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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 Wireless Smart Speakers
We love the convenience of portable Bluetooth speakers. But for those who want a more permanent – and higher quality – outdoor sound solution for the garden or terrace, we recommend a good pair of weatherproof outdoor speakers. The OSD Audio AP650 speakers are the best choice because they sound great, are easy to assemble and are built to withstand harsh weather and protect against insects and dust.
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The AP650 speakers have a clear, rich sound that works well with all types of music. And they have no gates for water or insects to enter.
The OSD Audio AP650 speakers are the best value for money we’ve found in an outdoor pair. Their clarity surpasses anything we’ve heard from other models under $200 a pair. And they have a rich, powerful sound that easily fills outdoor spaces up to 1,500 square meters in size. The AP650 speakers have enough bass for R&B, hip-hop and rock music. And they don’t require a lot of power to produce loud volume, so you can pair them with a small amp. Because they have a completely sealed construction, you don’t have to worry about water, dust or insects getting in. This pair is also better built than most outdoor speakers under $200, with a thicker enclosure and a sturdy powder-coated mounting bracket.
The NS-AW294 speakers provide full sound but are not the best choice for places with bad weather.
If you want to spend a little less to get decent outdoor sound, the Yamaha NS-AW294 speakers are a good choice – unless you live in a place where rainstorms are common, as their stepless design can let water through. get inside, which could cause damage. The NS-AW294 speakers don’t sound as bright as our favorites, but they have solid bass and can play pretty loud.
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The Dayton Audio IO8XTB speaker is about twice the size of our OSD and Yamaha speakers, but we can safely say that this speaker offers at least double the performance. In addition to producing much more bass, its sound is cleaner and smoother in the mids and highs. Whether you listen to hip-hop, rock, folk or classical music, you’ll appreciate this improvement.
The LU53PW is a compact, affordable option that is fully enclosed, but this pair doesn’t have as much bass and doesn’t sound as good at very high volumes.
The Dual Electronics LU53PW speakers appeal to those who just want to listen to light music in the backyard and want to keep their investment to a minimum. Although they don’t have much bass and can get quite bright when turned up, they sound decent for background music, podcasts and internet radio. They’re also more compact than other non-motorized models we recommend, and are completely sealed to prevent water ingress.
The BTP525 speakers have built-in Bluetooth and a stereo amplifier, making installation much easier. They sound great, but they don’t take up as much space as our other picks.
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The OSD Audio BTP525 speakers are a good choice for someone who only needs sound for a small patio, for example, and someone who wants speakers that are very easy to install. All of our other outdoor speakers are traditional, unamplified types – they can fill a yard with rich, durable sound, but require complex installation and wiring. In the BTP525, the amplifiers are built-in and the power supply is waterproof. So just install the speakers, run the cable between them and connect the power supply to the speakers and to 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’ve reviewed more passive (that is, unamplified and non-Bluetooth) outdoor speakers than all the other audio editors in the world combined—a fact that says far less about me than the almost complete lack of attention these speakers receive. receive audio publications. My outdoor speaker testing experience includes numerous product reviews and seven multi-product reviews: one for Home Theater magazine, one for Home Entertainment magazine, one for Sound & Vision, and four for Wirecutter. I custom built the audio switch specifically for testing the hidden brand. And perhaps most importantly, I have a backyard—and I’m not afraid to use it.
In addition to doing my own on-brand listening tests, I’ve gotten help from a few other listeners over the years as I’ve developed this article. They include Lauren Dragan, author and headphone expert at Wirecutter (who also writes audio reviews for Sound & Vision magazine and has a BA in music production and audio production from Ithaca College), and author Daniel Varghese.
These speakers are for people who are lucky enough to have their own outdoor space – 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 outside for years without worrying about them becoming unusable due to water damage. (They may not survive severe weather conditions such as hurricanes, and a few models allow water in under certain conditions.) These speakers have metal grilles and fairly sturdy plastic covers. So they tend to survive any impact from errant volleys, and it’s difficult or impossible for bugs to nest in them. And most of them are powered by a separate amplifier, so there’s no need to plug in or charge them – but you do need to use a speaker cable.
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Outdoor speakers rarely sound as good as decent bookshelf speakers for indoor use. The plastic enclosures of outdoor speakers tend to vibrate and produce a thumping sound, and the perforated metal grilles tend to block or reflect some of the sound waves coming from the speakers. I also suspect that because the manufacturers know that their outdoor speakers are unlikely to receive the same level of scrutiny, they don’t put as much effort into these models as they do their indoor models.
Because the speaker cable must be run from the amplifier to the speaker, installing a traditional pair of passive (unamplified) outdoor speakers requires more skill and effort than simply placing a portable Bluetooth speaker on a patio table. If you have a few unused amplifier channels, you can disconnect the speakers from your existing home theater receiver. Most stereo receivers have a “speakers A/B” button that lets you route the audio to another set of speakers, or you can use an inexpensive speaker switch. You can also use a cheap stereo mini amplifier from, for example, Fosi Audio or Loxjie. Add a Bluetooth dongle (or buy an amplifier with built-in Bluetooth) and you can easily access digital music files, online streaming services, and podcasts from a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone, tablet, or computer (as long as you keep the Bluetooth dongle close to where you’re sitting outside—usually no more than 15-30 feet ).
You need to store the amplifier indoors and run the cables through the walls or attic outside the house. Obviously, this operation requires some skill and experience. Most places allow low voltage cables (especially audio, video and network) to be run through walls without a permit, but you should check with your local building code. Make sure you use CL2 or CL3 class cables which are fire resistant for safety.
An alternative to this complexity would be to get external speakers with amplifiers and built-in Bluetooth. With this option, the only wires you need to use are the cable between the two speakers and the connection to the power source. You’ll need an external power source nearby, and you’ll probably prefer to unplug the power source when the speakers aren’t in use.
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Another option is to get a waterproof portable Bluetooth speaker big enough to fill your yard (or at least your patio) with sound. Find them in our best portable Bluetooth speaker roundup.
The outdoor speaker industry moves much more slowly than most of the audio industry – it’s common for a model to remain on sale for several years. In fact, many of the speakers we tested years ago for this guide are still available today. However, the growth of highly competitive vendors such as Dayton Audio, OSD, and Monoprice has greatly increased the number of models.
I started the testing process by breaking in each speaker with music playing at a moderately high volume for 10 hours. Then I listened to them all in my backyard for days. If any speaker had serious anomalies—such as deep bass distortion or harsh treble that made voices sound hoarse—I removed it because I knew it had no chance of being the best choice.
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