If you spend a lot of time outdoors, love music, or want to mask city noise with nature sounds, an all-weather audio system may be just what you need.
Audio speakers are becoming more and more attractive and fit beautifully in outdoor environments. You can choose speakers that blend into the landscape and even look like rocks or small boulders, but beware the quality of the sound varies greatly among manufacturers. If you are looking for an outdoor audio system with wi-fi, keep in mind the best systems still require a power source near the speakers for quality sound and low maintenance. For most circumstances, I do not recommend battery operated speakers for outdoor installations.
In addition to personal enjoyment, outdoor audio is a useful tool to help influence our mood. Music can create an uplifting, calming, energizing, or nostalgic response. My favorite experience was seeing the delight of memory care patients as they listened to Frank Sinatra in an assisted living courtyard that I designed.
Over last decade, residential outdoor audio systems have made many improvements such as smaller speakers and wi-fi capabilities. Did you know you can control individual audio zones with your smartphone, change volume, pause, search, and much more? There are several excellent systems to choose from, and the best selection will depend on the music source you use (such as Apple streaming, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Spotify, CDs, etc.).
One of the most critical factors for a great outdoor audio system is quality and sound. The higher quality sound systems will have multiple speakers along with a subwoofer for each zone. I have found the essential design element to start with is to identify your zones and know your environment.
Define Your Zones
Begin by mapping out your landscape by activity. For instance, you will want a separate zone for your fire pit area, entertainment patio, bocce ball court, meditation garden, etc. The reason for this is that experience shows when you try to spread the sound out over a large outdoor area, the sound quality degrades rather quickly.
Many homeowners are sensitive to sound drifting over that may bother the neighbors. By incorporating multiple zones, you can deliver quality sound to a smaller area where you want it. With higher quality sound, you can keep the volume down and provide a much more pleasant experience for your family and guests.
Know Your Environment
Here in the rainy Northwest, it is important to start out with a quality speaker. Know the difference between “weather-resistant” and “weather-proof” speakers. Weather-resistant speakers need to be sheltered from open areas exposed to rain, snow, and hot sun. Speakers placed near pools need to be enclosed and surrounding materials to withstand chlorine.
Routine landscape maintenance around your new speakers and subwoofers could be a disaster. Weed whackers are the worst! If you have a maintenance crew, please inform them of the new system and equipment locations.
The audio-visual technology is changing at a rapid pace and advances seem to happen monthly. We have found best results is to make sure your landscape architect or contractor has partnered with a reputable sound engineer and a designer who has hands-on experience installing systems with proven references and testimonials.
Here at BauerCombs we work with some of the best sound suppliers in the business and bring them into our projects. We know we can count on their years of experience and with happy customers to prove it.
About BauerCombs & Associates, Inc.
Serving the greater Puget Sound, Seattle, Eastside and Cle Elum areas, we specialize in custom resort-style luxury landscape designs and rejuvenating outdoor retreats. As a Northwest leader in sensory landscape design, our captivating landscapes bring refreshing life to outdoor spaces through the artistic balance of sight, color, scent, touch, taste, and sound. With a deep appreciation for nature, our focus is to blend eco-friendly landscape design practices and materials into each landscaping design project.
We are excited to say that our landscape work has been published in several magazines and continues to grow in reputation for creating healthy outdoor living environments for people and communities. Based in North Bend, we have brought the joy of outdoor environments to homes and local communities in western Washington and across the United States.
Author: Susan Combs Bauer, Landscape Architect, Copyright © 2018 BauerCombs & Associates, Inc. Landscape Architects www.bauercombs.com (425) 496-7772
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Susan Combs Bauer, Landscape Architect www.bauercombs.com