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Outdoor Speaker Depot Blog


Adding an Outdoor Subwoofer to your Existing System

by OSD Audio • April 23, 2020

Outdoor Audio, Outdoor Tips


Subwoofers: Why You Need at Least One

What makes the difference between a good outdoor sound system and a great one? To my mind, there are three things: a clear, even, and full-frequency sound in all listening areas. It sounds obvious, but there are several things working against achieving this, and in all cases adding outdoor subwoofers solves the problem.

Outdoor Subwoofers Ensure Clear Sound

OK, how do we ensure a clear sound? The biggest challenges for outdoor sound systems are distance and sound level. Speakers that work fine indoors in rooms with walls and ceiling do not have to be that big. Outdoors, they do. 

The reason is threefold: 

  • First, sound levels drop by half between 3 to 6 feet away from the speaker, and half again from 6 to 12 feet, and so on. 
  • Second, high frequencies are very directional. By that, I mean that only if the speaker is pointing directly at you will the highest frequencies be at the right level. If you move the sides, above, or below the speaker the sound levels drop off. The lower the frequencies the more non-directional they become. 
  • Thirdly, the high-frequency part of a speaker needs little power to play loudly, whereas the low frequencies need a lot of power.

So what happens in a typical good quality outdoor system? Let’s say you have two speakers attached to the back of the house under the patio cover. You have the speakers pointing down to the outdoor eating area or BBQ which is about 10 feet away. All is good. The bass, mids, and highs all sound good and distortion-free. 

Then you move to the pool 30 feet away and slightly to the side. The high frequencies become less audible because they are directional. The mid frequencies do okay because they are less directional and do not require too much power, and the bass drops because it requires more power. 

So you turn up the volume; the high frequencies start to distort, the bass starts to take all of the amplifier power and the sound by the eating area is now way too loud and distorted. Sound familiar?

A Subwoofer Is The Solution

By adding an outdoor subwoofer with its own amp, you add the power needed for the bass to travel to the pool. You can now also aim the speakers directly out of the house. Because the eating area or BBQ is not in the direct line you can turn the speakers up so that high and mid frequencies can also reach the pool. Now,because the bass is not demanding so much power, the speakers play louder with less distortion. Everyone is happier.

Of course, for very large areas, multiple outdoor speaker zones are the only solution. Increase your number of subwoofers appropriately, or you’ll end up with the same issues as described above.

For help picking out the right number and type of subwoofers, contact us. We can guide you through your planning process.


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