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Best 2-zone receiver for the money - impedance matching controls

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
What is the best receiver for a multi room setup seen in the diagram below:

post #2 of 26
Look for one that has the following:

1) A powered Zone2 output - which is typically a 7.1 AVR used in a 5.1 + Zone2 configuration
2) Network support / Internet music sources - Pandora, Spotify, Internet Radio, etc.
3) Mobile Device "app" for control of the AVR including Zone2

That makes the setup easy (no external components), control simple (through any mobile device), and the Internet sources provide music that can be selected and controlled remotely as well...

Note that if you're doing this for a new construction project, wire for a whole-house audio system by adding cat5e wires to those volume control locations for future expansion.

Jeff
post #3 of 26
Also am wondering if you intend to use the receiver to power a local 5.1 theater setup, or if you just intend to use it for distributed audio. If this is entirely for distributed audio, then generally you will use a dedicated amplifier which is built for distributed audio and can handle a heavier load than a typical A/V receiver can.

If it is just for one pair of speakers in a second zone, then this is fine, but A/V receivers are not designed to be whole house audio amplifiers and you should use a different product.
post #4 of 26
Id personally look at the pioneer elite av's myself,

I have an onkyo believe it is the nr 3009? at the house thats a few years old yet brand new, never even plugged it in, if ur interested shoot me a pm and we will discuss it!
post #5 of 26
x4 Sonos Zone Players looks like a better option!

What Sources are you looking to Distribute through your audio system and would you be OK being limited to just one Source in all Zones as per your current diagram?

Joe
post #6 of 26
I did this at our house using the following method.

Multi zone AVR hooked up to an Aton DLA speaker distributor (the Aton is hooked up to the Zone 2 speaker level output).

This allows you to split a single source from the AVR's Zone 2 to multiple load-balanced speaker "zones." Each speaker "zone" that is hooked up to the Atom has independent volume control and all zones are impedance matched.
post #7 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by hd54321 View Post

I did this at our house using the following method.

Multi zone AVR hooked up to an Aton DLA speaker distributor (the Aton is hooked up to the Zone 2 speaker level output).

This allows you to split a single source from the AVR's Zone 2 to multiple load-balanced speaker "zones." Each speaker "zone" that is hooked up to the Atom has independent volume control and all zones are impedance matched.

That is exactly what I was looking for, thanks!
post #8 of 26
I accomplished this a bit differently for less money. Onkyo NR616 (has 3 zones actually with the standard 2nd powered zone as it is a 7.2) Powered zone 2 goes to a Niles Parallel distribution block for 8 pairs of speakers. That connects to an impedance matching volume control in each room that then connects to its own set of in wall or in ceiling speakers. The Onkyo allows full control of zone 2 volume via the phone/tablet app and then simply control the volume in each room as needed. Some 2 and 3 zone avr's do not allow volume control for zone 2 and certainly not for zone 3 as the volume level is 'fixed'. The Onkyo app also allow complete control over zone 1, and for zone 2 and 3 you can select any analog source including the half dozen or so online services plus fast forward, skip, rewind etc. Given there is no processing for zones 2 and 3 the functionality is severely curtailed. It really is the availability of the wifi control that allows you to accomplish for much cheaper what would have required pads for each room just a few years ago. The Onkyo app can even provide full control your tv and even the ability to select your smart TV's apps. With this set up I can get the audio from the main room's tv and DVD player in ever room as well with an external DAC. With this set up you give up the ability to control the audio via the remote or app for each individual set of speakers and are forced to use volume control knobs. You will find many other AVR's that can accomplish these things but each will have it's quirks. For example you may pick up a more expensive Denon to be surpised that you don't get volume control of zone 2. Every AVR seems to excluded or include little details that become important later on. I'll mention that I future wired every room at the same time with cat5e runs back to the headend just incase I outgrow this system.
post #9 of 26
I'm looking for something similar - though simpler I think.

I'd like an AVR that does surround in the main room (5.1 is fine). For the second zone, I'd like a line level stereo out with the same source as the main output.

Many AVR systems have this - with the caveat that the main output can't be surround (DTS or otherwise). They brag that you can output a different source to zone 2 - what is the point of that?

Does any receiver have an option to put out full surround for the main room and to downgrade to stereo for zone 2? This is simple "Party mode" - but I want the full BR surround audio in the main room, and simple stereo of the same source in zone 2.

If no receiver will do this, are there any other clever solutions?

