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Why bi-amp your speakers?

How to get the best sound from compatible speakers

I started my Crutchfield career as a product advisor. I fielded thousands of customer questions about A/V equipment, designing systems for homes, cars, and the occasional party bus. Do that for eight years, and you begin to understand what people really want from their gear. You also get a lot of hands-on experience with the latest products. That's one of the coolest things about working here. As a writer, I enjoy translating technical jargon into easy-to-understand language. My goal is to make shopping for speakers and amplifiers simple. After all, this stuff is supposed to be fun! Outside of work, I enjoy playing and teaching music. I'm always on the lookout for interesting left-handed guitars.

More from Kramer Crane

I like getting the most out of my A/V gear. If there are features available that will improve my listening experience, I want to make sure I'm using them.

A few years ago I upgraded my 5.1-channel home theater receiver to a 7.1-channel model. This gave me a chance to engage one of its cooler features. I designated the two rear channels that weren’t being used with my five-speaker system to bi-amplify my front left and right floor-standing speakers. In other words, instead of just one channel of power going to each speaker, I now had two channels of power driving each speaker. The increase in performance was noticeable.

Why did bi-amping make a difference? Let's talk about the nuts and bolts of how it works first. Then we'll dive into what you need to bi-amp your speakers.

Bi-amped speaker connections

A bi-amp capable receiver uses two different pairs of amp channels for a single speaker. Here we show the connection points for the front right speaker in a home theater system.

How does bi-amping work?

On the speaker side

Bi-amping is a speaker connection method that uses two channels of amplification to power a single speaker. It's commonly used with the front left and right speakers of a home theater system.

Instead of a speaker's woofer and tweeter sections sharing one channel of power, they each get dedicated channels of amplification. This feature is found on select tower speakers and premium bookshelf speakers.

Bi-amped speaker connections

A bi-amp capable speaker has two sets of input terminals for connecting to two separate receiver channels.

On the amplifier side

Many of us have a 7.1-channel home theater receiver, but only use it to power a five-speaker surround sound system. Some 7.1-channel receivers let you reassign the sixth and seventh channel outputs for other applications.

You might use this extra pair of channels to power rear surround speakers, speakers in a second zone, or in this case, to bi-amp your front left and right speakers. Connecting these channels to a pair of bi-amp capable speakers increases the amount of power that each speaker gets.

Why is bi-amping effective?

Bi-amping provides more useable current to the speaker. Instead of a single channel’s worth of power divvied up between the woofer and tweeter sections, each speaker section gets a full channel’s worth of juice. Increasing the total amplifier power to each speaker provides more headroom and greater control, which can yield better sound.

Setting up a bi-amped system

Here's a short checklist of what you need to get started:

  1. A 7.1 (or greater) home theater receiver with an unused pair of assignable amp channels.
  2. A pair of speakers that each have two sets of input terminals.
  3. Four sets of speaker cables (two for each speaker).

Preparing your speakers

Speaker jumpers connected

The first step to bi-amping your front speakers is removing the brass jumpers that link the top and bottom speaker terminals together.

Speaker jumpers disconnected

Removing the jumpers lets you connect separate receiver channels to each set of terminals.

Dive into your receiver's settings

To bi-amp your speakers, you need to enable this feature in your receiver. This setting is usually located in the speaker setup section of your receiver's menu. Designate the unused assignable channels to bi-amp your front speakers.

Assignable speaker connections

On this Denon receiver, the surround back outputs are assignable as bi-amp channels. Each one pairs with a front channel to double power your speakers.

Connect each set of speaker terminals to the receiver

Once your receiver is set up to bi-amp, it's time to connect your speakers. One set of speaker cables connects to the front left and right outputs on your receiver. The second set connects to the assigned bi-amp channels.

Since each speaker cable is carrying a full-range signal it generally doesn't matter which channels plug into the top or bottom sets of speaker input terminals. But refer to your owner's manuals to see if there's a preferred connection point.

