Mixing, matrix, multi-room: these are the options which state-of-the-art PA amplifiers provide

Multi-room solutions become increasingly important - we will show you the options


It has been a long time since 'good amplifier' referred to an amplifier with good sound. We expect amplifiers to always provide optimised sound, including in PA applications. Yet which types of amplifiers are there and what are the options for installers and planners? We asked our MONACOR expert Michael Dreis.



For making the right choice it is required to plan beforehand which sound sources are supposed to produce which volume in which rooms

How many rooms, zones and floors do you want to cover with one single amplifier? That is the first and foremost parameter you have to consider. Additionally, you have to take into account whether different music or announcements are required or if it is sufficient to reproduce the same sources at different volumes. You have to be sure about these aspects before you select a multi-room solution or an amplifier.

Mixing amplifiers: several sound sources, one mixed reproduction

A mixing amplifier features several inputs for different audio sources and is able to reproduce them via one output. A typical application is the playback of music with occasional announcements. Using a mixing amplifier you can e.g. play music via USB or SD interface and at the same time transmit a microphone signal. It is not possible to transmit individual signals for different zones, since the term 'mixing' does not refer to the zones but only to the sound source. The differences between mixing amplifiers are mainly in the power rating.

Our example shows the mixed connections of the mixing amplifier PA-803DMP: speaker, telephone, microphones, line signal, Music-On-Hold output (MOH)

Our example shows the mixed connections of the mixing amplifier PA-803DMP: speaker, telephone, microphones, line signal, Music-On-Hold output (MOH)


Zone mixing amplifier: several rooms or areas with identical sound sources, one amplifier

As the name already indicates, you can control different zones with a zone mixing amplifier. Just as with a mixing amplifier, the sound sources can be mixed. However, you can transmit only one type of mixed sound sources to different zones, e.g. the same mixture of music and speech reproduction in several guest rooms.

Here, we have to distinguish between 2 concepts:


You should definitely keep the power rating of the speakers in mind. There are PA amplifiers that feature only outputs for a few zones but provide high power rating for each zone, e.g. an amplifier for 6 zones with a total power capability of 600 W. Each zone would feature 100 W max. Then there are PA amplifiers which provide less power but allow for many zones - perfect for many zones with quiet background music such as restaurants or shops.

 

Our example shows the connections of the 20-zone mixing amplifier PA-2420Z: top left the different zones/outputs; on the bottom right inputs for various audio sources, including 3 inputs for microphone signals or line signals via combination jacks and 2 stereo line inputs via RCA jacks.

Our example shows the connections of the 20-zone mixing amplifier PA-2420Z: top left the different zones/outputs; on the bottom right inputs for various audio sources, including 3 inputs for microphone signals or line signals via combination jacks and 2 stereo line inputs via RCA jacks.


Zone matrix amplifier: several different rooms or areas which require different PA applications

Yet what is required to distribute various sources differently in various zones, i.e. to realise a mixed multi-room solution? A possible scenario would be a restaurant or a pub. In one room screenings e.g. of sports events are displayed, while in another room guests are enjoying their dinner accompanied by quiet background music. In addition, the host may want to make announcements, such as paging a number plate.

A crossbar or matrix, which distributes the audio signal from the input to a random number of outputs, could be the solution. Thus, zone matrix amplifiers allow for maximum flexibility. For only then the installer is able to configure which zone is to reproduce which source.

 

Our example shows the mixed connections of the zone matrix amplifier PA-4040: On the right 4 zones which can be controlled individually; on the left 3 microphone/line inputs and 2 stereo line inputs.

 

Our example shows the mixed connections of the zone matrix amplifier PA-4040: On the right 4 zones which can be controlled individually; on the left 3 microphone/line inputs and 2 stereo line inputs.

 


As our example on how to connect and adjust a PA amplifier we chose a scenario including a dining room with music system, a room for screening e.g. sports events and a facility for announcements via microphone.

For this example we choose the following configuration of channels:

  • Input 4 for background music via CD in the dining room
  • Input 1 for a microphone for announcements
  • Input 5 for television sound of public streaming


In this example, we additionally decide to provide the following rooms simultaneously with sound:

  • Zone 1 as the main dining room
  • Zone 4 for the event room


You assign the respective zones on the front of the device when everything on the rear panel is cabled, i.e. the amplifier's 3 inputs are loaded.

Using the example of the PA-4040, this can be done as follows:

  • Press button 'Z4' in section 'CH5' on the front panel of the amplifier
  • Respectively press 'Z1' in section 'CH4'
  • For the microphone to be heard everywhere, press 'Z1' and 'Z4'

 

Our example shows the front of the
zone matrix amplifier PA-4040.

 

 

Our example shows the front of the
zone matrix amplifier PA-4040.

 


There are many ranges of application for zone matrix amplifiers:

  • Via one amplifier, you can provide a conference centre with 4 meeting rooms and one zone paging microphone with PA application.
  • You can provide gyms with PA applications in different zones
  • You can provide large hotel complexes with various rooms and areas flexibly with PA application
  • You can provide lounge areas in clubs with PA applications. However, the power of zone matrix amplifiers often is not sufficient for clubs and an additional power amplifier may be required.

Power amplifier: the classic

The concept is simple: the incoming audio signal is amplified at the output. This is the basic definition of a (power) amplifier. Amplifiers like these are still indispensable today. Zone power amplifiers have to be selected carefully, for often they rather meet their power limit in large PA applications than that the number of zones is not sufficient. Some zone matrix amplifiers only provide a low power rating of 40 watts per zone. That may be enough for a dental practice with 3 treatment rooms and one waiting room but not for a large night club. This does not mean that the PA-4040 (see picture above) is not a good choice, for you still have to distribute various sources into separate rooms. The power amplifier just ensures that enough power will be transmitted to various zones.

Zone matrix amplifiers or mixing amplifiers usually have a line output for each zone for connecting power amplifiers. With a power amplifier, PA systems can be expanded without replacing the amplifier.


Audio matrix systems: thanks to the systems concept, up to 32 zones and thus extensive multi-room solutions are possible.

Big halls or hotel complexes sometimes require even more than 10-20 zones. Audio matrix systems provide that option. The devices often feature 8 inputs and 8 outputs. However, they can be cascaded to allow for even more zones, i.e. the number of outputs can be increased by connecting more audio matrix systems to the device. A master/slave function determines which is the 'main unit' controlling additional devices and which are the 'slave units' being controlled by the master. Up to 3 additional equal audio matrixes can be connected. With 8 inputs, this results in 4 x 8 outputs, i.e. 32 zones. This is usually sufficient even for the most extensive PA scenarios, e.g. multi-room solutions in large wellness facilities. In addition, these audio matrix systems provide further features.

Under certain conditions, installers can link PA systems to fire alarm systems and expand them flexibly. However, audio matrix systems will always require additional power amplifiers if you do not use active speakers.

You can achieve even more modularity in very big systems by using 100 V transformers. Thus, you can transmit a 100 V audio signal from a PA system to other devices which feature a line input.

Our example shows the connections of the audio matrix system ARM-880.

Our example shows the connections of the audio matrix system ARM-880.

Modern, cascadable matrix systems provide highest flexibility for multi-room solutions of any size. Do you require support in planning a (multi-zone) project or do you have questions regarding specific PA scenarios? Our Audio Solution Guide or the Technical Project Management can help.

source image header: kritchanut – stock.adobe.com

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