Thanks,
Steve
post #10 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by punchcardhacker View Post

I'm looking for something similar - though simpler I think.

I'd like an AVR that does surround in the main room (5.1 is fine). For the second zone, I'd like a line level stereo out with the same source as the main output.

Many AVR systems have this - with the caveat that the main output can't be surround (DTS or otherwise). They brag that you can output a different source to zone 2 - what is the point of that?

Does any receiver have an option to put out full surround for the main room and to downgrade to stereo for zone 2? This is simple "Party mode" - but I want the full BR surround audio in the main room, and simple stereo of the same source in zone 2.

If no receiver will do this, are there any other clever solutions?

Thanks,
Steve

Steve, I'm not getting what you are asking as what you are asking is very common. My Onkyo 616 has both pre amp outputs and line level outputs for zone 2 (but again with volume control for zone 2 which is a big deal). For example lets say you are watching tv in the main room via HDMI ARC because say you are watching Netflix via onboard app in your smart tv. Then lets say you have a Toslink cable from the tv that also runs to the avr and is being converted via an external dac (these cost under $20) because of course zone 2 can only accept analog since there is no built in dac. Therefore on your tv you would switch the digital output to 2 channel pcm for zone 2 to work because the dac can not process 5.1. With that then the AVR will automatically take that 2.0 signal and turn it back into 5.1 for zone 1 and for zone 2 it is already being received as 2 channel stereo. Within the avr settings you can select your sound mode for zone 1.

If you want the same source in zone 2 as zone 1 it simply needs to either be an onboard app such as Pandora and you can simply select the same source for zone 1 and zone 2 or technically you can also use 'whole house' mode or 'party' mode which for me means that zone 3 will also mimic zone 1. If it is not an onboard app source then it simply needs to be an analog source or needs to have two cables running simultaneously as in my example above say from a bluray player or otherwise.

All very easy to accomplish especially if your headend isn't 40 feet away from the main room as mine is.
post #11 of 26
Thanks, I do think you got what I'm looking for. One of the systems I was looking at was the Onkyo 616 - it is near the top of my list.

Your answer seems to fit what I was seeing, and is my fundamental complaint about all multi-room solutions that I've seen so far.

If I'm playing BR through a player and streaming the content via HDMI (say TrueHD or DTS) into the AVR, I want the full, blissful surround to the AVR's speakers and have zone 2 output being the same audio simply downgraded to 2 ch.

But, as you point out, it will only output the same source to zone 2 if it is from an internal stream or some other 2 ch source. It is that limitation that is annoying the hell out of me. Your first solution, to down grade the input - essentially defeats the purpose of having a great audio source. I'm sure it does a reasonable job of re-converting to 5.1, but it is not quite the same.

I guess I don't see why the zone 2 can't be the same as the output as the HDMI input? Clearly for systems that have headphone jacks (that seems to be a dying feature) they can take the HDMI / TrueHD input and output 2 ch to the headphones. It seems that it is the exact same process. The headphone jack might actually be the solution - though typically, the presence of the headphone in the jack cuts off audio out the speakers. Or, are there systems that allow headphone output while the speakers are playing. That might be a solution.
post #12 of 26
Well in my example above the issue is that toslink can't pass the 5.1 if it could you can buy a dac for 60$ that will accept 5.1 and you'd leave the digital output on raw instead of PCM on the tv.. I seem to recall there is some legislation in the way that limits some of what could be accomplished here.
post #13 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by punchcardhacker View Post

But, as you point out, it will only output the same source to zone 2 if it is from an internal stream or some other 2 ch source. It is that limitation that is annoying the hell out of me. Your first solution, to down grade the input - essentially defeats the purpose of having a great audio source. I'm sure it does a reasonable job of re-converting to 5.1, but it is not quite the same.

For most sources, the answer here is to run a 2-channel analog cable in parallel with any digital signal, so that the source provides both. Zone2 gets the analog version (downmixed or otherwise, whatever the source provides), but the main zone gets the full digital / multichannel support.
Quote:
I guess I don't see why the zone 2 can't be the same as the output as the HDMI input?

Cost. Since the zone2/zone3 outputs were made for audio-only, adding the full decode hardware/firmware/licensing for a second output, when it's only going to be 2-channel anyway, would be overkill. But it would be nice... Some of the newer AVRs do process digital signals for zone2 - there may still be limitations on the codec support, though, so do the research on those products.
Quote:
Clearly for systems that have headphone jacks (that seems to be a dying feature) they can take the HDMI / TrueHD input and output 2 ch to the headphones. It seems that it is the exact same process. The headphone jack might actually be the solution - though typically, the presence of the headphone in the jack cuts off audio out the speakers. Or, are there systems that allow headphone output while the speakers are playing. That might be a solution.

