The 10 Best Outdoor Speakers
This wiki has been updated 35 times since it was first published in May of 2015. Take your music beyond the confines of your living room with a set of outdoor speakers. All of these can deliver crisp, clear sound at your next barbecue or garden party, or whenever you want to add a little ambiance while enjoying the fresh air. They can be left permanently outside without suffering damage from rain, ultraviolet rays, freezing temperatures, or the heat of the sun. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
January 13, 2021:
When considering our latest update, we removed a number of ground-level, camouflaged options, as these can be found in our dedicated landscape speakers ranking, and chose to focus on wall-mounted, permanent models. These include the Bose 151 SE, as, while we also previously added its slightly larger sibling, the Bose 251 Environmental, to our ranking, this slightly newer release has gone on to become the respected brand's most popular model within this category, and both items deserve a mention in their own right.
Other additions include the Klipsch AW-52, which replace the organic-looking Klipsch AWR-650 as bracket-hung alternatives from this popular manufacturer of outdoor audio equipment, and which are equally impressive in both build quality and sound quality. Lastly, we included the Pyle PDWR61BT, which add a wireless Bluetooth option to our list and are a reliable, good-value choice for the budget-conscious buyer.
December 24, 2019:
Outdoor speakers are made with considerably more rugged materials than indoor ones. As far as landscape speakers go, it's hard to top the Bose Free Space 51, which are powerful in the bass range and crisp in the treble range. The TIC Corporation GS-3 is a similar design and comes at a much lower price, with the trade-off of slightly less sensitivity and clarity. If you don't want to bury anything, the Klipsch AWR-650 is a fantastic choice, and its internals are the same as one of the most popular indoor home theater speakers, so you can be certain you're getting a great speaker.
In terms of mounted speakers, it's hard to top the Bose 251 Environmental if you can afford them. And while they're comparable in sound quality, the Sonos Architectural by Sonance are even more expensive, but if you're already invested in any of Sonos's equipment, you'll know just how excellent their gear is. The Polk Audio Atrium 6 are a bit less expensive and still sound great, while the Yamaha NS-AW350 are considerably more affordable and almost as powerful. The Kicker KB 6000 are similar in price-to-performance ratio, as well. Meanwhile, the Focal 100 OD8 is an impressive-sounding option, and even less expensive than most others, which is one of the reasons they palced so highly on our list. Possibly the best balance of cost and performance are the Definitive Technology AW6500. They're extremely popular and frequently recommended by dedicated audiophiles.
And if you decide that a permanently installed speaker isn't right for you, there are plenty of worthwhile outdoor Bluetooth speakers that are portable and highly resistant to the elements.
RCF Passive These are massive, weather-resistant line arrays with watertight connectors and housings. They're not for home use (unless you live in a 20,000-person arena) but if you're setting up a large gig in a rainy place, they're some of the best on the professional market. As far as cost goes, you should probably contact the company to get a quote. They offer a variety of options for different venue sizes and shapes. rcf.it
JBL Variable Line Array Series If you've been to a music festival lately, you may well have seen these bad boys hanging from a massive stage setup. They're some of the highest-performing models on the professional circuit and can handle absurd levels of power. They are, of course, passive, so you'll need to supply your own premium amplifier -- which we'd recommend sourcing from JBL, as well -- and as you might have guessed, a full set of these cost many thousands of dollars are able to satisfy thousands of listeners at once. jblpro.com
Hidden And Protected In Plain Sight: Outdoor Speakers
Another obstacle outdoor speakers face is bass reproduction.
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.
There's nothing better than taking the time to set everything up, only to realize you have a lemon.
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.
Stand-alone speakers wouldn't be available for the public until 1926, when RCA sold theirs across the nation for what would be a small fortune by today's standards.
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 for what would be a small fortune by today's 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.