It’s fun to do indoor things outdoors.
Consider the outdoor shower, the iconic grill, the novel pizza oven, and the variety of furniture allowing for both rays and repose. All topped by the all-weather flatscreen for watching TV al fresco.
So swimming, soaking, showering, napping and cooking outdoors continue to become refined, but not so much the soundtrack of our lives.
To add the magic of music to outdoor life, we prop a small portable speaker on a table, place speakers in plastic rocks in the garden, or perhaps suspend little boxes by brackets on the deck — but nothing a real audiophile would cop to. There are also omnidirectional speakers that can be buried in the ground that project from the middle of a flowerbed, but these require the burying of cables, which comes with challenges.
One solution, then, is the use of large planters that supply quality sound with speakers hidden inside.
Filling the Air
Boutique audio manufacturers now build serious speaker arrays into architectural planters, sealed to the weather and featuring state-of-the-art drainage.
Made from a variety of materials and in styles to match any outdoor motif, these devices can be controlled via smartphone apps and Wi-Fi, and be customized to cover specific outdoor spaces with dramatic sound, even at low volumes.
Planter speakers driven by an indoor amplifier do not need AC power, but aren’t truly “wireless,” in that speaker lines need to be run to the amplifier.
Speaking of amplifiers, there are two ways to drive the large down-firing woofers, broad mid-ranges and crisp tweeters typically included in these products. Homeowners can find a common installation solution in an indoor amplifier matched to optimize the output of a planter speaker, and run through a Sonos transmitter to the home’s Wi-Fi system. However, Sonos and others make amplifier units that can be built into each planter speaker, eliminating the need for any other amp unit. The bottom line is that any music on your phone can now play in your yard.
Coverage and Directionality
Another benefit of surrounding a backyard aquatic asset with a high performance sound system is the ability to control dispersion.
The idea is to create a sound field within which the listener hears all of the system’s quality at the volume intended without bleeding into other areas, such as the home itself or, more importantly, a neighbor’s yard. Designers and installers can achieve this with high-end planter speakers, which can fire at 90 degrees, left, right or 180 degrees.
Product specifications will indicate maximum coverage area, allowing designers of outdoor spaces to plan the number and location of units needed for a specific application. A pair of larger planter speakers can cover up to 1,000 square feet, and a 150-225 watt amplifier can power up to four speakers.
When placing speakers, designers must make note of their distance from a reflective surface, such as a stone wall or even the side of the house.
Designers have not only altered the directionality of the sound “throw,” they’ve also altered the colors of the audio components, added matching planters with sub-woofers and even combined matching units without speakers in them, to create attractive and symmetrical floral environments.
The result of all of this is water polo played to classic or Caribbean rock, family dinners with red wine, red sauce and Andrea Bocelli, country music for barbecues, and sunsets in the spa with a soothing playlist curated expressly for steam and bubbles.
And adding top-quality surround sound to an outdoor flat screen turns a TV into an outdoor home theater.
Overall, given the investments in backyard living, the addition of a carefully
constructed, truly luxurious outdoor sound system provides a unique dimension, and a point of differentiation sure to delight aficionados and casual music lovers alike.