Outdoor Speakers; A Complete Guide
Updated: Jan 3
This article covers everything you would like to know about outdoor speakers. We give you a comprehensive guide to all the options available and specific applications. We also help you decide on how many speakers you may need, how to power them, what sources and how you will control the playlist and volume of your outdoor audio system. If you have any questions please call (732) 530-5511 or click here and we will gladly answer your email. ,
What are the different types of outdoor speakers? There are 6 basic outdoor speakers styles that include…
1. Traditional Outdoor Speakers Are completely enclosed in a weather proof casing,
With a rust proof grill and bracket as well as corrosion free wire connections. Because they are similar to indoor book shelf speakers you can expect the same great responsive and powerful sound you enjoy indoors. These outdoor speakers usually have a 3” to 8” mid driver and a tweeter. The larger 8” driver produces a wider range of frequencies catering more to the lower bass notes. The best outdoor speaker in this category is the JBL Control series. Learn more about Wall mount outdoor speakers here.
2. Landscape speakers come in a variety of different models including teardrop satellite, simulated rock, mushroom, bollard, and architectural design outdoor speakers.
Satellite Outdoor Landscape Speakers are attached to a pivoting “ground stake” so you can “plant” them in the ground and aim them in the proper direction. Planting these allow them to disappear into your landscape leaving you with nothing but an amazing “uniform sound field” (we will explain later in this article). You will want to think about location and visibility of these type speakers, so your landscapers do not mow them over or continuously hit them with a weed wacker. We also recommend researching the material in which the stake is made because less expensive landscape speakers are known to snap off the stake easily, especially after a few seasons of use. The best outdoor speaker in this category are manufactured by James loudspeakers. They are not only the best sounding satellite speaker but also have the most durable stake mechanism to assure years of enjoyment. Landscape speakers usually have a 3” to 6” mid driver and a tweeter. These type systems are usually coupled with an outdoor subwoofer which we will get into later as well . Click here for more information on outdoor landscape satellite speakers and buying guide.
Rock Speakers are much more durable and can give you a
wider range of frequencies because they can hold a larger driver. There is no shortage of rock speaker design or color including, sandstone, slate, granite and many others to fit your landscape aesthetic needs. When selecting the best rock speaker, you want to see how the speaker is positioned in the rock molding. Some are aiming straight out while others are slightly pitched up. If the rock speaker is near the listening area you will want the speaker slightly tilted up in the mold. For larger spaces the speakers aimed straight out will perform better. Rock speakers usually have a 4” to 8” driver and a tweeter. There are a few that may even have three speakers which does not mean more power but a better performance of individual sound frequencies. Our rock-solid recommendation for the best outdoor rock speaker is the Rokustics OctoRock with an 8” driver that will definitely enhance any outdoor party vibe.
·Mushroom Outdoor Landscape Speakers are designed similar to the bollard with a
360-degree sound field, but the speaker faces down toward a molded sound dispersion base as pictured. These speakers are usually low to the ground, maximizing the overall sound field but still aesthetically pleasing. For the best outdoor mushroom speaker we recommend the JBL Control 85M. its has a very broad frequency range with an extremely affordable price. These are also a great solution for commercial spaces like shopping malls, theme parks, sports venues, hotels, casinos, resorts, restaurants, hospitality facilities, and entrance ways.
Bollard Speakers have a sleek design that can be easily hidden within your landscape and also look great when positioned out in the open. Bollard outdoor speakers tend to have the best sound in this category because they sit higher off the ground and can house several larger drivers in an optimal directions These characteristics also make them a more expensive option but the experience is worth it! The best outdoor bollard speakers are the Origin Acoustics bollard speakers that have a 360-degree sound field, excellent sound detail and designed to last for years to come.
