Outdoor audio season – which style of speaker works for your space?


Summer is here, the long winter is long-gone, and its time to enjoy your outdoor living space.

Outdoor all-weather speakers are the most convenient way to bring your favourite music for parties, or relaxing ambient sounds while you are gardening or entertaining guests for dinner, and anything in between.

With such a wide range of lifestyle needs, most customers need the right ‘fit’ when choosing their speakers. And it can be a real balancing act of having the right sound vs. Keeping happy neighbours!

 

There are really two main options with outdoor directional speakers and outdoor ornamental speakers like rock or garden speakers. And they both do very different jobs.

Outdoor directional speakers are usually placed under the eaves or higher up a wall and are pointed down towards your listening area. Under-eaves speakers usually have more low-end, especially if mounted in corners. Overall, these are the speakers for the outdoor entertainer – outdoor parties need this kind of speaker for the sound to carry and for volume. Most retailers have Yamaha outdoor speakers (or an equivalent) as their entry-level outdoor speakers for good sound from a small profile, from there it is only a few steps to get to a fully-featured – and larger – psb setup. And there are easily a dozen choices from mid range to high-end speakers, so it is easy to get overwhelmed, so here are important factors to consider:

Try to keep your music contained to your area. You paid good money to enjoy it, not your neighbours (even if you are friendly). Going too big or installing them too high, especially in dense neighbourhoods, may not win you any friends and restricts how late you can have music.

Will your amp handle the new challenge? Sure, you have a great home theatre receiver and you want it to power your outdoor speakers. Or you have an old stereo receiver or something like that for outdoors. Does your solution have enough current to drive your new speakers without cranking the volume? Better yet, do you even have a way to control your volume while outdoors?

Do you have the tools and materials to DIY. All outdoor speakers come with mounting brackets. So its not impossible to install them if you are handy. But – do you have the right speaker wire and outdoor treatment, the right fasteners, the right tools to run the wire and mount? If you’re not sure, or worse yet you get started and have the ‘uh-oh’ moment, call a professional.

 

Rock and garden speakers are designed as a non-obtrusive way to get outdoor sound targeted at a specific seating or gathering area. Generally they don’t broadcast as far and are designed for background or ambient audio around a patio, lets say, or as a compliment to existing outdoor speakers.

Rock speakers range from the affordable and pleasant OSD rock speakers, to the more robust Klipsch, with other brands (and-off-brands) creating a huge price gap.

Things to consider with rock speakers:

If you can’t go with four, at least go with 2. Avoid the temptation to ‘save’ and buy a single outdoor speaker, even if it has a bigger driver. Rock speakers are more omnidirectional and need to be placed around the listening area to get the right effect.

You need direct-burial cable. If you want it only do it once, get the right cable. Having burial speaker wire placed inside a conduit is best, but can be time-consuming and can eat into your budget. Either way, you need wire that can handle the moisture season after season, especially taking into account the amount of water from the spring thaw.

Rock speaker cables are usually run into the basement. If your basement is finished, or if its unfinished but your receiver is in an out-of-reach position, you may be looking at a dedicated receiver for your outdoor audio. Keep it simple.

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