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How does multi-zone and multi-room audio work on a home cinema receiver?

How does multi-zone and multi-room audio work on a home cinema receiver?
How does multi-zone and multi-room audio work on a home cinema receiver? This article explains a function that we encounter more and more.
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Receivers today are advanced devices with many different features and functions. We have already discussed many of these features and functions, such as the amplifier element, and the speaker connections and setups . A function that we encounter more and more and that is very interesting is the multi-zone or multi-room function.

What is multi-zone and multi-room?

Multi-zone is also called multi-room.

multi-zone and multi-room is the ability to listen to music in different rooms, zones, in the house. Modern receivers often have a Zone 2 or even Zone 2 and Zone 3 option. With this function you can listen / watch a specific source in the main zone, where the receiver is located and your complete home cinema system is set up, and listen to a different source in a second and / or third zone. If you watch a movie in the main zone, it is possible to listen to a CD in the second zone, for example. In this case, both the CD player and the DVD / Blu-ray player are connected to your home cinema receiver. You can also choose to display the same music in all zones.

How do you use Multi-zone?

There are basically two ways to use the multi-zone function, depending on what the receiver supports. You have a preamp line output for an extra zone or a speaker output for an extra zone.

Preamp line output

The preamp line output can send the unamplified signal from one source to another room. For example, the sound from a CD player can be sent to the other zone while you are watching a movie in the main zone. Since the signal still needs to be amplified, you need an extra amplifier in this zone to reproduce the sound. The extra receiver is connected to the preamp output and must be provided with its own speakers.

multi-zone and multi-room audio

Speaker connections

The receiver can also use its own amplifier to control a second zone. In this way, the sound from another (or the same) source as the one used in the main zone is amplified by the receiver and sent through the speaker connections to speakers in another zone. In this other zone you don’t need an extra amplifier, just a set of speakers.

How does multi-zone and multi-room audio work on a home cinema receiver?

The more expensive and more modern receivers often offer the possibility to send the sound amplified to a second zone (via speaker connections) and to send the sound to a third zone without amplification (an extra amplifier required). There are also receivers that offer the preamp outputs for both zones and receivers that give you the choice to control one of the two zones via the built-in amplifier. It is therefore wise to check which options the receiver you have in mind supports.

Consequences for the set-up in the main zone

It is important to note that the use of extra zones with some receivers has consequences for the speaker setup in the main zone. There are 7.1-channel receivers that make it possible to use extra zones when you limit the main zone setup to 5.1 channels. The two extra channels are then used to control speakers in a second room. There are also receivers that make it possible to use the full 7.1-channel setup, provided you do not use the second zone at the same time. This of course refers purely to connecting an extra zone via the speaker connections. The sound going through a preamp output is not amplified, so it can be used regardless of the main zone setup.

Use of resources for additional zones

As you may read, there is more to it than simply connecting a few extra speakers. And what is stated above is not all, the use of resources is also limited. 9 of the 10 receivers only offer the possibility to use analog signals for an extra zone. So you can watch a Blu-ray movie via HDMI in the main zone, but the second zone can only be provided with audio through, for example, a tulip cable . It is therefore often a requirement to analog sources that you (also) want to listen to in a second or third room. Of course you can also connect them digitally for the main zone, but then you will always have to switch in the menu of the receiver. There are high-end (and expensive) receivers that transmit signals via digital optical or coaxial cable .

In most cases, it is also the case that you can only send audio to extra zones, video remains reserved for the main zone. The few receivers that do offer the possibility to send video to a second zone, it often concerns signals that are connected via the composite input. If you really want to display high-quality HD images in a different room, it is best to look for a receiver with two HDMI outputs, each of which can display a different source.

The service of multi-zone and multi-room

When you have set up and connected a Zone 2 or Zone 3, you can listen to a particular source in those extra zones that is connected to the receiver in the main zone. However, to operate this receiver you actually have to walk to the main zone and set a certain function here. High-end receivers with Zone 2 / Zone 3 function often offer an extra remote control that you can use for another zone. However, you still have to place infrared extenders (extenders) for this so that the signal reaches the receiver in the main zone. Another solution that is increasingly available is the use of an application on your smartphone. With this, both the main zone and the extra zone can be operated and you do not need infrared extenders. The receiver manufacturer must provide and support this application.

Before you buy a receiver

The multi-zone and multi-room function of a receiver has major advantages, but can therefore be quite limited. Unfortunately, manufacturers do not state all limitations in the features and specifications, so check the manual in advance to make sure that what you want is possible.


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