Make the right connection

There are a few different types of speaker cables that you can use to connect your bi-amped speakers. A popular choice is buying bulk wire, cutting it into four equal lengths for each speaker, and adding banana connectors on each end. This gives you a simple, secure way to connect your gear together. Pre-terminated speaker cables are also a good option for bi-amping.

Passive versus active bi-amping

The bi-amping method we describe in this article is sometimes called “passive” bi-amping. That means the speaker’s internal crossovers are still employed.  Passive bi-amping doesn’t make any changes to the signal itself — only in the amount of available current being sent to each portion of the speaker.

This is different than “active” bi-amping, which removes the speaker’s crossovers from the signal path altogether. This method employs multiple amplifiers and external crossovers to achieve better sound. Active bi-amping can offer greater improvements in performance, but requires specialized gear to pull off.

How is bi-wiring different from bi-amping?

Bi-amping uses two channels of amplification to power a speaker that has two sets of input terminals. Bi-wiring uses just one channel of amplification to power the same type of speaker. Bi-wiring is useful when you have a single stereo amplifier or receiver as your power source.

A bi-wire cable has one pair of connections on the amplifier end, but two pairs of connections on the speaker end. This lets it take a full-range signal from the amp and send high and low frequencies down separate paths, which can improve treble and bass performance. Bi-wiring also removes the connective brass jumpers from the signal path, which are typically less conductive than bi-wire cables.

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Last updated 7/28/2017
  • Randy from Wisconsin

    Posted on 7/12/2015

    If I understand you, you're saying to use the 2 extra channels from the normal 5.1 system. My Denon receiver lists uses for front upper surround or rear upper. Would it better to bi-amp or do the upper front? We use the system mostly for movies. The front speakers are Klipsch rb2.

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/13/2015

    Randy, for overall sound quality I usually prefer bi-amping, but if you're doing more movie watching than music listening, you might get more mileage with some upper front surround speakers.

  • Chis from Houston

    Posted on 8/17/2017

    Can you bi-amp with older amps using the A and B main speakers?

  • Jason Bowen

    Posted on 8/17/2017

    So what happens if you have bi-amp enabled on your receiver settings but you aren't actually using the feature? Will that negatively affect the sound quality?

  • John from South Hill

    Posted on 8/17/2017

    I'm curious why you'd use Surround Back & Front for the bi-amp instead of Surround & Front as you're much likely in a 5.1 speaker config to have rear speakers and lacking side Surround speakers.

  • Mike from Mokena

    Posted on 8/17/2017

    A wiring diagram would be helpful

  • Phillipwamble from Bernie Mo

    Posted on 8/17/2017

    HI my name is PHILLIP Wamble and I have an onkyo receiver that I'm fixing to replace all of the speakers on I'm at work right now or I would have the model #for my Onkyo I know it has bi-amp capabilities because I've played with it all ready I'm wanting to purchase the bi-ampable speakers from crutchfield and I'm wanting a powered subwoofer for it also if possible could I get some pricing on the speakers I'm interested in that are compatible with my Onkyo by the way it has 3 subwoofer preouts on it

  • Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/17/2017

    Chis, that wouldn't be bi-amping, since your amp's A and B output sections are both tied to the same pair of amp channels. You'd need separate stereo amps, or a home theater receiver with assignable channels to bi-amp your speakers.

  • Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/17/2017

    Hi Jason, if you have bi-amping selected in your receiver's menu, but no speakers connected, those amp channels will just sit idle and stay unused. No harm, no foul.

  • Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/17/2017

    Hey John, it all comes down to which amp channels are assignable on a given receiver. On my Sony, the surround back channels are the ones that turn into bi-amp channels. I have my in-wall surround speakers connected to the "surround" outputs. The receiver's auto-calibration system takes care of the rest.

  • Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/17/2017

    Hi Philip, I'm passing your info along to our advisor group. Someone will reach out soon with a personalized recommendation for your new system.

  • Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/17/2017

    Hi Mike, wiring diagrams are included in the manuals of bi-amp capable receivers and speakers. They vary some from receiver to receiver, so it's best to reference your specific model's recommendations.

