Home Toys Article
- June 2006 -
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Outdoor speakers do not have to cost a fortune. But if you buy smartly and efficiently, the results could be priceless. ENJOY!!!
by Mel Clapman
Ahhh….the warm weather months are finally here and, along with temperatures reaching comfort levels that finally make outdoor activities a reality, comes the question of "how do I bring my music outdoors?". Whether it's a barbeque for your family and friends in the backyard, or a quiet 'happy hour' with a significant other on the patio, music adds a satisfying dimension to the occasion. So we need to talk about outdoor speakers.
If you're planning to buy outdoor speakers, you have to know this is a different ballgame. This is the outdoors…exposure to everything…have we mentioned insects? You are also no longer dealing with confined space, which means your music has no place to go but out. No ceilings or walls or floors to catch the sound and bounce it around. Some outdoor speakers can deliver acceptable sound only within a limited range. So you want to shop for outdoor speakers that can "reach out" to the broad range of your deck, yard, pool or patio and deliver a rich sound across a wider listening area.
That means you have to re-think whatever you know - or think you know - about speakers so you can shop and buy the right system for your needs. Good News: We will not get into the kHz's or the dB's or the ohms or the watts. If you own speakers you've been there, done that, and they'll all be waiting for you at the store when you shop for your outdoor speakers.
What we will discuss is buying speakers that deliver your music with virtually the same rich, full-quality sound you hear in your house. With outdoor speakers, the sound goes out…and out…and out. No bounce-back. So you're listening to your music delivered through speakers that put the sound out (that word again) and into a wider area than your house speakers. The benefit, in a word, is freedom. Freedom to listen to and enjoy your music wherever you are.
What Do You Need…
Where will you use these speakers? Garden? Yard? Deck? Porch? It's good to know this before you shop because each area (as well as others) requires speakers that can accommodate the space physically and project your music with optimum quality. That should take care of dimensional requirements, so let's move on to environmental needs, like temperature. We don't know where you live but we do know it's not paradise (unless you're in San Diego). So we advise you to focus on speakers that can handle snow, rain, salt, fog and temperature extremes of 158ş F (70şC) to -40ş F (-40şC). That means they have been tested under actual (or lab-simulated) conditions, which segues into warranties. Make sure the manufacturer is a name company with a reputation for making high-quality speakers…indoor and outdoor. And the warranty reflects that.
Looks Aren't Everything…
…But you do want your outdoor speakers to reflect the same attention to detail you have in your house. Your speakers should blend in with wherever you are going to place them, on the lawn, under a roof or eave, even on the deck rail. You're looking for compatibility, not imposition. By the way, if your plans call for hanging the speakers, make sure they come with adjustable, weather-resistant brackets that give you the option of mounting them vertically or horizontally.
Do The Research…
If you're really serious about having high-quality outdoor speakers, you have to dig in and do the research. You know what we mean….articles from publications specializing in home audio products, or advertisements, or product reviews (in print and on line) -- even talking to friends who own outdoor speakers. All of this data will arm you for the trip to the store.
Let's Go Shopping…
Nobody said this was going to be easy, but you know the drill. Walk into the store. Approached by salesperson with own agenda. Speakers blaring. Hi-def TVs screaming for attention. It's an AV jungle! We find that a good way to start the salesperson-customer relationship is by coming in with that folder of data in your hand. The salesperson will see it and know that you know what you want and that you want to see it now. Because your preference in speakers will be affected by your taste in music (and your budget), you should think about bringing in a CD or two to listen to through the speakers you will ultimately be buying. It's a tough proposition no matter what. Unless the store has a pool or patio, you will hear the speakers indoors. However, you'll also hear music you're familiar with so you will get a sense of what those sounds will sound like outdoors. If it's rock, you're looking for solid bass, low distortion and minimal "roughness". If your tastes lean toward classical, jazz or folk, then smooth, mid-range sound should be evident.
Doing A Solid Installation…
Unless you bought wireless speakers, installing your new models will require placing the wires alongside the house or underground and running them to the sound source. This information should be available in the Users' Manual that came with your speakers. There are many options for your installation, such as screwing the speakers into your deck (good idea if you plan to leave them there), or mounting them under an eave or deck roof. If you're considering placing them into your garden or burying them make sure you have adequate covering for them against direct rainfall. The best (and easiest) solution may be just taking them in for the winter. Follow the instructions closely as they can make the install efficient and save you time.
Pay close attention to the wire specifications…you are dealing with exposure to a variety of weather conditions so those wires should be moisture-resistant or rated for burial. There should also be data on sealing compounds, also important, as there will be bare wires exposed to the weather that connect from the speakers to your sound system and they will need to be sealed. The manual should also suggest what tools you will need and you should have them ready before starting the install.
Also, watch your separation. The instructions should cover speaker separation that will result in optimal performance and good sound overlap. Because most outdoor speakers are designed to be permanently installed outside the house, securing them should be your next consideration. While there might be a tendency to leave them free-standing, they will be vulnerable to heavy wind and storm conditions and can easily break.
Finally, you will ultimately have to run wire from your speakers to your sound source which means from outside to inside your house. That means you will have to drill a hole to get those wires inside to your sound source. Not a big deal if done right by you or a professional installer; just remember to seal the hole afterward to keep out the moisture and the critters.
Now For The Best Part…
If you're a music person, you're going to love your outdoor speakers. They allow you to enjoy your sounds in one of the most pleasant environments possible. In your own space. Unconfined. And surrounded by nature. What could be better!! The key to all of this has been given to you. All you have to do is follow the steps and let your heart (and budget) do the rest. Outdoor speakers do not have to cost a fortune. But if you buy smartly and efficiently, the results could be priceless. ENJOY!!!
Most outdoor speakers are available in white or black. (Speakers shown are Acoustic Research EdgePro W & B models)