TIPS TO BUYING THE RIGHT OUTDOOR SPEAKERS AND ACHIEVING GREAT SOUND
Outdoor speaker technology has come a long way in recent years. From humble beginnings of 80’s era boom boxes being dragged outside, most people want to hear music in their backyards or patios. Many homeowners, however, don’t understand how acoustically proficient outdoor speakers are and how fun and easy they can be to install.
Seriously, THAT’S a speaker?
OSD Audio engineers get a little crazy when it comes to disguising speakers. We offer traditional box and omni speakers, but where it gets really fun is disguising them like rocks, planters, birdhouses, vases, and even speakers shaped like tree stumps. There’s a whole lot of exploring to do so let’s get started.
What are the benefits of using outdoor speakers?
Since there are no walls to reflect sound, getting good sound in wide-open spaces can be tricky. Unlike a controllable indoor space, there are no ceilings or walls to reflect sound. The great outdoors also comes with its own soundtrack in the form of wind, lawnmowers, barking dogs, etc. Good quality outdoor speakers are built with these factors in mind and include features that enhance sound quality such as high power handling and low frequency response for excellent bass. Most importantly, however, outdoor speakers are built tough and are tested under extreme weather conditions to ensure a long and happy life. A good brand like OSD Audio will work under extreme temperatures, and our speakers are designed to protect the components against rain, snow, dust, dirt, creepy crawlers and other backyard and patio perils.
How do I connect the speakers to my source equipment?
Our outdoor speakers are compatible with just about any home stereo receiver/amp. Make sure your audio amplifier has enough juice (watts) to drive your outdoor speakers. Most receivers/amplifiers today have A+B channels, so you can use the extra channel to drive exterior sound. It’s always a good idea to check your amplifier or receiver manual for the correct connection procedures.
Most outdoor speakers are passive devices, which means they do not have built in amplification and will need a source of power. While many configurations are possible including the use of booster amps etc., most of our customers connect their outdoor speakers directly to household amplification, that is directly to a home a receiver/amp or outboard receiver/amp stored safely in a tool shed or other covered space where it is protected from the elements.
Do I need to hire a contractor to install these speakers?
Not necessarily. Installing these speakers can be very simple; just decide where you want them to go and run the speaker wire from the desired sound source to the speaker; if you plan to bury the cable, bury it 4-6” under ground so that it's not visible nor pose a danger of somebody tripping over it. For elaborate installations with multiple speakers and volume controls, you may want to consider hiring a custom installer. They’re experts!
Do I need special cable to run outdoor speakers?
We recommend using our CL3 rated speaker wire and wire connectors specifically designed for the outdoors. These speaker cables can withstand extreme weather conditions like rain, snow and high temperatures and incorporate twice the insulation and a formulated white polyethylene jacket that is U/V resistant. If you plan to bury the cable in the ground, we recommend using direct burial cable. OSD Audio outdoor speaker cables are available in a variety of gauges, depending on the length of the run: 16 gauge for distances up to 100ft, 14 gauge for over 100ft, and 12 gauge for distances longer than 200ft.
What about wireless outdoor speakers?
Wireless outdoor speakers let you enjoy audio in your backyard or patio without having to run cables or wires. OSD Audio has a large selection of 2.4GHz wireless speakers in standard designs or disguised as rocks, planters, lanterns, yard decorations and more. The 2.4GHz wireless speaker uses a reliable transmission frequency, but keep in mind that we live in a wireless world. Transmitting any information wirelessly can present problems in terms of interference.
How do I find the good quality rock speakers since they are so many choices?
Before you buy, find out what kind of speaker drivers they use. Most cheap models sold in mass merchants use a paper cone speaker. Not only do they degrade over time, paper cones can't produce bass so the sound will be lackluster. Look for a co-axial driver type; they usually produce very good treble and bass without any distortion in the given power rating range. Also check the rock stone shell. Cheap models are made from mold-injected machines. These have a smooth, fake finish that is painted to simulate a rock and generally can’t take the rigors of the outdoors over a long period of time. In contrast, handcrafted rock speakers have an uneven surface like real rock and look more natural and last longer in your backyard. Another way to compare the speakers is to check the weight. The heavier it is the better quality it generally is. A decent manufacturer will not cut corners on craftsmanship.
What about the sprinklers hitting them or being splashed from the pool?
