Ask LH: What’s The Best Way To Play Music Outdoors?

Dear Lifehacker, I want to set up outdoor audio in both my garage and my patio area. I have moved into the Apple ecosystem with an Apple TV in the living room and find this useful for audio and video.

I am looking for a cheap solution to get music outside in the two areas. I am leaning towards non-powered speakers in each area, with an Airport Express for each area to enable different music to each location. Do you have any suggestions on cheap amplifiers that I could use? I would pay a little more for a “sleep” function which would reduce the power consumption of the amplifier when not being used. Any other advice? Thanks, My Neighbours Will Love This


As far as we know, AirPlay can only stream a single track to multiple Airport Express units; it’s not designed to play different music in individual rooms from the same source. In other words, you’re going to need a different source device for each location (if any readers know of a solution we’re missing, let MNWLT know in the comments section below).

As a general rule of thumb, you’re better off avoiding non-powered speakers — they tend to lack grunt, especially in non-enclosed environments. For your garage, we’d commandeer an AC outlet and go for a powered solution. (For the patio, an extension cord is your friend.)

If you’re determined to use powerless speakers, the Griffin Twenty is a pretty good bet. It allows you to play audio from iTunes and AirPlay-enabled apps to an existing set of speakers using your Airport Express and Apple’s AirPlay wireless protocol.

Another amplifier worth checking out is the Parasound Zamp — these are single zone amps for use with Airport Express that turn on and off by themselves, depending on when sound is passing through. You can pick one up for around $500.

You can buy audio systems specifically designed for multi-room play, which also come bundled with amplifiers — SONOS offers a variety of systems at different price points which let you play different songs in any room or the same song everywhere via the Sonos Controller for iPhone app.

Another possible solution would be to buy a cheap dock with a synced iPod plugged in. Dick Smith is currently selling the Sony X30 High-Performance Speaker Dock for $99 — that’s $100 off the usual asking price.

If any audiophile readers have suggestions of their own, let fly in the comments section below.


Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our contact tab on the right.

The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans

Here are the cheapest plans available for Australia’s most popular NBN speed tier.

At Lifehacker, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.


2 responses to “Ask LH: What’s The Best Way To Play Music Outdoors?”