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How to choose outdoor speakers

What to look for in an outdoor speaker system for your home

In this article: We'll explore different types of weather-resistant speakers to help you find the right ones for your outdoor sound system. For example...

... and I'll include links to recommended products and helpful advice from our experienced system designers and installers.

W

hen the weather warms up, most of us find more and more reasons to be out in the yard. Whether you're digging into the garden, reading by the pool, or grilling with family, outside time is more fun with your favorite tunes on hand.

Fortunately, there are plenty of outdoor speakers that can help you take your music outside. This guide will show you a number of different options, so you can decide which ones will look and sound best in your unique outdoor space.

The most common type of outdoor sound system features wired outdoor speakers that are surface-mounted on the side of a building, and powered by an indoor receiver or amplifier. A larger yard with a pool and garden beds may call for longer wire runs to free-standing landscape speakers that can help fill the space.

We'll talk about planning an outdoor sound system the traditional way, and explore a few additional options that might work better for your specific needs.

Wired outdoor speakers

Passive stereo speakers — the type that get power and signal via wires attached to a home receiver — are the best option if you want to enjoy detailed, immersive sound on a deck or porch, or in a small backyard. The outdoor-rated speakers are similar to their indoor-only hi-fi cousins, with two big differences:

  1. They can stand up to the elements. Many outdoor speakers are weatherproof, meaning they can withstand direct exposure to rain, sun, salt water, and cold. Other speakers are weather-resistant, so they require some additional protection from rain and ice.
  2. They come with outdoor mounting hardware. In the shipping box with the speaker, you'll find a bracket or similar mounting hardware that attaches the speaker securely to the exterior of your home.
Outdoor speakers

Speakers that mount to the side of your house offer robust stereo sound for your outdoor space.

Pay attention when ordering. Some speakers, like the popular Polk Audio Atrium 4, ship in pairs. Others, like the best-selling Definitive Technology AW5500, are priced "each."

Most outdoor speakers also have paintable grilles and enclosures, so you can match them to your color scheme.

Stereo-input speakers

Typically, an outdoor system has two main speakers — a left and a right speaker in a stereo configuration. In some cases, you only need one speaker, say for a small breakfast nook. Or you may have the opposite issue, where your space is so large that you need three speakers to get ideal coverage.

You need a stereo input speaker for these types of situations. They have have inputs for both left and right channels, and two tweeters that handle the stereo channel separation.

Use four-conductor cable for stereo-input speakers. These cables contain wires for both left- and right-channel inputs in a single casing.

When should you opt for a wired system?

A wired system will likely require a lot of planning, more time spent on installation, and a certain level of comfort with power tools and DIY installation. It's worth the effort, because it offers the best possible sound fidelity and system customization options.

Norm

Our outdoor A/V design experts have years of experience installing outdoor speakers, and they're ready to give advice when you need it.

We have tips for installing outdoor speakers on your own, but don't hesitate to check in with one of our experts to help plan out your system before you start.

Landscape speakers

Landscape speakers let you extend your wired sound system out into the yard. I'm going to discuss them in a separate section for a couple of reasons. First, they’re a better option than simply blasting music from the side of your house way out into the yard, which usually presents a sub-optimal experience for those sitting close and listeners who are farther away. And they're designed to bring music to locations where there may not be a handy wall to attach them to, so they offer some different form factors that allow them to work in specific settings.

Let's look at some popular designs.

Rock speakers

Rock speakers are exactly what they sound like — speakers disguised as large rocks. They offer solid sound and blend into your landscaping in a way other speakers can't.

Rock speakers in landscaping

Landscape speakers are designed to blend into their surroundings. Can you spot the rock speakers in this photo?

A similar "hidden in plain sight" effect can be achieved with planter speakers.

Bollard speakers

Rugged, high-fidelity bollard speakers offer a different form factor for landscape applications. A speaker like the Coastal Source 10.0 2-Way Ellipse Bollard can be mounted as a freestanding speaker on a deck or by the pool, or be partially buried so it's less visible.

outdoor bollard speaker by pool

Weatherproof bollard-style speakers offer multiple landscape placement options.

Stake-mount speakers

Stake-mount speakers are usually fairly small and easy to conceal. They're designed to be mounted on stakes that can be driven into the soil. Since they usually house relatively small full-range drivers, they can really benefit from the addition of a subwoofer. The MartinLogan Outdoor Living Foundation 8.1 system bundles eight stake speakers with a sub in a convenient package for that exact reason.

When should you opt for landscape speakers?

When you're trying to cover a large space, you want speakers to be evenly spaced throughout, so everyone can hear the music at average volume. Landscape speakers help you get full coverage.

Our outdoor speakers system planning guide offers some handy advice to help you come up with ideas for your unique outdoor space.

