If you are building a new residential or a commercial structure, or if you’re remodeling an existing property, now is the time to plan for a Music Distribution System. It’s easier than you may expect. All you need to start is an existing Hi-Fi Stereo System. If it has at least 50 watts per channel of output power and provisions for a pair or more of speakers (outputs on the back for A and B speakers), it should be suitable as the heart of an entire residential or small scale business music system.
Speaker cabinets already exist everywhere in your building. Of course, you have probably been thinking of them as ‘walls’ and ‘ceilings,’ but due to the nature of their construction, they are ideal speaker cabinets. A typical eight-foot tall wall with a 16 inch stud centers has nearly three cubic feet of interior space. That is equivalent to a speaker cabinet that is one foot wide, one foot deep and three feet tall. You know speakers need cabinets to develop bass response that is why speakers in big cabinets are capable of great bass.
When you buy and install wall-mounted speaker systems, you are only paying for the woofers, tweeter, and frames. It’s the cabinets that make up the bulk of the expense, not only in materials and labor to construct the enclosures but in the excess packing materials, added freight, handling and warehousing that large items dictate.
The walls and ceilings that make up the building serve as terrific speaker enclosures at no additional expense and allows you to place the sound source(s) anywhere without obstruction. In the case of new construction, by planning before the drywall goes up, you can easily provide for Stereo Music in every room. So here’s what you can do.
Determine which rooms or areas you wish to provide sound, keeping any outdoor areas in mind. This will determine whether you select a 4, 6, 8, 10 or 12 pair Speaker Selector. Visualize where the furniture and fixtures will be placed in order to identify optimum speaker and decorator jack plate locations.
Generally, in areas where there isn’t a centralized seating or listening/viewing position, ceiling speakers are best. If there is a defined listening/viewing position such as a sofa, the speakers should be wall-mounted facing the defined listening/viewing position. In Home Theater applications, you can incorporate 4, 6, and even as many as 8 speakers for ultimate surround sound systems.
Decide in which room the Stereo System (Receiver/Amp, CD, Cassette, etc.), will be located. This will be the
‘Home Run’ location to which all of the remote speaker wiring will be run. In the wall area behind the stereo equipment, you can optionally mount the wall plates. These terminate the wiring from the inwall/ceiling speakers to one main location.
In each room, determine where to position the Volume Control(s). It is necessary to install one volume control for each pair of speakers. The maximum volume for the entire building will be set from your centralized receiver/amplifier. Each room’s relative volume level is controlled by its own localized volume control. The volume controls mount in standard deep “J” boxes or low voltage rings.
While doing your wire runs, remember to meet Building Codes. In most municipalities, you must use CL2 or CL3 rated wires. While there are many types of wires that are of a heavy enough gauge to carry the audio signal, they will not be approved in the electrical inspection process if they are not CL2 or CL3 rated.
The difference between a regular speaker wire – like the kind you see with clear jackets – is the jacket itself. Better wires like CL2 will have a jacket that doesn’t burn as easily or release toxins, making it safer to use inwall. As much as possible, the wires running through your house should be CL2 or CL3 rated.
The common practice is to run four conductor wires from the location of the speaker switcher to each volume control. Then, from each volume control to each of the two associated speakers, two conductor wires should be run. Each speaker requires a “+” and a “-” wire. Use at least a 16 gauge wire and if the ‘runs’ exceed 100 feet, use a 14 gauge wire. Wires of 18 or smaller gauge can cause overheating of your amplifier or in extreme conditions may even damage the amplifier.
Check this basic wiring diagram:
Try to run wire to all the locations you think a speaker may go. Remember that a house in the framing stage looks much different than a finished house, with all walls painted and lighting fixtures installed. See below what we do when wiring a home. Note the wire is run in adjacent stud bays to allow movement either left or right, up or down on the same wall:
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