  • Ron from Oakland

    Posted on 8/17/2017

    I can attest to the improved performance using bi-amp capable towers and a 7.1 channel amp. I upgraded to an Onkyo TX-NR646 from an older Onkyo amp and have Klipsch WF-35 towers. (and matching center channel and surrounds) I live in a (nice sized) apartment and don't want to disturb my neighbors too much, so I've yet to invest in a sub.

    Since I'm only using 5 channels, and my towers have two sets of posts, I decided to try it out. I was very pleasantly surprised. It basically turned one of the three speakers in each of my towers into a sub, allowing for the top two and the tweets to focus solely on mids and highs. I still get full, rich bass and clear sound for music and movies. Of course not sub bass, but that's not necessary in my listening environment. I strongly recommend doing it if you can, especially if you already have the capability. It'll just cost you an extra set of speaker wire that you probably already have. :)

  • Ron Geimer from Chicago

    Posted on 8/17/2017

    Talk to me about biamping Yamaha A1040 to Martin Logan Theos. I already am using as 7.1 surround system.

  • Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/17/2017

    Hi Ron, since you're already using all seven channels of your Yamaha receiver, there aren't any unused channels that you can reassign for bi-amping. That said, your Theos' electrostatic panels are a unique example of not benefiting from the extra power, since they plug into the wall for juice.

  • Ben co from Hayward, CA

    Posted on 8/17/2017

    I just bought a NAD367integrated amp from cructsfield could that be used to biamp? I am using a pair of ProAc studio 140 MKII speaker, will that be compatible?

  • Clarence

    Posted on 8/17/2017

    Hey Kramer... I have a question about my Harmon Kardon AVR 7200 I've had since 03 ...my Klipsch r28 are bi ampable is my receiver capable of doing that? because i listen to a lot of music and movies.... All Klipsch fronts center subs and rear.....

  • Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/18/2017

    Hi Ben, that's a sweet system you have. Your NAD integrated amp isn't able to bi-amp (its A and B speaker outputs share the same pair of amp channels). However, knowing that amp's capabilities, you're in great shape with the pairing that you have now.

    The good news is that you can bi-wire your speakers since they have two sets of speaker terminals. AudioQuest's Rocket 33 is a popular speaker cable option that's compatible with your system.

  • Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/18/2017

    Hey Clarence, I did some digging and found that though your HK receiver has assignable channels, they can't be used for bi-amping (just for multi-room or surround back speakers). Page 33 of the owner's manual has more details on those features if you're interested.

    You've gotten good life out of that receiver. Glad to hear it's still pumping out great sound all these years later!

  • Jeff

    Posted on 8/18/2017

    I'm not clear on how this would make any difference at all. If you have a 100Watt per-channel receiver and you take a single channel (100 watts) and plug it into the speaker to drive it, the crossover will take the 100 watts of power and separate the portion of the frequencies for the highs to their drivers and the portion of the frequencies for the lows to their drivers - still 100 watts of power hitting each crossover. If you then take two channels, 100 watts each and pipe one to the lows and one to the highs, the crossover still does exactly the same thing - you're just losing the signal that the crossover does not use. Highs discard the low frequency and it is not used, lows discard the high frequency and it is not used. We're still at 100 watts input to the speakers in either case. Experience tells me this is the case also - I have tried this with my speakers/receiver and I notice no difference at all. I am running a Marantz 7009 with Sonus Faber Venere 3.0s and using 12 gauge wire.

  • kenny

    Posted on 8/18/2017

    Kramer, I am buying the A-S2100 and pairing that to RF-7 II speakers. I just saw the Rocket-33 cables and if I understand you correctly that won't be true bi-wiring as I am only coming out of the back of the stereo from one not both. What are your thoughts here?

  • Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/18/2017

    Hi Kenny, great question. The system you're putting together is perfect for bi-wiring, which takes the single set of speaker outputs from your amp, and sends the high and low frequencies through separate sets of cables to the two pairs of inputs on each of your Klipsch speakers. This also removes the brass jumpers from the signal path, which are less conductive than the Rocket 33 cables.

