Speakers AlFresco Indoor/Outdoor


As noted earlier, I auditioned all these speakers indoors—for two reasons. First, as an apartment dweller, I don’t have access to a backyard (though my windows do look out on a beautiful park with trees and grass). But more to the point, as someone who’s listened to hundreds of compact speaker systems in the same room with essentially the same reference equipment, my indoor environment provided both familiarity and consistent isolation from environmental noise that a traditional backyard installation could not deliver. Aside from having to account for the obvious bass boost applied in the design of these speakers and the additional boundary reinforcement my room walls provided beyond an outdoor eave or deck, this approach allowed me to apply an even playing field to all three models to assess qualities like dispersion, dynamics, imaging, and detail.

All three speakers proved to be good performers in my indoor environment, though your choice will come down to personal preference. Do you go for the Boston Acoustics’ more delicate high-end and dual-voicecoil/two-channel arrangement? The NHT, designed with loud-and-low in mind? Or the high- disperson Niles, with its customizable and government-rated weatherproof cabinet? Only you can decide if one of these will better fit your needs and musical taste. That said, we’ve been remiss in covering this category over the years, and this being summertime, we’d love to hear about your firsthand experiences with outdoor speakers. Have you installed a speaker model or brand you like or were unhappy with? In what kind of environment? Has it held up over time?

Toslink's picture

Hi, Mark:

Excellent article. I’d like to chime in on an approach to backyard audio that I rarely see advocated in publications—but one that I’ve had great success with. I work for a large audio-video-control retailer. About three years ago we made the switch from “8-ohm” speakers and amplifiers to commercial 70-volt speakers and amplifiers for outdoor sound systems where the client is looking for an immersive audio system that blends into their outdoor environment. The key advantage of a 70v system is it allows an almost unlimited number of speakers to be used-—provided the relationship between speaker power settings and amplifier's output wattage is adhered to.

We place the speakers very close together (~5ft to 6ft apart), generally on custom aluminum speaker stakes near ground level hidden behind shrubs at the perimeter of the yard with the speakers pointed into the listening area. This allows the system to "blanket" the listening area, with a near constant acoustic output through the listening area. Placing the speakers low and pointing into the yard helps keep the sound in the listening area, rather then projecting it into the neighbor's yard. A typical "large" system has between six and 25 speakers distributed throughout the yard.

We describe it as the “Disney Land Experience”, where their excellent outdoor audio system provides a near constant sound level as you walk through the park. This is accomplished by using more speakers with lower power per speaker vs. higher power and fewer speakers.

One additional advantage is since 70v is a “bus” system, where multiple speakers are wired (parallel wiring connection) into single 2-conductor speaker cable, a backyard can be wired with fewer cables compared with an 8-ohm system. Oftentimes, a yard can be wired with as few as one 2-conductor cable. This makes the installation of the speaker cable a snap. We always use direct-burial rated cable and we follow NEC electrical code guidelines to meet minimum burial depth requirements.

As far as brands go, we’ve had great success with the Crown and Extron 70v audio amplifier lines. For speakers, we most often use the JBL Control 25AV monitors. They’re excellent!

Just another angle to view larger outdoor audio systems. Perhaps the Home Theater readers will consider this approach. Or, perhaps this might make a good topic for an article in the magazine. Who knows, right?


Jeff D's picture

I bought these speakers in early 2k, purchased at Best Buy, for around 50 bucks. They have 4" poly woofer, 2" cone poly mid and a 5/8" piezo mylar dome, with an all aluminum case and grill w/plastic capped binding posts, also non-ported design. The reason for the long explaination, didn't think they were still available, found online for six bucks!? These have been great speakers when you consider they're tiny size,and price. Still use them every summer, they are definitely waterproof, made the mistake of leaving them out all winter, still sounded great in the spring! We eventually bought three more pairs. I have tried them both ways, v. or h., liked verticle the best. I'm sure they are not aluminum anymore but at this price I could afford several pairs as long as they sound good, as you can tell I really like these. They are small enough to hide and still preform. Though, I will ask, are 70v systems expensive to put together, know what it is, just have no experience. Have really large yard, am considering the different options.