It seems that outdoor speakers are more popular than ever this year. What gives, and what is a consumer supposed to do with all the options now available to them?

It’s so interesting to see the trends in home renovations and décor season to season – you can’t miss all of the “outdoor living space” themed shows and projects that seem to be all the rage right now. Magazines for home décor are also focusing on ways of improving the level of enjoyment outdoors; inspiring homeowners to enjoy the land they nest on to the fullest, without having to spend tons of money. When it comes to the CE industry, it’s obvious outdoor loudspeakers would be part of this movement. There’s so many kinds, shapes, colors, sizes, prices… how on earth is a consumer supposed to choose?

Realistically, and with a budget in mind, a consumer needs an outdoor loudspeaker setup that sounds amazing without having to purchase a ton of speakers. What’s great from my perspective from working at KEF, is that all of our 50 years in research and development has led us to design products that create wide and even sound dispersion at all frequencies so that the consumer can have just that – a killer set of speakers at a terrific price. This is where our current line of outdoor speakers, the Ventura Series, comes in handy.

One of the biggest challenges in outdoor audio is finding products that strike the right balance between aesthetic appeal and performance. What is the best solution for finding products that complement an outdoor area while delivering great sound?

This is one of those moments where no matter what speaker company you work for, you can’t deny the amount of REALLY COOL outdoor products that are available. There’s some out there that are meant to be indiscrete, taking the shape of rocks and birdfeeders. There are also ones that are ridiculously ugly! And then there are some that are just plain functional but sound completely, unbelievably amazing. So if you’re someone who has an award-winning rose garden outfitted with more than three lawn gnomes and gazing orbs, and would rather not infect such a site with a UFO-shaped, lime green loudspeaker whilst still wishing for terrific sound, there’s tons of choices out there for you.

When it comes to outdoor loudspeakers, a lot of loudspeaker manufacturers tout their products’ various specifications for withstanding the outdoor elements. What are the most important factors to consider when looking for an outdoor loudspeaker that will truly last?

No one wants to spend hundreds of dollars on something that will end up rotting in less than a year. Durability may be THE most important quality of an outdoor loudspeaker. That speaker, short of throwing it in the pool, should be ‘bullet proof’ and last for up to 10 years or more. You don’t want them to rust or discolor, and of course you want them to continue to pump out jaw-dropping sound. Some of the roughest environments for outdoor loudspeakers are marine and desert environments, and so the materials used on construction of the speaker itself play a large roll in its survival here. Make sure to look for certifications, such as IP certified, which is the one most commonly referenced. IP is a standard that indicates if an electrical enclosure will function in various degrees of wet or dusty environments. Make sure your speaker is actually TESTED to comply with IP, rather than using language such as “We will pass an IP certification.” Also, the longer the product has been salt tested, the better. KEF Ventura series has been salt tested for 1,200 hours without any issues.

What’s the best way to determine speaker placement in an outdoor audio setting?

One of the biggest questions you need to ask yourself here is, “OK what am I trying to accomplish with my audio setup?” Do you want light background music for when you decide to play hooky from work and choose to spend the day on the patio napping and sunning yourself? Are you throwing wild pool parties where invariably the next day you expect to find Jimbo passed out in the tulips again? Or are you looking for something in between the two? The answer will determine how many speakers you’ll need in order to get the job done, and ultimately where they need to go.

If background music is what you’re looking for, and you have a relatively modest size patio area to be covered, between 1 – 2 pairs of outdoor speakers should get the job done, and they should be placed so that the music doesn’t drop away while you walk from one end of the yard to the other.

Another issue in outdoor installations is the loss of bass frequency. What are some tips on ensuring the best sonic quality?

Getting great bass output from your outdoor speakers is a huge part of being able to enjoy quality music on your patio, and one of the ways to do this is to place your speakers close to a wall or another solid surface. This is one of those moments where drilling some speakers randomly to your aluminum siding really isn’t the way to go. Instead, make yourself a sandwich and a nice margarita, take your time to place speakers and listen. Take another bite of that sandwich, move them around some more and rinse and repeat until you get the sound you and your guests will love. There are plenty of speaker professionals out there that would be willing to help you out with this (I’m referring to the speaker placement, not the margarita and sandwich, although…) especially if you have a challenging backyard layout.