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Why bi-amp your speakers?

A beginner's guide to getting better sound from bi-amp capable speakers

Author's note: This article covers bi-amping with a home theater receiver, also known as "passive bi-amping." It's written for folks who have bi-amp capable speakers, and a 7-channel home theater receiver with unassigned channels of power. 

There's another approach called "active bi-amping" that employs outboard crossovers, power amplifiers, and expert-level tweaking to achieve even better sound. One reason I don’t go into detail about active bi-amping in this article is that we don’t offer the gear you’d need to do it.

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.

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 use 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 lesser-known features — bi-amping.

I designated the two rear amp 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 the performance of my speakers was audible.

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.

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. Bi-amp capable receivers let you redistribute the power from the sixth and seventh channel outputs for other applications.

You might use this extra pair of assignable 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 usable power that each speaker gets.

How does bi-amping make a difference?

Bi-amping provides more usable 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.

There's a lot of debate in the audio world about the effectiveness of bi-amping — the comments at the bottom of the article are a testament to that!

Some folks say they can hear a difference. Others say it's no substitute for getting a bigger, more powerful amplifier.

Since bi-amping is a feature found in many home theater receivers and speakers, I recommend trying it for yourself to see whether or not it makes a difference in your system.

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 floor-standing speakers or bookshelf speakers that each have two sets of input terminals.
  3. Four sets of speaker cables (two sets 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 increase power to 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 solely used to direct the traffic of the incoming signal.

Passive bi-amping doesn’t make any changes to the signal the speaker is receiving — it only increases the amount of available current being sent to each portion of the speaker.

This is different from "active bi-amping," which employs multiple amplifiers and external crossovers to achieve better sound. Active bi-amping can offer greater improvements in performance, but requires specialized gear and set up knowledge 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 it 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.

Personalized advice from our team of experts

Have questions about planning your new bi-amped system? Our expert Advisors know the gear inside and out. Contact us today

Free lifetime tech support is included with every Crutchfield purchase.

  • Michael

    Posted on 5/30/2023

    There are very few scenarios in which bi-amplification will not benefit sound reproduction. Please note that amplification sections must very closely match each other on a per-channel basis so tone-matched amps are a necessity. It is not necessary to use physically separate amps so a multichannel receiver can perform the job if it has the ability to bi-amp. And these assignable multichannel amps have only recently become available to us in the past decade or so whereas bi-amp speakers predate that by at least another decade.


    Posted on 5/22/2023

    Hi, I am interested to bi-amp my system. I am currently using E480 Accuphase integrated amp & would like to bi amp another Accuphase Power Amp. Should I use Class AB power amp or I can use Class A power amp to bi-amp? Thank you in advance for your advice & feedback.


    Posted on 5/22/2023

    Hi, I am interested to bi-amp my system. I am currently using E480 Accuphase integrated amp & would like to bi amp another Accuphase Power Amp. Should I use Class AB power amp or I can use Class A power amp to bi-amp? Thank you in advance for your advice & feedback.

  • guci macu

    Posted on 4/28/2023

    For clarification please. I am trying to understand the application of Bi-Amp. Using a capable AVR (Denon 3313CI) to Bi-amp a pair of tower speakers (Emotiva T1). My understanding is this would increase the available current to each set of speakers in the cabinet. This would be good for increasing volume as well as separate the mids/highs and the lows. However, if the lows(subs) require more power than the mids and highs (ribbon tweeter) then wouldn't the mids and highs be overpowered as the volume (current) is turned up. Would this not cause a disproportionate amount of power to the mids/highs and low/subs. (ie. to much high/mids and not enough low/bass.

  • Paul from Des Moines IA

    Posted on 4/7/2023

    Author Kramer Crane says: passive biamping "only increases the amount of available current being sent to each portion of the speaker". How do you send available current? I think Kramer should have said: "increases the amount of current available to be sent to each portion of the speaker". Most amplifiers cannot double the current output driving half rated impedance 4O. The amplifier voltage is clipped when the amplifier current limit is exceeded, producing distortion. One amplifier may clip when either low or high frequency speaker circuit impedance is low. Passive biamplification divides separate low and high frequency speaker impedance, current, and power between separate amplifiers. Separate amplifiers have more current available, and independent current output. Low impedance of the low frequency speaker circuit increases current from the low frequency amplifier. Current of the high frequency speaker circuit has been off-loaded to the high frequency amplifier, leaving more current for the low frequency amplifier. Low frequency speaker circuit low impedance may clip high frequencies in the low frequency amplifier, producing higher frequency distortion. High frequencies and higher frequency distortion are attenuated by the low pass filter and not reproduced by the low frequency woofer speaker. Low frequency speaker circuit low impedance high current, and clipping of the low frequency amplifier does not affect the high frequency amplifier.

  • George B from Pittsburgh

    Posted on 4/5/2023

    I'm driving a pair of Paradigm Monitor 9 front towers and can hear significant improvement when I bi-amp them - probably because they do not seem to be very efficient. When I temporarily replaced them with much more efficient Klipsch 280F's I could hear an improvement - but not as much as with the Paradigm's.

  • Matthew Nudelman from Monroe

    Posted on 2/13/2023

    Is there a Stereo receiver capable of Passive Bi-Amping rather than using a home theater receiver? I want to bi-amp 2 JBL Studio 580's in my home theater, with an Extra pair of PS 2000 Pros. I want to have 2 seperate systems, My Marantz Cinema 50 is running my theater, and I have both Yamaha & Sony Receivers I can use ti Bi-amp in a stereo configuration, but I believe there night be a better alternative.

  • AllThumbs from Non Hispanic/Latino

    Posted on 2/12/2023

    I love how some people slam someone or something without any real facts posted and then claim all the advanced degrees they hold and the experience they have to convince the reader to accept their meaningless drivel as fact. the FACTS are bi-amping (not bi-wiring) does indeed increase the power going to the speaker. This is not to say that there are no challenges involved and considerations to be made, but to call the article total rubbish is indeed rubbish in itself. Proper bi=amping with the right equipment will indeed increase the wattage going to the speaker when properly applied, as the author states. If I had any qualms with his article, it would be the fact that it is over-simplified and did not delve into more detail.

  • Fabian from Sparks, NV

    Posted on 1/29/2023

    Hi Kramer, trying to get better sound out of my Onkyo TX-RZ720 receiver. I have Paradigm Monitor 7 front speakers connected. Is it possible to Bi amp this set up? And if so, how do I go about it. Also would there be a benefit to hooking up a pre amp to this system if possible? Thanks for your insight.

  • John from Larksville

    Posted on 1/8/2023

    Hello. I have a Rotel RSX-1055 and a pair of Klipsch RP 8000F ii. I was wondering, since I'm only planning to use it as a two channel system, can I use any of the unused channels to bi-amp the Klipsch speakers? Thank you.

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