Everything You Need to Know Before Turning up the Volume
Spending time outside the house when the weather is beautiful is one of the reasons for which you may have moved into a new house.
No matter if you’re working in the garden, reading a book under a tree, or having lemonade on the patio, outdoor speakers can help take your relaxation to the next level. For some, the outdoor speakers don’t really make sense as they’re commonly used inside.
Regardless of what one may think, outdoor speakers aren’t tricky to install. However, system planning may be necessary, so keep reading our guide for the details.
The speakers have to be “outdoor.”
Outdoor speakers are a great addition to any outdoor space, no matter if it’s a large backyard or a small patio. As you may control the volume, you may place an outdoor speaker wherever you need it, without even disturbing your neighbors.
The outdoor speaker system can provide you the comfort and oasis you always wanted to have in your backyard. Don’t just go and buy the very first speakers you see on the shelf, though. Not only that, they have to be designed for external use, but they also have to have the build and features that ensure safe use outside the house.
You should never leave the equipment outside and face the elements randomly. Anything can happen, so you have to make sure that your speakers are labeled as “weatherproof.” You can find outdoor speakers that are designed to handle wind, dust, heat, direct sun, moisture, and anything else.
The outdoor speakers also have to be compatible with the other electronics. The outside of the box should provide you information about all the products and devices compatible with the speakers. You shouldn’t skip this step as some stores may not receive back the speakers once you’ve opened the package. The last thing you want is to make a significant investment in speakers only to realize that they’re not compatible with electronics inside.
Get a mental picture of your land
Backyards come in all shapes, types, sizes, and colors. You need to think about where you and your guests will most likely identify the optimal speaker place, but also the amount you need to have.
You should cover as many areas as necessary. Do you have a patio and a pool? Is your backyard close to the neighbors, so the volume and projection may disturb them? Do you have any features/fountains, trees/garden, brick/concrete pathways that may impact the running of the speaker wire?
Are you planning to have the speakers in plain sight, or you want to hide them in the environment? Once you have the answers to all of these questions, it’s a lot easier to make up your mind on the type of speakers you want.
Decorative or not?
Anyone having a decorative garden should think about selecting outdoor speakers that resemble a tree stump, rock, lantern, Tiki mask, or another type of ornament. Anyone visiting your garden for the very first time will not have a clue about you having any speakers outside the house. Only when you’ll play some music, they will discover the speakers! Don’t hesitate to select colors that hide very well in the surroundings!
Remember that mounting speakers in the garden may be challenging, and you should be ready for some digging. Our friends at Informinc.org tell us what features to look for in outdoor speakers, so you can get all the info you need when buying. Once you have you have your speakers, you may have to bury the speaker wires and even run the wire around or beneath some obstacles, like raised garden beds or concrete walkways.
What about installing speakers under the eaves?
It’s widespread for people to install outdoor speakers under eaves or covered patio. The mount and connection process go nice and straightforward, especially when compared to speaker installed further away from the house.
In all fairness, most outdoor speakers are rather weatherproof and not waterproof, so a sort of cover may be necessary. If you have eaves close to the ground or the deck, it’s always a good idea to install the speakers underneath for better protection from the rain. Keep in mind not to mount the speakers higher than 10ft above the listening area so that you don’t lose the quality of sound.
You can run wires through your attic and other rooms, which will offer better protection to the speakers, and less exposure to outdoor elements and rain. Even if the speakers are still going to be in plain sight, you can always hide them by painting them in a color that ensures the blending.
Have you considered installing in-ground?
When your backyard is rather simple and empty, speakers that look like rocks may seem a bit out weird. In this case, you may want to cover vast areas with audio by installing in-ground speakers. They are large enough to provide good sound but are partially buried in the ground. It’s possible to see only the top of the speaker.
In-ground speakers are a common choice for amusement parks, as they’re hidden in foliage, bushes, or shrubs.
Side note: Our friends at Informinc.org advise us also to consider a supplemental subwoofer. Since the open space is ample, it’s tough for the outdoor speakers to push out the lows. Unlike the indoor types, outdoor speakers cannot benefit from playing within limited space. If you want the speakers to provide a more vibrant and fuller sound, you should also opt for an outdoor subwoofer to cover the deep bass. You can choose between the decorative kind and in-ground models.
Do you have a small deck or patio?
People working in the industry don’t stress enough about the importance of planning the outdoor speaker system before even considering buying your speakers. Outdoor speakers can work both on small patios and in large yards, but they need to be the right speakers, nevertheless. By the way, people at Informinc.org provide us plenty of options to check when it comes to outdoor speakers.
Should you plan to install the outdoor speakers on a small deck or any other small areas outside your home, you need to think about where you’ll install the speakers.
To accomplish the best stereo effect, professionals suggest installing left and right speakers about 10ft away from each other. Mounting the speakers further apart will not be a solution for covering a larger space. It’s not going to work. Depending on where you’re standing, you will end up hearing only one “side” of the song.
If your porch is covered, it’s better that you install in-ceiling speakers for covered outdoor spaces. There are plenty of models to choose from, and many are moisture-resistant, handling humidity just fine.
Pay attention to the gauge and length
Planning the outdoor speaker system involves running the numbers too. You have to obtain an accurate estimate of how much wire you will need for running from the speakers to the receiver/amplifier.
Truth be told, it’s really frustrating to come up short at the end of the job. But the overall distance will also decide the gauge of wire you need to use. 16-gauge is going to work for most speakers when the range if 20 ft or so. Anything longer than that, and you will need thicker gauge (14, 12, and even ten gauge wire), especially if you’re using low-impedance speakers.
