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Sonos and a multi-room amplifier

How to mate Sonos with in-wall and ceiling speakers

Setting up a multi-room audio system can include an almost endless number of options and possibilities.

If you want to conceal the speakers in your ceilings or walls, you need a hard-wired system. That’s no problem if you’re building a home or buying one with the wiring already in place.

Retrofitting an existing home with the wires for in-wall and ceiling speakers can be a daunting proposition. If you’re not willing to tackle that job (or pay an electrician to do it), a wireless system is your best bet.

But there’s no reason to limit your system to one approach or the other. In many homes, a hybrid system is the perfect solution.

Getting the best of both worlds

Sonos wireless music system provides fantastic multi-room flexibility. You can put a powered speaker in any room. And you can use your smartphone or tablet to select the music streams you want to hear and control the volume.

Sonos controller app

The Sonos controller app lets you easily choose different music for different zones or play the same music in multiple zones.

A traditional hard-wired system uses a receiver, satellite radio, or CD player as the music source. In-wall keypads are used for music selection and volume control. Using Sonos CONNECT modules as the music sources for your in-wall and ceiling speakers gives you easier control and more music choices.

Let's look at a hybrid system design

Say your home, like the one in our illustration below, already has multiple in-wall speaker wires running from various rooms to a central location like a utility closet. Furthermore, let’s suppose this system includes two pairs of outdoor speakers on the deck and by the pool.  

This scenario is a perfect example of how neatly a hybrid system can bring together the convenience and control of a wireless Sonos music system with the high-power capabilities of a separate multi-channel amplifier.

Sonos CONNECT module

Use one Sonos CONNECT component for each music zone.

In our hypothetical three-zone system, we are using three non-powered Sonos CONNECT modules (one for each zone) plugged into to a Clare Controls amp.1640 16-channel power amplifier. The amp, in turn, is hard-wired to a variety of in-wall, in-ceiling, and outdoor speakers located throughout our home. Each Sonos module allows us to play a different music source in each zone.

Eight of our amplifier's channels are being used in Zones 1 and 2 to power in-wall speakers in the family room, and in-ceiling speakers in the dining room and Kitchen.

The amp's other eight channels are being used to drive our power-hungry Zone-3 outdoor speakers. Four of those channels have been combined (or bridged) into two channels that can now supply a beefy 160 watts RMS to each of our deck speakers. The other four channels are feeding the stereo inputs of our two Niles "rock" speakers by the pool.

The beauty of this system is that it can be expanded to include more zones by simply adding additional Sonos wireless powered speakers or more CONNECT modules and more power amps.

If you'd like more information, Crutchfield’s A/V Design Group can help you plan your system.

Hybrid whole house music system with Sonos and multi-room amp

Components in the utility closet

1)  Clare Control16-channel multi-room power amp

2)  3 Sonos CONNECT Wireless streaming music modules

3)  Panamax MR4300 Power line conditioner and surge protector

4)  Your home's Wi-Fi router (one of the Sonos CONNECT modules must be connected to the router with an Ethernet cable)

Speakers

5)  Klipsch R-3800-W In-wall speakers

6 & 7) Klipsch R-1800 In-ceiling speakers

8)  Definitive Technology AW 6500 Outdoor speakers

9)  Niles RS8SI Pro Outdoor rock speakers

  • Ralph Graves from Crutchfield

    Posted on 1/9/2018

    Stephen:
    I touched base with Jason from our tech support department. He says, "The volume in the app is linked to the volume buttons on the device, you can press the buttons on the device and watch the slider move in the app. Personally, I keep my powered speaker volume close to max and control the volume from the app/device. I don't have any issues at lower volumes but a lot of that would have to do with the particular amp and speakers so in a traditional receiver/speaker setup it might make more sense to have the Sonos volume at like 60-70% and control it from the receiver."

  • Steven from San Francisco

    Posted on 1/7/2018

    I have a question related to what Sam from Chicago has mentioned. If the power amp is set at the optimal/max sound level and volume is being managed by the volume control in Connect, will the music sound good at lower levels? I hear that this could be an issue. Also, are the volume controls in the Sonos app the same as the volume control on the Connect device, or are those different? In short, what is the optimal means s to manage volume in this setup without compromising on sound quality at lower volumes?

  • Nathan from Washington, DC

    Posted on 7/29/2017

    Will your Advisors come setup my house to the Sonos CONNECT?