    Bi-amping won't work with your Yamaha amp, but bi-wiring definitely will, and is the preferred connection method for your gear.

  • Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/18/2017

    Hi Jeff, I'm not sure I'm following your example. Say you have a 100-watt per channel home theater receiver, and you're powering your front speakers solely from the front left and right outputs. In this scenario, each speaker is seeing 100 watts of power. The woofer and tweeter sections share that, say 50 watts to each section (hypothetically speaking).

    Now say you set your system up to bi-amp. You've now doubled the incoming power, since each speaker is getting 100 watts from two different amp channels. In our hypothetical example, each woofer and tweeter section now gets 100 watts each instead of the 50 they were getting before.

    There are nuanced considerations when it comes to bi-amping (power supply efficiency, etc.), but on the surface the power is doubled. All other things being equal, that improves headroom, which is always an improvement.

  • Brad from Auburn, AL

    Posted on 8/21/2017

    I am looking to upgrade my 5.2 Denon receiver soon and most options I have in mind are 7.2. I am going to keep my current 5.2 setup which has bi amp capable towers. If I use the 2 rear surround channels for bi amping, will I loose anything (signal wise) every time I switch to stereo mode from surround on the receiver since those channels aren't used in the receivers stereo mode? Or will the receiver still send the stereo output through those bi amped channels as well?

  • Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/22/2017

    Hi Brad. Once you've assigned those rear surround channels as bi-amp channels, they'll stay live when you switch into stereo mode. Otherwise, you'd lose your woofer or tweeter since the two pairs of input terminals on each speaker aren't joined together anymore. So no worries at all, it will work great.

  • Gavin from Asbury Park

    Posted on 8/23/2017

    You are not doubling your power. There are definitely benefits to available power as well as getting more out of your crossovers as well as improving your speaker cable performance but def not doubling power. That being said yes if the channels are available you should get a nice bump in performance with some better dynamics depending on the amplifier quality.

  • popalock from Dallas

    Posted on 8/24/2017

    Hello Kramer, Do you have any objective data (frequency response measurements) to support your subjective impressions? In my personal experience, I have found that true "performance gains" can be objectively pinpointed using a calibrated microphone coupled with software such as Room EQ Wizzard (REW) or Omnimic, etc. I personally have performed similar tests (going from internal AVR amplification to a much more powerful external amplifier) and the objective data was counter intuitive to other subjective opinions I have read over the years. I may break out my microphone and take another full battery of tests (frequency response measurements, compression sweeps, etc...) and publish my findings somewhere on the interwebz just for discussion sake. Also, having built my own speakers and assembled crossovers in the past, I do not quite understand how the internal crossover network on these common consumer brand speakers can be defeated by simply "separating" the signal using two channels of amplification from your AVR or amplifier. Passive crossovers are somewhat complex to design (for the novice) and every passive speaker requires a different design to give said speaker it's signature sound. By "separating" the highs and lows, in essence you would be defeating the passive crossover. Truly powering a two way speaker with two separate channels of amplification would require active digital sound processing (DSP) to perform the crossover / signal shaping function. To be cont

  • Sean from Salt lake city

    Posted on 8/31/2017

    I'm running truaudio tc lcr.1 denon x4300h running to highs And parasound 1200 bridged 600 watts to each one they really rock

  • Steve from Lockport

    Posted on 9/3/2017

    I've been bi-amping for years. love it. I split the pre amp output. One split goes directly to an FET Adcom amp, whichpowers a high end set of speakers (they dont have nuch bottom end). The other end of the split goes to an electronic crossover - used as a low pass filter (now dont get all bent out of shape here), this signal which is crossed at 100 hz is then fed into an Adcom GFA555 which powers two sub woofers with 5 pound magnets. Yes there is a difference that you can hear at the bottom end, and it is in sterio. I like this setup more than dolby surround x.x

  • Antoine from Slidell

    Posted on 9/4/2017

    I Know how to set up receivers. I've bi- amped my Polk TSI's speakers with three different brands, Yamaha , Denon, and Sony. In my experience, I found no audible difference with either. I personally don't think it's worth buying another receiver if you only want to bi-amp. I decided to add two bookshelf speakers and set them all to full/ all channel stereo for music. That made the audible difference I was looking for with bi amping. More bass(without sub), better treble, open sound everywhere, from just $100.00 set of TSI100's. Maybe bi-amping work better with super expensive receivers and speakers.

