Whether it’s for relaxing in the garden or entertaining in the evenings on the terrace or by the pool, music is just as important outdoors as it is indoors. From weather-resistant tropicalized speakers to waterproof wireless models for poolside music, there are many ways to enjoy your music outside the home. It is therefore essential to understand the different levels of weatherproofing (IP rating), the technologies and the pros and cons of the various types of outdoor speakers to choose a system tailored to your needs and the space you want to bring sound to.
Understanding speaker protection ratings
For safe outdoor or poolside use, outdoor speakers have several levels of protection and waterproofing. Some speakers are “tropicalized”, meaning they feature a varnish or protective coating to withstand prolonged exposure to humidity without any loss in sound quality. However, they aren’t designed to resist severe weather and extreme temperatures. These tropicalized speakers are therefore more suitable for sunrooms and covered terraces and patios.
All-weather speakers are designed to withstand the elements. An anti-UV enclosure, an aluminum grille and rustproof materials are standard. The most durable models can even continue playing music in heavy rain or extreme temperatures. This waterproofing is certified by the international IP standard. The IP code is always followed by two digits and/or a letter. The first digit indicates the degree of protection against accidental contact, solid particles and dust. The second indicated the degree of protection against water. For example, a speaker with an IP67 certification is completely protected against dust and can be immersed in up to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes. Here is a table of the different IP ratings:
|Protection rating (IP)||1st digit: solid particle protection||2nd digit: water and liquid protection|
|1||Protected against solid particles larger than 50mm||Protected against vertically dripping water|
|2||Protected against solid particles larger than 12.5mm||Protected against dripping water when tilted at 15°|
|3||Protected against solid particles larger than 2.5mm||Protected against rain at any angle up to 60° from the vertical|
|4||Protected against solid particles larger than 1mm||Protected against water splashes from any direction|
|5||Protected against dust and other microscopic residue||Protected against water jets from any direction (6.3mm nozzle, at a distance of 2.5 to 3m, 12.5L/min ±5%)|
|6||Completely protected against dust||Protected against powerful water jets from any direction (12.5mm nozzle, at a distance of 2.5 to 3m, 100L/min ±5%)|
|7||Protected against the effects of temporary immersion (up to 1m) during 30 minutes|
|8||Equipment suitable for continuous immersion under specified time and pressure conditions (over 1m)|
|9||Protected against high-pressure, high-temperature washing from several directions|
Outdoor wall-mounted speakers
Outdoor wall-mounted speakers are especially suitable for terraces and patios. The adjustable wall brackets make them easy to place and direct towards the listening area. These speakers are almost always passive. This means that you have to run speaker cables to connect them to an amplifier, which must be placed inside the house. For greater convenience, we recommend that you choose a connected amplifier so that you can easily control your music in the garden using a smartphone or tablet.
Outdoor in-wall and in-ceiling speakers
Outdoor in-wall and in-ceiling speakers have a higher protection rating and greater corrosion resistance than in-wall/in-ceiling speakers designed for humid rooms such as bathrooms. These outdoor speakers can be concealed in the underside of the roof to add sound to a patio, in the walls of an indoor pool, in an outdoor kitchen, or in a garden shed. They often feature a removable grille that can be painted the same color as the wall or ceiling they are built into for seamless integration. Lastly, as with wall-mounted speakers, they require an amplifier to work.
This category includes all speakers that are designed to be placed directly in the garden, hidden in the vegetation or along paths. These speakers all benefit from a high level of waterproofing so that they can stay outside all year round. Some models, such as the Klipsch PRO-500T-LS, have a ground stake to fix them firmly in the ground. Usually, the speaker can then be rotated to optimize the dispersion angle. Garden speakers are often either powered by a hi-fi amplifier or 100 volt amplifier. The latter becomes indispensable when the distance between the amplifier and the speakers is too great. To learn more about this subject, we recommend the article “100 volt distributed speaker systems and how to wire them”.
For a more discreet installation, some garden speakers mimic the shapes and colors of real rocks. Examples include the Artsound Rock, Earthquake Granite-52, Q Acoustics Qi65LW and Sonance RK63 speakers. Like conventional garden speakers, rock speakers are usually powered by either a hi-fi or 100 volt amplifier. Some rock speakers, like the Lithe Audio Bluetooth Garden Rock Speaker, are equipped with an amplifier and Bluetooth receiver. When connected to the mains, you can easily stream your music wirelessly from a smartphone or tablet.
Outside, low frequencies are the hardest to reproduce. The space is a lot bigger and many elements, like trees, bushes or the ground, absorb the bass. If you want to enjoy the best sound in your garden, it is advisable to add an outdoor subwoofer to your installation. Here, too, visual discretion is called for. Consequently, you can find outdoor subwoofers shaped like rocks, such as the Sonance RK10W subwoofer. Others like the Klipsch PRO-12SW-LS are designed to be buried in the ground to be even more discreet. Only a small cap is visible in the garden, which can easily be hidden in a flowerbed or bush.
Portable Bluetooth speakers
Portable Bluetooth speakers aren’t meant to always stay inside. They are a practical and reliable solution for occasionally enjoying your music in the garden or next to the barbecue. When the weather is good, any Bluetooth speaker can be used outside, on a table or in a relatively shady spot. However, if you want to enjoy your speaker beside the pool, it is necessary to choose a splashproof model or ideally a speaker that can resist being immersed in water. To find the most resistant models, you can use the IP rating table in this article. Examples of waterproof Bluetooth speakers include the SONOS Move, Tangent Pebble Splash, Sony SRS-XB12 and Sony SRS-XB41.