There is an in-wall speaker wire with two or four conductors. A four-conductor cable with stereo-input speakers is more effective because it has wires for both left and right channel inputs. Some recommend using the 16-gauge cable for 80ft distances or less. Remember that 14-gauge cable works for distances up to 200ft.
Some in-wall speaker cables are safe for bury, but it’s wise that you run the cable through hard plastic conduit. Don’t ever use the shovel for cutting it.
Unless you conclude that you go with in-ground installation (in which case you will buy burial wire), you need to make all the right measurements and calculations. Keep in mind that standard PVC piping may not ensure underground moisture and/or temperature protection for cables that run current. However, you want to use something that protects the cord from gardening tools, lawnmowers, and critters.
What are the music sources and wiring possibilities?
In the case of outdoor speakers, you also have to use a receiver or amp to power the speakers and connecting the music sources. If you already have a home theater receiver with “Zone2” or “Zone B” speaker outputs, your planning should run smoother.
Even if it’s a solution, you should give it a good thought. Take the distance between the outdoor speaker location and receiver under consideration. What will the route of wire be? How are you planning the control the receiver once you’re outside the house?
Sometimes, it’s going to be less complicated to simply mount and operate a separate music source that you may put it closer to your outdoor space (deck or patio). It’s also a wise plan to mount another receiver or a wireless music player that features built-in amp.
Many home theater receivers allow you to connect them to the home network. Our friends at Informinc.org talk about the models that will enable wireless control of main functions via a smartphone app. You don’t need to run inside the house for adjusting the volume every 10 minutes nor change the playlist once you get bored. If the Wi-Fi reaches to the yard, it’s way more comfortable! If not, you may have to purchase another Wi-Fi router or an extender for improving the wireless coverage.
Remember that many wireless audio systems allow you to adjust the volume right from your phone. It makes perfect sense to wonder what happens when you’re getting a call or when the wireless network fails. In this case, you can buy and use weatherproof volume controls. Not only that, they’re useful, but they’re also safe to use in pool areas near water, where you don’t want to use your phone anyway.
Separate volume controls are great since they let you adjust the volume and music even if you’re using the phone for something else.
How much power do outdoor speakers require?
When you’re inside, the walls are going to reflect and contain sound, but it’s entirely different when you’re outside.
Doubling the power will help you accomplish the same perceived volume outside as indoors. Do you intend to play outdoor music really loud? A reliable receiver or amp is going to be a better option.
If your yard is quite large, you will have to cover many areas or “zones” with sound. It works even better if you see every zone in your backyard as a room in your home.
Fundamentally, you have to get the proper number of speakers for every zone, so that it’s never too loud or too soft in an area. If you’re hiring a team for installing your outdoor speaker system, they will handle everything. They’re great at designing a plan for covering all different zones with music.
Regardless of what you may think, stereo setups aren’t efficient for large yards. Buy speakers that play left and right channels altogether. One way to do it is to buy stereo-input speakers that come with both left and right connections. The other way is to use amps that feature both left and right channels, sending mono signals to standard speakers.
Is the multi-channel amp a reliable option?
Some consider the multi-channel amps, since they offer plenty of power, providing separate volume control for every area. It’s excellent since it lets you have loud music near the patio and softer sound near the pool. The options are plenty to get the best out of it.
You may want to check a 70-volt commercial-grade amp, which will drive several speakers, unlike a regular residential-grade amp. It’s not complicated to add more speakers later on, and you don’t need to deal with many wires either.
Should you plan on buying a 70-volt system, bear in mind that planning the order will be challenging at times. It’s better that you have a talk with a professional for proper installation.
Can your system work for special events, as well?
If you like to have big parties a lot, you may need something better than a regular outdoor speaker system. Check the portable PA systems that come with turntables, mixers, plugin instruments, and even microphones. There are plenty of models that come with built-in Bluetooth or aux inputs so that you may easily connect the phone as you’re a DJ.
Run some tests
It’s better that you don’t go digging small trenches nor mount brackets to the exterior surface unless you plan everything. You should know what’s the sound you like. Height and location will impact the quality of sound, the overall balance, and the projection. Speakers need to run far enough so that they give the music you want, but not too far, so that the sound doesn’t get too thin. It’s important not to compensate for distance with high volume levels, which may cause unpleasant distortion. You want the sound to be high but not too high.
Don’t forget to give the planned install locations a second look too. Siding, drywall, and worn-out surfaces may lead to problems in the long run. The speakers have to have the weight entirely sustained. Besides, if your speakers aren’t supposed to lower the risk of pooling water, you may need to tilt downward for runoff.
Should you have to drill any holes, keep in mind not to path through windows or doors as you may end up damaging the wires. Also, for feeding the cable through exterior walls, you should look for a spot that is easy to access on both sides. Remember to seal every hole with silicone so that you don’t affect the home’s insulation. Pests can also find the gaps as an invite to your home, so get them sealed very well.
Once you’ve installed the outdoor speakers and wires, it’s time to connect the receiver or amplifier. If you have indoor speakers, the outdoor ones should plug into the speaker B terminal of the receiver.
When you installed more than one pair of outdoor speakers, it’s simple to use a speaker selector switch to manage four, six, and even eight more pairs. The switches work as a hub and can handle the load, while protecting the receiver/amplifier at the same time. Some models also provide independent volume controls, which are great for straightforward use outside.
Don’t forget to use banana plugs for your outdoor speakers as they’re more dependable and more comfortable to handle. Besides, they’re not exposed to the elements as much as bare wires are.
Not that everything is in place and connected, the only thing left to do is to send the invitations for the next party by the pool!