Best portable outdoor speakers for classical music lovers
BBC Music Magazine's audio expert Chris Haslam chooses the best portable outdoor speakers, so you can enjoy listening to the same sound quality outside as inside
For classical music lovers outdoor speakers, are definitely worth the investment if you like listening to music in the open air. While you can take your inside speakers outside it is not advisable as they are easily damaged and not weather-proof should the weather turn for the worse.
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What to consider when buying outdoor speakers
One of the first things to consider when buying outdoor speakers is battery life. Battery technology has improved so much that I wouldn’t recommend a speaker with less than 10 hours play time. The larger portable designs can manage over 24 hours, and some even have USB ports for charging your phone while on the go.
Another thing to consider is connectivity. The Sonos Roam can connect to Wi-Fi for at-home use, and Bluetooth when out of range. Most speakers just have Bluetooth, with a 3.5mm port for wired connections to music players. The latest Bluetooth 5.0 has a 120-metre range, compared to version 4.2 which only manages 30 metres.
You need to also make sure the speakers are suitable for garden and outside use. If a speaker is IPX4 rated, it is splashproof and ideal for garden use. IPX7 speakers can cope with plenty of rain and abuse, while those rated IP67 are also dustproof. And if you fancy swimming with your speaker, IP68-rated models can be submerged for 30 minutes.
Best outdoor speakers for Sonos users
A welcome addition to the Sonos family, the Roam is small (17cm x 6cm x 6cm; 430g), stylish, slots seamlessly into an existing Wi-Fi multi-room network and uses Bluetooth if you go out of Wi-Fi range. If you don’t have Sonos already, I’d choose the JBL (below) for audio performance, but the combination of features, including wireless charging and the ability to switch the audio playing onto the nearest Sonos speaker at the touch of a button, makes it a solid buy.
Best outdoor speakers for a party
JBL Charge 5
Don’t let the teenage aesthetic style fool you – this might be the best-sounding battery-powered Bluetooth speaker for the price. It is built to withstand knocks, drops and showers, has a 20-hour battery life and can even top up your phone’s battery via a USB port. It’s not super-portable, but great for the garden, and the larger casing allows room for the 90mm bass drivers and 20mm tweeters, each with their own amplification.
Best all-round outdoor speaker
Bang & Olufsen Beosound Explore
When many of us think of Bang & Olufsen, we tend to imagine luxury interiors and swanky hotel suites. With Explore, however, the company has created a portable Bluetooth speaker tuned specifically to sound its best outside.
Constructed from flawlessly finished anodised aluminium – choice of colour is black, green or grey – the speaker is impervious to dust and rain and feels incredibly solid. At just over 600g, it isn’t featherlight, but good-sounding speakers rarely are, especially those with 27-hour batteries built in. After spending a few days camping with it, I’m determined to make it a permanent addition to my kit list.
Listening to Richard Strauss’s nature-inspired An Alpine Symphony, I’m immediately impressed by the speaker’s ability to sound composed and coherent, even in the middle of a field. Behind the aluminium casing, two 1.8-inch drivers do a fantastic job with the lower frequencies that sound full bodied without booming like a ‘party’ speaker. The other impressive aspect is the fact it pushes sound through 360-degrees, so no matter where you’re positioned, you’re still in the sweet spot.
Chris Haslam is a freelance consumer technology journalist, specialising in tech, audio, lifestyle, health and interiors. He is the monthly audio columnist for BBC Music Magazine, rounding up the best audio equipment on the market for classical music lovers. He is also a contributing editor for Wired UK.