Best outdoor speakers for classical music lovers
BBC Music Magazine's audio expert Chris Haslam chooses the best 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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- How to boost the sound quality of your hi-fi with gadgets and accessories
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.
Be aware that speakers designed for alfresco use are rigorously tested against moisture, dirt and temperature fluctuations, but for occasional garden speakers, check the IP (Ingress Protection) rating. These two numbers indicate the speaker’s ability to keep out dust (first number) and water (second digit), so an IPX4 speaker hasn’t been rated for dust but is splashproof, IPX7 can survive a shower, IP66 is completely dust-tight and hose proof, and IP68 can be submerged for 30 minutes.
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What if you don’t stream music?
The days of the portable CD player are over, but with a little planning you can bring your existing hi-fi into the sunshine. Wall-mounted outdoor speakers – try Polk Audio’s Atrium range and Bowers & Wilkins’s sublime AM-1 speaker – require wiring, but are impervious to the weather and have been tuned to work in wide-open spaces, so the detail in your music isn’t simply lost to the environment. If you have a large garden and distant or understanding neighbours, you can extend your sound system to all corners using in-ground speakers, mounted on spikes, or those disguised as rocks, both available from Klipsch (see left) and Sevenoaks Sound and Vision. Installation isn’t difficult and the results can be wonderful, but cables do need to be well buried to avoid the mower or being accidentally dug up.
How much do outdoor speakers cost?
Quality outdoor speakers cost from £200 each, but increase your budget for better sound and longevity.
Best outdoor speakers
Audio Pro A15
A delightful and stylish dark grey design from the consistently impressive Audio Pro, the A15 can extend your home’s multi-room audio into the garden by using Airplay 2, Google Cast and Audio Pro’s own software, while the battery will last up to 11 hours too. Its IP rating is IPX2, meaning it can withstand light rain - so if in doubt bring the speakers indoors.
Features include Digital Class D 10W and 30W amplifiers, 6 WiFi presets and Bluetooth 4.2, making it easy to quickly pair a device should you need to
A refined 55cm-tall Bluetooth speaker designed for outside fun, with two three-inch full-range drivers, a six-inch subwoofer and 60W amp, all powered by a battery that will last all night. Two speakers can even be paired for the finest stereo barbecues. escapespeakers.com
Buy from premiumsound.co.uk
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.
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.
Think of this as a surround sound for your shrubbery. This high-end wired landscape speaker offers class-leading audio from a five-inch woofer and one-inch aluminium dome tweeter, and can even be paired with a subwoofer that you literally bury underground. premiumSound.co.uk
Buy from premiumsound.co.uk
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.