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We tested two new models, OSD Audio and Dual Electronics, and added the Dual LU53PW as a budget option.
Best Rated Outdoor Wireless Speakers
We like the convenience of a portable Bluetooth speaker. But for those wanting a more stable and high-quality outdoor sound solution for a deck or patio, we recommend a good pair of weatherproof outdoor speakers. OSD Audio’s AP650 speakers are your best choice because they sound great, are easy to install, and are built to withstand harsh weather conditions and protect against bugs and dust.
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The AP650 speakers have a clear, full sound that’s perfect for any music. And they don’t have water or bug discharge ports.
The OSD Audio AP650 speaker is the best value we’ve found in a field pair. Their clarity beats what we’ve heard from other models under $200. And they have full, powerful sound that can deliver outdoor spaces up to 1,500 square feet. The AP650 speakers have enough bass for R&B, hip-hop and rock music. And they don’t require much power to deliver loud sound, so you can match them with small amplifiers. Since they have a completely sealed design, there is no need to worry about water, dust or bugs getting in. The pair are well-built $200 subwoofers, with thick covers and sturdy, powder-coated brackets.
The NS-AW294 speakers provide full sound, but they’re not the best choice for locations that experience bad weather.
If you’re willing to spend a little more to get great sound outdoors, the Yamaha NS-AW294 speakers are a good choice – unless you live in an area where heavy rain is common, their ported design may allow water in. Infiltration can be harmful. The NS-AW294’s speakers aren’t as clear as our top picks, but they have a very high output and can get loud.
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The Dayton Audio IO8XTB speaker costs twice the price of our OSD and Yamaha picks, but it’s safe to say that this speaker offers at least twice the performance. Not only does it deliver plenty of bass, but its sound is clear and smooth in the mids and mids. Whether you’re listening to hip-hop, rock, folk or classical, you’ll appreciate the progression.
The LU53PW is a compact, affordable option that’s fully sealed, but this pair lacks bass and isn’t too loud.
Those who want to listen to light music in the backyard and want to keep the investment to a minimum will love the dual electronic LU53PW speakers. They sound great for background music, podcasts, and Internet radio, even though they don’t have much bass and can be loud at high volumes. They’re more compact than other non-motorized models we offer, and they’re fully sealed to prevent water ingress.
The BTP525 speaker has Bluetooth and a stereo amplifier, and installation is very simple. They look nice, but they don’t take up as much space as our other options.
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The OSD Audio BTP525 speaker is a great choice for those who only need sound for a small volume and want a speaker that is very simple to install. All of our other outdoor speaker options are traditional, non-amplified varieties that can fill a yard with full, powerful sound, but they require complicated installation and wiring. With the BTP525, the amplifier is built in and the power supply is waterproof. So all you have to do is mount the speakers, run a wire between them, and connect the power supply to the speakers and an outdoor AC outlet. A built-in Bluetooth receiver lets you stream hands-free wirelessly from smartphones and tablets, and sound quality is similar – although the OSD audio isn’t as loud or full as the AP650 pair.
I can confidently say that I’ve reviewed more passive (ie non-amplified and non-bluetooth) outdoor speakers than any other audio journalist in the world. These speakers lack acceptance in audio publications. My outdoor speaker testing experience includes reviewing several individual products and seven different products: one for home theater magazines, one for home entertainment magazines, one for audio and video, and one for wireless networking. I created a custom sound switch to test this brand’s potential. Most importantly, I have a backyard and I’m not afraid to use it.
In addition to conducting my own brand of hidden listening tests, I also enlisted the help of several other listeners during the years of evolution of this article. These include Wirecutter senior staff writer and headphone expert Lauren Dragon (who is also an audio reviewer for Audio & Video magazine and holds a bachelor’s degree in music production and audio from Ithaca College) and authors Daniel Varges.
These speakers are for those who are lucky enough to be able to play music outdoors and love to listen to music or podcasts, whether in a small yard or a full yard. Speakers are weather resistant, so in most cases you can leave them outside for years without worrying about them deteriorating due to water damage. . So they usually survive the impact of errant volleys, making it difficult or impossible for bugs to penetrate them. Most are powered by a separate amplifier, so you don’t need to plug them in or charge them, but you do need to run speaker cables.
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Outdoor speakers rarely sound like good bookshelf speakers designed for indoor use. Plastic enclosures for outdoor speakers tend to vibrate and crackle, and perforated metal grilles block or reflect some of the sound waves coming from the speakers. I also suspect that since manufacturers know outdoor speakers are impossible to test, they don’t put as much effort into these designs as they do indoor models.
You’ll need to run the speakers from speaker to speaker, and installing a traditional pair of passive (unamplified) field speakers requires more skill and effort than simply dropping Bluetooth speakers on your desk. If you have unused amplifier channels, you can disconnect the speakers from your existing home theater receiver. Most stereo receivers have a “Speaker A/B” button that allows you to switch the sound to a second set of speakers or a cheaper speaker. You can also use an inexpensive stereo mini amplifier from brands like Fossey Audio or Luxje. Add a Bluetooth adapter (or buy an amp with built-in Bluetooth), and you can easily access digital music files, online streaming services, and podcasts from your smartphone, tablet, or Bluetooth-enabled computer. (The adapter is close to where it sits outside – usually 15 to 30 feet at most).
Keep the amplifier indoors and run the wires outside the house through walls or grills. Obviously, this operation requires some skill and experience. Most locations allow low-voltage (ie, audio, video, and network) wiring to run through walls without permission, but check with your local building code to make sure. Be sure to use fire-rated CL2 or CL3 cables for safety.
Instead of this complication, it would be better to get a set of outdoor speakers with an amplifier and Bluetooth. With this option, the only cable you’ll run is the cable between the two speakers and the power outlet. You’ll need an outdoor AC outlet nearby, and you may prefer to unplug the speaker when not in use.
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Another option is a waterproof portable Bluetooth speaker that can fill your yard (at least your front yard) with sound. You can find them in our best portable bluetooth speaker guide.
The outdoor speaker industry moves more slowly than most audio industries – it’s common for a model to sell for years. In fact, many of the speakers we tested in this guide a few years ago are still available today. However, the growth of high-end competitive vendors such as Dayton Audio, OSD, and Monopress greatly expanded the number of models.
I started the testing process by blasting each speaker for 10 hours with moderately loud music. Then a few days later I heard it all in my backyard. If a speaker exhibits harsh distortion, such as distorting deep bass notes or a hard rock that makes the sound harsh, I know it’s not a chance to pick it up.
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