The 10 Best Outdoor Speakers
Hidden And Protected In Plain Sight: Outdoor Speakers
Outdoor speakers, at their core, work much the same as any other speaker set you might buy for the home. The main differences between the two lies in their durability, power needs, and amplification.
Most speakers resonate through silks and other fabrics in their tweeters and woofers, and these materials can erode very quickly when exposed to the elements. The outdoor variety, the best ones anyway, are built to be weather resistant. If their wiring can be fed through the wall, this improves their longevity, by avoiding the possible of producing rust.
When it comes to power input, outdoor speakers have greater needs than their indoor cousins. If you didn't know, sound doesn't travel well outdoors, and music especially can sound flat. Speakers need a little help, or in this case amplification, when competing against background noise, wind, the neighbor's barking dog that won't let up, etc. Some people call these nuisances, "sound obstacles".
Another obstacle outdoor speakers face is bass reproduction. Typically, indoor models don't face this challenge, because the bass can simply bounce around the room and create itself, to an extent. Outdoor speakers need help in that department, and usually recreate it thanks to clever internal designing.
Tips For Achieving Great Outdoor Sound
Producing good quality sound in large, empty, outdoor spaces is no easy feat. There are many uncontrollable factors to work around, the main one being background noise; birds, dogs, cars, planes, the neighbor's outdoor A/C, lawn mowers, etc. Obstacles aside, there are methods to the madness that can help you achieve the level of sound preferred in your outdoor setting.
If you're looking to mount speakers around an outside patio, it's ideal to slightly point them downwards when mounting. This not only helps to focus the sound towards guests, but it also helps keep rain from concentrating within the speaker cones. For balanced sound, it's important to give enough distance between the speakers, but not too much. The golden range is in the ballpark of 10-12 feet.
Also consider your coverage area. There is a huge difference between turning up the volume, which can lead to sound distortion, versus having multiple speakers to distribute a fair spread of sound throughout the outdoor space. If you are faced with a large open area to fill with melody, it may behoove you to measure out every ten feet of the open space prior to purchasing a set, to see if more speakers are required.
Another possible requirement can be extra wire, or at least, making sure you have the proper wire depending on the size of the designated space. Though the standard is typically a 12-guage wire, the longer the distance you're covering, the thicker the wire you will need. This reduces the risk of power failure.
The greatest tip above all others, however, is to test the speakers prior to mounting. There's nothing better than taking the time to set everything up, only to realize you have a lemon.
How Speakers Came To Be, A Short History
Only with the invention of the hearing aid, did the evolution of the speaker begin. German inventor, Johann Philipp Reis, studied the inner workings of ear canals well before he decided to apply the concept of sound into a machine. Combining his studies with those of physics, he constructed the first telephone prototype in 1860 with the company of a speaker, so named the Electronic Loudspeaker. However, the first patent for a practical telephone was awarded to Alexander Graham Bell nearly 16 later.
The late 1800s, and well into the 1920s saw the development of musical horns, which were generally made out of copper, and attached to a music player. For their time, they were technologically advanced speakers that could generate sound to fill large spaces. Stand alone speakers wouldn't be available for the public until 1926, when RCA sold theirs across the nation in what is equivalent to $3000 by today's money standards.
The years following these milestones have lead up to the speakers that we recognize today. As for their evolution into the use for outdoors, we can only assume trial and error has lead to the weather-proof, better amplifying devices that are now the norm. As for the future of speakers, we again can only assume that they will become significantly smaller in size, while maintaining the high quality sound they are expected to achieve. If only Johann Reis were here now, to see how far his idea developed in a short amount of time.