Running wire outdoors

You can buy burial-rated speaker wire that's designed for outdoor projects. It’s a good idea to run buried cable through a hard plastic conduit like PVC pipe to give it a little additional protection.

outdoor speaker wiring

A PVC conduit protects buried wire from lawn mowers, gardening tools, and critters.

Outdoor subwoofers

Just because you're listening outdoors, doesn't mean you have to sacrifice the low end. An outdoor subwoofer can enrich your backyard work and play time by adding deep, musical bass to your all-weather sound system. Some models — like the OSD Forza-10 — almost look like patio furniture. Others — the Wet Sounds VS-12 LS-SUB is a good example — are designed to be partially buried in the ground.

Outdoor powered speakers with Bluetooth

Recently, a whole slew of wall-mountable Bluetooth-enabled outdoor speakers have been introduced to the market. Many of us prefer to stream music from phones or tablets, and these speakers make that a convenient option. The OSD BTP-650 is a speaker pair that offers built-in amplification in addition to a Bluetooth receiver, so you can use it without drilling holes to run wire to an indoor receiver.

Portable Bluetooth speakers

If you want a really fun, versatile, budget-friendly option, a portable Bluetooth speaker may be ideal for your needs. You can use one indoors, outdoors, and even on a road trip, as long as you keep the battery charged.

portable bluetooth speaker jbl

Can you take a waterproof JBL Bluetooth speaker to provide tunes on a canoe trip? Yes, you absolutely can!

Not all portable speakers are weather-resistant, and none are designed to be left outdoors permanently. Be sure to read the specifications on our website to determine if the speaker is water- or weather-resistant, and always bring them inside when not in use.

Wi-Fi enabled outdoor speakers

If you have a whole-home wireless system indoors, there may be wall-mountable and portable Wi-Fi enabled speakers that use the same ecosystem — Sonos is a good example — so you can add an outdoor "zone" to your existing network.

Sonos outdoor speakers

If you want to use use Sonos with outdoor speakers, you're in luck. The company offers Sonos by Sonance Architectural speakers for just such a purpose. You can easily run speaker wire from them to a Sonos Amp, like our video team leader Tara did in her treehouse Sonos system.

Norm installing Tara's treehouse Sonos system

Sonos by Sonance outdoor speakers let you expand your wireless Sonos system to outdoor spaces.

If you have an existing outdoor system, the Sonos Port lets you add Sonos capability for an easy upgrade. And the Sonos Move and Sonos Roam are similar to the portable Bluetooth speakers we discussed above, with the addition of Sonos compatibility.

In similar fashion, Bose fans can take their tunes outside by adding a Bose® Portable Home Speaker to their existing system.

Whole-home audio with outdoor speakers

If you're starting from scratch and want to build a convenient whole-home audio system, you can include outdoor speakers in the mix. Our system designers can help you plan a flexible system that suits your unique layout.

And, if you're hoping to use wireless sources to stream music throughout your home, a multi-node mesh router system can make sure you're getting strong, fast Wi-Fi everywhere you need it.

70-volt speakers for commercial use

If you want music to play in several discrete outdoor zones, a 70-volt system is a smart choice. Designed primarily for commercial use, 70-volt systems can drive several speakers with a single amplifier. They're more efficient than a traditional wired system, but may lack the power and fidelity you'll get from a home system.

70-volt outdoor speakers

70-volt outdoor speakers — like this JBL Control® HST we installed at a local brewpub — are great for commercial sound systems.

Need help designing and choosing a 70-volt system for your business? Check in with our commercial design team.

Get started with
a free system design

After we gather your information, we’ll send you a detailed system plan. It will include a link to a pre-filled shopping cart. Ordering is easy, and delivery is fast.

We can help you choose

Have questions about choosing the right outdoor speakers? Contact us today.

Our expert Advisors know the gear inside and out, and we can help you design a great-sounding outdoor sound system that suits your unique space.

And, as always free lifetime tech support is included with your Crutchfield purchase.

Last updated 7/19/2022
  • Nora from Seattle

    Posted on 10/17/2022

    Were adding Sonos in-ceiling passive speakers and Sonos Amp in a small kitchen remodel. Can we add two outdoor speakers to the same Amp to play the same music indoors and out? They'll go under the eaves on two sides of the house, about 15 feet apart. Can you recommend a third-party outdoor speaker vs the sonos brand?

    Commenter image

    Eric A. from Crutchfield

    on 10/18/2022

    Nora - If you want your outdoor speakers to work wirelessly with the Sonos components, you have to use their Sonos outdoor speakers. Anything else will involve drilling holes and running speaker wire. Hope this helps!
  • Cal from Belmont, NC

    Posted on 8/3/2022

    Which way to go for a boat dock that is 300 feet from the house network closet where the amp is located: A. include speaker wire with Ethernet line from closet to the dock. Use traditional wired speakers. B. skip the speaker wire and spend the savings on good quality outdoor, powered, bluetooth speakers. Pros include the ability for anyone with a smartphone to stream their music to the speakers. With the wired option the control will be mine only via the amp.

