How to Wire Speaker Volume Controls
By Jeff Grundy
If you listen to audio in only a single area of your living or listening room, you may need nothing more than the remote to control volume. However, if you listen to audio from your home entertainment system in multiple rooms or a large room, you may want the ability to control volume for individual speakers. Most receiver or A/V remotes allow you to control volume only for the amplifier and not the speakers connected to it. To be able to control the volume of each speaker in an audio system individually, you can install in-wall volume controls that attenuate the signal sent from the system amplifier or receiver.
Select an area on the wall where you want to install the volume control. Use the stud finder to find a stud you can use to mount the volume control. Use the pencil and straightedge to draw a cutout diagram on the wall slightly larger than the two-gang receptacle you will use to mount the volume control box.
Use the drywall saw or utility knife to cut out the hole along the lines you drew for the cutout diagram on the wall.
Position the two-gang receptacle box against the side of the wooden stud. Secure the receptacle box to the stud with two 10d nails. Use the cable fish tool to run speaker wire from the amplifier to the cutout hole and receptacle box. Run speaker wire from the two-gang receptacle to the loudspeaker you want to connect to the volume control. Do not connect to the speaker wire to the amplifier or speaker yet.
Loosen the "Amplifier/Receiver" and "Speaker" terminal screws on the rear of the volume control with the Phillips screwdriver.
Push the excess speaker wire back through the openings in the two-gang receptacle box. Insert the volume control assembly into the two-gang receptacle box. Ensure that the screw holes on the top and bottom of the volume control align with those on the receptacle box.
Insert the retaining screws that shipped with the volume control into the screw holes on the face of the unit. Tighten the retaining screws with the Phillips screwdriver.
Power off the amplifier or receiver if you have not already done so. Connect the wires from the amplifier to the terminals marked "Amplifier/Receive" or something similar. Connect the solid-colored speaker wire to the negative ("-") terminal and the one with the thin stripe running down it to the positive "+" terminal. Connect the wires leading to the speaker using the same method.
Connect the wires running from the volume control to the amplifier. Again, match the polarity of the speaker wires to ensure the negative and positive wires connect to the correct terminal or wire blocks on the rear of the amplifier or receiver. Connect the wires leading from the volume control to the speaker.
Install additional volume controls as needed and wire them using the same method used with the first one.
Power on the amplifier or receiver and play audio or music as you normally would. Adjust the volume on the receiver or amplifier normally.
Adjust sound levels from individual speakers by turning the volume control knobs to the left to decrease volume or right to increase it.
- If you place your volume controls 50 feet or less from the amplifier or receiver, you can use 16- or 18-gauge speaker wire to wire the amplifier, volume control and speakers. For distances greater than 50 feet, you should use heavier 12- or 14-gauge speaker wire.
- Many volume controls have a maximum power-handling rating of 100 watts or less. If you connect your volume controls to a high-powered amp, you should avoid setting the volume on the amplifier too high to avoid blowing or damaging the volume controls -- unless you are sure the controls can handle the power output. Even if your speakers are capable of handling the high sound levels from the amp, the volume control may not. If you blow the volume control, sound from the amp or receiver will not play through the speaker connected to the damaged control.
Jeff Grundy has been writing computer-related articles and tutorials since 1995. Since that time, Grundy has written many guides to using various applications that are published on numerous how-to and tutorial sites. Born and raised in South Georgia, Grundy holds a Master of Science degree in mathematics from the Georgia Institute of Technology.