13 James Omni cHow does one start a tale of two outdoor speakers, wired and wireless? It is the best of times, it is the worst of times.

Outdoor speakers have been good to hi fi shops. In addition to selling them they usually get the installation work, running cables from the indoor audio system to the external speakers mounted under the outdoor eaves. Or even in the garden, a subwoofer buried in the bed with nought but a periscope visible, and surround speakers among the plants. Weather resistant, of course. Using the remote? Yep, a remote receiver can be installed as well, all it takes is money.

The worst of times. The hi fi shops are crying into their beers because someone (actually it was Dr Jaap Haartsen) invented Bluetooth and all you do now is pair a Bluetooth speaker with your stereo, or phone or computer or tablet, and plonk it wherever you want it, inside or out. Plonk two and you have stereo provided they’ll work as a stereo pair. Who needs cables, let alone an expensive installer crawling around the roof?

The best of times. Bluetooth speakers are selling like hot cakes. And good ones, like the $1400 rechargeable Soundcast VG7, not only sound good but stand a sporting chance against the morning showers if you forget to bring them in before you collapse in a heap after the party.

Others that will give you enough sound quality to impress your discerning friends are designed for indoors but can be moved outdoors quickly and easily provided you have access to power out there. Like Devialet’s Phantom at $2690 and Kef’s LS50s at $3800 a pair. Don’t leave them out in the rain.

If you’re not a sound quality fundamentalist good Bluetooth speakers can be had for anything from a few hundred dollars. Have a look at the Bose SoundLink Revolve from $300, and Cambridge Audio YoYos start around the same price (although I’d spend more to get the better models). Kef Eggs are around $650 a pair. If you don’t need much volume Sony’s SRSXB10 at $79 is a dead set bargain. If you do, try the SRSXB40 at $200 or GTKXB60 at $500. You may wish to turn off the colourful flashing lights.

13 James Omni aIf you seek something more permanent American company James Loudspeaker has an attractive idea – a planter box with a speaker in the base. It’s not the first time this has been done but it is one of the best executions of the idea I’ve seen, and it’s so much better than speakers disguised as rocks, garden gnomes and large mushrooms that serve as the cornerstone of outdoor speakers that don’t look like speakers.

But the James Omni Planters cost a lot and the local importer only brings them in on order. They are built into a bona-fide planter box and there are three drivers inside including a down-firing subwoofer. The music is directed in 360 degrees. Construction is in powder coated aluminium in a range of standard and custom colors. And, for commercial applications, they have tamper-proof brackets and bolts for securing to solid surfaces such as concrete. Prices range from $4200 to $6600 each.

James specialises in small aperture in-wall and in-ceiling speakers with most of the speaker hidden and only a small opening on display that lets the sound out. The same idea applies here. They are therefore for people who want to hear music but don’t want to see speakers.

You won’t find these in the shops, they are available only through specialist installers locally.

Originally published on smh.com.au as ‘Music to our ears: Bluetooth outdoor speakers don’t cost the earth‘ April 2018


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