An Introduction to Outdoor Sound: What You Need to Know
Updated: Sep 6, 2020
Your Expert Guide for Outdoor Entertaining This Summer
If you’re interested in upgrading your home’s outdoor living spaces just in time for the summer, one of the solutions you might consider is a backyard sound system. After all, speakers throughout your property can elevate the atmosphere of your next party or simply add to your relaxation time by the pool. But where do you begin the process? How can you ensure ideal audio quality throughout your outside living spaces? In this post, we explore the basics of outside sound systems and how to optimize them for outdoor entertainment throughout your Somerset County, New Jersey property.
The Basics of Outdoor Speakers Although they are an ideal summer addition to your backyard, outdoor speakers are a year-round asset. They are designed to be weatherproof and impact-proof, meaning you can enjoy them in any condition. Due to their outdoor presence, they also face a significant challenge compared to indoor speakers: Sound energy quickly dissipates outside. To achieve a uniform sound field throughout your backyard, it’s ideal to have numerous speakers delivering sound at a medium volume compared to just a few speakers at a high volume. It’s important to note, as well, that outdoor speakers don’t come in one shape or size. As you browse the speakers you want to feature throughout your backyard, you can choose from a variety of designs that blend into your space:
Rocks: You can select an outdoor speaker that is hidden within the design of a rock. These rocks typically come in gray granite or sandstone. They’re perfect for integration near bushes so that they don’t attract attention but still deliver high-end audio.
Surface-mounted: You can mount an outdoor speaker to architectural features throughout your backyard, such as the exterior of your house or pergola. While the standard colors for these speakers are black and white, you can paint them to any color you desire.
Satellites: Think of a satellite speaker as being of similar appearance to an outdoor lighting fixture. Strategically placed throughout your backyard, they add to the hardscape of your property while also delivering your favorite music. Not only can you choose from several color options, but they also are paintable.
Omnidirectional: This versatile type of speaker is perfect for distributing audio in multiple directions. You can either place them partially buried in the middle of a planting bed to keep a low profile or showcase them as an architectural feature, such as Architettura Sonora’s Sphere 360 series, pictured below.
Once you have selected which speakers you want to include, you then have another critical decision to make – where you should place them. The Importance of Speaker Placement You have plenty to consider when deciding where to place your outdoor entertainment speakers. Of course, you want them to be near areas where people will congregate so that everyone can enjoy the music. Where possible, they should be facing towards your home to avoid neighbor complaints and use your exterior walls to contain sound. But you also need to contemplate factors such as ambient noise levels (hot tub or pumps and motors), general topography and structure locations (including hills or potential obstacles for sound), and the size of the area each speaker will cover. This is especially important as you work to achieve an even sound field. After all, who wants to walk through a backyard only to experience one area where the music is too loud and another where you can barely hear it? In a well-distributed outdoor audio system, your speakers will work in unison so that no matter where you are throughout your backyard, you will experience clean – and more lifelike – sound.
Connecting Your Speakers to Your Audio Sources Most outdoor speakers aren’t wireless – meaning you need to connect them to your audio sources through a hardwired solution. You can accomplish this through standard wiring and cabling; however, you need to ensure there will be a safe path from the speaker to your audio source. For wiring underground, be sure you are using wire that is rated for direct burial. Likewise, if you plan on using a long wire run to connect a speaker at the far end of your backyard to your audio sources, ensure you use a thicker wire such as a 12 or 14 gauge. Those wires will connect your outdoor speakers to an amplifier, which can connect to other audio sources such as an SAVANT or a SONOS:Connect. One additional benefit of connecting your speakers to a Savant or Sonos system: You will be able to control your entire system from the convenience of your smartphone or tablet. From the Savant or Sonos app, you can alter volume or select between music from your stored playlists or one of the premier streaming services. If you want to add an outdoor sound system to your Somerset County home in time for the summer, we encourage you to reach out to our team today and to view our ongoing audio series in our knowledge center. We at Bravo AV can work with you to build a system customized to your preferences while also handling every component of the installation for you – from the speaker and wire placement to adding mobile control capability.
Things to consider for outdoor sound:
General topography. Hardscape and structure locations
Areas where people will natural congregate: Pools, BBQ and sitting/eating areas
Size of area to be covered and location of neighbors
Ambient noise levels (hot tubs, waterfalls, pump and motors, traffic etc.)
What type of music do they like? How loud will it be played?
o Musical sources
o Where will the AV gear be located? How will the system be controlled?
o Path of wire to speaker
How is outdoor sound different than indoor sound? Sound energy dissipates very quickly outdoors. To achieve a relatively uniform sound field we need many speakers playing at moderate levels rather than a few speakers playing very loudly. Speaker wire runs tend to be longer and therefore require a bigger gauge wire to insure the system performs at its best. 14 gauge is the minimum that should be used.
For additional resources, please visit our page on outdoor speakers or outdoor TV's with articles like this on everything you need to know. Additionally, you can check out our photo gallery on the same page to explore our previous work.
Bravo AV is proud to be an HTA (Home Technology Association) Certified Installation Firm and professional A/V experts. Tom Curnin, the owner of Bravo AV, is a CEDIA Professional Designer, a certified THX Level 1 home theater professional and a member of the Home Acoustic Alliance trained to Level II. You can contact Tom directly at (908) 953-0555 or through email at Tom@BravoAV.com.