Us Kiwi’s do outdoor entertaining like nobody else. We love spending time outdoors; whether it’s pottering in the garden, reading on the patio, or firing up the BBQ with a bunch of friends, outdoor speakers make total sense with our outdoor Kiwi lifestyle. After all, the fun shouldn’t stop at the back door.
Outdoor entertainment is a bit of art on its own (I mean, there are no walls to start withJ), but just like with any AV set-up, planning is the word if you want to do a half decent job.
1) Consider the requirements
We all have different backyards, they have different shapes but also we use them quite differently. Where do you entertain your guests? Do you just want a small deck enveloped in awesome music, or is there also a spa or pool area to consider? Is your property close to neighbours? Are there sheds, trees or concrete paths that may have an impact on where you can feasibly run your speaker wire?
And then there are some questions around aesthetics: Do you want speakers to be in plain sight or blend in with the environment?
Last but not least, there is the question about budget.
2) “Outdoor” Speakers Are a Must
It may sound pretty obvious, but we’ve seen some horror shows: Outdoor (weatherproof) speakers are non-negotiable, same goes for the brackets. Unless you decide to stick to a small portable speaker, we strongly advise against the use of an old pair of speakers outdoors. If you live in New Zealand we don’t need to remind you that moisture, wind, dust, sun and extreme temperatures can be pretty unforgiving. It’s just not worth the risk.
Outdoor speakers come in sort of sizes and price ranges:
Easy under eaves outdoor speakers.
Outdoor speakers that are installed under eaves or a covered patio are probably the most common option and are fairly easy to install and connect. This also tends to be the most economical option. Often enough wires can be run through attics and/or other rooms, and the speakers themselves are more protected and less exposed to rain and other outdoor elements. Although they tend to be in plain sight, many models can be painted a matching colour to blend in better.
Rocks and pegs.
A more polarizing option are the decorative and disguised outdoor speakers in the form of rocks (Options from Q acoustics and Russound) and little outdoor speakers on in-ground pegs (Plenty of choice from SpeakerCraft, Klipsch and Sonance), but some other shapes are on the market as well. They are especially handy if you want speakers in an area that is a bit further removed from the house. Generally speaking, installing speakers in the garden is a little trickier than under the eaves. Some digging will be required to bury the speaker wires and it may be necessary to route wire around or beneath obstacles, such as concrete walkways or raised garden beds.
And then there is the outdoor subwoofer (SpeakerCraft, Sonance and Klipsch options available). Outdoor speakers sound pretty decent these days That said, they are limited in the bass department for the simple reason that the open space in your backyard is not going to interact with the bass waves in the same way your indoor speakers with the 4 walls in your listening room. Mounting your pair of outdoor loudspeakers against the exterior walls of your home will help to a certain extent, but don’t expect to be knocked back into your deck chair by the bass response. The better quality products will reproduce warm, punchy, and dynamic sounding bass, but won’t get very deep. Enter the weather-proof passive subwoofers. They are not the easiest product to install, as the subwoofers are meant to go underground, leaving only its output tube exposed. On top of that, outdoor subwoofers benefit from some form of boundary reinforcement such as a retaining wall. Manufacturers advise against installing the subwoofer too close to an exterior wall of your home, unless you don’t mind a bit of earth-shaking bass response inside your home.
Our Top Tips for Outdoor Speaker Placement
So how about outside placement? Outdoor speaker placement is a bit more complicated because an outdoor situation tends to be less predictable than an inside AV set-up. As we kind of mentioned earlier, you don’t have the walls to bounce off sound in the way you have with an indoor room. Our most important recommendation is to test your set-up at a stage where you can still adjust if necessary.
A stereo set-up for a small area like a deck or a patio is probably the most straight forward situation to work with.
To start with, left and right channels should be at separate sides of the listening area. If in any way possible, position speakers about 3 meters apart and about 3 meters away from the listening area.Put the speakers at eye level or slightly above so that the sound travels further. This means that the output is less likely to be blocked by garden furniture, fences etc. At the same time, we recommend avoiding placing higher than 3 meters, as the audio may become thin and weak.In case a pair of outdoor speakers is not possible, Speakercraft offers an outdoor speaker option that allows stereo sound from a single speaker thanks to dual voice coil woofers in five and six-inch variations and two tweeters on angled baffles.
Volume and Speaker Gauge
Turning up the volume levels in the hope to increase sound will potentially lead to unwanted distortion. Instead, if you want to avoid any weak spots in your listening area, consider filling them with more speakers. It’s the best way to create even, high quality audio coverage.
