Speakers
How to Choose Outdoor Speakers
Learn how to pick the right speakers for your outdoor set-up. Plus: See specs on 40 outdoor speaker models.
NuTone rock speakers
Rock speakers, such as these NuTone models, are built to blend into landscaping.
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August 10, 2007 by Rachel Cericola

You don’t want to threaten the free exchange of lawn maintenance equipment with your neighbors, but nothing can stop your summertime urge to rock out—outside, that is. So while your friends are trying to prop speakers in windows, you can pipe your home’s entertainment system out to your deck, patio or pool area. Outdoor speakers can rock you like a hurricane—even in a hurricane.

A slew of speaker types fit almost any atmosphere. And it is really important to think about speaker placement when it comes to outdoor audio. This, along with price and your existing equipment, will decide which speaker fits you best.

Some outdoor speakers are box units, which are the standard speaker shape we know and love. Some can be mounted, some are in-walls and some are the perfect resting spot for your drinks (please use a coaster). Molded speakers are sometimes made out of different materials like vinyl and can be customized to fit a specific area or painted to match a certain decor.

If you want to spread out the sound, take a look at rock speakers. Aside from making Fred Flintstone jealous, these units are easy to place in multiple locations because they blend into bushes, gardens and any other outside area. Other units take the shape of decorative planters, packing a speaker inside while holding your favorite foliage.

Now that you’ve figured out what you want the speakers to look like, it’s time to take a look at performance characteristics.

One specification you’ll always see is frequency response. This is basically a measurement of the range of sound a speaker can produce, from the lowest frequency to the highest. If it says 20 to 20,000 Hz, it means the system can produce sounds between 20 and 20,000 hertz, which is pretty much a full-range speaker.

Impedance measures how much something resists the flow of electricity and is measured in ohms; lower numbers mean there’s less resistance to the flow. This is an important measurement to match with your amplifier’s output. Otherwise, you could damage your equipment.

For those ready rock, there is amplification to consider. This is a measurement of how much energy a component can produce, and how much a speaker can handle. Amplification is presented in watts, sometimes with a range. In a normal room at normal listening levels, 20 to 30 watts per channel may be plenty. However, your outside area may require more power, especially if you’re counting on two speakers to fill a large area with sound. That’s why careful placement of several speakers can give you continuous sound as you move around—and with less amplification.

Finally, it’s important to know how your speakers will withstand the elements. There is a difference between waterproof and weatherproof. Waterproof units will stand up against a summer storm and poolside horseplay. If you want your speakers to make it through drastic temperature changes, they should be able to withstand many elements, making them weatherproof. However, not all weatherproof speakers are also waterproof. If you expect your units to make it through rain and shine, ask an audio specialist for advice. Unfortunately, no one can guarantee that a speaker is pet proof. Keep Fido at a distance.

Yes, music can make the great outdoors a whole lot better. Regardless of the season, the right speakers should prove themselves to be the real kings of that jungle you call a backyard.

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Rachel Cericola - Contributing Writer
Over the past 15 years, Rachel Cericola has covered entertainment, web and technology trends. Check her out at www.rachelcericola.com.


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