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Outdoor speakers system planning guide

What you need to know before you buy

Crutchfield A/V system designer Tony loves to talk about outdoor speaker systems.

“They let our customers show off their gear to the whole neighborhood,” Tony said. “We make barbecues rock.”

For the past 14 summers, Tony has helped Crutchfield customers with outdoor speaker systems in yards large and small. The key to success for each one? Having a solid plan.

Tony with speaker

Tony is part of our A/V design team and has helped countless Crutchfield customers plan their outdoor speaker systems.

SETUP 1: Small deck or patio

Stereo outdoor speakers give you good sound in a small area right outside the house. Figure out where you'll put them before you buy.

For the best stereo effect, Tony recommends mounting left and right speakers about 10 feet apart. Don’t try to cover a bigger space by moving them further apart.

“Depending on where you’re standing, you may only hear one ‘side’ of the song,” Tony said.

plans for a stereo outdoor setup

The dining table is in the sweet spot for stereo sound, about 12 feet from each speaker.

Have a covered porch?

Our Advisors often recommend in-ceiling speakers for covered outdoor spaces. Some are moisture resistant. They're made with bathrooms and saunas in mind, so they can handle the humidity.

Under the eaves, a popular mounting location

Many outdoor speakers are weather-resistant rather than weatherproof, so they’ll need some cover. Are your eaves close to the ground (or the deck)? Mount speakers underneath, to protect them from rain.

Just don’t mount them much higher than 10 feet above the listening area.

speakers shown mounted under the eaves of a house

Mounting speakers under the eaves also helps hide them for a discreet look.

Music sources and wiring for simple stereo setups

You'll need a receiver or amp to power your speakers and connect music sources. Already have a home theater receiver with "Zone 2" or “ Zone B” speaker outputs? That may be all you need.

"But that may not be the best option," warned Tony. "How far is the receiver from your outdoor speaker locations? What route will the speaker wires take? And how will you control the receiver from your outdoor location?"

It might be much easier to install and operate a separate music source that can be placed much closer to your deck or patio. Consider adding a second receiver or a wireless music player that has a built-in amp, such as the Sonos Amp.

Many home theater receivers can connect to your home network. Most of these let you wirelessly control key functions via a smartphone app. You won’t have to run inside to adjust volume or change playlists. Does your Wi-Fi® reach out into your yard? If not, a new Wi-Fi router or extender can boost your wireless coverage.

How much power do outdoor speakers need?

Inside your home, there are walls to reflect and contain sound. Outside, of course, it’s wide open.

“To get the same perceived volume outside as you do indoors, you need to double the power,” Tony said.

Want to play your outdoor music quite loud? A powerful receiver or amp would be a good choice. If you’re a Sonos fan, try a Sonos Amp or hook a Port (which has no amp) to your receiver.

SETUP 2: Music for a large yard

To enjoy music across a larger yard, you'll need to cover different areas or "zones" with sound. "Think of each zone in your yard as you would a room in your house," said Tony.

You need the right amount of speakers for each zone, so that it's never too loud or too soft in one area. Our A/V Design team can help with this — just send us your contact info and we'll be in touch.

Design for larger yard

Our in-house A/V designers can develop a plan that covers different "zones" with music.

Stereo setups don’t work well in large yards, either. You’ll want speakers that play both left and right channels. There are two ways to approach this. You can get stereo-input speakers that have left and right connections. Or you can get amps that combine left and right channels, sending mono signals to standard speakers.

Outdoor rock speaker

Rock speakers blend into your landscaping. "They are a major hit with the fire pit crowd," Tony said.

Read our Outdoor speaker buying guide for more.

What about wiring?

You can buy in-wall speaker wire with two conductors or four. Use four-conductor cable with stereo-input speakers. These cables contain wires for both left- and right-channel inputs. Use 16 gauge cable for runs of 80 feet or less. Use 14-gauge cable for runs of up to 200 feet.

Our in-wall speaker cables can be buried, but it’s probably best practice to run buried cable through a hard plastic conduit, so you don’t cut it with a shovel. This also keeps the wire protected from rodents.

outdoor speaker wiring

A PVC conduit gives you extra protection from lawn mowers, gardening tools, and critters.

Multi-channel amp

Multi-channel amps deliver a lot of power, and they give you separate volume control for each area. You might want your music loud by the pool and softer near the grill. Or vice-versa.

