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We tested two new OSD Audio and Dual Electronics models and added the Dual LU53PW as a budget option.
Best Wireless Speakers For Backyard
We love the convenience of portable Bluetooth speakers. But for those wanting a more permanent, higher quality outdoor audio solution for a backyard or patio, we suggest a good pair of weatherproof outdoor speakers. The AP650 OSD Audio Speakers are your best choice because they sound great, mount easily, and are built to tolerate harsh weather and repel the intrusion of insects 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 doors that allow water or bugs.
The OSD Audio AP650 speakers are the best value we’ve found in an external pair. Its clarity surpasses 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 around 1,500 square feet. The AP650 speakers have enough bass for R&B, hip-hop and rock. 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’s no need to worry about water, dust or insects getting in. This pair is also better made than most $200 outdoor speakers, with a thicker cabinet and a sturdy, powder-coated mounting bracket.
The NS-AW294 speakers provide full sound, but they are not the best choice for places with severe weather.
If you want to spend a little less to get decent outside sound, the Yamaha NS-AW294 speakers are a good choice – as long as you don’t live in a place where torrential rains are common, as running water makes that possible to enter, possibly causing damage. The NS-AW294 speakers don’t sound as clear as our top pick, but they have a solid amount of bass and can play really loud.
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The Dayton Audio IO8XTB speaker is roughly twice the price and size of our OSD and Yamaha picks, but we can safely say this speaker delivers at least twice the performance. Not only does it offer much more bass, but the sound is clearer and smoother in the mids and highs. Whether you listen to hip-hop, rock, folk, or classical, you’ll appreciate the improvement.
The LU53PW is a compact, affordable choice that’s fully sealed, but this pair doesn’t have as much bass and doesn’t sound as good 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 will like the Dual Electronics LU53PW speakers. While they don’t have a lot of bass and can sound quite squeaky when cranked up, they sound decent for background music, podcasts, and internet radio. They are also more compact than the other non-motor models we recommend and are completely sealed to prevent water ingress.
The BTP525 speakers have Bluetooth and a built-in stereo amplifier, making installation much simpler. They sound good, but won’t fill as much of an area as our other picks.
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The OSD Audio BTP525 speakers are a good choice for those who just need sound for, say, a small patio, and for those who want speakers that are very simple to install. All of our other outdoor speakers are the conventional, unamplified type – they can fill a garden with full, robust sound, but they require complicated installation and wiring. With the BTP525, the amplifiers are integrated and the power supply is waterproof. Then you just need to mount the speakers, run a wire between them, and connect the power supply to the speakers and an external AC outlet. The built-in Bluetooth receiver lets you stream audio wirelessly from smartphones and tablets, and the sound quality is similar to – though not as loud or full as – that of the OSD Audio AP650 pair.
I can confidently say that I’ve tested more passive (i.e. non-amplified and non-Bluetooth) external speakers than all the other audio journalists in the world combined – a fact that says far less about me than it does about the near-total lack of attention these speakers receive from audio publications. My experience testing external speakers includes numerous reviews of a single product and seven shootouts across multiple products: one for Home Theater Magazine, one for Home Entertainment Magazine, one for Sound & Vision, and four for Wirecutter. I made an audio switcher specifically for doing hidden tag testing. And, perhaps most importantly, I have a backyard – and I’m not afraid to use it.
In addition to conducting my own hidden brand listening tests, I also enlisted the help of several other listeners during the years of evolving this article. They include Lauren Dragan, Senior Writer at Wirecutter and Headphones Specialist (who has also written audio reviews for Sound & Vision magazine and holds a BA in Music Performance and Audio Production from Ithaca College) and author Daniel Varghese.
These speakers are for people who are lucky enough to have an outdoor space to call their own – whether it’s a small patio or an entire backyard – and who enjoy listening to music or podcasts. The speakers are weatherproof, so in most cases you can leave them mounted outside for years without worrying that they won’t work due to water damage. (They may not survive severe weather conditions like hurricanes, and some models will admit water under certain conditions.) These speakers have metal grilles and very sturdy plastic housings. Therefore, they will generally survive any impact from errant volleyballs, and insects will find it difficult or impossible to nest in them. And most of them are powered by a separate amplifier, so they don’t need to be plugged in or charged – but you will need to run the speaker wire.
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Outdoor speakers rarely sound as good as a decent set of bookshelf speakers designed for indoor use. The plastic casings of the external speakers tend to vibrate and produce a rumbling sound, and the perforated metal grilles tend to block or reflect some of the sound waves coming from the speaker drivers. I also suspect that because manufacturers know their external speakers are unlikely to come under heavy scrutiny, they don’t put as much work into these designs as they do their internal models.
Since you need to run a speaker cable from an amplifier to the speaker, setting up a traditional pair of passive (non-amplified) external speakers takes more skill and effort than simply placing a portable Bluetooth speaker on the table. from the patio. You can turn off the speakers of an existing home theater receiver if you have some unused amplifier 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 a cheap speaker switcher. You can also use a cheap stereo mini amplifier from a brand like Fosi Audio or Loxjie. Add a Bluetooth adapter (or buy an amplifier with built-in Bluetooth) and you can easily get digital music files, online audio streaming services, and podcasts from a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone, tablet, or computer (as long as you keep Bluetooth) nearby. you sit outdoors – typically 15 to 30 feet maximum).
You need to keep the amplifier inside and run the wires through the walls or attic to the outside of the house. Of course, this operation requires a certain skill and experience. Most places allow low voltage cables (ie audio, video and network) to run through walls without permission, but you should check your local building codes to confirm. Be sure to use cables rated CL2 or CL3, which are rated for fire safety.
An alternative to all this complexity would be to have a set of external speakers with amplifiers and built-in Bluetooth. With this option, the only wires you need to run are the cable between the two speakers and the connection to the power supply. You will need an AC outlet nearby and will likely prefer to unplug the power supply when the speakers are not in use.
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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 ultimate guide to portable Bluetooth speakers.
The external speaker industry moves much more slowly than most of the audio industry – it is common for a model to remain on sale for many years. In fact, many speakers we tested years ago for this guide are still available. However, the growth of highly price-competitive vendors – such as Dayton Audio, OSD and Monoprice – has expanded the number of models.
I started the testing process by interrupting each speaker with music played at moderately high volume for 10 hours. So I listened to them all in my backyard for a few days. If a speaker exhibited serious anomalies – such as distortion in deep bass notes or harsh highs that made voices ring out – I eliminated it, knowing it had no chance of becoming one of the best options.
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