No one understands the value of summer more than Canadians. We spend all winter looking forward to the warm weather, and from the early days of spring many of us begin refining our outdoor spaces. We work on the garden, manicure our lawns, clean the deck and prepare for the sunny days ahead, cool drink in hand, lazing in a hammock and holding court with friends and family over the BBQ.
The home audio industry has recognized a market exists for those of us who wish to further enhance our outdoor environments with speakers, and have provided a number of options to bring our passion for music outdoors. One of the great debates around outdoor speakers is whether to buy wireless or wired?
First and foremost, wireless speakers are undeniably convenient, and there are a couple types of wireless speakers we should discuss. The first is your standard Bluetooth compatible, portable speaker. These provide the flexibility to use them in the back yard, at the beach, on a camping trip, or wherever your family adventures may take you. So long as you have a Bluetooth compatible device with you to provide the source material you can have music anywhere you want and control it with your fingertips, which is a great selling feature.
Can I Leave it Outside?
Many of these speakers are not weather resistant; however there are some manufacturers creating portable wireless speakers that are specifically designed for the great outdoors and can withstand the elements. This is obviously a great feature if, like me, it’s guaranteed that at some point you will forget the speaker outside only to be half way through a magnificent thunderstorm when the panic sets and you realize you’ve probably just destroyed your speaker.
Are All Bluetooth Speakers Wireless?
There are also wireless speakers that are intended to blend into your landscape and look like rocks or other garden features. Clearly, no one buys these with the intent they be thrown in a backpack for a picnic lunch, and some require a power supply to operate. They may utilize Bluetooth technology, but only those that accept batteries could be considered genuinely wireless.
How Many Speakers Do I Need?
The one major drawback to wireless speakers is that the strong majority will not fill a large space with sound and attempts to do so will require the volume at the speaker to be quite high, which can make those in close proximity uncomfortable. Using multiple speakers allows you to keep the volume lower while filling your yard with sound and should prevent the neighbors from getting together and conspiring against you. Some manufacturers are realizing an opportunity exists to fill this gap and creating units that can be paired up to spread out the sound, emulating what Sonos has begun to perfect. Once Sonos adds outdoor speakers to thier lineup, their systems will become even more desirable.
Wired outdoor speakers have a number of benefits. They are designed to withstand anything our climate will throw at them, and once installed the hard work is done. There are no batteries to change, no chance of spilling food on them, and no knocking them off the fence into the neighbor’s yard. With the wide array of wireless streaming services you can still control the music from your smartphone or tablet, assuming your receiver/amp is compatible.
You’ll Need An Amplifier
It is important to keep in mind that wired speakers require an amplifier that would be inside the home, and wires to be run through the walls in order to power the speakers outdoors. I do not intend to raise this as a deterrent; many home theatre receivers will have the capabilities to drive a second pair of speakers in another zone. In the event you do not have a home theatre receiver, any stereo amplifier will power your outdoor speakers.
Best Buy Geek Squad installers can help you safely run the cables outdoors and mount your speakers all while protecting the integrity of your home.
Do You Want Stereo Sound?
Unless you are planning to listen to original pressings of early Beatles albums, most every song you can imagine will have been recorded in stereo. Pairs of wired speakers are able to reproduce the stereo field outdoors, and utilizing more than one pair allows you to distribute the sound evenly throughout your outdoor space.
My approach audio is always centered on quality, and if you’ve read any of my previous posts you know that I am particular about the way music sounds. If I am going to invest money in a speaker, headphone, or any other audio gear I am going to want to ensure I have a product that sounds good to me.
While there are a number of excellent sounding wireless speakers, if getting the best quality sound is important to you, wired speakers are generally going to provide a more true, full-range sound than a wireless speaker could. Having true amplification driven from a quality source, even into a small speakers like those designed for outdoor operation, can provide a great listening experience.
Like every electronics purchase, not all things are created equal, it is important to try to audition the speakers you considering, and find the ones that sound best to you. A few products that would be on my short list are below.
My Shortlist: Wireless
JBL Xtreme Bluetooth Wireless Speaker: This unit has a huge battery, providing upwards of 15 hours of continuous use. I love that JBL has added technology that allows you to link multiple units to disperse the audio. JBL has advertised this speaker as rain resistant, which should be cautiously tested. A great option from a company known for producing quality sounding speakers.
Rocketfish Outdoor Wireless Speaker: This unit links to your existing system, acting as an extension of your home theatre. It acheives this by allowing you to connect an output from your receiver to its wireless module that will provide you with over 150’ of wireless connectivity. It is also fully weatherproof, however I’m not so sure you would want to challenge it to a Canadian winter.
My Shortlist: Wired
Definitive Technology AW5500: As a long-time fan of Def Tech, I’m excited by their outdoor offerings. The AW5500 comes in white or black, allowing you to seamlessly integrate them into your outdoor spaces. You will be amazed by how good these sound for a small, weatherproof speaker; it’s dedicated woofer is rated to reach as low as 44 Hz, which will provide you will deep base without sacrificing the mid range.
There are pros and cons to both the wireless speakers and wired alike. Regardless of which way you go, the result of adding music to your outdoor spaces will be the same: a more enjoyable expirience for you and your guests.
That’s a great review of wireless speakers @Jeff_Wilson .
I might add that the Sonos Play1 is also rated for outdoor use and is weather resistant.
Another strong contender for me to the “short list” would be from the venerable loudspeaker manufacturer, Polk Audio S2 series, as a quality speaker, and a truly “wireless” design speaker in that it uses a rechargeable battery and is also weather resistant.
I also agree that a wired speaker will always sound better than a wireless design , and again add more speakers not more power, to get good quality sound in an outdoor enviornement, or in a case of large congregations of people, it’s more cost effective and creates better results as you mentioned.
Great feedback, Elico47.
I am just about to review the Polk Audio S2, and I look forward to putting it through its paces given you specifically mention it here. Assuming it makes the cut, and lasts outside through these past three days of rain, (just kidding, BBY), I’ll be sure to update this post to reflect it.
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