  • Sam from Chicago

    Posted on 5/21/2017

    How is the volume on the AMP being controlled whether using the Clare or the Russound is my question? I want to make sure you're not turning the volume all the way up on the AMP on all channels and leaving it that way and then using the volume control in Sonos to turn it up and down when it's really at full blast on the AMP. I am sure the AMP won't last long if you run it full blast all the time.

  • Matthew from Thousand Oaks, CA

    Posted on 4/24/2017

    Dave, thanks for the information and easy explanation for us middle aged, analog audio people!! My system is very similar to what you described above with a couple of modifications. My wired home system is being separated from the TV system and will only be used for music. I have 4 zones (2 inside and 2 outside) with 2 speakers each. I might want to install a 5th zone in the dining room in the future. I do not need to play different music in the different zones, but want to be able to select which zones will play. The house is very open and there are no doors between the zones inside and its just my wife and I. Here are my questions: 1) Will 1 Sonos connect serve this plan? 2) What multi channel device do you recommend? 3) Do I need a separate channel select device (I have an old push button box in my closet now)? 4) What outdoor hanging speaker and rock speakers do you recommend for a large patio?

  • Kevin from Orinda

    Posted on 11/6/2016

    Question - I currently have two speakers to watch TV with and another 4 speakers nearby in the kitchen that are hooked up to zone 2. Here's the problem, zone 2 won't play TV audio. So if I want to hear the game (or whatever) while not near the TV I can't. The other issue is that when listening to zone 2 there's a noticeable delay in the music. I'm wondering if I can integrate sonos to fix this problem and create multiple zones (I also have wired outdoor speakers) that will also play TV audio with no delay?

  • Willie from Frisco, TX

    Posted on 10/2/2016

    How do you connect the three Sonos Connects to an amplifier similar to the one listed with only one input. Do I have to something to get all three connects to connect to the amplifier.

  • Darius

    Posted on 10/1/2016

    If using multiple Sonos connect:amps in a centralised utility cupboard. And these amps are connected via Ethernet to the wireless network of the home. Does it matter that the connect:amps are out of wifi range of the person trying to control the speakers? Ie will the command go through the home wifi to connect amp on the utility area? Thanks

  • Olga from Houston

    Posted on 9/17/2016

    We have a new house wired for ceiling speakers throughout. Most rooms have a blank plate wired for the sound control. We have a closet dedicated to sound and networking; all the wires terminate in there. We have two back patio speakers and more wires sticking out at the back of the house, presumably for additional outdoor speakers. We recently added a Sonos sound bar to our TV, connected by ethernet. I love the controls. It sounds like we could benefit by using the Sonos system to control everything from our phones and ipads, yes? This would avoid adding another proprietary system that may or may not be around forever, witness the old intercom system hardwired in my previous house. What do you recommend?

  • Joshua Crane from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/22/2016

    Hi Ken, congrats on the new house! You have 11 individual speaker channels that need amplification. For a 3-zone setup, a single home theater receiver won't power all of them. However, you can certainly use a network-capable receiver to control music playback in all three zones of your home. Your iOS device will work as a remote control anywhere in the house that you have Wi-Fi reception. I'm going to pass along your inquiry to our team of Advisors who will reach out directly to help you choose the right equipment.

  • Ken from Chicago

    Posted on 7/20/2016

    Similar to a few folks above, I'm moving into a home that has been pre-wired for in-ceiling speakers in the Living Room (5), Master Bed (4) and Master Bath (2). I've been looking at a Sonos setup but not entirely sure how to go about it. I believe all of the speaker wires meet up in the LR. I'd like to be able to install a 5.1 surround sound in the LR and have separate zones for the other two rooms. I also would like to be able to select the source & playback for each of the 3 zones using an iOS device (i.e. watching a movie in the LR while simultaneously streaming music to the other two zones). To make it more complicated, I'd like to purchase an AV receiver for the LR that ties all of this together, and also has a phono input.

  • Joshua Crane from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/11/2016

    Hi Danny,

    I've forwarded your inquiry to one of our Advisors who will reach out to you shortly. They will discuss options with you, and will get you all set up with the right gear for your system.

  • Danny from San Francisco

    Posted on 7/10/2016

    I would also like to know how to have a sons setup with multi-zones including a home theater.

