Best outdoor speakers of 2020
When you’re listening to music inside the house, there are certain aspects of a speaker you don’t have to worry about. For example, unless you’re bringing it into the shower with you, chances are you’re not too concerned about whether or not the speaker is waterproof. How loud a speaker gets without distorting might not be an issue either, because in close quarters a speaker probably won’t be on max volume most of the time unless you’re having a party. However, all of that changes when you take it outside. Things that don’t matter as much in the house suddenly become a lot more important. So, what are the best outdoor speakers?
Editor’s note: This post was updated on March 23, 2020 to reflect changes in price, and also to include the Polk Audio Atrium 6, Dual Electronic LU53PB, and the Sonos outdoor speaker.
If you want great, just go with the Polk Atrium
If you’re looking for true outdoor speakers, don’t overthink it. The best all-around speaker for you is going to be the Polk Atrium 6. The Atrium series from Polk Audio has consistently impressed, and the Atrium 6 hits the sweet spot between the larger and smaller models that give you just the right amount of bang for your buck. To get some of the specs out of the way, these speakers have a 5 ¼” dynamic driver and a 1″ aluminum cone tweeter to handle the highs. This newer model claims to have improved bass response, something Atrium speakers (and most outdoor speakers) have struggled with.
Polk Audio Atrium 6
These speakers are also completely weather-resistant so once you set it up you don’t need to worry about it. Whether it’s raining cats and dogs or your neck of the woods is experiencing extreme temperature shifts, you can have the peace of mind that you won’t need to replace your speakers afterward. Plus, it comes with a new speed-locking mounting C-bracket, which gives you a multitude of mounting options depending on what you’re looking for. These require anywhere between 10-100W per channel so as we mentioned before, just double check that your receiver is up to the task.
What you should know about outdoor speakers
Should your outdoor speaker be waterproof?
Definitely. As we mentioned above, once you’re looking for outdoor speakers you’re going to need to take waterproofing into account. I’m not sure if you’ve gone outside recently, but every once in a while water falls from the sky. So you’re going to need speakers that can handle more than a drizzle. In the case of outdoor speakers that means you need something that’s either completely weatherproof or at least rated IPX7 or above.
For the full deep dive into what the numbers and letters mean make sure to check out our full article explaining it in detail, but for the purposes of this article, all you need to know is that that means the speaker is dustproof and can handle being submerged in up to a meter of water.
How to connect to outdoor speakers
Sorry Bluetooth fans, a good chunk of outdoor speakers fall are wired. That means that they do require some installation, but once you get the wires in place you won’t have to worry about connection drops or range issues or anything that would normally be an issue with wireless speakers. Plus, wired speakers are a guaranteed zero latency setup if you want to hook up a projector and watch a movie in the yard.
That might not be the case with some wireless speakers which could result in the audio of a movie not matching up with the lip movements of the actors. Of course, this is nothing to worry about if you’re only going to be listening to music, but if you’re looking to add a visual aspect to your setup then wired is the way to go.
Do you need a receiver?
Since most options are going to be wired, you’re going to want to also invest in a solid receiver. Something that will act as the control center for your setup. If you have the means to get a few extra features like a receiver that’s compatible with Dolby Atmos support or has an excellent amplifier built-in, then, by all means, do so. However, that isn’t entirely necessary to get your speakers working initially.
One thing you should also do is get plenty of speaker wires. Why? Because unless you get a waterproof receiver, you’re going to want it indoors. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that normally water and electronics don’t play well together. Having the receiver indoors, or at least in a sheltered area, means that you won’t have to go crazy unplugging things and running inside every time there’s a rainstorm.
Does that mean you need an amp?
For most outdoor speakers, the answer to this is yes. Luckily, most receivers already have a built-in amplifier that should adequately power most speakers. Still, it’s going to require some work on your part just to make sure that the receiver you have is up to the task. Most speakers will have a recommended amplifier power per channel. For example, the Polk Atrium 5 speakers require anywhere from 10 watts to 100 watts of power. So if the built-in amp on your receiver can handle that, there’s no need to get anything else.
Of course, you might also want a separate multi-channel amplifier if you’re going to have outdoor speakers and indoor speakers connected to the same receiver. The more speakers you connect, the harder it is for the built-in amp in your receiver to power them all. This is when you’d want to offload some of that work to a separate device.
