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We tested two new models from OSD Audio and Dual Electronics, adding the Dual LU53PW as a budget option.
Best Sound Quality Outdoor Speakers
We love the convenience of portable Bluetooth speakers. But for those who want a more permanent, higher-quality outdoor audio solution for a backyard or patio, we would suggest a good pair of weather-resistant outdoor speakers. The OSD Audio AP650 speakers are your best choice because they sound great, mount easily, and are designed to withstand harsh weather and keep out bugs and dust.
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The AP650 speakers have clear, full sound that works well for any type of music. And they don’t have any ports that let water or bugs in.
The OSD Audio AP650 speakers are the best value we’ve found in an outdoor pair. Its clarity exceeds anything we’ve heard from other models priced under $200 a pair. And they have full, powerful sound that can easily fill an outdoor space – up to about 1,500 square feet. The AP650 speakers have enough bass for R&B, hip-hop and rock music. And they don’t need a lot of power to deliver high volumes, so you can pair them with a small amp. Because they have a completely sealed design, there is no concern about water, dust or insects getting in. This pair is also better made than most outdoor speakers under $200, with a thicker casing and sturdy, powder-coated mounting bracket.
The NS-AW294 speakers provide full sound, but are not the best choice for locations with severe weather.
If you want to spend a little less for decent outdoor sound, the Yamaha NS-AW294 speakers are a good option, as long as you don’t live in a place where windy storms are common, because their ported design can let water in. enter, which may cause damage. The NS-AW294 speakers don’t sound as clear as our top pick, but they pack plenty of bass and can play quite loud.
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The Dayton Audio IO8XTB speaker is around twice the price and size of our OSD and Yamaha picks, but we can safely say that this speaker offers at least twice the performance. Not only does it offer much more bass, but its sound is clearer and smoother in the mids and highs. Whether you listen to hip-hop, rock, folk or classical music, you’ll appreciate the upgrade.
The LU53PW is a compact and affordable option that is fully sealed, but this pair doesn’t have as much bass and doesn’t perform as well at very high volumes.
Those who just want to listen to light music in the backyard and who want to keep their investment to a minimum, like the Dual Electronics LU53PW speakers. Although they don’t have much bass and can be quite boomy when turned on at high volume, they sound decent for background music, podcasts and internet radio. They are also more compact than the other non-motorized models we recommend and are fully sealed to prevent water from seeping in.
The BTP525 speakers have Bluetooth and a built-in stereo amplifier, which makes installation much easier. They sound good, but they won’t fill as big an area as our other picks.
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The OSD Audio BTP525 speakers are a good choice for someone who only needs sound for, say, a small patio, and for someone who wants speakers that are very simple to install. All our other outdoor speaker selections are of the conventional, non-amplified type: they can fill a garden with full, robust sound, but require complex installation and wiring. With the BTP525, the amplifiers are built in and the power supply is waterproof. Then all you have to do is mount the speakers, run a cable between them, and connect the power supply to the speakers and to an outside AC outlet. The built-in Bluetooth receiver allows you to wirelessly stream audio from smartphones and tablets, and the sound quality is similar, though not as loud or full, as the AP650 OSD audio pair.
I can safely say that I’ve reviewed more passive (ie, non-amplified and non-Bluetooth) outdoor speakers than all other audio journalists in the world combined, a fact that says far less about me than it does about the near-total. of attention the speakers get from Audio Posts My outdoor speaker testing experience includes many single-product reviews and seven multi-product shootouts: one for Home Theater Magazine, one for Home Entertainment Magazine, one for Sound & Vision, and four for Wirecutter. I built a custom audio switcher specifically for hidden brand testing. And maybe most importantly, I have a backyard, and I’m not afraid to use it.
In addition to conducting my own brand of covert listening tests, I also enlisted the help of several other listeners over the years of this article’s evolution. They include Lauren Dragan, Wirecutter’s senior staff writer and headphone expert (who has also written audio reviews for Sound & Vision magazine and has a bachelor’s degree in music performance and audio production from Ithaca College), and writer Daniel Varghese. .
These speakers are for people who are lucky enough to have an outdoor space of their own, be it a small patio or a whole backyard, and who like to listen to music or podcasts. The speakers are weather resistant, so in most cases you can leave them mounted outdoors for years without worrying about them malfunctioning due to water damage. (They cannot survive severe weather conditions like hurricanes, and some models will admit water under certain conditions.) The speakers have metal grills and fairly strong plastic casings. Therefore, they will generally survive any impact of errant volleyball, and insects will find it difficult or impossible to nest in them. And most of them are powered by a separate amp, so you don’t need to plug in or recharge, but you do need to run speaker cables.
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Outdoor speakers rarely sound as good as a decent set of bookshelf speakers designed for indoor use. Plastic outdoor speaker cases tend to vibrate and produce a rumbling sound, and perforated metal grills tend to block or reflect some of the sound waves coming from the speaker drivers. I also suspect that since manufacturers know that their outdoor speakers are unlikely to pass close scrutiny, they don’t put as much effort into the designs as they do into their indoor models.
Because you have to run speaker wire from an amplifier to the speaker, setting up a traditional pair of passive (non-amplified) outdoor speakers requires more skill and effort than simply setting up a portable Bluetooth speaker on your patio table. You can turn off the speakers on an existing home theater receiver if you have a couple of unused amp channels. Most stereo receivers have a “Speakers A/B” button that lets you route the sound to a second set of speakers, or you can use an inexpensive speaker switcher. You can also use a cheap stereo mini amp from a brand like Fosi Audio or Loxjie. Add a Bluetooth adapter (or buy an amplifier with Bluetooth built in), and you can easily receive digital music files, streaming audio services, and podcasts from a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone, tablet, or computer (as long as you maintain the Bluetooth connection. ) . adapter near where you sit outdoors, usually 15-30 feet maximum).
You will need to keep the amp inside and run the wires through the walls or attic to the outside of the house. Obviously, this operation requires some skill and experience. Most locales allow low-voltage cables (ie, audio, video, and networking) to run through walls without a permit, but you should check your local building codes to confirm. Be sure to use CL2 or CL3 rated cables, which are fire rated. For safety.
An alternative to all this complexity would be to get a set of outdoor speakers with built-in amplifiers and Bluetooth. With this option, the only cables you have to run are the cable between the two speakers and the connection to the power supply. You’ll need an outside AC outlet nearby, and you’ll probably want to unplug the power supply when the speakers aren’t in use.
Best Outdoor Speakers
Another alternative is to have a waterproof portable bluetooth speaker big enough to fill your backyard (or at least your patio) with sound. You can find them in our best portable bluetooth speaker guide.
The outdoor speaker industry moves much slower than most of the audio industry; It is common for a model to remain on sale for many years. In fact, many of the speakers we tested years ago for this guide are still available. However, the growth of highly competitively priced vendors such as Dayton Audio, OSD and Monoprice has greatly expanded the number of models.
I began the testing process by introducing each speaker to music played at a moderately high volume for 10 hours. Then I listened to all of them in my backyard for a couple of days. If any speakers showed serious anomalies, like distortion on deep bass notes or harsh highs that make vocals sound scratchy, I removed them, because they had no chance of becoming a top choice.
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