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Choosing a Sound System for Your Outdoor Space

February 25, 2013 by

Wanna be able to crank the tunes at your summer backyard bash? Or enjoy some soothing jazz with a glass of wine on your patio after a long day at work? Then investing in a quality outdoor sound system should be on your to-do list.

There are a number of factors to consider before selecting an outdoor speaker package. First, the level of performance or sound quality that you are looking for. Let’s assume that only one pair of outdoor speakers is needed for adequate coverage of your deck or patio area. You can probably find models from $119 for a pair, but if your want good quality sound and years of enjoyment, don’t cut corners here. Plan on spending between $400-600 for a pair and you’ll be a lot happier with your purchase. If your outdoor space is larger, you might want to invest in additional speakers strategically placed throughout.

Outdoor speakers are usually offered in either a black or white finish, with the white finish being paintable to match exterior colors. They typically offer the ability to tilt or slant the speaker to aim the sound closer to or further away from your home. This is handy when neighbor’s homes are nearby and you want to avoid blasting sound into their backyard.

If you’re mounting the speakers under an eave or on an exterior wall, rely on a good quality 14-gauge wire. Make sure it’s CL3 rated to meet fire code, since you’ll most likely be running the wire through the walls of your home. Most CL3 wires are paintable to match your home color. In new home construction, the wires can be run ahead of time, allowing them to be hidden and eliminating the need to paint them later.

Something else to consider is controlling the volume. You could just run the wires directly to the speakers from the stereo receiver, but then you’d have to run back inside to where the equipment is located every time you wish to adjust the volume. Using a local volume control is preferable. While weatherproof outdoor volume controls are available, we generally prefer to locate the volume control just inside the deck/patio door to avoid another opportunity for cold air and moisture to enter the home through the exterior wall’s vapor barrier.

When choosing a stereo receiver, be aware that most outdoor speakers are efficient enough that 40 to 100 watts is more than enough to drive a pair. So wattage is not usually an issue, unless you’re running more than one pair of speakers at a time. Odds are that you will never be driving the speakers at the higher wattage range, unless you’re prepared to invite the entire neighborhood over for beer and iced tea.

On the subject of the so-called wireless speakers…There is a bit of a misnomer here. They will require a transmitter, usually located near your equipment rack, that sends the signal to the wireless speakers. All speakers require power to drive them. Regular outdoor speakers get their power from the wires connected to the receiver’s speaker terminals. Even wireless speakers will require power of some sort, probably a 12-volt adapter that will need to be plugged into an outlet nearby. This approach is not very conducive to Nebraska and Iowa’s inclement weather and is therefore not recommended.

The only wireless speakers that we do recommend are ones that work with Apple’s Airplay™. The technology allows you to send music from a Mac or PC running iTunes, or an iOS device, directly to the speakers and control it from those devices. There are also third-party applications that can add AirPlay functionality to Android devices for a price. Some of these types of speakers will work standalone, but many require them to be connected to a Wi-Fi network in the home. Some may also have rechargeable batteries in them, so they can be more portable for use at parties and such, or to bring sound to other parts of the home. The best performance usually comes from the speakers that require a connection to AC power. They will always have power and you don’t have to worry about the battery running down at an inopportune moment.

For more information on outdoor sound systems for your patio/outdoor space, visit customelectronics.tv or call 402-397-4434.