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In lieu of taking a vacation, some people are opting to make the space around their homes more entertaining. If you enjoy listening to music or entertaining at home, you should consider extending your sound system outdoors to your garden, terrace, or patio. This involves a relatively modest investment in a category referred to as landscape, garden or rock speakers.
Garden speakers are configured as either 2-way, with a standard woofer and tweeter, or as coaxial speakers with an omnidirectional, 360° dispersion angle. The speakers are water-proofed, and many models offer a down-firing design that effectively negates dust and dirt accumulation. The enclosures are made of synthetic materials such as fiber-reinforced plastic, polyethylene, and other weather-proofed synthetic variants.
The enclosures are designed to withstand the elements, including snow, ice, sleet, high temperatures and humidity, ensuring optimum performance throughout the year. Landscape speakers are impervious to grass and dirt projectiles from lawnmowers and hedge trimmers, and they’ll emerge unscathed should your neighbor’s dog mistake one for a fire hydrant. They’re available as either standard 8-ohm speakers, or in 70V versions designed for multi-speaker installations involving long cable runs over more expansive landscapes.
As you can see in the images throughout this article, garden speakers are designed to blend in with the landscape, sporting either a rock- or tree-like appearance or a modernist sculptural look. Some garden speakers are ensconced in fountains, planters and flower pot pedestals, while others have lights built into them for a bit of nighttime mystique.
Still, you have to ask: “How do they sound?” The answer is that they sound like regular indoor speakers with just as much variation in sound quality. Landscape speakers enjoy a ubiquitous (if discreet) presence in theme parks, hotel atriums, and public or museum gardens. We see and hear them more frequently than we’re aware of, and if these speakers are good enough for Disneyland, they’ll likely enhance your backyard or apartment terrace as well.
Even in the less-controlled acoustic environment of a patio or a bed of flowers and shrubs, the best of the garden speakers we’ve auditioned are competitive and compare favorably with their indoor counterparts in terms of clarity, fidelity and bass response.
We found that the average frequency response of the garden speakers available at B&H is a respectable 60Hz-20kHz, and that whether or not weight has anything to do with it, we observed that the heavier the speaker, the better (and tighter) the bottom end sounded. The variation in weight of these speakers is considerable, ranging from a relatively light 11 lbs to a hefty 64 lbs.
Dig we must?
All the speakers we auditioned were 8-ohm, and we connected them to an A/V receiver with 5-channel surround capability. The connection was refreshingly simple and uncomplicated, and it was easy to envision a smooth and relatively speedy patio or terrace installation without paying a contractor. A general recommendation is that cable lengths of more than 25-feet deserve a heavier gauge of speaker cable, preferably 14- or 12-gauge.
A landscape or garden installation is a more complex and dirty job that involves digging 8- 10-inches into the earth and running possibly hundreds of feet of what is called Direct Burial cable. The cable is sheathed in a PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) conduit, which is synthetic protective tubing designed for outdoor or in-wall cable runs. Hiring a qualified professional contractor is essential, as a well-done installation will provide many years of pleasure and trouble-free performance.
Party Wireless on Your Terrace
As consumers have become familiar and comfortable with wireless computer networking and home theater setups, several manufacturers have been producing wireless outdoor speakers. These self-amplified speakers are in many ways simpler to set up, and they’re as ruggedly built and weather-proofed as their wired siblings.
They transmit and receive in either the 900MHz or 2.4GHz range just like other common wireless devices for the home such as cordless telephones, PDA’s, or Bluetooth headphones and speakers. The transmitter connects directly to either a stereo receiver, CD player, or other audio playback device, with reliable reception up to 300-feet – more than adequate for most patio, terrace, and garden environments.
One benefit of an outdoor wireless speaker setup is that installation doesn’t require a contractor or technician. It’s a do-it-yourself process of trial-and-error tweaking, just like setting up your stereo system indoors. Another advantage is that you don’t get your hands dirty digging into the earth to lay cables and situate the speakers. A trade-off is that you may occasionally encounter interference. Another is that since there’s no wire for delivering power, you’ll either need to have an outdoor outlet nearby, an extension cord handy, or plenty of spare batteries. The AW825, for example, will run off six “AA” batteries when AC isn’t available.
Listening to music outdoors in the privacy of your garden, patio, or terrace can be a magical experience. A decent set of landscape speakers offers a home improvement for the soul that other upgrades can’t match. We hope that this introduction has given you some insight into this cool trend in near-home entertainment. Offering approximately 400 different speaker models suitable for outside use, B&H is the outdoor speaker source.