I have a feeling there might be many ways of doing this. Cheapest... keep asking around, but I'll throw some ideas. First of all some amps, like mine, have an adjustable gain per channel. So you could "level match", but changing volume independently on-the-fly could be a slight nuisance, but still possible.
Anyways, so I googled for you "speaker selector independent volume" and got a couple of things:
Not extremely cheap. Speaker selectors cost half or less, but those are without Independent volume.
For a new, affordable, over-achieving little-but-ugly amp, I think of the Behringer a500 for $200. What's nice is that it can handle tougher loads. Now, I know that the speaker selectors are designed to help out with the halved impedances, but some do require a 4-ohm capable amp. Might as well, just to be sure:
Crown is another possibility.
oh wait, gotta make this cheap, we still don't have a preamp. Doh. Maybe an integrated amp?
Cambridge 340a, $329:
NAD 315 BEE, refurbished, $280 (or 350 new)
The two above are very well-respected value-oriented audiophile companies. If friend has extra cash, Cambridge 540am or NAD 320, 370, or 372 could be recommended.
What will also help out in saving on amp purchase is to buy very efficient speakers. Also having easy loads. Wide dispersion is nice for a large area. So I think of horns, but make sure they sound fine to you. Perhaps some used Klipsch. While also extremely efficient, unfortunately some do drop to 3 ohms minimum. So two pairs off one amp means 1.5 ohms. Worst case scenario however. Volumes obtained will have a lot to with this factor. I am probably over-thinking this, but I havent done this before, and so Id hate to have your amp burst into flames.
Please browse Audiogon, there will an absolute ton of stuff. Check out zip codes so you can even buy in person possibly.
best of luck, j. again just some ideas, im sure with time you can find mroe affordable solutions. maybe even a visit to rat shack.
You all deal in great quality audio scenarios. This question is like asking Ferrari drivers where to get cheap bicycle tires, so fair warning: If you want to avoid low rent audio questions don't waste any of your time here. Otherwise...
I'm helping a friend set up a small cafe with audio. All we want to do is run an audio source (iPod, CD player, etc) into an amp, power two pair of small speakers - one pair inside, one pair outside - and control the volume of each pair of speakers separately.
The cafe is small and the volume will never be loud so wattage needs are minimal. The dual volume control is the kicker. As is my friend's budget - which I don't yet know but without my guidance he'd buy a boom box for the inside and shrug off the outside. I'm just trying to see if we can do it the right way cheaply.
In today's world of surround sound home audio, is there still a way to set up a cheap four speaker audio system with dual volume control? I'm all for high quality in my home, but this is simple background music in a small cafe and if we only needed one set of speakers I'd be recommending a simple one-unit iPod speaker player system. But needing two zones with separate controls brings us into a more complicated world and I'm asking all of you if there is a way to do that without having to spend a lot of money on a system that is overkill in this situation.
Anyone? I promise I'll come back later with all my high end home audio questions when I finally get into the home theater world...