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Parallel/Series Outdoor Wiring

post #1 of 73
Thread Starter 
I have an outdoor speaker wiring dilemma, and I'm looking for some input from the forum.

I would like to get sound to a good sized area behind my home, and would like to use zone 2 of a receiver just inside the house to drive 4 sets of 8 ohm 100w speakers. There is an existing pair of 12 gauge speaker wire that is pulled through the foundation to the deck area outside, but only one. Pulling additional pairs would be difficult to do - lots of custom millwork inside to get through.

Since I only have one set of wires available, I am thinking of using an Onkyo TS-DX 787 receiver (130 watts) to drive 4 sets of TIC Corp. outdoor 8 ohm speakers by wiring them in parallel/series. I would also like to use a weatherproof heavy-duty volume control outside in line to control volume to all 8 at once. The furthest set of speakers would be about 200 feet away from the receiver. I will not be driving these speakers hard - that's the reason I'm going with 4.pair, so that I can get even sound coverage to all areas without blowing any one spot away.

Does anyone have any opinions on the pros/cons of doing this the way I've described? Is it possible? What do i need to look out for? Is there a better way?

Interested in your thoughts - may get started this weekend unless I hear otherwise...
post #2 of 73
I've gotta get back to class so I can't get into the details of why, but anything farther than 50ft runs is not recommended because of the amount of capacitance and inductance that will build up with all the copper wiring. 200ft will be a real bad idea. For those lengths of runs you should run a 70v pro system.
post #3 of 73
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the input - would love to know more if/when you have a moment to comment. Opinions seem to be split on this issue - many have said "no problem", some have said "not a good idea". Problem is neither can tell me a definitive reason for their perspective on this, and I'm not an installer or engineer.

I understand resistance build up and impedance matching, and it seems that parallel/series - at least at low volumes and moderate levels - gets around that by offering 8 ohms back to the receiver but allowing me to string 4 pair together.

Help! Anyone else have thoughts? Very appreciative of your input...
post #4 of 73
You don't need 70v to cover 50 feet(or even 200).

Technically you need an ODD number of speakers to do series/parallel, but it can be done with even pairs.

12 gauge is plenty to cover 50 feet. You will, however, want to jump to 10 gauge from the speaker box to the speakers(12 guage to the speaker box, 10 gauge after)

What I would suggest though, to make it simpler. Build a "waterproof" box to house an IMPEDANCE MATCHING speaker switch and use that. Then you won't have the issue of series/parallel, and you get to pick and choose which sets you want running when.

As for volume control, you can get a speaker switch box that does that...or put individual controls in the speaker wire run.

Another, even better option...

get a multisource switcher that accepts your analog from the house...then run power from that spot.
http://www.amazon.com/AV-400-Composi...075006&sr=1-35 (this is just an example)
http://www.amazon.com/TIC-CORPORATIO...0&sr=1-1-spell (and since you are already buying TIC)
post #5 of 73
Thread Starter 

I do appreciate your feedback. Hadn't heard anyone express that parallel/series is for an odd number of speakers, but that makes sense when you think about it.

May I ask a couple of questions to you or the forum?

The wire from the receiver inside that is pulled through the wall to the outside is 12 gauge. That run is about 25 feet tops. I will solder into that wire with 14 gauge, which is what I will make the 200 foot runs with. I have been told by the "pro parallel/series" crowd that 14 gauge shielded will be sufficient for this distance. This is the first time anyone has suggested 12 gauge, much less 10. Is that overkill, or is there some methodology you are using to suggest 10 gauge?

Thanks for the equipment suggestions. I have done some research as well, and the TIC box does not get good reviews at all. Very unreliable. I may consider, however, an impedance matching speaker selector - that's a good thought. That way I can use all of the sources in the system inside to play through the speakers outdoors.

Appreciate the feedback. Any other thoughts from you or the group are welcome!
post #6 of 73
Well, the cost difference between 14/12/10(for the entire amount you need) is like $5.

I would err on the side of caution and get as thick as I could. At the very least, stick with 12.

Go to a local hardware store and buy outdoor wire. The same thing that runs an outdoor water fixture is going to run speakers. I don't buy "speaker wire". I buy lamp cord. If it is good enough to take 120v off the wall, it is good enough to run for speakers.

If you will have speakers "near" each other, buy 14/4 or 12/4 wire(means there are 4 strands per outer jacket). That is slightly more money than straight 2 strand wire. That would be an easy way to save some money if you do have speakers that won't be too far apart.

http://www.amazon.com/Premium-100ft-...5090197&sr=1-1 (this is in-wall CL rated...not what I'd get for outdoor...but shows you what it looks like)
post #7 of 73
Originally Posted by schan1269 View Post

You don't need 70v to cover 50 feet(or even 200).