  • Joshua Crane from Crutchfield

    Posted on 6/17/2016

    Hi Jennifer, there are some other network music options available. I've forwarded your questions to our Advisors, and they will be able to help you find the best solution for your system. They'll be reaching out via email soon. For immediate help, you can contact them via phone or chat.

  • Jennifer from Milwaukee

    Posted on 6/17/2016

    To do the three zone set up I need 3 Sonos connect - so $1,047. Are there any alternatives? Newer technology? Or is Sonos the only option? I want the 3 zones and wireless control. Currently use sonos with their speakers but want to go with in ceiling. thanks!

  • Jeff Miller from Crutchfield

    Posted on 6/3/2016

    Jason and Steve, I've sent your comments over to an Advisor. You should hear back from them soon

  • Steve from Corona

    Posted on 6/2/2016

    I have the same question as Allen above. I'd like to have this same set up but incorporate a home theater.

  • Jason from chicago

    Posted on 6/2/2016

    Dave, I am moving into a home with in-ceiling speakers already wired and want to add Sonos. I am looking at doing a similar set up as you have outlined but with Connect:Amp since there are no outdoor or high powered speakers. One of the zones though has 3 speakers (2 in master bedroom and 1 in master bath). The bedroom and bathroom each have an in-wall volume control. Will I be able to hook all 3 to one Connect:Amp and still have use of the wall volume controls?

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 5/9/2016

    That's a great question, Allan. I believe there would be at least a couple of ways to implement a multi-room audio system with a home theater in the mix. I sent your question to our advisors for the best possible solutions. They'll be contacting you via email soon. For immediate help, you can contact them via phone or chat.

  • Allan from Dallas

    Posted on 5/5/2016

    Dave- How would this system work or need to be set up if one of the rooms/zones were to include a home theater?

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 4/25/2016

    Right you are, Simon. If you're in need of a versatile amp with 16 channels of power, check out our Russound D1650. I think you'll find it quite comparable to the Clare Controls.

  • Simon from Chicago

    Posted on 4/24/2016

    Your link says the Clare Control amp 1640 is no longer available. Do you have an updated recommendation?

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 4/17/2016

    That should work just fine, Kate, as long as the amplifier has some kind of global bus input connection that allows a single source to feed multiple channels (8 in this case). Most multi-channel amps these days do.

  • Kate from Richmond

    Posted on 4/15/2016

    If we have a multi-room amp for 8 hardwired speakers in 4 zones (each with in-wall volume control) and want to play the same music in each zone could we use just one Sonos CONNECT unit?

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 3/25/2016

    Good question, Joander. While you could use wall controls, the idea here was to use the Sonos app's volume control and the CONNECT's variable analog audio output to control the volume in the zone that it is connected to.

  • Joander from Montreal

    Posted on 3/24/2016

    how do you control the volume, do you need wall controls or can you use the sonos app from your phone?

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 2/15/2016

    Rex, In our hypothetical three-zone system, we are using three Sonos CONNECT modules (one for each music zone). No matter how large or small your system is, you will need one CONNECT module for each zone in which you wish to play a different music source, and control independently with the phone app.

  • Rex

    Posted on 2/13/2016

    You are not using multiple connects, correct? Just the one connect on the Clare Controls multi-room amp as I understand it. You should then be able to use the Sonos phone app to control the music selection and volume assuming you have the amp at a reasonable preset volume, right?

  • Joel Shoop from Spring Park

    Posted on 11/24/2015

    Dave, I like the idea of using a multi room amp with a Sonos Connect for each zone. When you have the 3 separate Connects for the various zones, how does that interface with the Sonos app? Is it as user friendly had you just used Sonos Amps?

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 10/14/2015

    Scott, In the system we used as an example here, the indoor speakers would get along just fine with the 55 watts per channel supplied by Sonos CONNECT:AMPs. But our power-hungry outdoor speakers need more juice than that, which is why we chose to go with the Clare Controls amp. Its 160 watt-per-channel bridged output to the deck speakers and 40 watts x 4 for our stereo input rock speakers give them the extra oomph required to fill the great outdoors.

  • Scott from NYC

    Posted on 10/13/2015

    Why do you recommend the three Sonos Connects + Clare Controls amp instead of multiple Connect:Amps?

  • William from Miami

    Posted on 9/19/2015

    The amp stays on always. The sonos box has no way to control the amp. The clare may be able to withstand the alwasy on... but may be an issue down the line.

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