Keep Home Theater and Sonos apart?

  • 26 March 2006
  • 59 replies

New house will be ready to move in mid-June. Obviously fully hardwired, and have bought 1 bundle to confirm Sonos is the system for me!

I am trying to decide the best route for the main TV area in the lounge? I will be getting a new HDTV LCD/Plasma, and obviously want decent surround sound.

At the moment (for testing in our rented house) I have basic 2 speaker system with the TV sound as a line-in source to the Sonos. Even with uncompressed there is a sound lag of course, and I dont really like co-ordinating the Sonos controller just for volume with TV watching! (it also confuses the wife/kids).

Starting to think I might be better to keep the TV AV system and Sonos sound for this area 100% seperate to avoid problems.

Question therefore:

Can I wire up the same speakers to the SONOS and the AV system at the same time? So for instance I buy exactly the pair I want for the SONOS, then an extra 3 speakers (subwoofer and remotes). So the main pair are wired up to two systems at once.

Just "trying" to avoid having 2 sets of speakers sat beside the telly (more an aesthetic consideration than purely financial at this stage).

Or do we think that a specifically purchased AV system with 5 speakers will produce better "movie" sound, and keep the SONOS 100% apart (including speakers).

Sorry for waffling!

59 replies

You can absolutely use the same speakers for both your Sonos and your home theater.

You simply need a speaker level A/B switch. Either a manual one (where you have to go push the button), or a sensing one (using signal sensing to switch between the 2 sets).

Wire the Sonos speaker outputs to input A (or default on an auto. switcher), and the receiver front outputs to input B (sensing on the switch) and the common output of the switch to your speakers. Then whenever you turn on your home theater receiver/amplifier, the switch overrides the Sonos and plays your TV/DVD audio. Turn off the receiver, and it switches back to Sonos music. ;)

The most reliable switch I have used is a Sonance AS-1/S (you must have the /S model). It has a "control input" which is basically a voltage trigger. Simply get a 12V power supply (wall wart), plug it into the switched outlet on the back of your receiver, cut the end off and wire it to the AS-1/S, and done. A lot of switches have sensitivity and delay adjustments that seem to not be as consistent and reliable. Here is a couple links: (better hurry)
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Can I wire up the same speakers to the SONOS and the AV system at the same time?
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Yes, but do not directly connect a pair of speakers simultaneously to two amplifiers. Essentially, this connects the two amplifiers together and the best outcome you can expect is that only one amplifier will fail.

Connect as Audiophiliac has suggested.


With the automated arrangement, operation is straight forward. The speakers normally "belong" to the SONOS and it will operate normally. When the surround receiver is switched ON, it will capture the speakers and operate normally. This arrangement will avoid conflicting remote controls.

Essentually, you have two independant systems sharing a set of speakers.

You can also connect the SONOS line-in and line-out to the receiver and share sources.
if you (plan to) use a receiver for your surround sound, you effectively have a speaker switch. Connect the ZP to a spare line in (AUX for example) on your receiver. You can then switch sources from TV (surround) to Sonos (stereo) via your receiver remote. Volume is then controlled by 1 remote, and acts as expected for all sources. So no need to purchase a separate speaker switch.

If however you are using speaker level outputs from your HDTV, and have no dedicated preamp/processor, then go with the speaker switching options listed earlier.

if you (plan to) use a receiver for your surround sound, you effectively have a speaker switch. Connect the ZP to a spare line in (AUX for example) on your receiver. You can then switch sources from TV (surround) to Sonos (stereo) via your receiver remote. Volume is then controlled by 1 remote, and acts as expected for all sources. So no need to purchase a separate speaker switch.

If however you are using speaker level outputs from your HDTV, and have no dedicated preamp/processor, then go with the speaker switching options listed earlier.


Well that would be the easy way to do it. 😃

But that would require the home theater system (at least the receiver) to be on when listening to Sonos. Maybe that isnt a big deal though. So either way would be fine.
agreed that it's easy, that's why I suggested it :D

It seems a little strange to have a great home theatre setup, with high end receiver, great loudspeakers etc, and then when you listen to music, you switch all of that off, switch on the Sonos (well, take it off pause), and play through the ZP amp and (I'm guessing) lesser quality speakers. Why not combine the $$ spent, and get great speakers for both use, run a ZP80 through the receiver and you can easily switch between sources and get awesome sound. Saves some floor real estate too, with multiple speakers.

But I agree, that if you simply use the TV as the amp/front speakers, then forget using that for Sonos. Use a ZP100 and bookshelf speakers or something. Will beat the TV built in speakers any day. The reason I suggested it was that Johnny English said he wanted surround sound, so presumed he would be investing in a receiver. Doesn't make sense to me not to use that to control everything. Just MHO.

As always, there are dozens of ways to skin a cat. I just like the easy ones, ones where you can save money, or spend the same and get better quality sound.