Illustration of a multi-channel amp

70-volt amp

A 70-volt commercial-grade amp can drive many more speakers than a comparably priced residential-grade amp. It’s easy to add speakers later on. And you’ll need much less wire.

Cost savings can be substantial with 70-volt systems, but system planning is more complicated. You’ll definitely want to contact an Advisor if you’re curious about this approach.

Illustration of a 70-volt system

Volume control options

Sonos and other wireless audio systems let you control volume from your phone. But what if you’re on a call or your wireless network drops out? Separate, weatherproof volume controls come in handy, especially in pool areas near water, where you might not want your phone.

outdoor volume control

Separate volume controls let you turn your music up or down while you're outside — even while your phone is in use.

SETUP 3: Music for special events

Throw a lot of big parties? Need a sound system for an amateur band or DJ? Portable PA systems include mixers to plug in instruments, turntables, and microphones. Many have built-in Bluetooth or aux inputs so you can connect your phone for DJ duty.

Singtrix karoake party at Crutchfield

We added a mic for a karaoke jam at our Crutchfield company picnic.

Need help getting started? Contact us

Sound like a lot to take in? "When you have someone to guide you, and break it down into specific projects, it's not so bad," Tony said.

Contact our Advisors for help. It’s like Tony told me, “We love figuring out this stuff. It’s fun!”

Get a free system design

In a well-designed home, form and function are on the same team. Furnishings and appliances smoothly serve your family and guests. You should expect no less from your audio/video gear. But first you need a plan, and that’s where your Crutchfield A/V design specialist comes in. Submit a system design request today! You’ll receive a detailed system plan and a link to a pre-filled shopping cart.

3 easy steps


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  • Joe McClelland from Danville, CA

    Posted on 6/1/2021

    I have a 30'x24' freestanding covered patio and will be mounting two speakers under the eaves. I'm considering the Bose 251 environmental speakers. I will be streaming music from my phone. I will not be playing the music too loudly. I am looking for a separate affordable receiver or wireless device. Your recommendation would be appreciated.

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 6/2/2021

    Joe - My favorite device for this kind of application is the Yamaha WXC-50. It's designed for streaming flexibility and its form factor makes it easy to install just about anywhere. If you want to spend less money, the Yamaha R-S202 stereo receiver has Bluetooth built-in, but you'll have to find more space for it. Hope that helps!
  • Kevin from Chicago

    Posted on 3/4/2021

    Great article! I've currently got a Sonos amp in the basement wired to a pair of in ceiling klipsch speakers on the ground floor and am looking to build a deck in the spring. Current problem I have is I don't want to run speaker wire from outside down to the basement and I also don't like how you'll need to have the inside playing music as well as the outside at the same time. I also don't want to just get a portable sonos speaker as I want more of a permanent solution I can leave outside. So I'm thinking about getting an echo dot and putting that in a weatherproof outdoor (hinged) enclosure with a mini amp and then connecting that to a pair of outdoor speakers. Can you recommend an amp (that would fit in that enclosure) and speakers that would work well with? I saw the Vanguard Dynamics Vail Amp 3 which would be perfect but it's not rated for outdoors. That's why I'm thinking of a similar solution but placing the dot in a weatherproof enclosure. I'm not sure the Dot will be able to hear me in the enclosure but I can always 1) open the hinged top or 2) control it through spotify on my phone. Thoughts?

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 3/5/2021

    Kevin - This doesn't help with the desire to use the Dot, but we do offer a Sonos Outdoor Speaker Bundle that would play very nicely with your existing Sonos system and allow you to have different content playing in different zones. If that's still not quite what you're looking for, I highly recommend having a quick call or online chat with one of our Advisors. Thanks for the question!
  • Ryan Macomb from Tucson, AZ

    Posted on 3/3/2021

    I'm getting a patio cover installed out in my backyard, it will have 4 can lights and a ceiling fan installed. I want to install two ceiling speakers, but can't decide how my set up will be. I want to listen to radio, connect via Bluetooth and even play cd maybe. I'm thinking bout something like what I have in my car but in my covered patio.