To get proper performance with 200ft runs a conventional setup will result in a decreased amount of HF output. The speaker wire builds up inductance, capacitance and resistance. The inductance will roll off the top end, capacitance the low end, and resistance steals power from the speaker, dropping the overall output. Will it still make sound? Yes.

Originally Posted by schan1269 View Post

Technically you need an ODD number of speakers to do series/parallel

Can you explain this because I can explain how 4 speakers can be wired series/parallel.

Speaker A and B in series to make group 1. Speaker C and D in series to make group 2. Group 1 and 2 in parallel. Final impedance is the same as each individual speaker and they all receive the same amount of power.
post #8 of 73
Thread Starter 

I understand enough to know that in principle, what you are describing is 100% true. What I'm trying to figure out is how much degradation will I get if I lay it out the way I described using parallel/series wiring of 4 pair across 200ft of 14 gauge wire. As I said, this is not intended to be an audiophile system by any means - you can tell that by the speakers i've chosen. AllI 'm looking for is background or "lounging out by the pool" music at low to mid volumes. If that's probably going to be all distorted, then I'll go another route. Don't need it to sound like DVD audio, but I don't want it to be crap either.

So, which is it? I think we've established the wiring scheme CAN be done, now I'm just trying to figure out if the sound is even close to good.

Anybody have experience running a similar setup?
post #9 of 73
Without knowing your proposed layout and distances, the following may be way off base. Just thinking outside the box. Run power out to a centralized location to minimize speaker runs. Build a cart/cabinet/???? with castors to house a receiver and your speakers when not in use. I'm assuming the speakers could be quick mount/dismount. Store all the hifi gear in garage. Cabinet could power a blender, house ice.....margaritas anyone?
post #10 of 73
Thread Starter 
Thanks Paul.

Mobile unit not an option - want it fixed and in place unless nothing else will do. Also would like to be able to use the receiver in the house to drive the audio because all the inputs I need are there - DVD audio, satellite/cable, digital music, iPod, Internet.

Really looking for feedback from the forum on sound quality of parallel/series set ups like I've described. 4 pairs of speakers dispersed across a 200ft. run. Is any sound degradation i'm going to get audible, only at high volumes, scratchy, etc., etc., etc.

I really appreciate the feedback of everyone thus far. It does help a lot.

Anyone else care to opine?
post #11 of 73
"DVD audio, satellite/cable, digital music, iPod, Internet"

Life is much easier if you think of a separate 2-channel receiver (an old one sitting around) and an old CD changer. My runs are 50' and 80' to the first and second pair of speakers, respectively (only two pairs). It is easy enough to copy a bunch of MP3s from your PC to CDs and DVDs that can be played on a suitable DVD player. Then you can have various mixes for whatever suits your mood.

LooneyBomber already gave you good advice on the potential degradation with longer runs.
post #12 of 73
Read this, and you'll understand why I said 12 gauge to a "speaker select box" was fine, but you needed 10 gauge beyond the box...


There is a graph about wire size and the runs you can make at each and every ohm load.

Use 10 gauge...and you'll be fine.
post #13 of 73
Thread Starter 
Wwinkler and others:

The forum is great media for sharing thoughts, but awful for easily communicating what is acceptable, unacceptable to the user.

In my case, I don't want to "build a waterproof box" outside that I have to get power to. I don't want indoor components located out in the weather, and I would rather not invest in a good quality outdoor amp, and then have to lug a Cd player, DVD player, MP3 dock, etc. inside/outside each time - that seems like a lot of work when all of those things exist 20 feet away inside the house. Burning all of your music to CD or DVD may not seem like a hassle to some, but to me that seems out of date and extremely limiting when things like Pandora and Digital Music channels are readily available - again in my case just inside the house.

So - looks like from the opinions that are expressed here, some people seem to think parallel/series will work, provided the wire gauge is adequate and the connections are quality. Some people think that sound quality will degrade past an acceptable level if I try to do this.

Based on all I've heard, I think I'm going to try this. Zone 2 left and right channels of my 130 Watt Onkyo TX-DS787 receiver wired with 12 gauge shielded speaker wire through the foundation to a 300 watt-rated outdoor grade volume switch, soldered there, and on to 4 sets of TIC GS5 outdoor omni speakers run in parallel/series off of single 14 gauge shielded wire, the farthest about 200 feet from the receiver. I'll solder the speaker connections as well. I'll seal everything up with duct tape and bury it - and we'll see what happens.