OSD Audio outdoor speakers are specifically designed to withstand water, rain, sun, snow and any extreme weather conditions. This doesn’t mean you can drop them in the pool and all will be well—technically all outdoor speakers are "water resistant" and not "water proof." However, they are proof against the intermittent water sprayed from garden sprinkler systems. The speakers can even withstand Fido’s occasional visits, although dog urine could cause some discoloration over time. While we do not recommend you place your speakers in the direct spray of garden sprinklers, intermittent or accidental exposure poses no problems. Some consideration should be made when considering prolonged exposure to pool or spa water. These waters contain harsh chlorinated solvents particularly harmful to modern plastics and advanced materials. Our product design team has considered this in their designs and while prolonged or continual exposure could be harmful, intermittent or occasional exposure is not. Many of our products are used regularly in marine applications.
How many watts do I need for my application?
Our outdoor speakers range from 60 watt to 300 watt. The advantage of bigger wattage is not only the potential volume increase, but also better sound quality and coverage at lower volumes. A pair of 60-watt patio speakers installed under eaves 20 feet apart will give you great coverage in areas less than 300 square feet. For 300 to 500 square feet, look for 80 to 100 watt speakers; 150 watts to 175 watt speakers will cover 600 to 800 square feet with clear, sharp music sound at soft volumes. Our 200 watt HF12 Rock and HF14 speaker will cover over 1000 square feet and will shake the leaves off the trees, just remember your neighbors may not like you.
My backyard is ___big. How many speakers do I need?
It’s difficult to offer a "boilerplate" design or recommendations because every backyard is different. A garden type setting has walls, trees, foliage and architectural features that are different than a sprawling backyard lawn. In general it would be best to calculate any exterior speaker coverage areas against any existing features that may apply. OSD Audio offers free advice on outdoor speaker installation projects so call us and we’ll walk you through the whole design process.
Will one speaker create enough sound for outdoor use?
A total of 100 watts of sound is normally adequate for most yards, but two speakers will give you the stereo quality sound that people have become accustomed to. Most small wattage speakers are sold in pairs so two 80 watts speakers will give you a total 160 watts of sound.
How far should the speakers be apart?
Typically the ratio for sound broadcast range is based upon the SPL (sound pressure level) of the speakers compared to the average ambient background noise. The general rule of thumb is that a 100 watt speaker will cover a 30 foot range. We recommend experimenting with speaker placement first to find out where and how far apart they should be.
Do outdoor speakers have left and right channels?
Our outdoor speakers can be connected to either the left or right of a single channel, not both at once. In a typical situation an amplifier provides connections for two/four speakers connected to the "A" and/ or the "B" channel. Each speaker would be connected to the left or the right connection of those channels and not the left and the right or both. Speakers with left and right channels contained in one unit are usually dual voice coil and dual tweeter units. These are great for applications that only require one speaker but with both left and right channel.
Are there any special precautions I should take to protect my outside speakers in winter?
Not necessarily, however, if you live in an area prone to extreme weather such as sub-zero temperatures, you may want to cover the speakers with a plastic bag or bring them inside to help prevent components from absolute freezing during the long winter months.
Do I need subwoofer for my outdoor music application?
It depends on your application and your music preference. A subwoofer will greatly enhance your listening experience but if you choose our 8" rock speakers, you don't need any subwoofer at all. Our rock speakers have such good bass response, there's no need for an extra sub.
How durable are these speakers?
Outdoor speakers are developed with harsh conditions of the outdoors in mind. We use only non-water-absorbing materials that can be soaking wet but won't absorb water. This is critical in winter so it won't freeze and crack. The shape is designed to withstand large amounts of pressure, extreme temperatures and moisture. Remember though, outdoor speakers are an investment, so take care of them. Storing them away from extreme weather conditions will only lengthen the time you’ll have with your outdoor speakers.
Is there something to protect the speaker from mechanical damage?
There is a specially designed screen shield that protects the speaker cone from the elements normally found outdoors such as rain, dirt and bugs.
What do you mean by 70v switch-able on some models?
Some speakers are equipped with an "on the fly" 70v switch assembly. This allows an installer to rapidly switch to the correct 70v wattage tap each installation may require without soldering, tapping or disassembly and reassembly, which normally complicates such installations. You usually don't need use this feature for your typical home application.
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