The headphone jack changes the output format from multi-channel to 2-channel, using the primary DAC / codecs / etc. It's sharing all that hardware/software/licensing, the only additional component is the headphone amplifier.

Running a few $.50 RCA cables is by far the simplest solution for this - with the possible exception of the ARC link from the TV (if the TV doesn't have an analog audio output). But if that is intended as a source for zone2, there's probably a better solution for that content, most likely.

Jeff
post #14 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by jautor View Post

For most sources, the answer here is to run a 2-channel analog cable in parallel with any digital signal, so that the source provides both. Zone2 gets the analog version (downmixed or otherwise, whatever the source provides), but the main zone gets the full digital / multichannel support.
Cost. Since the zone2/zone3 outputs were made for audio-only, adding the full decode hardware/firmware/licensing for a second output, when it's only going to be 2-channel anyway, would be overkill. But it would be nice... Some of the newer AVRs do process digital signals for zone2 - there may still be limitations on the codec support, though, so do the research on those products.
The headphone jack changes the output format from multi-channel to 2-channel, using the primary DAC / codecs / etc. It's sharing all that hardware/software/licensing, the only additional component is the headphone amplifier.

Running a few $.50 RCA cables is by far the simplest solution for this - with the possible exception of the ARC link from the TV (if the TV doesn't have an analog audio output). But if that is intended as a source for zone2, there's probably a better solution for that content, most likely.

Jeff

The reality here is that this is about money. In 2013 it seems improbable that most AVR's can't accomplish what seems like common sense without going the flagship models that are cost prohibitive for many people. It is improbable that you can still buy a new $40,000 boat with a carbureted engine but that is the reality. I've seen some scathing reviews of avr's where the author was clearly new to this and bashing a particular avr because it can't do exactly what we are talking about here. If you want it it's going to be a work around as I have on whole house audio system or it's going to cost you a lot of money. Even when you get to the flagship level you will find there are still some limitations on zone 2 that zone 1 doesn't have depending on the model and brand.

On the NR616 that you are looking at, on the iphone app in my example above with the ARC and Toslink to dac set up, it denotes that the input is 2.0 (because of the mandatory downscaling to both the HDMI cable and Toslink cable to use the Toslink) but that the output for zone 1 is 5.1 and the output for zone 2 is PCM 2.0. I would question your assumption that a person could tell the difference between the native 5.1 and the upscaled 5.1. Someone else will need to comment as I just haven't tested. My only real beef with this set up I suppose was that I had to buy a 40 foot toslink cable for $7 to go to the head end where my $15 DAC resides. I had to spend an extra $22 to make this function properly and of course totally negated the whole one cable solution. Also then, I will mention that as AVR's are starting to go heavy on HDMI's and light on analog inputs and Toslink inputs, they aren't solving this issue that we are discussing. They are running away from legacy connections but forgetting that the zone 2 situation is a real concern.
post #15 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by jkust View Post

The reality here is that this is about money. In 2013 it seems improbable that most AVR's can't accomplish what seems like common sense without going the flagship models that are cost prohibitive for many people. It is improbable that you can still buy a new $40,000 boat with a carbureted engine but that is the reality. I've seen some scathing reviews of avr's where the author was clearly new to this and bashing a particular avr because it can't do exactly what we are talking about here.

Yes, it's about money (cost), as I said. Adding $10 of cost (or whatever the number is) to an AVR model for a feature is a big deal. How many people would buy it because of that feature - and how many don't care, and now buy someone else's model because it's cheaper. That's the imperfect argument(s) the manufacturers have to go through - and many times they get it wrong, certainly.
Quote:
If you want it it's going to be a work around as I have on whole house audio system or it's going to cost you a lot of money. Even when you get to the flagship level you will find there are still some limitations on zone 2 that zone 1 doesn't have depending on the model and brand.

The really simple, cheap solution is to buy a second inexpensive AVR for that zone (but one with all the codecs supported, which is almost all of them today), and split the HDMI signals from the sources. The 2nd AVR can do its own mixdown on the output for the other room.

