Question

Sonos with Multiple Wired Speakers

  • 29 August 2017
  • 5 replies
  • 12697 views

Would love to get some help/advice. Just moved into a new house with pre-existing wired speakers.

1) 5 in-ceiling speakers in family room (part of home theater set-up)
2) 2 in-ceiling speakers in kitchen (adjacent/open to family room)
3) 4 outdoor speakers
All speaker wires terminate in one central location. I don't know the specs of the various speakers, but I assume the in-ceiling speakers won't require much power.

I would like to purchase an AVR and Sonos Connect. I do not need to play each area independently. All I need is to be able to "turn off" different sections (e.g. watch a movie using #1, but not have #2 or #3 on, or have #1 and #2 playing the same music with #3 off, or have all 3 playing the same music at the same time). Independent volume control would be great since turning up outdoor music might be too loud indoors.

Any suggestions on the type of receiver to properly integrate Sonos Connect across all 11 speakers. I currently own a Sonos Play 3 which I think will have to be excluded from the set-up given its specs.

Many thanks in advance.

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5 replies

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I'm assuming that all of these speakers run to the same location, so you end up with 11 pairs of speaker wire terminated at one location. I'm also assuming that you do not have any in-wall volume controls already, so volume control is going to be done at the amplifier.

First thing, to get it out of the way: there's not a singe AVR on the market at a reasonable price range that will handle 11 amplified channels in three stereo pairs and one 5.1 zone. You'll need one AVR for the 5.1, and something stereo for everything else to keep the price reasonable.

Something like a Niles MRC-6430 would be ideal - it can route music from your Sonos Connect (and even control it with its own app) to any zone and control their volume independently. If you have a supported receiver (the Denon AVR-X1300W is about the least expensive one of those), it can also control your home theater system, so you can have a single point of control for all of your media and make them all work together (they even offer a Wi-Fi wand style remote that can control your HT system as well as the rest of the house, as well as keypads and touch screens, so it's not just using an app). With proper wiring and setup, you can even play whatever's in your HT zone throughout the house, and run each zone on a different source independently - so you can be watching a movie in the HT zone, while music is playing outside, or even pipe the HT zone's audio out to somewhere, yet you only need one Sonos source, one cable box, et cetera. It can also stuff all of your gear in a closet or basement, something my spouse loves about it. Setup is not for the faint of heart, however - though it's configured through an iOS, Android, Windows or Mac App, it's system integrator level gear, so things like IR emitters, cable management, and planning are in order. They do at least offer copious documentation, but this is certainly the "Best" DIY solution, and once installed is bulletproof.

For something more simplistic, you'll still need an AVR as mentioned above, but you can feed it from the Sonos Connect and whatever else your HT system is running. In an AVR with a second zone, you can then use its built-in amplifiers to power one pair of speakers, and run its Zone 2 preamp output to a secondary amplifier for your outdoor speakers. It's a bunch of work, but certainly do-able. Individual volume control is iffy, but it'll work.

For a middle of the road solution, use two Sonos Connects and one Connect:Amp. Run your inside speakers from the Connect:Amp, then use one Connect to go into to a 4 channel amplifier for outside, and the other to your AVR. Zones are linkable, and have their own volume control, via your AVR's remote control for the HT area and via the Sonos App for the other two.
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Sometimes a 7.2 AVR can be split to handle 5.1 and 2.1 (or 2.0) zones, which would make that ideal for the inside speakers... but you'll need something separate for the outdoor ones. Of course, a Sonos Connect has multiple outputs (stereo analog, digital optical, and digital coaxial), so you could use the two digital outputs to two different AVRs and still have all of them playing the same Sonos audio at once.

I think going with a single 7.2 AVR split to two zones (5.1 and 2.0) and a Sonos Connect would meet your indoor needs... for your outdoor speakers you could either go with a second receiver/amplifier or go with a Connect:Amp. Though to be sure you could power all four speakers from a single Connect:Amp, you'd need to find the specifications, specifically the resistance (all need to be 8 ohms to power them from a single Connect:Amp). Most AVRs handle zones with different volume levels (by remote, I would imagine, since there's only one knob on the AVR itself), and your outdoor speakers would either be on a separate amp or controlled through the Sonos controller app.
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Of course, a Sonos Connect has multiple outputs (stereo analog, digital optical, and digital coaxial), so you could use the two digital outputs to two different AVRs and still have all of them playing the same Sonos audio at once.Actually, you can't. An AVR can usually only decode one digital stream at a time and send it to one zone, so using a digital connection from a Connect to an AVR turns that AVR into a single zone receiver, even if it started with dual zones.