Stop me if you think I'm headed off a cliff...
post #14 of 73
Look at the link I provided. 14 gauge only gets you to 80 feet.

10 gauge, for the third time, is what you need to make it to 200.
post #15 of 73
This is what I'd do in the case you've described. Buy the speaker wired you think you need. Set up the system without permanently installing anything; set the speakers on the ground and run the wire over the ground. Turn on system and listen to all input sources. Remember, some sources are recorded "hotter" than others. If the layout meets your expectations for volume/quality then install it.

The perspective I was taking was that you can run power a long way without any perceived degradation. Your total cost for wire would be reduced. You would end up with a power outlet somewhere out in your yard which may be beneficial for other uses. Even if something is weatherproof, I don't like leaving it out in the weather. I think your speakers will last longer if stored seasonally or when not in use.

How are you planning to control your input sources? How are you planning to mount speakers? On poles, in trees? Can you post any site pictures?

How are you going to bury the wires? How deep? Direct burial? In conduit? What are the site conditions for running a trencher?

Just thought of this alternative. Pre-outs from your existing receiver to a slingbox thus retaining all your sources. Assuming you have a wireless router, out in the yard either a laptop or even a capable cell phone. Audio out of either into an amplifier out in the yard. Note I said an amplifier not a receiver, since you wouldn't need a receiver.
post #16 of 73
I agree with 10 gauge recommendation above AND the insulation MUST be rated for direct burial if it's not going to be in conduit. I'd put it in conduit, PVC schedule 40, not the much thinner wall schedule 80. It's CHEAP insurance. If you have any underground utilities in the area, call the appropriate local authority and get them marked/staked before you trench. There is an alternative to trenching. You can hire a company to pull a conduit from point A to point B using a machine that slices the ground and pulls a conduit from a reel.
post #17 of 73
Thread Starter 
Okay. Sold. I'll put in 10 gauge, and I am going to try direct burial outdoor wire, not speaker wire. Question then - parallel/ series okay with everyone if I do that? Do I run into a problem because my first 20 feet is only 12 gauge? That seems like it would put a lot of stress, ie resistance, on the 12 gauge section, and if so wouldn't the weakest link in the chain still cause degradation?
post #18 of 73
Do the "experiment" I suggested first. If you put in the considerable cost and effort to permanently install everything and it doesn't meet your expectations, then what?

By the way, I looked up the specs on your amp. The 130 watt per channel figure you listed is for a 6 ohm load @ 1 kHz and two channels being driven. Another spec is 100 watts per channel into an 8 ohm load from 20 Hz - 20 kHz and two channels driven. Since you are using a zone 2 configuration and 8 ohm load I believe the receiver will be putting out less than 100 watts into those channels. Additionally, since you are dividing that available power 4 ways, I'm guessing you will have on the order of 20 watts per speaker available, excluding line losses due to wire lengths. And that is with your receiver running full tilt and at least very warm if not HOT
post #19 of 73
Originally Posted by billweber View Post

Okay. Sold. I'll put in 10 gauge, and I am going to try direct burial outdoor wire, not speaker wire. Question then - parallel/ series okay with everyone if I do that? Do I run into a problem because my first 20 feet is only 12 gauge? That seems like it would put a lot of stress, ie resistance, on the 12 gauge section, and if so wouldn't the weakest link in the chain still cause degradation?

Well, if you don't want to take any equipment outside and you don't want to go 70v, then it'll have to work huh?

For a while, people were getting some pretty good deals on speaker wire. 500ft of 10awg for 210 shipped. Look around ebay and see if you can find good deals.
BTW, I never tried that 125ft run I talked about in that thread.
post #20 of 73
Running series/parallel(and yes, I forgot that you could run a pair in series, then parallel those two...) eliminates the "down power" scenario mentioned by UP.

The first 20-ish feet ran 12 gauge is not a problem.

And yes, you will need ground burial rated wire. Get some 10/4 and you only have to bury it once.
post #21 of 73
Thread Starter 
Okay. Sold. I'll put in 10 gauge, and I am going to try direct burial outdoor wire, not speaker wire. Question then - parallel/ series okay with everyone if I do that? Do I run into a problem because my first 20 feet is only 12 gauge? That seems like it would put a lot of stress, ie resistance, on the 12 gauge section, and if so wouldn't the weakest link in the chain still cause degradation?
post #22 of 73
Thread Starter 
Okay - now this has gotten way too hard. parallel/series wiring inherently favors single strands of 10 gauge rather than 10/2, because you don't have "pairs" of wire going to the same place - in fact the second wire is not only a waste, but it gets in the way of splicing. Trying to find 10 gauge single strand with a jacket thick enough to withstand being buried in the ground is maddening - not sure it exists in UF, and the only thing I can find in stock has a very thin jacket that the guys at the big box stores all say will decompose in 2-3 years tops.