It sounds like an obvious thing to say, but you’ll want to get an accurate estimate of how much wire will need to be run from the speakers to the amplifier/receiver before you start the installation. Measure generously. Nothing is more frustrating than coming up short at the time of installation. Also, the overall distance you need to cover between your speakers and the receiver/amplifier will help determine the gauge of wire to use. 16 gauge is fine for most speakers up to about 6 metres. But beyond that, you’ll want to consider thicker 14, 12, or even 10 gauge wire, especially for lower-impedance speakers.
AV receiver for outdoor speakers
If you already own an AV receiver with multiple zones, powering your outdoor loudspeakers is going to be a piece of cake. Consider the use of a speaker selector if you have more than one pair of speakers.These days, depending on the location of your equipment, chances are good that you may be able to control your sources with a control app on your smart phone or tablet.But obviously, not everybody owns an AV receiver with multiple zones. It may be easier to install and operate a separate music source that can be placed much closer to your deck or patio. If that is you, consider adding a second receiver/amplifier.To get the same perceived volume outside as you do indoors, you need about double the power.
Because every time you add another pair of speakers to the circuit, you run the risk of overtaxing your amp, a multi-channel amp designed for audio distribution like the Russound multi-channel amps or SpeakerCraft multi-channel amps are a great way to run multiple speakers. Multi-channel amps allow you to play loud music by the pool and softer near the BBQ. Or vice-versa.
And finally: Rapallo’s most popular outdoor speakers lined up
High Fidelity: SpeakerCraft OE5 One Outdoor Speaker
SpeakerCraft is one of these iconic speaker brands that transformed the industry. Thirty years ago, the in-wall speaker was invented and today, they are the largest supplier of custom-installed audio/video products in the world, having manufactured and sold millions of loudspeakers.
The transfer to outdoor speakers was a logical one. SpeakerCraft is extremely aware that the voicing for outdoor speakers is completely different than one designed for interior use. Their outdoor speaker range has gone through an extensive voicing process to ensure they provide both the required sound pressure levels and musicality in all exterior situations.
We also mentioned earlier how especially low frequencies can be a challenge in the outdoors. SpeakerCraft has paid extra attention to this in the design of their outdoor speakers. Depending on your need, you can choose from speakers that offer five-, six- or eight-inch woofers. Loaded into ported enclosures to dramatically enhance low frequency response, these woofers provide deep, full bass to complement any type of music. This is something to be excited about and quite unique to the SpeakerCraft outdoor speakers.
On top of that, SpeakerCraft also goes the extra mile to keep water out, which is definitely something to be appreciated in our New Zealand climate. The fact that they mean serious business is reflected in the limited lifetime warranty that comes with their outdoor speakers.
Looks and performance: Yamaha NS-AW All-weather outdoor speakers
The NS-AW outdoor speaker series has a unique, appealing design that sets it apart from other outdoor speakers, most of which are box-shaped. Even though the speaker stands out on its own, once you install it you’ll find it nicely match the exterior or interior decor. The Yamaha outdoor speakers combine quality and durability, and provide a wide variety of installation options. They are extremely durable while still maintaining audio performance up to the excellent Yamaha standards.
Powerful and solid: Klipsch AW range:
Klipsch’s AW-range outdoor speakers are built rugged, and have their mounting bracket attached to the back of the speaker so they’re easy to install. Their sealed ABS enclosure isn’t as shiny or premier-looking as other models, but they’ll stand up to year-round, all-weather punishment mounted to the side of your house or on any other fixture in your yard or garden, and they’ll sound great all year long. They’re also some of the most powerful outdoor speakers around. We praise them for their 90-degree to 90-degree coverage, meaning you get great sound over a wide area with only a few speakers.
In-ceiling: Q acoustic weatherproof series:
If you really have a minimalist design in mind and are clutter free is what you want, the Q acoustic in-ceiling weatherproof speakers can be installed within the eaves, giving you more space to do what else you may wish. These in-ceiling speakers can withstand the elements which means you can enjoy them outdoors, whilst using the stereo speaker technology that gives you superior sound wherever you may be.
We figure, this should give you something to work with in the outside music department. With us Kiwis being outside as much as we do, it is a non-negotiable to have some decent outdoor speakers. Cost wise, it doesn’t have to break the bank and it will definitely offer you many hours of joy ahead.
Sound like a lot to take in? When you have someone to guide you, it’s actually not so bad. We’ll help you with your design and/or installation if that’s what you prefer.
Source: Crutchfield, Trusted Reviews, Definitive Technologies, Russound, Q Acoustics, Klipsch, Sonance, Digital Trends