The weather is finally warming up here in the Midwest, after a winter that just wouldn’t seem to end. This now means two things:
1. Amy is tasking me with a hellacious amount of yardwork.
2. I get to enjoy my outdoor speakers.
I suppose there were a million ways I could’ve gone with an outdoor system, but for me, part of it fell on luck, and part of it fell on good shopping.
I run my outdoor speakers off of my main system in my living room, taking the analog output of my Sony ES carousel player (the optical output is what I use for inside listening), and run that to an old Denon DRA-95VR receiver that I picked up locally for 30 bucks. It does an incredible job. From there, speaker wires run under my living room, through the crawl space, through the wall, and right to the first stop- the OSD subwoofer.
OSD Audio OM-SUB200 Outdoor subwoofer ($88)
I took a chance and bought this online last year when we first moved into our house, and I was installing my outdoor system. The OSD is an 8”, passive sub that gets partially buried into the ground. Don’t expect the same performance out of this that you would out of a powered sub. However, for what this is, it gives a very nice performance. Bass response is smooth, never overwhelming or boomy, but not particularly punchy either. It just adds nice bottom end that would be difficult to attain in a backyard situation. Just what the doctor ordered, really.
Once buried, you can plant around it, making it pretty unobtrusive. At first I was worried about the bright green color, but once you have plants and flowers around it, it disappears nicely into the garden. It features a built-in crossover, so you just run receiver’s or amplifier’s wires directly to it, and then it gives you leads to split off to your satellites. You simply run outdoor wire from there. The sound is omnidirectional, making is sonically unobtrusive as well. It does a nice job of blending in with the proper satellite speakers, which I’ll get to now.
JBL Control 25
I got quite lucky when I came across these as part of a buyout with some other gear. By the time all was said and done, I picked them up for a song. Normally about $300 a pair (and well worth it), these came my way for about 15 bucks in the end. I was very excited that they also had all their hardware included with them. They were ready to go.
Installation was a cinch. This is always a big deal when dealing with outdoor speakers. You want speakers that will allow you to mount them solidly, and aim them exactly where you want them, as sound dispersion in your backyard is key.
The sound is where it really counts, though. As a musician, I’ve used JBL’s products for years, and have always had very good results. While the Control Series does great in a residential environment, it is actually a professional installation speaker, found in great establishments all over the world. I’d been using them back in my audio design days many moons ago. The moment I got the last wire connected and fired them up, I was reminded exactly why.
These speakers are truly superior to so much of what is out there for typical outdoor speakers. They bring me so much joy when I’m out in my backyard. Right now, I’m listening to the “Riding with the King” album from Eric Clapton and B.B. King. The JBLs’ ability to reproduce and separate the various instruments is fantastic, particularly with the upright piano. That’s a tough instrument to faithfully belt out for any speaker, let alone in an outdoor environment. Speaking of tough, “Key to the Highway” just started. Vintage acoustic guitars are also a tall order to reproduce well. Getting the sharpness of the strings, the depth of the bodies, and yet keeping them full-sounding is difficult. The 25’s do it… well… professionally. The low end is round and rich. Vocals are thick. They make it very easy to listen to them all day, which is good, because there’s still a lot of mulch to lay down in these flower beds! I’ll be listening to a few more CDs on them while I’m out here today.
One other great thing about the Control 25’s is the tight dispersion pattern. They keep the sound in my backyard, without spilling much into my neighbors’ yards. I can crank these up pretty well, filling my 1200 square foot patio with amazing sound, and still keep relations pleasant. Very important in suburbia.
This model has since been replaced and updated but are easily found out there in the marketplace used. However, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second if you’re so inclined to buy the new models, either. You really can’t go wrong. Happy hunting!