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We tested two new models from OSD Audio and Dual Electronics and added the Dual LU53PW as an affordable option.
Outdoor Built In Bluetooth Speakers
We love the convenience of portable Bluetooth speakers. But for those who want a more permanent – and better quality – outdoor sound solution for the garden or patio, we recommend a good pair of weatherproof outdoor speakers. The AP650 OSD Audio Speakers are your best choice because they sound great, are easy to assemble, and are built to withstand the elements and protect against intrusion by insects and dust.
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The AP650 speakers have clear, full sound that works well with any type of music. And they don’t have doors to let in 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 under $200 a pair. And they have full, powerful sound that can easily fill outdoor spaces up to 1,500 square feet in size. The AP650 speakers have enough bass for R&B, hip-hop and rock. And they don’t need a lot of power to deliver loud volume, so you can pair them with a small amp. Because they have a completely sealed design, you don’t have to worry about water, dust or insects getting in. This pair is also better built than most sub-$200 outdoor speakers, with a thicker cabinet and sturdy powder-coated mounting bracket.
The NS-AW294 speakers provide full sound, but are not the best choice for inclement weather.
If you’re looking to spend a little less to get decent outside sound, the Yamaha NS-AW294 speakers are a good choice – unless you live in a place where rainstorms are common, as their ported design can leave the water pass. enter, which can cause damage. The NS-AW294 speakers don’t sound as bright as our top pick, but they have solid 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 its sound is cleaner and smoother in the mids and highs. Whether you listen to hip-hop, rock, folk, or classical, you’ll appreciate this improvement.
The LU53PW is a compact, affordable option that’s fully sealed, but this pair doesn’t have as much bass and doesn’t sound as good at very high volumes.
The Dual Electronics LU53PW speakers will appeal to those who just want to listen to light music in the backyard and want to keep their investment to a minimum. While they don’t have a lot of bass and can get quite squeaky when turned on, 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 built-in Bluetooth and a stereo amplifier, making installation a breeze. They sound good, but don’t take up as much space as our other choices.
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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 easy to install. All of our other outdoor speaker picks are the conventional, non-amplified type – they can fill the yard with full, beefy sound, but they require complicated installation and wiring. With the BTP525, the amplifiers are built-in and the power supply is waterproof. Then, just mount the speakers, run the cable between them, and connect the power supply to the speakers and an external AC outlet. A built-in Bluetooth receiver lets you stream audio wirelessly from smartphones and tablets, and the sound quality is similar – though not as loud or full as the OSD Audio AP650 pair.
I can confidently say that I have reviewed more passive (i.e. non-amplified and non-Bluetooth) external speakers than all other audio journalists in the world combined – a fact that says a lot less about me than the near-total lack of attention of these speakers receive from audio publications. My experience testing external speakers includes numerous product reviews 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 created a custom audio switch specifically for doing hidden tests on the mark. And perhaps most importantly, I have a backyard—and I’m not afraid to use it.
In addition to doing my own listening tests under the brand, I got help from a few other listeners over the years of developing this article. They include Lauren Dragan, author and headphone expert at Wirecutter (who also writes audio reviews for Sound & Vision magazine and holds a BA in Music Production and Audio Production from Ithaca College), and writer 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 a full 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 about them becoming inoperable due to water damage. (They may not survive severe weather conditions such as hurricanes, and some models will admit water under certain conditions.) These speakers have metal grilles and sturdy plastic covers. Therefore, they will generally survive any impact from errant volleyballs, and it will be difficult or impossible for insects to nest in them. And most of them are powered by a separate amplifier, so there’s no need to plug or charge them – but you’ll need to use a speaker cable.
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Outdoor speakers rarely sound as good as a decent set of bookshelf speakers for indoor use. The plastic housings 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 speakers. I also suspect that since manufacturers know their external speakers are unlikely to be subjected to rigorous scrutiny, they don’t put as much work into these designs as they do their internal models.
Since you need to run the speaker cable from the 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 a table. of patio. If you have some unused amplifier channels, you can turn off your existing home theater receiver’s speakers. 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 the Bluetooth adapter nearby to where you are sitting outside – usually 15 to 30 feet maximum).
You will need to keep the amplifier indoors and run the cables through the walls or attic outside the house. Obviously, this operation requires some skill and experience. Most locations allow low voltage cables (specifically audio, video and network) to run through walls without permission, but you should check with your local building code. Be sure to use cables rated CL2 or CL3, which are fireproof for safety.
An alternative to all this complexity would be to get 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’ll need an external outlet close by 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. Find them in our ultimate guide to portable Bluetooth speakers.
The outdoor 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 of the speakers we tested years ago for this guide are still available. However, the growth of highly competitive vendors – such as Dayton Audio, OSD and Monoprice – has greatly expanded the number of models.
I started the testing process by interrupting each speaker with music playing at a moderately high volume for 10 hours. So I listened to them all in my backyard for days. If any speaker had serious anomalies – such as deep bass distortion or harsh highs that made voices hoarse – I removed it because I knew it had no chance of being one of the best options.
Then we perform
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