The reality is that Zone2 usage is fairly rare. The number of consumers with the wiring in place or willingness to retrofit is small. Folks willing to retrofit are likely looking at multiple rooms, which will drive them to WHA solutions instead, anyway. Sonos and others building the wireless streamers with analog inputs are making this more practical, too, as the "requirement" to re-wire the house can be avoided - or at least can be confined to simple fishing/patching within the desired rooms.
Quote:
Also then, I will mention that as AVR's are starting to go heavy on HDMI's and light on analog inputs and Toslink inputs, they aren't solving this issue that we are discussing. They are running away from legacy connections but forgetting that the zone 2 situation is a real concern.

True, but they're also solving much of the problem for most use cases. With the Internet streaming support built-in, and now supporting Zone2 outputs, a lot of the sources we'd expect to use in secondary audio-only zones is covered with newer models.

Jeff
post #16 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by jautor View Post

Yes, it's about money (cost), as I said. Adding $10 of cost (or whatever the number is) to an AVR model for a feature is a big deal. How many people would buy it because of that feature - and how many don't care, and now buy someone else's model because it's cheaper. That's the imperfect argument(s) the manufacturers have to go through - and many times they get it wrong, certainly.
The really simple, cheap solution is to buy a second inexpensive AVR for that zone (but one with all the codecs supported, which is almost all of them today), and split the HDMI signals from the sources. The 2nd AVR can do its own mixdown on the output for the other room.

The reality is that Zone2 usage is fairly rare. The number of consumers with the wiring in place or willingness to retrofit is small. Folks willing to retrofit are likely looking at multiple rooms, which will drive them to WHA solutions instead, anyway. Sonos and others building the wireless streamers with analog inputs are making this more practical, too, as the "requirement" to re-wire the house can be avoided - or at least can be confined to simple fishing/patching within the desired rooms.
True, but they're also solving much of the problem for most use cases. With the Internet streaming support built-in, and now supporting Zone2 outputs, a lot of the sources we'd expect to use in secondary audio-only zones is covered with newer models.

Jeff

Good points. I'm one of the few then accordingly that is in process of a complete whole house audio in my 6000 square foot house no less. Its a huge pain but a glaring omission in the house and something I've always wanted. I've only got a few rooms to go but those are a bathroom, laundry room and a formal living room that are low priority. I'm not doing the kids rooms or their bathrooms. I wanted to do it on the cheap but still future wire with cat wire if I'm dissatisfied. The point I'm getting to is that one of the reasons I even decided to do it is because of the wireless functionality of the phone and tablet apps. The 3 zone control of the Onkyos via my phone really helped me decide to even do it. Without the apps going back just a couple years, I'd have had to do the much more expensive true whole house audio distribution with Sonos and similar method. The wireless app to me is a giant leap forward and am happy to give up zone 2 and 3 digital capabilities. It'd be nice but the work around was simple and cheap. I actually am so impressed that the whole thing can be controlled by any wireless phone/tablet/android/apple device. It's almost too good to be true.
post #17 of 26
Yes, the mobile device support has made the AVR-based multizone support better by orders of magnitude. As you said, previously, even with RF remote controls, your ability to select content / control sources or otherwise make anything other than simple changes (vol +/-, change source, select FM preset) required a trip to the AVR in practical terms.

It's when you extend "zone2" to attempt a WHA system using a single output where the AVR solution will continue to come up short, especially in usability. Which is why the 6-8 zone WHA products will continue to exist, and hopefully continue to come down in price as the addressable market expands - due to the wireless implementations and the number of pre-wired homes increasing...

The WHA system in my house is one of the best things I did - I use it every day.

Jeff
post #18 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by jautor View Post

Yes, the mobile device support has made the AVR-based multizone support better by orders of magnitude. As you said, previously, even with RF remote controls, your ability to select content / control sources or otherwise make anything other than simple changes (vol +/-, change source, select FM preset) required a trip to the AVR in practical terms.

It's when you extend "zone2" to attempt a WHA system using a single output where the AVR solution will continue to come up short, especially in usability. Which is why the 6-8 zone WHA products will continue to exist, and hopefully continue to come down in price as the addressable market expands - due to the wireless implementations and the number of pre-wired homes increasing...

The WHA system in my house is one of the best things I did - I use it every day.

Jeff

Agreed, It presumably will take me a while to outgrow the 3 zone solution then the future wire may get used but the 616 cost was nearly pocket change as a way to get into WHA (it's the labor hours where I really paid for this system...it's taken me several weekend of all day pulling wires and creativity and wall patching) I'm just pleased as punch that I can hear music in the shower and haven't hardly used the other rooms yet. The kitchen speakers arrive on Friday so that will be a heavily used part of the system. Monoprice has been such a budget saver. I'm happy to pay $15 for a impedance matching volume control knob and manually control each rooms volume.
post #19 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by jkust View Post

Monoprice has been such a budget saver. I'm happy to pay $15 for a impedance matching volume control knob and manually control each rooms volume.

