Review: 6 sets of outdoor speakers

Stereo for all kinds of weather

You deserve the best sound - even outside! You need to have a set of outdoor speakers.

Utendørshøyttalere, B&W AM-1
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When the weather gets too warm, we leave the stuffy rooms inside and go out for a breath of fresh air. But that does not mean that the music experiences must be left inside the house. What you need is to move the music out. But how to do that without compromising on sound? A simple handheld Bluetooth speaker will not cut the mustard in the long run. There is a better solution. A much better solution. Namely outdoor speakers for wall mounting.

Stereo

First of all, it is important to have sound in stereo, that is, two speakers and with a wide enough distance between them to provide a large sound stage. This is where all portable small speakers fail. Well, except for those that can be linked together in pairs, such as the Ultimate Ears Hyperboom.

But you may want a more permanent solution outdoors. It is not very practical to have to move two speakers back and forth, store them in the shed when not in use, and look for them again on the next occasion. Which brings us to this test.

Sonos & Sonance outdoor
Sonos Outdoor by Sonance. Photo: Geir Gråbein Nordby

Outdoor speakers for wall mounting

These are outdoor speakers that are mounted on the wall – or in the ceiling. They are ordinary, passive speakers that are connected to an amplifier with cables. In the ordinary, old-fashioned way. These are very similar speakers for wall mounting, with one important difference: They are weather resistant, and can withstand both wind and rain. But not frost and snow, so be sure to have a place to store them when winter comes.

Almost all outdoor speakers are very simple to install and can easily be hooked off the wall/ceiling bracket for the winter season. You can leave the bracket with cables.

All outdoor speakers in this test came with the included wall mount. Photo: Canton

Placement

Do not underestimate the placement of the speakers. Think before you mount them. If you want the sound to cover a larger area, such as a large terrace or garden, the speakers can advantageously be mounted higher than two meters up on the wall. Preferably under the eaves, or in the ceiling if you have the speakers on the terrace. Then you can easily extend the season with a patio heater when the time comes!

If, on the other hand, you want sound for a small seating group, and perhaps having the most precise perspective when you sit alone, then the speakers can be attached at a lower position, maybe even at a ear height when seated. Just as you would inside. Then you get a better focused stereo image.

All speakers in this test are adjustable at one angle along their axis. Whether the speakers are to be mounted vertically or horizontally on the wall depends on which way you want to be able to adjust the angle. A rule of thumb is horizontal mounting when placed at a high position, and vertical mounting when placed at ear height.

The Bluesound Powernode 2i is an example of a really good, small amplifier that can be recommended for operating outdoor speakers. But the amp itself must be inside! Photo: Bluesound

Don’t forget a amplifier!

Since these are passive speakers, you will need an amplifier as well. We recommend one with built-in streaming, which makes playback a breeze. It should be compact, but must still have enough power to be fun! We can recommend the Sonos Amp, or if you want extra power and the ability to play music in higher resolution (although that’s not really the main priority here), the Bluesound Powernode 2i is even better.

Note that the amplifier should not be left outside. It must be placed inside, and then a place where there is internet coverage so it can stream music unhindered. The speaker cables should be affordable, since we are not talking high end herte. The most important thing is that they are long enough…

Six different outdoor speakers

We have included a pair of speakers from each of six different manufacturers, where the median is around  £600. That you pay a little extra for weather resistance must be taken into account, as robustness takes precedence over the ability to reproduce the smallest details in the soundscape. As a rule of thumb, a set of normal compact speakers for indoor use will cost about half as much for the same quality, compared to dedicated outdoor speakers.

This is how we tested

All speakers have been tested both outdoors and indoors. When doing group tests of many products, it is important that you can switch between them fairly quickly, so instead of mounting all the pairs on wall one by one, we have put them on racks, right up to the outer wall. In this way, we have been able to switch between the pairs, and quickly switch back to a previously tested pair if there is something we have been unsure of.

We have used the same racks inside our regular test room, also right up to the back wall to be able to best simulate a wall mounting. We should emphasize that the differences we heard between the speakers outdoors were also repeated indoors.

Products in this test

Monitor Audio Climate 60

The joy of playing weighs up

Monitor Audio Climate 60 has an energetic playing style that works for the most part.

Clear sound, good with life and rhythm.
Slightly dark tone on strings, the midrange sounds colored.

Klipsch AW-525

High party factor

Don't let size fool you. The Klipsch AW-525 speakers love to play loud.

Super efficient and easy to operate, potent bass for the size, and sparkling dynamics.
A little too muffled and harsh sound for our taste.

Focal 100 OD 8

Speakers for outdoor parties

The Focal speaker is the best choice if you need a speaker with impact.

Punchy dynamics and plenty of bass. High party factor.
The size can be a drawback and the sound lacks sophistication.

Canton Pro XL.3

Anonymous and unengaging

Canton follows an old speaker recipe with the Canton Pro XL.3, something is ruining the fun, however.

Fuller sound than the size suggests. Compact dimensions blend nicely with the facade.
Muffled sound, the bass distorts when you turn up the volume. Flat dynamics.

Sonos Outdoor

Too expensive

Sonos Outdoor works for the most part, and does little harm. Unfortunately, it sounds boring, and the price tag is more than a bit steep.

Pleasant midrange on vocals, and the sound is rich enough. It is also clear enough at the top for it to work well.
It sounds pretty flat and tame. It's especially dynamics that are missing, it simply sounds too boring. The price tag is also insane.

Bowers & Wilkins AM-1

The best outdoor speaker

The Bowers & Wilkins outdoor speaker is very elaborate, and so is the sound.

Beautifully balanced, refined and resolved soundscape, plenty of bass and sound pressure.
Requires a potent amplifier to perform at its best.
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