Any suggestions? I bought into the idea that 10 gauge was the way to go, and also was believing the opinions expressed here that a lot of the speaker wire vs. regular copper hub-bub was marketing flap. But if I can't find what I need for this application, then I may be right back at the start.

I'm all ears. Thoughts?
post #23 of 73
Uhm, speakers need 2 strands...one for red, one for black...


Do the "series/parallel" at the amp itself, then just run the wire to the speakers(which is what I thought you were doing...)


Run the wire from the speakers all the way back to the amp(this way if you ever change it, you don't have to re-run the wire). Take the "amp end" red to the red on the amp, take the black/red of "two of them" put them together and then the black back to the amp.

Whether you do the series/parallel at the amp end or the speaker end is irrelevant.

If you have to do it at the speaker end...take the 10/2 to the "junction" of where the speakers are, then use "normal" wire above the ground.

You can make as many splices in the wire as you want, as long as you use weatherproof jacketing over the wire splices...
Can't remember the name of the stuff, but it is cut in the appropriate size you need, slip it over the wire, put the two wires together, then melt it with a lighter. The stuff is used in car stereo all the time to protect the wire ends.

So, pop a single 10/2 out of the ground. Run a separate 10/2 to each speaker....

positive runs to a speaker, the return negative connects to the other speakers positive, then the 2nd speakers negative then comes back to the original negative out of the ground. Effectively making a T speaker wire.
post #24 of 73
I did a back of the envelope wiring diagram yesterday and know exactly how you came to the conclusion of "there is ALOT of single conductor wires". It just looks that way on a smallish drawing. The terminology I'll use in this explanation is that you have 4 pairs of speakers. Two pairs I'll call FRONT pairs and two pairs I'll call REAR pairs. Each PAIR of speakers has a LEFT and RIGHT channel speaker and each speaker has a PLUS and MINUS terminal.

The FRONT LEFT pair of speakers and the BACK LEFT pair of speakers are wired in parallel, as are the FRONT RIGHT pair of speakers with the BACK RIGHT pair of speakers. One 10/2 (10 gauge, 2 conductor) cable runs from the left channel speaker of the front left pair of speakers to the left channel speaker of the back left pair of speakers. Another 10/2 cable runs from the right channel speaker of the front left pair of speakers to the right channel speaker of the back left pair of speakers.

Repeat the same procedure with the FRONT RIGHT pair of speakers and the BACK RIGHT pair of speakers. I'm sure you see that this does not involve any single conductor wires thus far.

Now this is where a picture is worth a thousand words. From the house to the FRONT LEFT pair of speakers you need two wires. At the house end the two wires originate where the 4 existing 12 gauge wires are stubbed thru the house wall. At the other end, one wire ENDS UP at the LEFT CHANNEL SPEAKER of the FRONT LEFT pair of speakers, and one wire ENDS UP at the RIGHT CHANNEL SPEAKER of the FRONT LEFT pair of speakers.

I think this is where your confusion starts. Run a 10/2 cable from the house to the NEARER speaker of the FRONT LEFT pair of speakers and then continue the cable to the other speaker of the FRONT LEFT pair of speakers. Since you only need one of the conductors between the nearer speaker and the other speaker of the FRONT LEFT pair of speakers, you simply strip back one of the conductors of the 10/2 cable back to the nearer speaker. I hope this makes sense!!!

Repeat this procedure for the FRONT RIGHT pair of speakers.

Finally, two wires will be required between the FRONT LEFT pair of speakers and the FRONT RIGHT pair of speakers. Run a 10/2 cable between, and passing thru all four speakers. In the manner as described above, you will end up stripping back one conductor of the 10/2 cable at each end to the other speaker in that pair of speakers.

If this doesn't make sense, PM me and you can call me or I'll call you.
post #25 of 73
If the wires from the house to each of the four pairs of speakers basically run past one pair of speakers, then Schan1269's explanation may be simpler to understand, it achieves the same wiring result. However, if the wires to the nearest two pairs of speakers run in different directions from the house to each pair of speakers, then my description will result in shorter total cable lengths to the farthest speakers from the house, which has been an issue from the start.
post #26 of 73
Thread Starter 
Okay - I'm much better now.