Just note that many folks have had issues with the impedance-matching aspect of the Monoprice controls. No idea if it's still an issue or was a specific model, so YMMV... Just a caution, but as always the Monoprice value factor is a huge advantage...
post #20 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by jautor View Post

Just note that many folks have had issues with the impedance-matching aspect of the Monoprice controls. No idea if it's still an issue or was a specific model, so YMMV... Just a caution, but as always the Monoprice value factor is a huge advantage...

Good to know since I hadn't heard. Monoprice reviews are almost too good to be true. There's hardly a negative review on anything I've bought from them. Without their low prices, I don't think I'd have gone through with all of this work. Even their 14 gauge wire is cheap. Sourcing all of these thing's locally and I will bet I'd have spent triple the money.
post #21 of 26
I second jautor and recommend using HTD impedence matching volume controls. They have always well performed and are just a little more expensive.
post #22 of 26
I guess I'll have to be one of the people who possibly leaves a negative review for the Monoprice volume controls. They are all already installed so will have to go with what I've got.
post #23 of 26
Jeff, in quoting the advice you gave to another person on the AVSforum, you've described exactly what I'm looking for. Do you know of a receiver that meets your 3 specifications below (plus I would add Apple Airplay to #2), and that is priced under $800? I've searched and haven't found one. Seems like most receivers with Zone 2 have customers griping about how hard it is to use them, much less ones that can be conrolled by a Mobile App -- and are also Airplay compatible.
Thanks,
Kent

"Look for one that has the following:

1) A powered Zone2 output - which is typically a 7.1 AVR used in a 5.1 + Zone2 configuration
2) Network support / Internet music sources - Pandora, Spotify, Internet Radio, etc.
3) Mobile Device "app" for control of the AVR including Zone2

That makes the setup easy (no external components), control simple (through any mobile device), and the Internet sources provide music that can be selected and controlled remotely as well..."
post #24 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by kmajor View Post

Jeff, in quoting the advice you gave to another person on the AVSforum, you've described exactly what I'm looking for. Do you know of a receiver that meets your 3 specifications below (plus I would add Apple Airplay to #2), and that is priced under $800? I've searched and haven't found one. Seems like most receivers with Zone 2 have customers griping about how hard it is to use them, much less ones that can be conrolled by a Mobile App -- and are also Airplay compatible.

Better asked in the Receivers forum, but since Airplay can be easily added with a $99 Airport Express, I'd start with the Onkyo NR616 + AE for around $450 street...

Or, any 5.1 AVR with network / AirPlay connectivity and an <$100 external amp for zone2 like the Audiosource AMP-100.

Jeff
post #25 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by kmajor View Post

Jeff, in quoting the advice you gave to another person on the AVSforum, you've described exactly what I'm looking for. Do you know of a receiver that meets your 3 specifications below (plus I would add Apple Airplay to #2), and that is priced under $800? I've searched and haven't found one. Seems like most receivers with Zone 2 have customers griping about how hard it is to use them, much less ones that can be conrolled by a Mobile App -- and are also Airplay compatible.
Thanks,
Kent

"Look for one that has the following:

1) A powered Zone2 output - which is typically a 7.1 AVR used in a 5.1 + Zone2 configuration
2) Network support / Internet music sources - Pandora, Spotify, Internet Radio, etc.
3) Mobile Device "app" for control of the AVR including Zone2

That makes the setup easy (no external components), control simple (through any mobile device), and the Internet sources provide music that can be selected and controlled remotely as well..."

I have the Denon X2000 and it meets all of your requirements, I would recommend that. Zone 2 also has independent volume control which is great.
post #26 of 26

Not sure if I'm in the right place. I would like to have a good surround sound receiver for my entertainment room. Mine recently died but I want a small upgrade. I was not aware of the 2 zone systems and I don't know how they work. I want to be able to watch TV or a movie or whatever in my entertainment room and then put a wireless speaker anywhere else I choose, primarily the bathroom  and listen to Pandora or CD or whatever in there at the same time. I don't want to rewire my house to do it. My Speakers in entertainment room are already wired in. What exactly will I need for this? Thanks in advance for any help 

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