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Option 3: Multi-Zone A/V Receiver

Many new audio/video receivers are dual-zone, meaning that they let you switch input sources between two independent sets of outputs: The secondary output—zone "B"—can play a totally separate source than zone "A." This type of receiver is ideal for powering a two-room audio system. Zone "A," of course, is your main home theater room. The zone "B" outputs are fed to your auxiliary listening room, which lets you watch movies in one room while you listen to CDs in the other, for example.

Most lower-end receivers don't power the zone "B" outputs. You have a set of right/left (R/L) line outputs, which you then have to feed into a separate amplifier or receiver for the second room. Some high-end receivers, however, do power their zone "B" outputs, in which case you only have to run speaker cables from the amplifier to the second-room speakers.

The multi-zone receiver system offers these advantages:

  • Separate listening sources. You can listen to one source in your main room and a separate source in the auxiliary room.

  • Separate controls. You can usually control the second room audio from a supplementary RF remote control, typically included with the receiver.

  • Simpler equipment. If you choose a receiver with powered zone "B" outputs, you don't need any additional amplification equipment.

These disadvantages come along with such a system:

  • Two rooms maximum. You're limited to a two-room system.

  • More equipment may be required. If you have a low-priced receiver with a non-powered zone "B," you'll have to buy a second receiver or amplifier to power your second-room speakers—although you can usually get by with an inexpensive stereo receiver.

A multi-zone receiver is a good option if you only need to feed one auxiliary room, or perhaps a set of outdoor speakers. Of course, you can always combine different types of systems, and run the zone "B" output through a speaker selector to feed additional rooms.

You can also choose a receiver that powers more than two zones. A popular example is the Niles Audio ZR-4630 MultiZone Receiver, which is a 12-channel receiver that can power up to six listening zones. At $1,698, it's a surprisingly affordable solution if you have a lot of rooms to feed.

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