Multi-Room audio used to represent 50% of our business.
With the modern home owner, business or public sector building needing audio available in multiple rooms (aka "Zones") from either a single or multiple sources, we were regularly installing amplifiers, audio matrix systems etc and control systems to allow people to control what they had playing in different zones.
With the advent of digital streaming, multi-room systems have both become easier to integrate and operate as well as design.
But to a lot of people - this is still a daunting task!
This little page should get you understanding of what you need to get a multi-room (4 zone) system up and running utilising a digital streaming platform, amplifiers and speakers.
Consideration 1: Cabling
Although UK building regs don't specify a particular type of cable to use, we strongly recommend to use a "Low Smoke Zero Halogen" coated cable. This coating provides a level of protection from harmful smoke developing in the case of a fire. In cheaper coated cables, the jacket melting/smouldering would give off toxic gases which naturally we would want to avoid.
QED do a great 100m box of 16/2 gauge speaker wire for in-wall and in-ceiling installation.
You will need 1 cable running from the amplifier position to each speaker. We do not recommend daisy-chaining speakers in a high amplification environment.
Consideration 2: Sources
For the example below for the 4 room / 4 zone audio setup, we are utilising a digital only source (that is the Monitor Audio IMS-4 BLUOS streaming system).
If you are wanting multiple sources available in multiple zones - this is where you'd need an Audio Matrix.
This takes multiple inputs and outputs a 1:1 or 1:many stream. As such, a single CD player could be played in Zone 1 and Zone 2, whilst a stream from a Bluesound Node could be output to Zone 3 and Zone 4.
The downside to a matrix is you usually need some way of controlling it (i.e. the ELAN SC-100 controller which we can provide and install) along with touch screen units or phone apps. You also duplicate the same zone to many - so there's no choosing different tracks from the CD player for different zones without many CD players.... you can see how complexity starts to come into it now!
Thankfully with the IMS-4, you get 4 "Zones" within the app, and each can play it's own stream (be it another input from a physical device, or Tidal, Spotify, Amazon HD, TuneIn radio etc).
A 4 zone system consisting of 3 x internal room and a garden.
The internal rooms have in-ceiling speakers (x2) as a stereo pair - each pair being connected to a "Zone" on the amplifier.
Each room can stream it's own music from the BluOS app (TIDAL, Amazon HD, Qobuz, Spotify, TuneIn radio etc) and control the volume etc interdentally.
The outdoor space has weatherproof garden speakers (Climate 60) connected to the same amp but via a weatherproof cable.
Due to the 4 zones having each 2 speakers, we need an 8 channel amplifier.
As such, the Monitor Audio IA150-8C provide 150w of power to each speaker, creating up to 4 zones of stereo power.
The IMS-4 streamer has 4 zone output (analog) which connects via an RCA pair of cables to the amplifier. These are in orange below.
The speaker cable runs into each zone - with 1 cable (consisting of positive and negative cables) connecting to each speaker. These are in pink below.
This is by far the nicest and easiest setup which can be controlled from phones/tablets and computers easily without the need for additional complexities and control systems.