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Edited title and updated description: I have found an speaker distribution panel that I think will work to connect all the outputs to a single input. I would just need to know how to connect the input.


Original post:

I've just moved into a new house that has a built-in speaker system, but the inputs for the rooms are these 4-pole audio connectors that I have never used before. I would like to simply plug in an old phone with an audio app installed and have that play through the house.

There are connectors for each of the rooms. The bare wires are for the main living space.

What equipment can I get to connect all the speakers together to a simple 3.5mm jack without having to splice more wires together? Or is there a better way to wire everything together? I'm not opposed to some work, but I don't even know if the speakers work yet. For now, I'm looking for fast and cheap; good can come later.

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  • What do those connect to at the other end? When I read the title, I was thinking something like an XLR connector. I'm not sure what these are. Do they go to a patch panel of some sort so you can route different outputs to different locations? Were these just sitting loose at the back of the audio closet? I'm no end-all-be-all audio guy, but those are rather foreign to me...
    – FreeMan
    Nov 4, 2020 at 16:29
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    You need a power amplifier, at minimum. That's probably what those four pole connectors are designed to plug into. Regular speakers bigger than headphones are not designed to be driven directly from a phone; they need the signal amplified first.
    – Nate S.
    Nov 4, 2020 at 17:30
  • To know more about what specific power amplifier you'd need, we'd need a lot more info about exactly what speakers are connected to the other ends of those wires.
    – Nate S.
    Nov 4, 2020 at 17:31
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    @FreeMan, those connectors are frequently seen on the backs of power amplifiers meant for permeant install -- think like churches, stadiums, etc. It's basically like a screw terminal block that unplugs.
    – Nate S.
    Nov 4, 2020 at 17:40
  • @Nate S. I don't have info on the speakers; assume simple, builder grade. The speakers are a permanent install. They are mounted in the ceiling with these wires all coming through the wall in a central place. Each room has two speakers, except the family room which has four, one in each corner. Volume is controlled independently for each room. There are 8 rooms total. I'm ok removing these connectors and dealing with bare wires, but I would still need to know what equipment to get.
    – sdb
    Nov 7, 2020 at 19:57

2 Answers 2

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EDIT: This is to address the additional info the OP add to the question. The distribution panel you linked to is straight forward and is essentially the same thing as the switch i referenced in my answer below. You run speaker wire from your amplifier or receivers speaker output to the "input from amplifier" (the red inputs).

On the back of your amp you have speaker outputs, each speaker gets to wires, the left has a (+ & -) and the right has (+ & -) .

These go to the red inputs box on the panel.

The left from the amp goes to the (L + & -) and right from the amp goes to the (R + & -) ALL connections are Positive to Positive, Negative to Negative.

Your existing speakers are wired colored coded. As long as you use the same color for each terminal you are good. In your case you have the old terminal blocks with labels. In the photo the block is set up as follows,

Red is right +, Black is Right -. White is Left + and Green is Left -.

To wire each set of speakers you wire them to the terminals on the new panel just same.

(Red to right +, Black to Right -. White to Left + and Green to Left -.)

You need to get the colors the same on your new panel as they are on the old blocks because they all go to a volume controller and from the volume controller to the speaker in that + - configuration. If you get any backwards you will have reversed the polarity of that speaker (s). (it needs to be positive to positive all the way from amp to panel to volume control to speaker.)

I would suggest that you contact the folks at Crutchfield They are very knowledgeable and will be able to assist you. They can tell you if the panel you listed is the best option for what your system needs, plus they have amps. Not affiliated just a customer.


Original Answer:

Connecting a single audio device to multiple 4-pole audio inputs for whole house speaker system

While there are 4 wires in the one jacket of insulation it is not a "4-pole audio inputs" It two sets of wires for two speakers. Each speaker takes only two wires, a +positive and a -negative. (there are speakers with 4 terminals for bi-amping that can use 2 or 4 when two different amplified signals are sent to the same speaker, you should look at the back of each speaker to make sure what kind they are. Bi-amp speakers are usually a more high end audiophile speaker.)

simply plug in an old phone with an audio app installed

First it is not that simple. Your speakers need to be supplied a powered signal and your phone in not capable of doing that.

There are several options to get music from your phone to your built in speakers, the simplest would be a small stand alone amplifier with RCA inputs and out ports for speakers. (you will need an adapter to go from the headphone jack to RCA.) There are hacks and/or adapters you can buy that you can add to a stereo to receive a bluetooth signal from your phone.

To get the most out of your music/speakers you should have DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) Many amps have them built in or you can get a stand alone unit.

You are not limited to a basic amp, you can use an old stereo receiver or a modern AVR (Audio Video Receiver) or even an old/new tube amp. You will want an Integrated amp unless you want to go with a pre amp/amp combo but that is more complicated then we need to get here. All of these have RCA inputs to accept the adapter from your phone and speaker connection ports on the back.

You have quite a few speakers judging by the number of wires you have. If you only want to use one or two pairs then an old stereo will work, an AVR will have more speaker outs, but maybe not as many as you need if want to use all your available speakers.

The system in your house must of had a speaker switch box with speaker outputs to all of the speakers in your home. I have a Niles and it has connectors similar to the ones in your photo for 6 pairs of speakers. A speaker switch has the ability to select one pair of speaker, all of them or any combo the user desired, (volume is controlled by your amp/receiver.) You connect the speaker switch to your amps , receiver or AVR speaker outputs and it will send the split/send that signal to any speakers you select.

I suggest that you join and Audio forum were you can read many treads and have a back forth discussion with others.

stereophile and audiokarma Are two but there are many.

I would suggest that you get a turntable and a good Integrated amp. Leave the iPhone for texting and making phone calls. :).

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Before you do anything you need a little more than just a look at the ends of the cables at the rack or cabinet where the cables are.

I would say it's most likely that the four-conductor cables go to volume controls in each room, and then a pair of two-conductor cables go from the volume control to the speakers in that room.

If I had to guess, I'd bet that the four conductor cables are matched up with the speaker wires as follows:

red ..... left cable red ....... left  speaker + 
black ... left cable black ..... left  speaker - 
green ... right cable red ...... right speaker + 
white ... right cable black .... right speaker - 

But you don't want to guess, you'll want to pull the volume control and speakers in at least one room, and hope that they're all done the same.

If this is what you have, the speaker distribution device linked in the question will work. They are a passive device but they're more than just a way to splice positives and negatives, they connect everything without lowering the impedance too much.

The connections to the speakers are straightforward you'd connect the four conductor cables to the zones according to the connections at the volume controls and ultimately at the speakers.

For the source - you can't plug your phone or iPad directly into the speaker distribution device though. You need something with stereo speaker level outputs - an amplifier - with enough power (wattage) to give you sufficient volume with the power spread across all those speakers, and compatible with the speakers' impedance, probably 8 ohm.

For example, you could connect the speaker outputs on a Sonos amp to the inputs on the speaker distribution device and play music with the Sonos app through the whole house on your built in speakers, rather than the Sonos wireless speakers.

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