Outdoor speakers buying guide
What to look for in an outdoor speaker system for your home
hen the weather warms up, most of us find more and more reasons to be out in the yard. Whether you're digging into yardwork, reading a book, 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 tunes 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.
Two types of outdoor speakers
There are two types of speakers we generally expect to see in an outdoor environment. You may want to permanently mount outdoor speakers under eaves, in the yard, or around a swimming pool.
On the other hand, there are plenty of Bluetooth-enabled outdoor speakers that are also suitable for outdoor use.
Like the idea of permanently installed speakers, but want to use Bluetooth as your music source? You can power your outdoor speakers with a receiver that has Bluetooth built in.
Permanently installed outdoor speakers
If you want to enjoy detailed, immersive sound on a deck or porch, or in a small backyard, passive stereo speakers — the type that get power and signal from a home receiver — are the best option. Outdoor stereo speakers are similar to indoor speakers, with two big differences:
- They can stand up to the elements. Many outdoor speakers are weatherproof, meaning they can withstand direct assaults of rain, sun, and cold. Other speakers are weather-resistant, so they require some protection from rain and ice.
- They come with 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 side of your house.
Speakers that mount to the side of your house offer robust stereo sound for your outdoor space.
Most outdoor speakers also have paintable grilles and enclosures, so you can match them to your color scheme.
Our outdoor A/V design expert Norm has plenty of helpful tips if you choose to do it yourself when you install outdoor speakers.
You can install 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.
Outdoor speakers and Sonos
If you want to use Sonos with a multi-room amplifier to build an indoor/outdoor system, good news. The company offers Sonos by Sonance Architectural speakers for outdoor use. You can easily run speaker wire from them to a Sonos Amp, like our video team leader Tara did in her 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.
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 and power 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.
Patio and garden speakers
If you want to listen in an area that’s farther from your house, look for speakers designed to sit on the ground or mount on in-ground stakes.
They’re weatherproof for permanent outdoor installation without any cover or protection. And they’re a better option than simply blasting music from the side of your house way out into the yard. Your neighbors might not appreciate that. And the music won't be too loud for people sitting closer to the house.
Environmental speakers blend into their surroundings. Can you spot the rock speaker in this photo?
Some of these speakers are even designed to blend into their outdoor surroundings (like these "rock" speakers). Others are compact and rounded, so they don’t take visitors’ eyes away from your beautiful landscaping.
Some environmental speakers are designed to be partially buried in the soil. The Bose FreeSpace® 360P II, for example, uses a unique design to broadcast music in a 360-degree pattern from the top of the speaker, while the rest of it hides out of sight.
TIP: Get the right speaker wire
Remember: when installing outdoor speakers, be sure to wire them with cable that is UL approved for in-wall use or direct burial.
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 a third speaker fo fill out the sound between the two main speakers.
This Polk Audio Atrium 8 speaker has inputs for both left and right channels, which allows stereo playback from a single speaker.
A stereo-input speaker is what you need 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.
70-volt speakers and amps
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 and often easier on the budget as a result.
70-volt outdoor speakers — like this JBL Control® HST we installed at a local brewpub — are great for larger residential installations and commercial use.
Need help designing and choosing a 70-volt system? Check in with our commercial design team.
Convenient, portable Bluetooth speakers let you stream music wirelessly from your smartphone or tablet. Some also have built-in Wi-Fi®, so you can stream music from networked computers. If you select a speaker with Wi-Fi, be sure your home network reaches outdoors to where you’ll be using the speaker.
Not all portable speakers are weather-resistant, and none are designed to be left outdoors permanently. Be sure to read the specification on our website to determine if the speaker is water- or weather-resistant, and always bring them inside when not in use.
We can help you choose
Have questions about choosing the right outdoor speakers? Contact us today.
System design specialist Norm shows off an impressive Focal 100 OD8 outdoor speaker.
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