Userlevel 2
If you have invested in a decent plasma screen, and would like to enjoy good quality surround sound with it, I would recommend getting a surround A-V amp or receiver (and a surround speaker setup). You can then plug your ZP100 into one of the analogue line-ins to to receiver. When the ZP80 is available, it would be even more suitable to connect to your A-V receiver (as this is what it is deisgned for).

Ths only disadvantage of this is that you need (either partly or fully) to control the listening volume with your amp control rather than the sonos control. Unless you are very, very lazy, this is not a problem.


I'm curious about the sensing speaker level A/B switches you mentioned. Do they degrade sound quality at all (from the point of view of an "audiophile" 😉 )? To this point, I've been manually changing my speaker cables between my 2-channel amp and my 5-channel amp whenever I want to listen to music vs movies respectively, and have avoided buying such a switch since I'm worried it will take away from the sound of my 2-channel audio system. Any thoughts?

If you are at the level where moving speakers between systems makes a significant difference, or at least enought to justify the inconvenience, the A/B switch is not a good idea for you.

For more affordable systems there is no significant signal degredation and there is a welcome reduction in the day to day operational complexity. (Significant others appreciate the convenience.)
Fantastic replies guys! I am now pretty sure I will want to go for the auto-sensing switch. Why?

Well it really comes down to getting the "family" to be able to work the system. I know the Sonos is cool but my wife will not take the time to learn it (but she will work a TV control etc because it interests her!!!).

Of course I could have it set so that I feed into the AV Receiver (which of course I will need for 5.1), but it will then aggravate ME to always ensure that the previous TV user has left it switched on, and with the Sonos as the desired source. Likewise the next TV user will get grumpy if channel selected is the SONOS. (Daaaaaad the TV has no sound) Kinda like arguing over whether the toilet seat should be left up or down!

So my desire has always been that for music it is strictly 1 control, and for TV also just 1 control (any combination of the two produces the possibility of strife in my house I think). If I was a batchelor choices might be different.

But the auto-switch sounds like a sweet solution because then I can buy two nice main speakers and also use for the AV system.

I appreciate that others would do things differently but I think audiophile has provided the answer for me!!

Thanks again guys.
no need to justify your solution - find something that works for you and go for it. If you enjoy it, then it's right for you. We all do things differently.

PS. my wife is certainly no techno-geek (hope she doesn't read this...:D ), but she picked it up within 45 seconds. It's that easy. Now I really am in trouble if she reads this...
The only way for you to know if the switch makes a noticable difference in sound quality is to try it. They retail for around $100, but that one on ebay I posted the link to started at $4.95 no reserve and didnt get one bid. So you can find it cheap. But if you want to make it easy, remember to get that exact switch. 🙂
This is the nirvana I think I am looking for! Please verify I have this correct:

Living room with 5.1 amplifier that Sonos is connected to as my 'CD' player. With this setup I must switch to CD source and adjust volumes of both handheld controller and receiver most times.

With the Sonance AS2/S (but by buying TWO of them) I can connect my main speakers to one of them from an amplified Sonos and my home receiver and then connect my subwoofer to the second Sonance (can't see any other way to do this since the home theater receiver controls the sub's output and sends it to a separate dedicated sub-output connection).

This way, in home theater mode, the main speakers and sub are controlled by the receiver and when Sonos is on, the speakers are on and the sub gets a full source of frequency but only plays the lower frequencies controlled by the back of the unit. I will need to split the sonos speaker outputs into two sets of 'speakers'- one for the mains and one for the sub (is this possible? Can't remember if the back of a Sonos amplified unit has two sets of speaker outputs, if it does I think I am in business!).

Will this work?

I like the automated switches because operation is straight forward, but in general, I'm not keen on connecting speaker wires to subwoofers. I have issues with the subwoofer's speaker level crossover. (The subwoofer designer must pick from a short list of unattractive design approaches.)

You can restructure your approach:

Rather than using two speaker level switches, use one speaker level and one line level automatic switch. The SONOS and 5.1 receiver's subwoofer outputs will be connected to the line level switch. You will need to fuss with the receiver's subwoofer output level and the subwoofer's input level adjustment because the ZonePlayer's subwoofer output (relative to the speaker or Line-Out) is fixed. Although not likely, it is possible that there will be a "pop" when the automated switch flips. (This is usually a solvable issue)

The other approach takes advantage of the fact that most amplified subwoofers have a left and right input. Since they are simply added together, you can connect the 5.1 receiver's subwoofer output to one channel and the SONOS subwoofer output to the other channel. Again, you'll need to fuss with things to get the subwoofer level to work out. The down side of this approach is that you must be sure to mute the ZonePlayer when watching movies or the ZP100's subwoofer output will still be audible during the movie.

I didn't even think to realize the Sonos might have a separate sub out I could utilize. Since sub outputs are an RCA connection, usually (like mine is) I can utilize a line level switch as apposed to a second speaker switch.


