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.
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.
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:
- A 7.1 (or greater) home theater receiver with an unused pair of assignable amp channels.
- A pair of floor-standing speakers or bookshelf speakers that each have two sets of input terminals.
- Four sets of speaker cables (two sets for each speaker).
Preparing your speakers
The first step to bi-amping your front speakers is removing the brass jumpers that link the top and bottom speaker terminals together.
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.
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.
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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.
Paul from Des Moines
Posted on 6/27/2022
This article is nonsense. Amplifiers are voltage sources. Load impedance determines amplifier current and power output. Separate low and high frequency speaker sections have the same impedance, current, and power driven by one amplifier or separate amplifiers. I have degrees in engineering science and electronic technology and 45 years experience in audio.
Posted on 5/14/2022
I just puchased an Onkyo TX-RZ50 from you as part of a very long (and very expensive) upgrade process. The front and center speakers I am currently considering are capable of bi-wiring/bi-amping. The RZ50 lets me bi-amp the Front Left & Front Right channels but not the Center. So, my question is: Can I bi-wire the center speaker while bi-amping the left and right speakers at the same time?
John F Liffiton from Aurora
Posted on 3/28/2022
I have Klipsch Forte IV and Klipsch KG 5.2. I can run them with either my Denon AVR-X2400H or with my Denon AVR-X4200W. I'd like to make sure my Forte IV sound the best -- which receiver should I use? Should I bi-amp the Forte IV? I'm hoping to run all 4 speakers but may just run the Forte IV if my receivers aren't good options. If I can bi-amp the Forte IV and run the KG-5.2 which channels for which speakers is recommended. Thanks for your help
Kramer Crane from Crutchfield
As for bi-amping, I say give it a shot. All you need is a couple of extra sets of speaker wire and a settings change in your receiver. I'd re-run the Audyssey system once everything's in place, and see what you think.
Thanks for your questions, and happy listening!
Glen from Castle Rock, CO
Posted on 3/8/2022
Here's what I know about bi-wiring. I've tried it in many different setups over the years. Sometimes it sounded better to me, sometimes I heard no difference, and once it was very definitely worse. The bottom line is, what matters is what sounds good to YOU. It's your music. Don't listen to people who don't believe it can work because they haven't heard a positive difference themselves, that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. If you want to try it, try it. If it sounds better to you then be happy and if it doesn't, no harm done. You can always pull that extra set of cables.
Sweety from SPRINGFIELD
Posted on 2/11/2022
Hi, I want to connect my front speakers bi-amp, what is the process involved. And also is it necessary to bi wire before bi amp?
Kramer Crane from Crutchfield
Bruce from Davao City
Posted on 2/8/2022
Hi, I plan to add amp to my existing Onkyo RZ730 AVR to enhance sound. My question is can you use an AVR, or just an amplifier as extended unit? What would be the difference? Thank you and more power!
Kramer Crane from Crutchfield