Command Central

Speaker Selectors

Simplify Multi-Room Audio Installations with Speaker Selectors

They’re not glamorous. They don’t even run on electricity. However, speaker selectors are an essential component for many whole-home, office or multi-room audio systems.

Typical 2-source, 6-zone configuration, 2 pairs of speakers per zone. All images courtesy of Xantech

Why?

Speaker selectors provide a single location to easily control speakers in a whole house audio system. They are one of the easiest, simplest ways to balance and distribute sound throughout a home or business.

Without the ease of zone distribution that speaker selectors provide…

  • Wiring would be extraordinarily complicated
  • End-user experience far more inconvenient
  • Amplifiers/receivers can overheat, blow out or even catch fire

In the Zone

Speaker selectors come in a variety of configurations:

  • Single or dual source inputs
  • 2- to 12-zone outputs
  • The amount of incoming power/incoming watts they can handle
  • With or without on/off switches for each speaker pair/zone
  • With or without volume controls for each pair/zone—if there are no in-room volume controls, choose a speaker selector with volume control.
  • Which speaker ohms they can handle
  • The kind of terminal connectors used & gauge-range of speaker wire

There are hidden differences as well. These involve construction, materials and protection circuitry—all things that affect performance and price. In the world of speaker selectors, you get what you pay for.

A Closer Look

Let’s see how the Xantech XSS26100W 2-source, 6-zone speaker selector with volume controls stacks up in light of the above variables. It should be noted that this selector is designed to create a simple speaker distribution system without the use of in-room volume controls.

  • A/B source input for each zone/room/speaker pair

This means two amps can be connected. With this selector, both can be active at the same time, enabling different zones to have different sound feeds.

  • Power handling of 50 watts per channel RMS, 150 watts peak

Power handling capabilities vary widely across brands. If the Xantech speaker selector must be paired with an amp with greater output, turn down the selector levels or amp/receiver levels to prevent damage. However, Xantech does NOT recommend exceeding the rated RMS.

  • On/off individual zone selector switches

This provides added end-user convenience. Each speaker output can be independently turned on or off. Although the independent volume control could be turned down, use of the button maintains the previously set level.

  • 12-step volume control with 42dB maximum attenuation per speaker output

This provides independent volume control for easier balancing of sound from room to room. There are 11 steps of attenuation plus an off position. Attenuation does not add extra artifacts or take away from the listening experience while allowing the user to dial in the right output level.

  • Selectable impedance matching for 1, 2, 3/4 or 5/6 speaker pairs

The use of impedance matching technology is a high-end feature. It helps prevent amplifier overload by evenly splitting the signal between all the speakers. Simply choose how many total speaker pairs are attached to the selector and set the dial to match. Units with selectable impedance matching should not be used with systems that have remote, in-room volume controls.

  • 4Ω or 8Ω speaker compatible

It is not recommended for use with 6Ω speakers. There are many architectural speakers available that are 4Ω or 8Ω.

  • Removable Phoenix speaker connectors for 12–22-gauge wire

Many only accept 16- or 18-gauge wire. So, this unit offers more wire-gauge choices for greater flexibility in wiring run distances. Many amps and selectors use this style of connector. It makes the wiring secure and easy to release.

Assessing the features this speaker selector has, it’s clear that it squarely falls into the high-end range. Given Xantech’s long-established presence in the A/V market, custom installers and end-users alike can be assured that this speaker selector with its 5-year warranty will provide solid performance.

Xantech also offers a 2-source, 4-zone speaker selector—the XSS24100W.

The Takeaway

  1. Don’t skimp when it comes to choosing a speaker selector!
  2. Make sure there’s a match in power handling between speaker selector and the upstream amplifier or A/V receiver.
  3. Use a selector that can handle the wire gauge needed for speaker installation.
  4. Take into account whether there are or will be in-room speaker controls in the system.
  5. Consider future-proofing by using a speaker selector that can handle more zones or more amplifier inputs than the current system utilizes. Once end-users discover the joys of multi-room audio, they’ll want to expand the system.

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