03 Niles Rock03 TruAudio rock bThe idea of disguising outdoor speakers as garden rocks has merit, it’s in the execution that it falls down. Rock speakers look about as genuine as a $3 Rembrandt. I have never seen one that looks anything like a rock. Real rocks don’t have grills that are suspiciously flat over their entire surface area, unlike the rest of the rock. They don’t have additional mesh surfaces or slots. The flower pots, gnomes and ornamental swans are only partially more convincing. Some outdoor speakers look like mushrooms so big you can sit on them.

It’s about time we all grew up about outdoor speakers. What’s wrong with seeing where the music comes from? And speakers you can see hanging under the eaves generally sound better, often lots better, than speakers that lurk down in the garden bed trying to get a signal out from between all those plants and shrubs.

There are two kinds of outdoor speaker; permanent and temporary. Temporary outdoor speakers have exploded in recent years with the popularity of whole-of-home audio 03 TruAudio SubTerrain subwoofer unburiedsystems and Bluetooth. Many whole-of-home systems include battery powered wireless models that operate very successfully outdoors and in some cases two of them can be 03 TruAudio SubTerrain subwoofer buriedset up as a stereo pair. And there are lots of battery-powered Bluetooth speakers available, a growing number of better ones having the aptX codec and sounding good.

The catch is that you have to remember to take them inside before it rains. If you’re tempted to take a punt on it not raining while you sleep off the party don’t forget the sprinklers that automatically activate in the morning.
Good quality speakers made specifically for the outdoors are weatherproof. They’re also rust proof, spider proof and worm proof. Birds can commit unspeakable acts upon them without harm and they take hard knocks. The plastic won’t break down over years of exposure to sunlight. Some manufacturers advise mounting under the eaves to 03 Bose 151SE cgive them some protection from rain, hail and wind, others are made to be mounted on spikes in the garden bed or even in trees, complete with matching subwoofers that can be buried, exposing just a mushroom-topped periscope where the sound comes out.

Under-eave speakers are easier to install because the cables can be run through the ceiling to the music system powering them, while garden-bed speakers generally need the cables to be buried and brought into the house under the paving and floor. This works fine until someone puts a shovel through the cable.

It’s possible to get a workable stereo effect depending on the shape of your yard and the positioning of the speakers, and speakers designed specifically for outdoors usually have wider sound dispersion than indoor speakers, making the stereo sweet spot more generous. But people seldom listen closely to music outside so unless you’re fussy one speaker may be all you need.

03 Bose 151SE bjpgAmerican company TruAudio specialises in outdoor speakers and has a huge range of offerings, including subwoofers that can be buried and packages with up to eight surround speakers, two subs and amplification. The subwoofers can be bought individually for between $4000 and $5000 while the surround speakers cost from $600 each. The brand also has under-eave speakers from $400 to $800 and rock speakers from $600 to $1150 each.

America is the epicentre of outdoor audio and Bose makes excellent under-eave speakers from $500 to $700 while Niles has under-eaves ranging from $650 to $1300 per pair, as well as flush mounts for the eaves, garden bed speakers and rocks. Other American brands with a good reputation for outdoor speakers include SpeakerCraft, Boston Acoustics, Kicker, Polk, Klipsch and JBL.

Among non-American brands Yamaha has five models from $250 to $750 and British premium brand Bowers and Wilkins has it name on outdoor speakers priced from $850. French made Focals come in from $900 and Canadian company PSB has them from around $450. The cheapest under-eaves I could find were from local company Studio Acoustics at $54 per pair.

Studio Acoustics also offers a hanging basket speaker and a swan speaker, and if you’re into such things speakers disguised as garden gnomes are available on Amazon.

Published January 2017

 

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