To my embarrassment, after doing some troubleshooting, I found I apparently mislabeled my wiring on the left channel outputs and inputs. Causing me to reverse loads, which I'm assuming is why the protect mode did not trigger immediately until I increased the volume (power) to a level that the AVR/Amp did not like. At the very least the symptoms I experienced will help others who may experience the same issue. Again, I'm assuming reversing the input and outputs of the channel allowed power to flow to a certain limit, but attempting to go beyond that limit/threshold caused it to trigger protect mode and although it ran this way for a year, what I was ultimately doing was killing my AVR/Amp slowly. I'm sure there is a technical term for this..
Configuration: 1 pair of speakers connected to Speaker B or Zone2 with an external VC in between AVR/Amp and outdoor speakers
-With the external VC set to the appropriate impedance setting (1x or 2x), you attempt to slowly increase the master volume to max (external VC minimum level, but still connected between AVR and outdoor speakers) on the AVR/Amp. It triggers protect mode but will not if you simply keep it at a lower volume or below the threshold. I did this for a year, all that time assuming it was the quality of the VC.
-Bypass the external VC and run your AVR directly to the outdoor speakers and are able to increase the volume to max (slowly). Note, you don't necessarily need an actual audio signal to conduct this test. The fluctuation in power/current by manipulating the master volume control on the AVR/Amp will still be apparent and by this method you reduce risk of damaging the speakers or angering your neighbors.
-Take a multimeter and test the continuity by setting it to "continuity" which is indicated by a sound wave symbol (side-way hashed pyramid)... or if your multimeter does not have this setting you can do this via the ohm setting by simply setting up the multimeter appropriately for measuring ohms. Next take one of the channel speaker leads (pos and neg) most likely at the AVR/Amp end and connect/twist the pos and neg together (no connection to AVR/Amp). Then on the opposite end of that same speaker lead (both are bare and not connected) take the testing leads of the multimeter and connect one to the positive and one to the negative of the speaker lead. If the multimeter reads 0, then your wire has no resistance (no breaks in the wire). After confirming, do the same for the other lead. If both leads read 0, then your wires are fine and no need to re-pull all that wire.
Now that you've determined the culprit is the external VC or connections. DOUBLE CHECK YOUR LEADS AGAIN
at your external VC and retest the output leads (external VC to Speakers) by using a small D battery, label them and then check again. Then verify and confirm the left and right input leads (from AVR/Amp), label them and check again. Once you are 100%
on output and input leads proceed with making the connections to the external VC... ins to ins and outs to outs.
Result: If you made the same mistake I did, and were due diligent in the steps as described under "Solution". You should now be able turn the master volume control on your AVR/Amp to max without issue. However, if it does cut out... then it most likely is the external VC.
Please note, statements made are simply my opinion and by no means should be looked upon as an absolute solution. Just a man who wanted his tunes to play cleanly and loudly as he wishes without issue and/or limitation.
Take care fellas!