3. Outdoor Architectural speakers are a newer category especially with the introduction of Architettura Sonora who offers both a visually appealing and amazing sound experience. The bollard can be considered architectural, but we wanted to expand on this collection because of its uniqueness and our belief this designer type outdoor speaker market will rapidly increase. If you are serious about sound and appreciate art, we can honestly say the best architectural outdoor speakers are designed by Architettura Sonora. They have solutions to fill any space with reference quality sound as their name implies, complete “sonorization”
4. Bench and planter speakers have always been popular because of their natural look and magnificent sound capabilities. Depending on the size and cost you can have an extremely impressive sound experience using planter speakers. Being able to place them directly in a listening area, while not being a visual eye soar is the major benefit, especially for our flower gardening friends. Bench speakers offer the same experience but will lose sound quality if it is used as a practical bench. They are normally custom made so you can request the speaker to aim toward the back or side depending on bench placement. Both bench and planter speakers can be designed with a subwoofer that are positioned at the bottom facing down for some ground shaking bass. The best outdoor planter speaker ifor us is the Ambisonic Systems planter speakers. Click here for more information on outdoor planter speakers and buying guide.
5. Line array speakers are the pinnacle of outdoor (and indoor) concert arena sound. These are usually made with (identical) multiple speakers, mounted in a vertical line on a slight curve. The curve allows the sound to be dispersed immediately in front of the speaker and distances well over 300 feet, all at the same sound level. This gives the listeners directly in front of the speaker and others in the background the same listening experience. JBL line arrays are second to none especially with their team of engineers to help us design your application
6. Outdoor subwoofers add another dimension to your outdoor sound system and necessary for a complete outdoor listening experience. They provide the lower frequencies from the bottom end of the scale that capture and move us. Just like landscape speakers’ outdoor subwoofers come in a plethora of sizes and styles. Some are even buried out of sight with a small mushroom like cover or placed at the bottom of a bollard, bench or planter speaker. Lower frequencies are also non directional so you do not have to aim or strategically place subwoofers for optimal performance. If you appreciate the subwoofer in your surround sound system you will want to plan for an outdoor sub as well. The best outdoor subwoofer we use are made by Ambisonic Systems.
How do I choose the best outdoor speaker? Choosing an outdoor speaker is never easy but we will try our hardest to make sure you make the best choice upfront. There are 3 factors when deciding on an outdoor speaker.
1. Your first decision is price. Have a budget or price range in mind for your complete outdoor speaker system. If your going to scale it over time, make sure you select a system that fits your overall needs. Your budget should include the speakers, amplifiers, wires, conduit and installation if you are hiring a professional.
2. Your second decision should be the type of speaker from the list above according to your space and aesthetics.
· If you have a large rolling landscape and enjoy entertaining, we recommend the line array outdoor speakers from JBL or James Audio outdoor satellite speakers. The line arrays will have the best sound but the satellite speakers will not interfere with your view. The mushroom type speakers are also great for this application.
· For a large patio or pool area speakers we would recommend the satellite speakers under brush or the rock, bollard and planter speakers in the open.
· For smaller outdoor spaces the traditional box speakers are great and a single stereo planter or bollard will work as well.
3. The third and final decision is sound quality. Just like indoor speakers everyone has an opinion on what they perceive to be the best sounding outdoor speaker. Do not take the opinion of this or any “Best Outdoor Speakers Of 2020” blog. If you are looking to invest in an outdoor speaker system, there are plenty of willing experts that can help you experience them in person. Most professionals will even visit your home with a few speaker options that fit your description and price point.
If you are wondering about wireless outdoor speakers, you may want a portable outdoor speaker. Portable outdoor speakers have a rechargeable or replaceable battery, with built in Bluetooth or other streaming features that do not require any wires. The best outdoor speaker in this category is definitely the Sonos Move. Some get wireless speakers confused with wireless streaming audio speakers like sonos. These wireless streaming speakers still need a 110v power source which requires an outlet outdoors.
Do I need an amplifier for outdoor speakers? An amplifier is necessary for most outdoor speakers and you may need to consider a separate amp if you are adding an outdoor subwoofer. Like everything else these days, there are plenty of options and features to consider. Here is our 5 step guide to buying the right outdoor speaker amplifier,
1. What kind of power do i need for outdoor speakers? There are two general types of amplification which are volts and ohms.What is the difference between 70-volt and 8-ohm speakers?
