Ask a Pro
Q. Can You Recommend Some Equipment for an Outdoor DIY Project?
Harmony Interiors' Scott Varn has some advice on running wire around the yard.
August 27, 2008 by Scott Varn

Q. I’m working on a DIY project and need to find wires/components for outdoors. Can you recommend some equipment? - Casey, Naperville, IL

A. Everyone wants to go wireless, but you get more bang for buck if you can get wires outside. Most wireless systems are usually weak and have interference issues. With that being said, I recently discovered one by Soundcast that breaks that stereotype. It’s rechargeable, powerful and has clean sound. So it’s ideal for smaller areas or when wires are impossible.

When possible, I recommend a wired solution because of the larger variety of options and prices. So the first step is figuring out how to get the wires outside of the house. Most people bring them out through a basement or crawl space. While you may have the urge to staple the wires to your home, try conduit or go behind a convenient gutter. If none of those options are available keep the wires low and bury them to a location deeper in the yard. There are now a large variety of outdoor speakers that can be hidden in the landscaping. Bose has a 360-degree radiating speaker called the FreeSpace that is partially submerged in the ground (the top half resembles a green mushroom). It radiates in a sphere rather than a single direction. Rockoustic also believes in making the speaker unobtrusive. They make planter speakers and of course fake rocks - that rock - but you knew I was going to say that.

The speaker cable needs to be rated for direct burial. Also use a conduit if the wire is running through flower beds or other areas that get dug up often. Make sure you have no exterior splices in the wire and always caulk any connection points. Corrosion is the #1 problem people face down the line.

Don’t forget about how you’ll control the music. You do not want to go inside every time to change the volume or song and rarely do you want it as loud inside as outside. So add a impedance matching volume control in line between the amp and the speakers. But often this is another point of failure because it can corrode after a few years. I recommend using a system with an RF remote control. That way you can have it pool side and simply take it inside when you are done.

My last tip is about placement. It is better to have more speakers playing softly than a few playing loudly. James loud speakers makes an excellent system that puts speakers in eight landscaping light housings which evenly distributes and blends the sound. You’re also less likely to bother the neighbors with this type of system. But if you still plan on cranking it up - just make sure they are invited to the party.

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Scott has been in the technology industries for over 20 years. But his experience as an artist is what led him to create an award winning business that combines engineering and aesthetics for home theater design.

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