    Commenter image

    Eric A. from Crutchfield

    on 8/4/2022

    Cal - I guess this depends on whether you want great sound, which I think would come from the wired option (especially if you spring for Coastal Source), or convenience and cost-effectiveness, which would be well-served by something like OSD's powered on-wall speakers with Bluetooth or powered rock speakers with Bluetooth. Hope this helps!
  • Bryan from Monroe, Ga

    Posted on 9/5/2021

    I am mounting a projector in my covered patio, and need to run sound to left and right speakers I will mount on the upper back of the patio. I am thinking about using a hdmi audio extractor to run to the speakers. What amp would you recommend that would be small enough and somewhat weather resistant and what speakers do you recommend?

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 9/7/2021

    Bryan - I have a couple of NAD amps in mind, which are not exactly weather-resistant, but are very compact and can easily be hidden away in a weather-safe enclosure. The NAD D 3020 V2 or its more powerful cousin the NAD D 3045 would serve very well in my opinion. And AudioSource AS545 outdoor speakers provide solid sound for such an installation. Hope this helps!
  • Rich from Dallas

    Posted on 6/27/2021

    Does anyone make Active Outdoor WIFI Speakers?

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 6/28/2021

    Rich - We don't sell any that are self-powered, but we do have a Phase Tech OS-440 outdoor amplifier that connects to your home Wi-Fi. Hope that helps!
  • David Miller from Lincoln Ne

    Posted on 4/1/2020

    We have a covered porch 15'x 15' and want to install a TV out there in a cabinet it will not have direct light on it and should be protected by the weather it has a doors that swing open when in use and am wondering about what kind of outdoor speaker and wattage to use. I can run a hard wire to these speakers. Do I install these directly across from each other?

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 4/2/2020

    David - There are a lot of variables you'll probably want to discuss with an Advisor via phone or chat. The main question I have is what type of receiver or amp would you be connecting to. But definitely chat with an Advisor - they'll get you exactly what you need and you'll be covered by lifetime tech support if you run into any trouble down the road.
  • Tom from Temecula

    Posted on 12/7/2019

    I want to install outdoor weatherproof speakers in my backyard. 2 under my patio cover/bbq area(detached from house) and 2 on house either in the stucco wall or under a small awning of house. They will have power but I was hoping to have blue tooth speakers so I don't have to use a receiver. How can I accomplish this and still have the ability to control each speaker individually on one bluetooth device? Many times I won't use one set just the bbq area but when I do use all 4 I want to be on one Bluetooth device. Thank you.

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 12/9/2019

    Tom - I don't know of any outdoor speakers we carry that take direct Bluetooth input, but we do have an intriguing outdoor amp that takes direct Bluetooth input from your device, so it's worth a look for the flexible system you're trying to design. It's called the Phase Tech OS-440. Hope this helps, but if it's not quite right, I highly recommend talking with one of our Advisors via phone or chat. Several of them have system design experience and might know a trick or two. Good luck!
  • Tyson Wells from Pryor

    Posted on 7/30/2019

    I have 4 definitive technology AW6500 for my outdoor kitchen/patio. I'm wondering if the sonos amp will power all 4 speakers or do I need to go another route.

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 7/31/2019

    Tyson - The Sonos amp is really only sufficient for one pair of speakers, so you'd either want to get two of them, or have one of our Advisors set you up with a multi-channel amp and a Sonos Connect so you can power everything and still have your Sonos functions. Thanks for the question!
  • Brian from Altoona

    Posted on 7/27/2019

    I've got an outdoor covered deck. Everything is wired for the television and sound. I can find plenty of outdoor speaker options but am lost on how to power them to get good sound. Do I go with a standard home receiver with my television setup?

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 7/29/2019

    Brian - Typically, you have to have a receiver somewhere inside your home, so you have to run wire from inside to outside. Our Advisors are experienced with such installations, so if you call or chat with them using the contact information at the top of the page, they can find the right solution for your unique situation. Thanks for the question!
  • Al Ashton

    Posted on 7/26/2019

    As a painting contractor I need to mention your cabin needs a coat of something. That wood looks pretty dry.

  • Pat Bannan from Fort Mill

    Posted on 6/20/2019

    I am building a pool and will have a patio area off to the side with an outdoor fireplace. Nothing is enclosed so a smarty I know is recommending 4 PSB SC-1000's as the best option. Since you carry them and several other audiophile grade speakers, would you have other suggestions or do you concur?

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 6/21/2019

    Pat - You're talking to a huge PSB fan, and I can't think of any outdoor speakers we carry that are better, so I'd recommend following the smarty's advice. If you have any performance questions or just want help ordering, one of our Advisors can give you more info. Just use the contact us box at the top of the page.
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