How Do Speaker Selectors Work?

Written by j.t. barett
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If you have a home stereo and want to hear it in more than one room, you'll want a speaker selector. With a speaker selector, you can have music in many rooms for a party, or just one room for private listening.

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A speaker selector is an electronic switchbox. It routes the signal from your receiver or amplifier to your speakers. If your home has speakers in the living room, kitchen, and patio, you can select any one of these for listening. Some speaker selectors let you listen in more than one place at a time. Others let you choose the source, too, if you have more than one receiver in the house.

A modern speaker selector is more than a simple switch. The electrical load between speaker and amplifier needs balancing, and a switch can't do that. Unbalanced loads will make the stereo sound weak or distorted. A good selector has extra circuitry to balance the load.

Unlike other stereo equipment, the typical selector isn't powered. This gives you the freedom to place it without needing an outlet nearby.

If you're shopping for a speaker selector, make sure it's rated to handle the power your receiver delivers. The power will be rated in RMS watts. Also, check that the selector's impedance matches your receiver's.

Some selectors, especially older ones, will select one speaker set at a time from a rotary dial. A rotary dial set-up is simple and saves space--you have only one control. Push buttons are found in more modern selectors. They let you select more than one speaker pair at a time.

Some selectors have a volume control for each speaker set. These will let you set the loudness for each room.

Frequently, the speaker selector is built into a wall during construction or remodelling of a house. The best time for planning, speaker installation, and wiring is before the walls are finished. You can choose where to put the selector, hide the wiring and mount the speakers in the walls. If you install the selector and speakers after the walls go up, it's harder to do the wiring.

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