· 70-volt speaker systems have been around for a long time and have also come a long way in the last few years. It used to be you were unable to get the same hi fidelity from a 70v system that you could from a traditional 8-ohm speaker, this gap has decreased tremendously. 70v systems rely on a single loop in which all speakers in the space are provided power. The high voltage power is the same along the loop and each speaker has a transformer to step that voltage down for what is needed. You will need to do some math depending on how many speakers you have and what size amp you need.
· 8-ohm speaker systems are more popular but require a little more work. Each speaker in an 8-ohm system will needs its own dedicated feed from the amplifier instead of the easier wire loop installation of the 70v system. There are ways to put two speakers on a single 8-ohm feed and you can feel free to reach out to us for help.
2. How many channels for outdoor speakers? You will need an amplifier (or several) with one ‘channel” for each speaker. If you have 4 speakers you will need a four-channel amplifier and so on, each subwoofer will need its own channel as well. Some amplifiers are rated in "zones" which usually has two channels per zone. This just means you have one left and right channel per zone.
3. How much power for outdoor speakers? The power of the amplifier directly correlates with your speaker choice not the number of speakers. We suggest at least matching the power of the amp to what the speakers are rated for. We would really encourage you to implement an amplifier that exceeds the speaker capabilities to reduce stress and heat. In any system it is better to not “max out” the amp which causes heat, distortion and eventually system failure.
4. What sources can I have for outdoor speakers? Source is just another word for media, content or music signal. Listening outdoors should not mean lack of media sources or convenience. Amplifiers have inputs and sometimes built in streaming music services. Make sure the amplifier you decide on has the streaming service you already have a free or paid subscription for, not all services are available from all amp manufacturers.
5. How do I control the outdoor speaker volume and playlist? This is done mainly through the amplifier and the features you choose. Music, playlists and volume can be selected and controlled from your cell phone, tablet or home automation system. Sonos is the most popular choice because of its stability, versatility and simplicity. Sonos also offers the largest selection of streaming services and device compatibility.
How many outdoor speakers do I need? The number of speakers to properly treat an area is referred to as a “uniform sound field”. We have all been seated in an area where the music was too loud or dreadfully to low. Music is an emotional experience and you will enjoy it more if the sound levels are uniform across the entire space while still expressing the distinction of each frequency range. A good rule of thumb is inches to feet. If you have a 6” speaker you can cover about a 6-ft radius from the speaker, taking into consideration the direction of the speaker. So two 6” speakers would be placed twelve feet from each other and cover 24-ft. This outdoor speaker design will assure everyone everywhere is hearing the music at the same level. If you hang two speakers on the back of your home and they aim across a deck or pool area, the listeners close to the speakers will complain they are too harsh while people on the opposite end of the pool or deck will complain they can’t hear it. You can scale this system and correct the sound field by placing speakers evenly around the area. If you have several different outdoor areas, you can have an amp for each space and control the volume individually or group them together for the same volume. Please remember this does not apply line arrays.
How do you protect outdoor stereo equipment? When you invest in an outdoor system and want to get as many seasons as possible, we recommend storing your outdoors speakers for the winter. They are 100% weatherproof and will give you years of enjoyment if left outdoors but they will last longer and continue to give you the best sound when brought in, while not in use. Another way to keep your outdoor speakers performing at their best is to keep them from direct sunlight and moisture. Outdoor speakers are generally not waterproof, they are water resistant so pointing them down will keep the rain out. This practice will also keep the sun away from the cone and rubber surround which is key to the response and sound of the speaker. There are waterproof speakers, but they are generally used for submerged applications like pools and Jacuzzi's.
Can regular speaker wire be used outside?
You can not use indoor speaker wire in an outdoor environment. Outdoor speaker wire is specifically designed and manufactured to withstand the outdoor elements. From the extreme temperature differences to the minerals on the ground that can erode regular speaker wire you should only use reputable outdoor speaker wire. We strongly suggest running PVC piping or outdoor conduit to house your outdoor wiring. This eliminates the wire being exposed or damaged by landscapers, rodents or other natural outdoor occurrences.
We hope we covered the basics in outdoor speakers and outdoor sound systems for you and look forward to your questions and feed back on this article. We love this stuff! If you need some inspiration check out our Backyard Ideas Here