Connect or Connect Amp?

  • 15 September 2017
  • 9 replies

Hello everyone. I'm new to the forum and new to Sonos in general. I have read through some of the postings here and on other sites about the best way to connect outdoor speakers. The info has been mixed, so I was hoping to get an expert opinion on what I want to accomplish. I'll do my best to describe it. We just installed a swimming pool and need speakers. I would like to get two Klipsch AWR-650-SM rock speakers that would be out by the pool. The wire runs would be approximately 65' to one, and 135' to the other (I'm using 12AWG 4 conductor wire). The rock speakers would be placed across the pool from each other, approximately 35' apart. Then we will have two on-wall speakers at the patio by the house (not sure which ones yet, they would be about 35' from the rock speakers).

We would like to have two outdoor zones, but do not need them to play different sources, just the ability to turn off the rock speakers and use the patio speakers, or both at the same time.

My question is - do I go with a Sonos Connect Amp with a speaker selector to have two zones and will the Connect Amp be powerful enough to run both sets of speakers? Or would it be better to go with a Sonos Connect wired to a more powerful amplifier that has an A/B selector for the speakers? Ideally I would go with two Sonos Connect Amps but I cannot afford to go that route.

I hope I explained it good enough. Thanks for taking the time to read.

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9 replies

My question is - do I go with a Sonos Connect Amp with a speaker selector to have two zones and will the Connect Amp be powerful enough to run both sets of speakers? .

Unwelcome answer - it depends! On how high you want the sound levels to be.
Regardless, the first thing to do is what you seem to be doing - place speakers as close to the listening areas as possible so that the sound level loss via dispersion outdoors is minimised.
If both speaker pairs are able to keep impedance from dropping much below 8 ohms, you should be fine. And using a speaker selector with built in volume controls for each pair along with impedance matching also built in, you should be fine with lower impedance speakers as well, so long as the reduction in sound levels that is the outcome of this matching still delivers acceptable to you sound levels in the listening areas.
Finally, keep the Connect Amp indoors in a place where it has enough space above it for the heat generated to be radiated away, because you may need to run it at high volume levels which it is designed to do.
Note that a third party amp with A/B selector usually has just one volume control for both speaker pairs.
Thanks for the info Kumar! This is all new to me so any answer is knowledge gained at this point. Would it make sense to go with the Connect and a third party amp just to be safe as far as power goes? I really don't have a clue, this is all so new to me.
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The Connect and third party amp option gives you the most flexibility for your speaker selection setup.
There are advantages in a Connect Amp. For one, it is simple to leave it on standby mode all the time, ready to play at a touch of the controller. And unless you have an absence of neighbours close by that will allow you party/play very loud out of doors, I suspect that a single Connect Amp should be adequate. And even with a third party amp, you need the speaker selector with a volume control to not have just one for both speaker pairs.

And if you do decide to go the third party amp way, it will have to be an amp with a lot more grunt than the Connect Amp to have an audible impact - 100 wpc plus compared to the 55 watts of the Connect Amp. These tend to be expensive if reliable ones are to be obtained.

Ideally, if you are able to get a Connect Amp on a returnable basis, that would be the way to go.
I also see that the rock speakers have sensitivity of 94dB - so they will go a lot louder with the same power than those of say, 86dB. So that is another reason why one Connect Amp ought to suffice, if you get patio speakers of a similar spec - 8 ohms impedance and sensitivity of 90dB or more. Dayton Audio is often recommended here although I haven't used them myself. Although they are just 87dB, if they are close to the listening area of the patio, they may well serve very well. At their price they look to be good value for money.
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As much of a fan as I am of external amplification with Sonos, in this case I'd really suggest just getting two Connect:Amps.
Klipsch speakers are highly sensitive so don't really need more power than Sonos can drive them with (3 db in sensitivity is a doubling of power) - and then you get more flexibility with the other speakers. That said, you can't just use a speaker selector with a single C:A, as outdoor zones do need much more power than indoor zones.

You can do it with a connect - and its amplifiers can also be in standby mode all of the time, just like with Sonos, as modern multi-zone amplifiers have an audio sense mode to power on once an input is sensed. Russound and Niles have multi-channel amplification that's potent and not horribly expensive ... but it's also still not much cheaper than getting the pair of Connect:Amps, but is a whole other level of complexity. Unless you're doing 4 or more zones, or some non out of the box setup, just get the Connect:Amps.
Thank you all for the info and opinions. I considered everything you guys had to offer and decided on going with Connect Amp. I am going to start with one and see how it sounds, but may eventually get a second as jec6613 suggested. I think that will give me the best bang for my buck, and keep the system as simple and clean as possible. One thing I did not mention which I probably should have, our patio area near the house is actually somewhat split into two areas due to a sunroom coming off the back of our house (basically we have a patio on one side of sunroom that wraps around the front of sunroom, and continues around to the other side of sunroom). Any suggestions on a good dual channel on-wall outdoor speaker? I think one speaker on each side of the sunroom would suffice, maybe just get two more Klipsch rock speakers like the one out by the pool? Thanks again for the help.
I have a similar situation to you, and pretty much came to the same conclusion you did, with a few changes. I did go with a Connect:amp to power 2 sets of speakers with a speaker selector in between. Here's where I differed.

I put all 4 speakers on the outside facing in. In the past I've noticed that speakers mounted under eaves can get overpowering to people nearby, while not enough to people out in the yard or pool. My yard is not very deep (probably not as deep as yours) so I also didn't want sound directed at the neighbors yard(s).

I didn't used rock speakers, but normal outdoor speakers mounted on fence posts. Maybe it's a personal preference, but I just didn't want sound coming from the ground, but closer to ear level, around 5 ft above the ground.

I didn't use 4 wire speaker wire, but easily could have, and it probably would have made the installation a little easier. I do recommend using conduit to protect the wire. It's pretty cheap and easy to work with. I just wanted extra protection from cut wires. As well, since the speaker wire is coming out of the house from the top down to the ground, the conduit looks better, and can easily be painted to match the house.

I do find that it's got enough power for all 4 speakers. Only once or twice have I ever wanted to go louder. I do wish it had more bass, but that's likely more due to my speaker choice and lack of a subwoofer. Of course, more bass could mean more disturbed neighbors. Honestly, I would probably get a subwoofer or upgraded speakers before I get a 2nd CONNECT:AMP.

Although I have 2 pair and a speaker selector, I've never wanted to turn off one of the pairs, or wished I could adjust the respective volume levels. Well, I've thought about turning off a pair every now and then, but it has never been worth the trouble to go inside and manually do that, since I can't do that from my phone.

I am thinking about running a 3rd set of speakers off the amp to the garage. I wouldn't ever use all 3 at the same time, but just want the option to have music in the garage sometimes.

As far as a stereo outdoor speakers, I've never looked into it.

I do find that it's got enough power for all 4 speakers.
Well, I've thought about turning off a pair every now and then, but it has never been worth the trouble to go inside and manually do that, since I can't do that from my phone.

Anyone that is going to add power beyond the 55 wpc RMS of Connect Amp needs to add a lot more power - as I have said earlier. And then also be sure that the speakers can handle this without burning out.

The second part can be addressed by installing the speaker selector outdoors, but under cover. Most don't need a power supply and are to effectively just be inserted into the signal path from amp to speakers.