Although it's not always the case, the cost difference to get one that can do digital in two zones simultaneously is more than just getting another Sonos box. And manufacturers bury this very deep in the specifications.

Most AVRs handle zones with different volume levels (by remote, I would imagine, since there's only one knob on the AVR itself).

They all handle different volume levels, otherwise they'd be A/B speaker systems (which are also very common, BTW, and a good way to power four speakers as two stereo pairs). As for controlling volume, it's sometimes via remote, sometimes by pulling up a menu on the AVR itself, and sometimes it's only accessible via an RS232 or Ethernet CI interface - it varies model to model.

I wouldn't recommend a single Connect:Amp for two pairs of outdoor speakers though - outdoor speakers always need more power than you think to cover the same area, their longer wire runs tend to bleed power, particularly with the light gauge wire that many installers use, and also it's expensive to keep daisy chaining stuff together onto the Connect:Amp it eventually works. Good two channel amplifiers with potent power run about $250, and can be daisy chained off of a Connect (and the Connect itself can then provide volume control, so the amplifier doesn't even need to provide that) - the Onkyo M-5010 comes to mind, but there are less expensive options.
Thanks so much for your responses. Being such a novice, I do need some additional color on your advice.

The Niles MRC-6430 option is just too expensive, so let's scratch that. The second option sounds interesting: "For something more simplistic, you'll still need an AVR as mentioned above, but you can feed it from the Sonos Connect and whatever else your HT system is running. In an AVR with a second zone, you can then use its built-in amplifiers to power one pair of speakers, and run its Zone 2 preamp output to a secondary amplifier for your outdoor speakers. It's a bunch of work, but certainly do-able. Individual volume control is iffy, but it'll work."

I like the price of the Denon AVR-X1300W. Reading up on it, it sounds like I could connect the 7 indoor speakers (it's really one big open room), then connect a separate stereo amplifier and outdoor speakers to the variable 2nd zone stereo pre-amp outputs. Will I be able to power all 4 outdoor speakers with one amp such as the Onkyo M-5010 you suggest?

Seeing that the Denon has wifi capability, couldn't I simply play Spotify directly through the receiver to get music playing across all 11 speakers simultaneously? If so, what is the purpose of Sonos (I know blasphemous on this site)? Also, couldn't I manually adjust volume for indoor and outdoor speakers independently since they would be connected to different amps (I don't mind if I have to walk over to do this manually)?

I should add that playing different music/movies at the same time is not important, so I don't need to pay up for that capability. The most important thing is to be able to stream the same music across all 11 speakers simultaneously.
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Yeah, the Niles is very spendy. I mean, if the price were equal with other choices, it'd be a different story, and it's a very good value ... but I know exactly how expensive it is, I own one, and don't blame you one bit for not wanting to go with it.

You certainly could connect the 7 indoor speakers to a single AVR and its Zone 2 control. The Onkyo can power four outdoor speakers without much trouble, provided they're at least 8 ohm (it's 4 ohm stable). If they're not at least 8 ohm, you can use a speaker selector to impedance match. My only caution is that you'd end up without independent volume control - there'd be one for the HT zone, and another volume control for everywhere else, and that's about it. 2 channel distribution amplifiers lack independent volume control.

And you're correct, you can stream music into a Denon AVR, and if it's simplistic capabilities are enough for you, then there's no need for Sonos.

One small step above this (and probably the cheapest way to re-add independent volume control across the three zones, and more streaming) would be to go one step up to a Denon X1400H and a Heos Amp to run the outside. More blasphemy on a Sonos forum, of course, and I will say that Heos doesn't have the breadth of streaming services as Sonos does - not even close, in fact, and it's got some bugs to work out in the app (like Sonos did many years ago) - but it's head and shoulders above the streaming of the X1300.

Big caution with using any receiver with Zone2 for a second zone: read the manual. Seriously, read it before you buy it, and understand the limitations of what can route where and under what circumstances. In almost all cases, Zone2 can only run analog sources, for instance. The restrictions and so on are much more complex than just using a pile of Sonos gear to power everything. Once set up properly though, it's very good.