speakers.
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In most homes, people listen to their audio or entertainment system in a single room. Others might install the primary audio system in the living room and a smaller stereo or boom-box portable in the bedroom. Those wanting to enjoy their favorite tunes in other rooms of the home, such as the kitchen, den or garage, often use a smaller radio or just turn up the volume on the main audio system. If you want to consolidate your home audio into a single system, you can listen to music – and in some cases control the music source – from any room in your house using wired and wireless technologies.

Multi-Zone Receiver Setup

Step 1

Purchase a multi-zone receiver. This component will allow you to run speakers to multiple rooms in your home as well as control the music source from any of those rooms. You can even listen to different music in the various rooms in your home using multi-zone features. The Denon DRA-397 has earned high marks from reviewers in the sub-$500 price range. Other receivers that have won praise include the Onkyo TX-NR809 (sub-$1,000) and the Pioneer SC-97 (sub-$1,500).

Step 2

Purchase a compatible surround-sound speaker system if you don't already have one. Multi-zone receivers typically work by playing music in secondary zones over the rear satellite speakers. This means that if you have a 5.1 speaker system, you can use only three of the speakers in the main listening room because you must install the left and right rear-channel speakers in the second room. So, if you want to install and control the receiver output in the main listening room and two additional zones, you cannot use a 5.1 speaker system. A three-zone installation (the main listening room and two additional zone rooms) requires at least a 7.1 speaker system. Some high-end receivers, though, such as the Onkyo TX-NR809 and Pioneer SC-97 allow you to use all satellite speakers in the main listening room while running additional pairs to other zones. If you buy a high-end multi-zone receiver, you must buy an extra pair of speakers for each zone or room in which you want to listen to music.

Step 3

Plug the power cord for the multi-zone receiver into a surge-protected outlet or strip. Connect the included antenna wire to the “Antenna” or “FM Tuner Antenna” port on the receiver.

Step 4

Connect a DVI, HDMI or RCA video cable to the port labeled “Video In” or “Video 1” on the back of your TV. Connect the other end of the cable to the matching port labeled “Video Out” on the rear of the receiver.

Step 5

Plug an HDMI or RCA cable into the "Video Out" port on your DVD or Blu-ray player. Connect the other end of the cable to the “DVD” or “Video 1” port on the receiver.

Step 6

Connect your VCR and game console to the receiver if desired, using the “Video 2” or “Axially” ports as needed.

Step 7

Remove and unbundle the speaker wiring from the box containing the surround speakers. Remove the speakers and locate the position labels on the back of each speaker. Look for labels such as “Front-Right,” “Center” or the like. Match the labels on the included wires with the labeled ports on the back of each speaker. Connect the wires to the speaker terminals, making sure that you connect the “+” wire to the red terminal on the speaker and the “-” wire to the black terminal.

Step 8

Position the speakers in suitable locations in your listening room. Some multi-zone receivers allow you to use the full complement of surround sound speakers, while using an extra pair of regular speakers in each connected zone room. Other multi-zone receivers require that you take two speakers away from the main listening room for each secondary zone you wish to use. Therefore, if your receiver does not allow you to use all of the surround speakers for multiple zones, remove two speakers from the set for each additional room and position the remaining satellites in the main listening room. If your speaker system is comprised of seven satellites and a subwoofer, remove four rear-channel speakers for the second and third rooms you plan to use as secondary zones.

Step 9

Match the labels on wiring for the speakers in the main listening room with those on the back of the receiver. For instance, connect the “Front Right” wire to the terminal labeled “Front Right” on the back of the receiver. Connect the wires to the rear of the receiver, making sure you match the “-” and “+” polarity.

Step 10

Place a pair of speakers in each additional room or zone in which you want to hear music and control the receiver. Connect the wires from the pair of speakers in the first additional zone to the speaker terminals labeled “Zone 1” or “Zone 1 Out.” Connect the speakers from the second zone to “Zone 2” or “Zone 2 Out.” Connect additional speaker pairs for other zones as needed.

Step 11

Install the batteries for the remote control unit included with the receiver. Use the remote to power on the system and turn on your CD/DVD player. Insert a music disc into the player and press "Play." Press “Zone 1” on the receiver remote control – the music stops playing in the main listening room and starts playing in the secondary zone room. If you press “CD/DVD” on the remote or on the face of the receiver, the music plays in both rooms simultaneously. For a three-room setup, press "Zone 1," then "Zone 2," and then press the "CD/DVD" button to play music in all three zones. Alternatively, if the remote has an "All Zones" button, you can press it to play music from the same source in all connected rooms.

Connect Wireless Speakers

Step 1

Power off your stereo receiver.

Step 2

Place a pair wireless speakers in another room where you want to listen to music away from your primary listening area. Refer to the user guide or manual for the speakers to determine the maximum frequency range from the transmitter to each speaker. Do not place the wireless speakers too far away from your receiver or sound will not play over them. Most wireless RF speakers use the same 900MhZ frequency range used by many cordless telephones and have a range of about 150 to 300 feet. Refer to the user guide for your wireless speakers to determine the optimal and maximum placement distance from the wireless receiver.

Step 3

Connect the wires from the wireless transmitter to the “Speaker Out” terminals on the back of your receiver. If the receiver has an “Auxiliary” or “Speaker B” terminal block, connect the wires from the transmitter to that block. If the receiver has only one set of speaker outputs, twist the wires from the transmitter with those from your existing speakers and then make the connection. When connecting the wiring from the transmitter, be sure to connect the wires labeled “Left” and “Right” correctly and match the “+” and “-” polarities.

Step 4

Plug the AC power adapter for the wireless transmitter into a surge-protected outlet. Power on the wireless transmitter. Turn on the stereo and select a music source. Press "Play" on your CD/DVD player or use the radio function on the receiver. Music plays over the main speakers connected to the stereo and the wireless speakers you installed.