Listening to music in your back yard is easier than ever thanks to the proliferation of outdoor speakers, but which ones offer the best sound and the most features? This week, we're looking at five of the best, based on reader nominations.
Title photo by NaturalSound.ca
We're concentrating here on outdoor speakers designed for portable use in one location, rather than less powerful but more portable Bluetooth speakers. These are the five that rose above the crowd in our reader vote, in no particular order. As with any hardware purchase, shop around online to make sure you get the best price.
Tic's GS3 Pro Outdoor Omni Speakers won't win any beauty contests — in fact they're essentially large green upside-down cups that you bury half-into the ground) and wire up to a sound system. They sound great and are weatherproof, meaning you don't have to pull them up out of the ground when the winter sets in, and you don't have to care if the spring rain keeps them wet. They offer full 360-degree sound, so you don't need to position them in any particular direction.
The green is actually on purpose, allowing them to blend in nicely with the garden and make the source of the sound less obvious. There are varying models available depending on the size and the power of the speakers you want.
If you're looking for a pair of speakers that will survive the elements but still look good mounted in your backyard or on the side of your home, JBL's Control 25 series will do the trick. They're directional, so you'll need more than one, but they come in pairs, include mounting hardware, and sound great once they're connected to a music source.
These are also wired speakers, so you'll need to run speaker cable to them from another audio source, and make sure they're connected via weatherproof cables and connectors. They come in black and white, sound great, and aren't so obtrusive that they look awkward either mounted on a wall or on small stands in your backyard.
Yamaha's NS-AW350 outdoor speakers are designed to be all-weather, space-saving, wall or fence-mounted, and powerful enough to fill a small outdoor space. It's a bookshelf-style speaker, and includes the mounting hardware required to attach it to a wall or any other fixture. They're wired speakers, so the standard warnings apply there, and while they're not the most powerful speakers in the roundup, they are capable of projecting great sound, and are made to handle all sorts of weather.
Yamaha does suggest you bring them in during the worst of the cold weather months, and that they shouldn't be exposed to constant bad weather (such as the deck of a boat), but for most people, mounting them under an overhang or on a balcony should be just fine.
Polk's Atrium4 indoor/outdoor speakers are a good-looking, weather-resistant and impressive-sounding pair that are rugged enough to survive life outside in all seasons. They're built to exceed MIL-STD-810 ruggedness standards, which means they can put up with reasonable punishment all-year round.
The Atrium4s include their mounting hardware, which is designed to be easy to mount and dismount with one hand, in case you want to take the speakers somewhere else. The brackets and grille are both aluminium, designed to resist wear and never rust, and have stainless steel and brass hardware. They're available in white or black, are wired, and as with many of the others here, you'll need to bring your own amp to the party.
Klipsch's AW-500 outdoor speakers have technically been discontinued, but that doesn't mean they're not widely available, and they're an excellent and popular choice. . They're built rugged, have their mounting bracket attached to the back of the speaker so they're easy to install or remove, and have a built-in recess to connect your speaker cables so they aren't exposed to the elements.
Their sealed ABS enclosure isn't as shiny or premier-looking as some other models, but they will stand up to year-round, all-weather punishment, and they will sound great all year long. They're also some of the most powerful in the roundup, and use binding posts for secure audio connections.
This week's honourable mention goes to the Bowers & Wilkins AM-1 Outdoor Speakers, designed to look sharp in both black and white, be easily mountable on the side of your home, and offer superior sound. This is a premium set, and it looks itwith aluminium, rust-free grille, and a body made of rugged plastic.
Have something to say about one of the contenders? Tell us about your favourite outdoor speaker and why you love it in the comments.