Common Challenges When Installing Speakers Outdoors

Getting and setting up the right speakers for outdoors can be quite difficult since there are many parameters to take into consideration. I will give some tips to help you avoid some of the pitfalls and help you get the perfect model.

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Outdoor speakers come in all shapes and sizes and thus it is often overwhelming to make an informed decision . When you are looking for outdoor speakers then there are several important things to look at, some of which may not be so obvious.

The speaker itself should be water resistant or waterproof to withstand the elements. Typical outdoor speakers have a plastic enclosure to withstand rain. Also, a UV resistant coating paint will maintain the color of the speaker even when exposed to the sun. If the speaker has metal elements such as the front cover or a metal mount then these should either be made of non-corrosive materials or specially treated materials which won’t rust. Another factor to consider is the speaker wattage.

Outdoor venues will require higher speaker wattage than indoor venues due to the fact that sound inside a room will be contained within that room and be reflected by walls thus making the speaker appear fairly loud. Outdoors the sound will freely dissipate in all directions and therefore make it harder to achieve the same loudness. Also, there is usually more noise outdoors from car traffic and wind noise which may drown out the speaker. Thus a speaker with only a few watts of power does not offer enough wattage for outdoors but may very well be suited for indoors.

Running long speaker cables is also a big challenge since there typically is no pre-wiring in place outdoors. Digging up trenches to hide speaker cable may also cause damage to your flower beds and cross through obstacles like retaining walls. Therefore one option to consider are wireless outdoor speakers. Wireless speakers remove the need for running speaker cables and thus are easy to set up outdoors. This type of speakers will require a transmitter unit which is connected to your music source, such as your CD player, iPod or computer and send the audio via a wireless connection to your speakers. Usually the transmitter will be inside your house. Therefore make sure that the transmitter offers enough range to safely bridge the distance to your speakers. Wireless speaker manufacturers typically specify a maximum operating range. Be careful though as this range is typically given for ideal circumstances. In the real world the actual range of the speakers will be less. How much less depends on the setup. For example if the wireless signal has to pass through walls to get outside then the range will shrink because walls will weaken the signal. Wooden type walls are usually less of a problem than steel-reinforced concrete walls. The fewer walls between the transmitter and speakers the further the signal can travel.

Further, make sure that the wireless signal is robust against interference. There may be wireless LANs and other cordless gadgets in the area which can shut down your speaker unless the wireless transmission has a mechanism to cope with such interference. Modern transmitters offer adaptive frequency hopping to avoid crowded channels and forward error correction to cope with lost data packets. Also, pick speakers where the transmitter has all of the necessary audio connections to easily interface with your audio equipment. Some common audio interfaces include iPod cradles, line-level audio inputs to connect with a CD or MP3 player and also speaker inputs to connect to your home theater receiver.

If you plan on distributing music throughout your home you will be faced with several challenges. You probably do not want to start drilling holes into your walls to add speaker cabling. I will look at wireless speakers as an alternative to wired speakers for whole-house audio distribution.

Regardless of whether you add music at work or home, there are many benefits which music offers. Music can offer relaxation at home. It can also help improve the atmosphere at work. If you do not have a house prewired for audio then you will face a major challenge. Installing the wiring to all of your rooms can be a major hassle.

For outdoor applications, you should pick a waterproof speaker which ideally also is protected against extended exposure to the sun. Outdoor speakers have additional elements which are exposed to the rain. These include the wiring as well as the connection elements and amplifier. Use the same care in protecting these elements against rain.

Mini amplifiers which are distributed with each speaker are an interesting alternative worth investigating. These amps are located close to each speaker. Thus long speaker cable runs are eliminated along with the issue of hum feeding into the speaker cords. Also, individual amps allow changing the volume of each speaker on the spot.

Wireless speakers eliminate long speaker cable runs. Instead, music is sent via a wireless signal to each speaker. The amplifier is already integrated into the speaker itself. The transmitter base connects to the audio source and sends the music wireless to one or several speakers. Ideally the speakers can be paired with the transmitter which allows setting up distinct audio zones in your home or outdoors.

Wireless speakers come in two varieties. 900 MHz type speakers use FM type transmission and are fairly prone to noise and interference. In contrast, wireless speakers which use digital transmission offer crystal-clear transmission and superior reliability. Be sure to look at the operating range of the transmitter closely when you pick wireless speakers. The range needs to be large enough to cover the entire area where you want to set up speakers. Also, keep in mind that the range will also be affected by walls and obstacles. Thus the actual range may vary from the range which the manufacturer specifies. To ensure reliable operation, the wireless protocol should be robust against radio interference from other wireless devices that may be in the area by using an error-correction protocol.

When you set up wireless speakers outdoors the integrated amplifier should have reasonably high wattage. This is because there typically is a lot of background noise coming from traffic, wind and other sources. Also, sound dissipates freely and thus achieving the same sound pressure level outdoors is more challenging outdoors than indoors. If you set up speakers outdoors then you should pick speakers in a waterproof enclosure. This will ensure that the speaker can endure the elements. Some wireless protocols such as Bluetooth compress the wireless signal. Compression is done in order to reduce the data rate and thus bandwidth. This is because Bluetooth and some other protocols do not support uncompressed HiFi audio. Audio compression will reduce the audio fidelity. Typically the more the audio is compressed the lower the audio quality. Also, compression will introduce some latency during the transmission. Low latency is critical for video applications to keep the audio in sync with the video.

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