Thursday, April 19, 2012

How do I add outdoor speakers to my home audio system?

So you would like to add a pair of speakers to your outdoor patio or deck, but you don't want to break your wallet doing it. Good news, it's easy and inexpensive!

Using a selector box to add speakers is a cheap and easy way to expand your stereo's capabilities. A four channel selector box is a simple solutions to expand the number of speakers you can connect to your existing amplifier. Utilizing an impedance matching selector box like this one from Theater Solutions (TS4) will protect your amplifier for only $39.99 (msrp: $134.99) while allowing the wattage to be shared amongst additional speakers. The TS4 allows you to add up to four pairs of speakers to your current stereo system. Connect the selector box from the output of your receiver to the L/R positive/negative inputs on the selector box, with standard raw stereo wire.

It is important to know how many watts per channel your existing receiver/amplifier outputs at 8ohms. Find this information in the receivers manual,  if you don't know where the manual is, not to worry most manuals are available digitally on-line. Search for the manual by the model number of your amplifier / receiver with the additional word "manual" on your favorite search engine. If your amp only offers 50w per channel or less, then you need to consider upgrading your amp/receiver. Most home receivers and amplifiers produce 100w per channel at 8 ohms. Remember the selector box only splits the power between each zone that is engaged. So if you have two zones running, that is four speakers, with a 100w amplifier, each speaker is receiving approximately 25w. This doesn't sound like much, but home audio speakers these days are much more efficient and can perform beautifully on very little wattage.

Next, select a pair of outdoor speakers, that match the needs of your environment. This is an excellent product to take the warranty into consideration when you are making your purchasing decision. Make sure you select a sealed enclosure that has been tested to withstand harsh environmental stresses, like moisture, dust, temperature and direct sunlight.  Remember sound is directional and because outdoor audio usually does not have the benefit of walls and ceilings, the placement and angle of the speakers is critical. When deciding on the location of your new speakers, envision the area of your patio or deck that will receive the most use. In some situations it is the around the table and chairs, but for another it might be the pool. Be realistic about how far apart you install your speakers, again, sound will not travel as far outside as it will inside therefore you will need to install your speakers a little closer together.

Once you have selected your outdoor speakers, you will need an outdoor grade, 2 conductor speaker wire. The speaker wire can be purchased by the foot off the roll, but you will usually end up spending more, than if you purchase a standard 100ft or 500 ft roll (sell the remaining wire on Craigslist). Measure the distance of the "run", or how far from your amplifier to the speakers the speaker wire will travel, any run over 40ft. should use a thicker speaker wire, 14 gauge can be used for runs up to 70ft. A hundred foot roll of two conductor 14 gauge speaker wire will run you about $44.99. 

There are several ways to get the wire from your receiver to your speakers. The easiest scenario is running the speaker wire through an attic or crawl space, if that is not possible, the second easiest solution is using exterior conduit that you paint to match the house, or try running the wire under the base board or crown molding. Finally, there are cable fishing tools and tape available on the market to make the wire installation easier, I have included a couple of links to additional resources regarding snaking speaker wire.

Follow the instruction for mounting your speakers, outdoor speakers are quick and easy to mount, and are a great addition to any outdoor environment. Visit for additional support in selecting and installing an outdoor speaker system.

Snaking Wire Suggestions:
Pirate 4x4 Forum
Yahoo! Answers

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