Tips and Tricks to Optimize Your Outdoor Speaker Performance
Over the years you’ve probably heard some outdoor speakers and thought to yourself, “Wow, I don’t think those speakers sound very good” or “The bass is really lacking.” In comparison to what you may be used to while hanging out at an outdoor concert venue, a home audio outdoor speaker is much more compact. Otherwise if you were to load in a full pro audio live rig on your back patio, I don’t think your neighbors would deal with it for too long before making noise complaints…unless you have quite a few acres of land to work with.
The first experience that drew my attention to an outdoor speaker was during a visit to Disneyland. The speaker was blaring at an uncomfortably loud volume and completely distorting. As we kept walking, we passed a good working speaker. This was very interesting to me because it had no resemblance to how my ears were trained to listen while indoors. I noticed as I walked by the speaker it was very directional, and the bass sounded good within a close radius to the speaker. This is caused by the simple nature that sound dissipates much faster outdoors. Our goal with the Aperion Outdoor speaker was to provide a speaker at a reasonable size, with enough sound projection to satisfy your musical needs and performance expectations in the great outdoors.
Aside from technical specifications, there are few other things to consider while deciding on your outdoor speakers. Does your main listening area have a suitable place for the speakers to live? Within that space, can the speakers be mounted and aimed toward the listening area for optimal sound quality? Are there any side walls that will allow for more bass resonance? Are their size and appearance acceptable for your living space?
Check out the Aperion Audio 6.5” Outdoor Speaker Pair
Acoustic, Technical, and Speaker Wire Tips
In order to have an effective sounding outdoor speaker, it requires a different balance to produce the natural sound that we are accustom to hearing indoors, in an outdoor environment. Without any nearby walls to contain the omnidirectional bass waves, your music ends up sounding “thin” or somewhat tinny. The solution requires it to be tuned sound specifically for outdoor use, especially in the low-bass frequency region.
In order to boost the bass for outdoor speakers, there are a couple of compensations to be made. This means the boosted bass response that is engineered into a speaker is a trade off for efficiency and the cabinet enclosure size. If the speaker is a reasonable size, they will need to have modest efficiency at best, to allow for the proper bass levels needed for high quality outdoor sound reproduction. In other words, the outdoor speakers will need to have adequate power handling to play loud enough and project sound to the other side of your yard or swimming pool.
There are also a couple of considerations on running the cables. First, DO NOT staple or drive a nail directly through the speaker wire. The cut into the plastic coating of the wire will expose the internal wires and has an extremely high chance of causing electrical issues, potentially costing you quite a bit. You may not have thought about this, but there is specific speaker wire that is rated as “direct-burial” wire if you’re needing to run the cable underground. Another consideration before starting the wiring process is figuring out if you will be using speaker selectors, or stereo volume controls for a more fully integrated solution.
Build Quality Tips
It might seem obvious, but you’ll want an outdoor speaker that can survive the elements. This means you’ll want to make sure that the speaker is built using materials that can withstand Mother Nature. Things like UV resistant plastics, butyl rubber surrounds, non-corroding metals, fiberglass woofers, and adhesives that can cope with the outdoors are all things to consider. Also you’ll want to check whether the speaker comes with a mounting system or if that will need to be purchased separately.
Keeping the elements in mind, it’s highly recommended that the speakers aren’t directly in harm’s way if a storm does come crashing down. Obviously, you wouldn’t want snow or rain getting through the grille, and over time damaging the butyl rubber surrounds or even sneaking into the tweeter causing a short. Better yet, while you likely won’t be playing music outdoors during a storm, the residual moisture build on the rear connectors could cause electrical issue with the amp the next time you fire up the grille and want to listen to some tunes.
Placement is a key player while trying to attain the best bass and loudness potential. You’ll want to position your speakers with their backs against a wall, or mounted to large patio beams, or even up high near the ceiling overhang. These placements are natural bass and volume boosters. Similar to your indoor speakers, separating the speakers so they are about as far apart as they are from the main listening position is ideal for the best stereo effect. Although like your indoor speakers, there is a “sweet spot” halfway between the two speakers. If your stereo field is too wide though, you may miss some of the content that might be panned hard left or right to each speaker, especially with the experimental mixing techniques of Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced. With that in mind, you may not have the speakers as wide and mount them within a closer proximity. Most outdoor speakers are aimable and will cover a range of about 60-70 degrees (30-35 degrees off axis) and have a bit better sound off to the sides if mounted vertically.
You can improve your outdoor living experience by following these tips and tricks for outdoor speakers. Bringing your favorite music outside while you enjoy time with family and friends, firing up the grille, or kicking off the summer with a pool party can make the day and summer season that much more enjoyable.