  • Matt K from Boston

    Posted on 9/8/2017

    The science behind this says, that unless you have a dedicated external crossover (a so called active bi-amp), it is a complete waste to biamp. There will be no benefit what so ever. With a passive Bi-amp (like setting your head unit to bi-amp mode and running two sets of wires) there will be absolutely zero impact. No increase in output or quality at all. It is a sham. http://www.avsforum.com/forum/91-audio-theory-setup-chat/2770993-learn-why-passive-bi-amping-isn-t-actually-more-powerful.html Essentially, all you are still amplifying the full range of the signal, even though each speaker element is only using a portion of it, so it results in zero benefit. ACTIVE bi-amping DOES work however, but you'd need to filter out the unused frequencies from each channel with an active crossover BEFORE the amplifier in order for this to work. This way the amp only amplifies the frequencies that each element is actually using, and you can see a real benefit. With an AV receiver essentially being one huge DSP, there is no reason the AV receiver makers couldn't do this. It would be complicated, because you would need to know which frequency range to send to each input on the speakers, and you would have to configure your receiver to output only those frequency ranges, but to my knowledge not a single AV receiver on the market does. So, unless something in the market changes, just don't do it. It is nothing but a waste of an amplifier channel (and speaker cable)

  • The Dude from Glencoe, mn

    Posted on 9/10/2017

    This is pretty much a gimic peeps. You will hear no audible difference. For true bi amping, you need multiple amplifiers. Separate channels on your receiver are still connected to the same amp. You are not increasing power to your speaker, in fact you may sacrificing some needed power during peak times since your amp in your receiver is now powering 2 channels for one speaker. Do some research and check it out.

  • Keith from Orlando, FL

    Posted on 9/14/2017

    Matt K correctly notes that the result CANNOT be significantly different. The same exact voltage is being fed through the same exact passive crossover path for BOTH paths (Low and high frequency), thus the result would be expected to be essentially the same. As for the author experiencing a dramatic increase in output, Ohm's law and basic test equipment beg to differ. I admire Crutchfield overall for its ability to help people assemble sensible systems and get the most out of them, but this article is demonstrably flawed. There MAY be a teeny-tiny improvement in terms of negating interaction between LF and HF drive units due to speaker cable reactance/resistance by this method of "Bi-Amping", but without an active crossover PRIOR to the amplifier's output stage, there can be no increase in output power, as noted by Matt K.

  • JonKron from Mill Valley

    Posted on 9/15/2017

    The real question here is why somebody wouldn't just forgo the complication of it all and simply add more real power. Instead of an abysmal 90w per channel (which likely is not accurately rated, aka peak power rating for only 1 channel at 1ft), buy a legitimate (and affordable) 5-channel amp such as Emotiva, Outlaw or Monoprice that's rated at 200w+ per channel w/all channels driven.

  • Bob Gagnon from La Jolla

    Posted on 9/15/2017

    I'm a fan of Bi-Amp but I divide the signal with an active crossover (between amps to passive subs and the satellites) BEFORE the main amplifiers, so I'm with popalock from Dallas as to the question of how does one design a crossover to divide the signal AFTER the main amplifiers.

  • Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    Posted on 9/15/2017

    Thank you all for your feedback and comments. I appreciate the dialogue on what has always been somewhat of a controversial topic in the world of home audio.

    Passive bi-amping isn't a magical spell that will dramatically improve your system's performance. But everything being equal, increasing the amount of usable current to your speaker provides more control and greater headroom. This article outlines the basics on how to get there.

    Some good points have been made about the benefits of active bi-amping. I appreciate your enthusiasm as we all strive to get the most out of our gear.

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