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 3/4/2021

    Ryan - You've come to the right place. Your desire to listen to terrestrial radio and have Bluetooth narrows down the selections quite nicely. Here's a filtered list of stereo receivers that have both. Personally, my eye always strays toward Yamaha in these situations, because they're feature-full and pretty powerful. But your decision may come down to which one has inputs for other sources, or some other small point that puts it over the top. If you want any help narrowing the list further, you can always call or chat with one of our Advisors. Hope this helps!
  • Brandon lowery from RAWLINGS

    Posted on 12/3/2020

    I purchased 2 of the polk atrium 8 speakers for my deck. I read in your guide that stereo sound doesn't work well outside. Would I be better off wiring each as a single? They will be mounted under the eave. On one side the area is a bit recessed and I have some odd angles that I feel like will somewhat give the sound something to bounce off of, on the opposite the one speaker will be basically pointed towards open air. Is it necessity that speakers are mounted at same height for sound quality? Looking forward to your response. Thank you!

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 12/4/2020

    Brandon - In your case, stereo will work very well, because the Atrium 8 speakers have two tweeters and you can configure each speaker to put out stereo on its own. Stereo does not work well if you're trying to use a left and right speaker to produce left and right channels, because it's difficult to place them so the sound hits your ears at the right time from both. Long story short, yes, wire them as singles. If you have any other issues with them, give our tech support a call and we can diagnose, but I think you'll be in good shape. Thanks for the question!
  • Steven from Minneapolis

    Posted on 5/30/2020

    I recently purchased the Polk Audio Atrium 6 to mount on the side of the house above our patio. I know they recommend mounting speakers under an eave, but that is not possible in this location. They are mounted horizontally at a height of about 10 feet and are pointed down at about a 45 degree angle toward the patio. It looks like they are open on the backside. Will that be ok or do I need to find a way to cover them?

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 6/1/2020

    Steven - It's probably fine to have them exposed during the warmer months. In fact, they're pretty tough in general, but they may show some external weathering being fully exposed all the time. Since they have that Speed Lock mounting system, you can take them down and store them inside when the weather gets harsh, and that could extend their life span.
  • Steve Golub from Pleasantville

    Posted on 5/28/2020

    There's no question that Outdoor is a different set of parameters than Indoor. Indoor is a confined space that has a certain cubic volume with reflection and support from walls, ceiling and floor. Outdoors, you're moving all the air in the world with no reinforcement, so you'll need more amplifier power and larger speaker sizes than you think for the same sound level.

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 5/28/2020

    Steve - Quite right. That's why we have a dedicated group of experienced installers to help customers plan their outdoor systems and offer support during and after the DIY installation. We always want to make sure the customer is satisfied and enjoying their gear.
  • Kevin Freisen from Lake Worth

    Posted on 5/27/2020

    Do you sell the JBL speakers shown in the picture with Tony?

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 5/28/2020

    Kevin - That looks like a JBL Control-series speaker, which we sell primarily for commercial installations. They certainly can be used at home, though you might want to check with an advisor to make sure you have the right amp and connections to make it work.
  • Richard Johnson from Cottleville, Missour

    Posted on 9/25/2019

    New deck construction. Its going to have a roof over it 16 wide by 12 deep. I want to mount the speakers at the end of the deck facing the condo. Looking at Bowers and Wilkins outdoor speakers. I do not have a receiver or amp as of yet. I would like to keep that inside the house on the wall that shares the deck. Also want to be able to control the volume from on the deck. Weather its using a cell phone, I pad, or any suggestions you might have.

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 9/26/2019

    Richard - I'd highly recommend talking to one of our Advisors, who can ask questions and make sure we're getting you the right items. If you don't have time for a phone call, you can also open a chat window - just use the "contact us" link at the top right of the web page. Good luck, and we look forward to hearing from you!
  • Rick from Eureka

    Posted on 7/11/2019

    Your neighbors don't want to hear your music. Keep it inside.

  • Juliana Marshall from Oakland, NJ

    Posted on 6/21/2019

    I have a backyard with a pool (about 1/4 of an acre) that i would like to equip with outdoor speakers. I am not familiar with the set up and trying to do some research. I think i like the idea of wireless set up, or at least wireless music player that i can control with the phone. Can you please help me start this project? Thank you

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 6/24/2019

    Juliana - If you want to build out a full system, it would definitely behoove you to speak to one of our Advisors via phone or chat, but I think I can point you toward one cool item right now. The Phase Tech OS-440 amplifier is weather-resistant (can't take direct exposure to weather, but doesn't have to live fully inside the house, either). Take a look at it and maybe use the "contact us" info at the top of the page to get a more complete system built out (advice is free!)