Listening Outdoors

Discussion in 'Speakers' started by Chris Tsutsui, Jul 2, 2003.

  1. Chris Tsutsui

    Chris Tsutsui Screenwriter

    Feb 1, 2002
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    Recently I've been working on a lot of backyards and have had the opportunity to test out multiple types of outdoor speakers side by side and thought I'd post my thoughts on the different types.

    First type is the TIC Pro Omni Polar loudspeaker. These are about $100ea and offer 360 degree sound. These played with the worse sound quality but what I did hear was very hard to localize. They had some bass, and the cabinets seemed to shake a bit at higher SPLs. These reminded me of "theme park" sound and didn't do a decent job at producing vocals and had pretty much no highs, but these did do an excellent job at creating ambient music. When far away, these sound great which leads me to believe these were designed to produce "ambient" music for an environment and not for any critical listening. They are not fatiguing at high levels, they just don't sound very accurate to the sound recording.

    2nd type is TIC Terrasic Bluff stone speakers for $140ea. I preferred these over the Omni polars because they had more bass, a lot more highs, but were more ugly. These have to be placed out of view in nice backyards due to the ugly face with holes. The finish and quality is excellent. These speakers produce vocals better, but still have a "hollow" coloration yet are not fatiguing. These had more directional sound and they begin to sound similar to the omnis if they are placed out of view shooting away from the listener. These seemed to be a bit more sensitive and were able to play louder.

    3rd type is the more popular "under the eave" JBL N26AWii loudspeakers for $100 a pair on sale (Regular $250pr). These had the most bass by far, yet the bass was a bit boomy. The sound reminds me almost of Pro audio speaker in that they have a full sound to them. They dont' sound small but gave male vocals too much bass. This sounded good from far away (about 15+ feet), but a bit unbalanced any closer. The plastic had some resonance which I thought contributed to the upper bass boom. These are pretty bulky but look attractive enough to fit well under the eaves of the house. Another quirk I have is that these didn't come with brackets or screws. I ended up building my own "hook" type brackets and saving the buyer like $100 per pair. I'd get these over the above speakers if I wanted sound quality as these did a better job at sound reproduction.

    When I setup 4 of these in a stereo array, I could only hear one of them at a time. The closest loudspeaker was the only one I heard. I think this is due to the directionality of highs. The omnis don't play "pinpoint" sound so they might suit some situations better than directional speakers.

    Last, is my personal pick of the outdoor speakers tested. The sound of these reminded me of some high end home theater speakers due to their clear, undistorted and well balanced sound. They were the MTX Model MP42W loudspeakers which ran for $90ea (Parts express part number 302-004). These were the only MTM outdoor speakers I tried, but I fell in love with them. The sound is the most detailed out of any outdoor speaker above, and I am able to hear things even my home theater speakers played too subtle. (GR-Research AV-3s) These reminded me of my new Vifa 2-way Dipoles in that they have a very forward and clear soundstage yet lack bass. When backed against a wall, there is some bass reinforcement but these still are missing some. Since peoples' biggest concern is neighbors comlaining about sound, I thought bass isn't really a priority in outdoor setups thus crowning this my pick. I suppose an outdoor subwoofer could be a solution to those who want outside bass, but I havn't met a client's wife that wanted outdoor bass enhancement. [​IMG]

    The best part about these MTX speakers, is that they are extremly small and slim, yet had the most sensitivity of the speakers tested. 88db sensitivity may seem like a low number, but these are considerably louder than the above speakers (per 1 watt) and the speakers above have sensitivy ratings as high as 91db. This reminds me that the pressure sensitivity of some speakers is measured without the housing and can be different from the actual installed performance. I guess I can't really go by sensitivy ratings all the time and have to hear which speakers need the minimal amount of watts to play loud. In large backyards involving multiple speakers, I feel that high sensitivy is a real benefit because the amp doesn't have to be that big.

    My biggest quirk with these speakers is the lack of bass. These are rated only to 110hz and I feel that they rated it correctly. It is because these play so LOUD without sounding compressed is why they are so good. The speakers weigh a beefy 9 lbs and feel very sturdy. They come with brackets, and come with the mounting option as a center channel. They are meant for outdoor AND as home theater speakers. After trying these in my HT, I can see why people would choose this outdoor speakers for their home theater. They'd need a sub though because of their "small" sound. I do not know how these will sound in a large backyard though but I'll find out tomorrow.

    I hope this was of some help to those wondering how the above speakers actually sounded. If you have any questions on how a speaker sounds let me know as the review is pretty brief. I'll have pictures of some nice backyards added to a website soon for posting.
  2. John Gido

    John Gido Second Unit

    Jun 18, 2001
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    Thanks for the timely information. I, too, am interested in setting up outdoor speakers for my modest backyard. The Polk Atrium 55 is high on my list of speakers to listen to. Have you had any experience with that model? If so, I'd be interested in your opinion.

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