How to hook up more than one set of speakers to your amplifier.

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  • Author Ben Peverly
  • Published July 3, 2009
  • Word count 879

So you are sitting on your patio, with the sounds of your favorite tunes playing through your outdoor speakers. It sounds wonderful! You there relaxing, enjoying a cold beverage in your lazy chair. This is the life isn't it? You decide to get up and take a stroll through your garden, and then suddenly you realize that your wonderful music can no longer be heard! "What can I do?" you say to yourself. Well no worries again! The Outdoor Speaker Guy is here to help.

Okay, so you have experience with hooking up your outdoor stereo speakers. Now you want to add more speakers to your sound system, but you don't know how? In this session we will discuss the ins and outs of hooking up multiple speakers to an amplifier. So before you go trying to just hook up 3, 4, 5 or 6 speakers on to your amplifier, there are some things you need to know before you destroy that amplifier you spent hundreds of dollars on! You want to get the music to more areas of your landscape but you just can't go hooking up speakers all willy-nilly! There are some rules you need to follow.

Speakers are made to handle specific wattage's. This is the number that most people pay attention to when picking out their speakers. Speakers are advertised with the wattage they can handle on the front of the package. And of course we all want the ones that will handle the most, cause we will be rockin' these babies till the neighbors call, right? Speaker wattage is not what we are most worried about when it comes to hooking up multiple sets or pairs of speakers. The real killer is the resistance that comes with added speakers. Most home speakers, whether they are for in your home or outdoor speakers, are rated for 8 ohms resistance. This can be found on the packaging or in the specifications for each individual model. Some other options available for outdoor speakers and car audio speakers are: 6, 4, 2 or even 0 ohm resistance. Most home stereo amplifiers are rated at 8 ohms. Notice I said "most". You can get amplifiers that are rated for 6, 4, 2 and 0 ohms as well. You just need to know what to look for in you planning stages.

So let us try to explain resistance in terms the average homeowner can understand, shall we? Think of it like this: one speaker connected to your amplifier is like hooking your garden hose up to the faucet, the pressure from the waterline feeding your house is, let's say, 8 ohms. No matter how much you open the valve on the faucet, the pressure of the water coming out of the end of the hose can never get any faster. This is because the resistance of the hose is its diameter, or how big around the hole is through the hose. The pressure flowing through the hose allows the water to shoot out the end about four feet before it hits the ground. Now if we add speakers to the line, it is like taking that hose and doubling the inside hole diameter. Now when we have the water turned all the way up, the water coming out the end is the same size as the hose, but only shoots out about two feet before it hits the ground. Then half that when you add another speaker and double the size of that hose. And so on. The resistance goes down by half when you add another speaker, which requires your amplifier to work 2x harder to get the same amount of wattage to both speakers on that line. Add a third speaker, it works 3x harder. Add a fourth speaker, it works 4x harder. Get the idea?

To sum it all up; if you add speakers, you decrease the resistance on the amplifier causing it to have to produce the same amount of wattage, faster and harder. If your amplifier is not designed to work at these resistance levels, you will burn it out faster than say, trying to light a cigarette with a blow torch! Amplifiers are designed to work at certain resistance levels only. If they state that they are stable down to 4, 2, or 0 ohms, then they are made with different circuitry to handle higher loads. You will need to keep this in mind when you want to start adding more outdoor speakers to your garden or landscape.

Totally confused yet? Don't worry, most stereo home amplifiers have two sets of outputs labeled "A" and "B" which you can hook a second set of speakers up to and you don't need to worry about resistance issues. I know, I could have told you this at the beginning, but you would never have learned anything about resistance. I know, call be crazy, but I have a feeling you are reading this to make yourself more-smarter, right?

There are ways to keep the amplifier you have and still add more speakers without blowing it up from the resistance. It has to do with running speakers with different resistances in series or parallel to match your amplifiers, but that is for another time I think! So join me next time and I will take you on another amazing outdoor speaker journey!

The Outdoor Speaker Guy

An avid music lover and musician, specializing in home audio sales, service and installation for over 20 years.

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