Having an outdoor sound system improves the ambiance of your outdoor living space. Music, or sports broadcasts, can make entertaining more fun, while socializing with friends. The key to making this type of project work is to find areas that will protect the system from the rigors of weather, and to place the speakers in areas that will be beneficial for a group.
Outdoor sound system elements
The primary elements that make up a sound system include:
- Main control for the system, including a radio, CD player/tape player, and settings for the sound and speakers
- Amplifiers or sub-woofers to help boost bass sounds
Most outdoor sound systems can be purchased as a kit that already includes most of these items. For those that don’t, you can easily purchase the pieces you need individually.
Preparing to install the outdoor sound system
It’s important to look for areas where the sound system equipment will be sheltered from the elements to some degree. While the actual components of the system are designed for the outdoors, this usually refers to the housing used to encase the working parts of the system which can withstand weather. Despite insulation, the wiring used to connect everything cannot. Look for places where you can place wires under eaves, lattice work, porches, decking, or any other surface that can protect the wiring involved with the system.
Tips for getting prepared for the wiring
Consulting an electrician before starting the installation process is always wise. If there is faulty wiring in the home or external outlets, this could mean big trouble with outdoor wiring. This is also a good way to be doubly cautious when it comes to water intercepting the wiring, which can be a fire hazard.
Purchasing the proper wire
When purchasing the wire or cords used for this project, it is important to specify that it will be used for audio. Audio wiring comes with two different feeds used with the same wire, left sound and right sound, so purchasing one roll of wire will suffice for both needs. If audio wire is not purchased, the sound will not transfer to the speakers, and the entire process will be a waste of time.
Tools and supplies for an outdoor sound system installation
For this project there are some tools you should have available. The following is a great list to start with, and you can add as you go:
- Wire cutters and strippers
- Staple gun
- Wire connectors
- Adapters for the controlling unit
- Mounting brackets or shelving
- Stationary box to cover the control unit
- Weatherproof strip cord covers
These are all items that you will use once the installation process begins. It is advisable to also have a level in the case of installing shelving. This will help to ensure that the speakers won’t fall off an uneven surface.
With all outdoor sound systems, instructions are provided to make sure that the setup is done perfectly, and that the desired sound quality is achieved. The instructions will have the exact gauge of wire that is needed for that specific set of equipment, and suggestions on the best use of the materials. Following the manufacturer instructions will provide optimal results, especially if you stay within guarantee and warranty specifications.
Installing an outdoor sound system
You have all of tools and materials needed to begin the installation process. The first step is to place the speakers and other accessories in areas that you think would provide the best quality of sound. Place the control unit in a stationary location, and double check that all the equipment is protected from water or away from dangers posed by inclement weather. At this point, the unit will not work because there is no power source, so you will be working on this with the expectation that tweaking will be involved after installation.
Wiring the outdoor sound system
Once the system has been placed into the initial area that you desire, it is time to run the wire. This is where having the help of an electrician comes in handy, but it’s not necessary if you have familiarity with electrical systems. Here is a list of steps that can make the process easier:
- Measure out the length of wire needed. DO NOT fasten the wire by stapling just yet. Just have a rough layout, and always give yourself more than what you think you need.
- Using the wire stripping end of the cutters, strip away part of the wire, exposing the copper inside.
- Slip the copper portion of the wire into the hole provided on the back of the speaker, or cap with an adapter that can be snapped into the back of the speaker.
- When you need more wire from a new spool, simply connect it to the previous piece by using a plastic wire connector. You will need to strip the plastic coating of the two wires, then slip them into the connector and twist. This step, known as splicing wires, is how you’ll join multiple speakers to the same control unit.
Finalizing the wiring setup
Once the wiring is all in place and you’ve turned on the system and checked the sound, you can begin to fasten the wiring to the protective surfaces. Using a staple gun works great for this process, but make sure to not puncture the wire with the staple or it will short the wire out and make that speaker useless. For the control unit, use an outdoor extension cord, and cover it with an outdoor wire strip. This will protect the cord and prevent tripping.
Alternatives: wireless sound systems
If you’re looking to avoid the planning and execution set up as described above, there are a choices in wireless sound systems, some of which work with your iPod, to consider. Even though this is an upfront cost, and doesn’t integrate the system into your home, it may be the better choice, depending on your skills with wiring, climate, or house placement.
Enjoy the sounds of summer
After all of your hard work is over, invite friends over for a BBQ. Listen to a baseball game, or have a music-themed party; an 80s night, a disco party, whatever music you love. Enjoy the sounds of summer, and enjoy your outdoor living space even more than before!
Check this video for more detailed instructions as to how to install an outdoor sound system!