How to make your outdoor speakers wireless
Other than the Sonos speakers on this list, chances are your setup is going to involve wires. However, you can always add on a Bluetooth receiver into one of the inputs of your receiver. We’ve had good experience with this one, but any will do as long as you don’t mind losing some quality and/or audio latency with video.
Is any of this even necessary?
This might seem weird to mention in an article trying to explain what the best outdoor speakers are, but one question to ask yourself is, “Do I really need any of this?” Outdoor speakers are usually more pricey, and if you’re like me and live in a relatively cold climate where you can only enjoy sitting outside for a few months out of the year, then maybe just picking up a really good Bluetooth speaker will be enough to get the job done for you.
The Klipsch AWR-650-SM has an insanely cool design
If you’re looking to turn your patio or yard into an oasis, then one thing you might want to consider is that your speakers can’t be seen. That’s where the Klipsch AWR-650-SM comes into play. These speakers rock (I couldn’t resist). These speakers were made to blend into nature, so you can have music playing without anyone knowing where the sound is coming from. Of course, that won’t come cheap as these are just around $600 for the pair, but you get what you pay for. These speakers aren’t just weatherproof, they’re also UV resistant. They can handle most normal weather conditions.
They’re rocking a 6.5-inch woofer and dual ¾-inch tweeters as well, which require a recommended power of 100W. Again, these also have a bass-reflex side-fitting port to help push a little more air in the low end. One thing worth mentioning is that these don’t just look like sandstone rock, they’re also pretty heavy weighing around 5.9kg each. So, just don’t pull something trying to lift these.
For an in-ground speaker check out the Bose Free Space 51
If you want something that’s literally in the ground, then Bose has you covered with the Free Space 51 speakers. The green color allows them to blend in perfectly to a garden, keeping them out fo discreet. That way you can accomplish a similar kind of oasis vibe as with the Klipsch AWR-650-SM speakers. These have a downward facing 4.25″ full range driver, which means that sound quality is going to be somewhat lacking when compared to some of the other models that have dedicated tweeters and woofers.
Bose Free Space 51
These also have a recommended power supply of anywhere from 10-100W and can also survive extreme temperatures anywhere from -40 to 150-degrees Fahrenheit. Though, if those are real-life temperatures that you need to deal with, I request out of love that you move into a climate more for suitable for humans. Grooves on the underside that you can run the cables through to keep them safe from the elements. Whether you’re looking to place these in the garden or around the pool, the Bose Free Space 51 is definitely worth looking into.
Go wireless with the Sonos Outdoor Speakers
Unfortunately, if you want to go wireless, you’ve got to reconcile yourself to the fact that it costs those primo outdoor speaker prices. The Sonos Outdoor Speakers offer great sound, a simple, but refined design, and oh yeah, they can stream audio over wifi using Airplay.
Sonos Outdoor Speakers
These speakers connect to Sonos’ existing smart home lineup, using the Sonos App to add outdoor (and indoor) speakers to your home sound system. That means once you get them setup, you’ll be able to control these outdoor speakers using Airplay, the app, and your voice, and keep them synched up with whatever’s playing inside. Additionally, these are also built to work with Sonos Amp, the company’s smart amp, which will tailor the speakers’ output to match the environment they’re in. Again, these speakers aren’t cheap, and neither is the Sonos Amp, but if you’re committed to getting a an outdoor addition to your Sonos smart home compliment, you probably already know the score.
Save money with the Dual-Electronics LU53-PB
If you don’t want to spend too much, these speakers by Dual-Electronics are one of, if not the best value in outdoor speakers. You shouldn’t expect to get Polk-level sound quality from these, but for only around $50 for the pair, it’s hard to go wrong—especially when you consider everything they have to offer.
These feature a 4″ woofer, 1.6″ midrange cone, and a 0.78″ tweeter, which separates out everything nicely. One thing worth noting is that these have an all-weather resistant coating that will protect them from the average rainstorm and high temperatures, but the speakers themselves aren’t entirely weatherproof. So we wouldn’t recommend leaving these out in the open to bear the brunt of extreme weather. As long as these are somewhat covered in a gazebo or covered porch, you won’t have a problem.
Why you should trust us
Not only is testing speakers our nine to five, but the team at SoundGuys have years of experience between them. Between the roughly four years of audio product testing that Adam has, the four years of product testing and work experience that Lily has, and the near decade of product testing experience that Chris Thomas, we have pretty much all the bases covered when it comes to knowing what to look for. All that plus hours of research and debating is what leads to making any best list, at least until something better comes along and takes a top spot.