Outdoor Speakers

Outdoor Speakers

September 2, 2011

Outdoor sound systems have come a long way since the boom box, and now there's no need to clutter your garden with unsightly equipment to get great audio. Landscape designer Paul Keyes recommends installing top quality speakers rather than the trendier designs that impersonate rocks or planters. “If you don't want to see them, order speakers in inconspicuous colors, then place them where the visual impact can be minimized.” Trees are ideal hiding spots (plant the speakers among branches and point them downward), as are flower beds and fencing.

Install top quality speakers rather than the trendier designs that impersonate rocks.

Installing speakers in the right position, though, is more important than how well you camouflage them: Speakers are designed to create a rich, even tone by projecting sound and having it reflect off a surface; the lack of ceilings or walls in certain outdoor spaces can make achieving that process a challenge. Gabriel Karlis of JD audio & Video Design in Fort Lee, new Jersey, aims speakers at whatever objects are available: “On a patio, for example, we pull the speakers away from the house, then turn them around so they point back at it, which creates a sort of enclosure.” as for type, Karlis prefers speakers made by Sonance, an outdoor sound pioneer; especially its Mariner series, which comes with six- or eight-inch woofers. “Bass just disappears outside, so you need the bigger woofers,” he says. “Sonance also makes underground subwoofers that take the strain off the main speakers. We literally bury them. The top sticks out, but we hide them in flower beds.”

If your speakers are in the open, you need to consider audio dispersion: Bose Free Space speakers are circular and dispense sound in a 360-degree range, which keeps the volume even when people stroll by. Another trick to keeping volume steady: “Use more speakers rather than cranking it up,” Karlis says. “We put in as many as we can to create a smooth volume throughout the area.”


Garden Design - Alfresco Audio

The Mariner 82 speaker by Sonance ($475; save-on-audio.com)


Paul Keyes Associates is a full service firm that offers landscape architect and installation (212-448-0600; paulkeyes.com); JD Audio & Video Design does both indoor and outdoor home theater and audio design and installation (201-461-7475; jdavdesign.com)

This article was first published in Garden Design July/August 2011