- thanks.
Now that I know this is the way to go...

What is the difference between AS2 and AS2/S? Seems I have to fuss a bit more to get the AS2/S to work as a previous poster noted. AS2 seems to do the job right out of the box, no?

I like the "slave" units. True, the AS2's will sense the input, but it is a very fragile arrangement. Long pauses or very quiet sections in classical music may cause a flip. Pop is rarely a problem. Yes, there are adjustments for level and flip time, but they are never perfect.

I plug a 12V power supply into the receiver's switched outlet. When the receiver switches ON, the selector flips and stays flipped until the receiver is switched off. (This scheme will not work if you are using a second receiver zone because the outlet will be switched ON with ZONE2)
Userlevel 2
I am glad that I found this thread becuase my wife just got addicted to Rhapsody and wants to be able to listen to it in hour home theater (living room) as well as the rest of the house.

I think I am looking at going to set this up with the 12v sonance triggered switches so we don't have to mess with a second remote.

Does anyone know where I could buy the the AS2/S and AL2/S online? I researched this for 30 minutes and could not find them anywhere.



As I write, the sonance website is down (showing a blank page).

The AS2/s will become harder to find. They are introducing new models, but I don't know the new model numbers off the top of my head ... I went to their website to look them up ...
I'm a little leary of the biuld quality of the Sonance. Those speaker terminals are a little on the cheap side of the Sonance. Also, it is hard to find. Finally had a rep give me a direct call.

I've found this from Niles:

Biuld quality looks much better and it can handle a separate sub connection with bookshelf speakers (I think).

Looks better made, too.
Userlevel 2

I've found this from Niles:

Biuld quality looks much better and it can handle a separate sub connection with bookshelf speakers (I think).

Looks better made, too.

Great reccomendation Rick! I called niles and they confirmed that this will switch both my speakers and my subwoofer.

I want to buy one today but I am not a big fan of their distribution system. They gave me a So Cal distributor who then referred me to 3 dealers. I called each one and I got an answering machine. The niles person told me twice "don't buy online" but I am tempted to do that because I found the unit being sold here:

and here:

Does anyone think it would be a bad idea to buy from an online vendor?

I wouldn't worry about buying this switch online. How gray-market can it be? I usually use J&R out of New York, but 'my guy' hasn't returned my call, yet. I think I've bought from 1 Call before without problems. Your call, though.

Does California have Tweeter stores? They sell Niles equipment. I think this is a special order item, though.
Userlevel 2
Cool - I'll just buy from onecall.
The Niles unit seems more convenient than two Sonance units.

Niles rates the switcher at 600 Audio Watts per channel, but I don't know how they can justify that with relay contacts that are rated One Amp. (In this respect the Sonance units are not much better).
Userlevel 2
I just got the Niles SAS-1 the other day. The body is plastic with metal sides and face. However, it seems sturdy enough and I love all the configuration options for auto sensing and voltage triggered switching.

Like everything, I have a couple of configuration options for the setup of this unit and I thought I would ask you guys for some input.

The main question that I am asking myself is: which amp should I use to power my home theater speakers when playing the Sonos? My 6 speaker whole house system is being run through a high current Harmon Kardon receiver and I have maxed out all the outputs on my Niles SPS-6 speaker selector.

SO, should I:

1) Hook up my HT speakers to the open connections on my ZP100 Amp


2) Re-reroute one of the lesser used ceiling speakers to the ZP-100 and hook up the HT speakers to the HK Amp. I would still have to use the Sub out from the ZP-100 for the HT.

#1 is the most straightforward install. I guess this boils down to the quality of the two Amps, right? I am concerned that hooking up a 3rd different pair of speakers to my Niles speaker selector (I bunch of celing speakers, one bose outdoor for the deck and now the living room speakers) would really throw things off. As it is, my outdoor speakers play softer than the rest of my house.


Hooking the front speakers to a ZP100 and the other surround speakers to your receiver will not work. There is a short time delay between the SONOS Line-in and the output. You could test this yourself. At most, it will take a few seconds to figure out what I mean.

Which amplifier is playing through the Niles SPS-6?

Connecting a pair of speakers to the ZP100 has some operational considerations. The obvious advantage is that the speakers connected to the ZP100 benefit from the SONOS volume control. Unfortunately, this same volume control also runs the SONOS Line-out. If you are listening exclusively to the SONOS driven spekers, everything will be fine, however, if you are simultaneously using Line-out through the receiver, there will be a volume control "war". (the participants being SONOS, main HT, HT center level match, HT surround level match, subwoofer level match)

In the context of allowing a pair of HT speakers to seemlessly play through the SONOS when the HT is OFF), the automated switch is wonderful. While your plans could be made to work, it would be far from seemless.


You may need to install speaker volume controls in order to match the room levels. Another possibility is to pull an old receiver or amplifier out of the closet.

OH!, and before I forget, adding more ZP100's is a great solution.