Video: Planning Your Outdoor Speaker System
Tara W. has worked for Crutchfield since 2004. She writes about whole-house music and video gear, and works on Crutchfield's video team.
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Tara: The great outdoors presents a different listening environment than your typical room. Inside your home, there are walls to reflect and contain sound. Outside, of course, it's wide open, and there are usually background noises like wind, traffic, or barking dogs. The guidelines we'll offer in this video will help you overcome some of the acoustical challenges that you'll find outside. Then we'll talk about all the gear you'll need to create an outdoor system.
First determine what your main listening area will be. Plan on placing your speakers roughly 12 feet away from that listening area and roughly 8 to 10 feet apart from each other. For example, if you want to listen to music on your deck, you can place one speaker at either end.
What if you need to cover a larger area? Think more speakers, not higher volume. Cranking up the volume could result in uncomfortably loud music in parts of your listening area. For example, if you wanted to cover your patio and pool deck, we'd recommend placing four speakers at the corners. Depending on your space you might opt for traditional speakers, stereo input speakers, or a mix of both. To get good stereo sound with traditional speakers alternate left and right channels. For more info on choosing speakers see our video at crutchfield.com/chooseoutdoor.
We recommend placing your outdoor speakers in a protected location whenever you can, like under the eaves. Some models labeled as "weather-resistant" require that kind of placement. If you do need to put a speaker in a fully exposed location, like on the ground by the pool, be sure it's fully weather-proof.
To cover the broadest listening area, you can mount your speakers up high, above six feet but not higher than ten feet. This will help disperse the sound over more of your yard. And one last tip. If you want to get more bass out of your speakers, place them near a wall of corner.
To create a full outdoor speaker system there are a few things you'll need. First, you'll want enough speakers to adequately cover your listening area. Second, you'll need plenty of power to drive the speakers. You can use a separate amplifier although most home theater receivers these days can power an extra pair of speakers in one or more additional listening zones. Third, look for speaker wire designed for outdoor use. It's labeled CL2 or CL3. This kind uses durable jackets that can stand up to the elements. For some installations you may also need wire that's designed to be safely buried in the ground labeled "direct burial". Fourth, think about outdoor volume controls. This isn't a must have but it adds a lot of convenience, since you won't have to run back inside to turn up your favorite song.
For information on choosing speakers watch our video at crutchfield.com/chooseoutdoor and to see the basic steps of outdoor speaker installation visit crutchfield.com/outdoorinstall. You can also call our A/V design group for help planning your system at 1-800-555-9407.