Thanks to both of you for trying to talk me through it blow by blow, but that didn't work for my brain. I had to lay it out on the deck for it to make sense. I mocked it up and have it running right now, and I think I've got it now. Basically, I'll be able to use both strands of the 10/2 cable on every run except the negative speaker 1 to positive speaker 3 connection on both the left and right channels. No worries. It's been running on the deck for about an hour and a half using 16 guage wire to mock it up for about an hour and a half, and so far so good. I'm going to run it for several hours to see what happens to the receive when it's driving both zone 1 and zone 2 for a while at low to moderate levels. Warm but not hot so far.

Question for the group that might be a stupid one. I'm assuming when I throw almost 200 feet of distance into the mix, I'm going to be askign the receiver to work much harder - and hotter - than it is right now. True? if so, how can I test that? I'm concerned I may be pushing the limits of the receiver, and if I end up frying it that's no good. I'm going to be swapping out the 16 gauge for 10 gauge when I go the distance, so is that a wash?

Thoughts anyone? Maybe I can't know until I get the cables all cut and splices, but at that point it's almost too late...
post #27 of 73
Going from 16 to 10 will be "more or less" a wash.

You might lose 3-6db in the whole speaker run(that gets into another ball of wax).

Basically, if your speaker(with this amp) could attain 90db at 1 watt(this is a good baseline for this to make sense)...here is the scenario....

90db speaker on 5 feet of "any gauge" wire vs 400 feet(going to throw it ALL in) of 10 gauge wire...

1 watt makes 90db vs 1 watt makes 85db (all wire included)
2 watts makes 93db vs 2 makes 88db
4 watts makes 96db vs 4 makes 91db (you've finally caught the short speaker wire run)
8 watts makes 99db vs 8 makes 94db
16 wats makes 102db vs 16 makes 97db
32 watts makes 105 db vs 32 makes 100db

You can keep extrapolating. Typically 100db is "enough" if the speakers are within 15 feet. If you need to "rock out" 105db at 15 feet is enough.

So basically, and this is "guessing based on past experience", you have at 10 watts....
a pair of speakers on 5 feet of "any" wire producing 100db each.
you have 8 speakers on a combined 400 feet of 10 gauge producing 95db each. (and as long as the "400" was a static number...you could add 400 speakers...as long as the ohm load at the amp remains 8, all 400 speakers produce...95db)

AND, for those wanting to make sure accuracy is "upheld"...if you really had 400 speakers on this 400 foot run...you'd also, by then, cause of sheer number, take into account the power loss from the 400 internal crossovers in those speakers.
post #28 of 73
Thread Starter 
Schan - thanks for taking the time to write all of that. I haven't quite been able to grasp it all, but I'm going o go back and try to read it again to see if I can get it to sink in.

So, for the slowest among us, doesn't sound like those numbers would indicate I'm going to have too much trouble driving the speakers loud enough at max length 200 feet on 10 gauge wire with any risk of over-working the receiver?

I ran the mock up for about 4 hours today with both zones running louder than I will normally listen to them, and I had no problems with the receiver running too hot.
post #29 of 73
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by schan1269 View Post

Well, the cost difference between 14/12/10(for the entire amount you need) is like $5.

Schan - I'm now trying to buy 10/2 UF b cable so that I can get it to my home by next weekend and get this thing done. I'm searching online, and the difference for a 250 ft. roll of 10/2 UF b and 14/2 is $237 vs. $75. What am I missing in your perspective that it's only $5 more expensive for 10 vs. 14?


post #30 of 73
My original $5 difference wasn't taking into account "direct burial" wire. If this were "airborne" inside conduit you could get away with basic 10gauge lamp cord.

What I suggest, buy "just enough" for the direct burial. Everything else can be done with "normal lamp cord".

When you buy "bulk" wire(forget buying in spools) it always costs less.

Go to a local hardware store. They have 1000 foot rolls. Get as much as you want. My local Do It Best sells 10 gauge lamp cord(indoor) for $2.28 per 10 feet. If I get 100 feet, it drops to $21.95. More than 250 feet, $44.96 (bought some Friday).

If you get conduit for the runs "not in the ground" you can use "indoor" wire. Conduit is cheap and protects it from hail, high winds and beach balls.

By the way, you won't find "lamp cord" online anywhere. It is cheap. There is no profit margin and nobody sells it online. I can't even find "bulk wire" at Lowes/Home Depot/Menards websites. But all three have THOUSANDS of feet of it in the electrical section.

I'm willing to bet, if you quit looking for "100 foot spools" of direct burial 10 gauge wire online...and go buy it from a bulk 1000 foot spool, you'll find a price you can't match online.
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