Alternatively, maybe you want the ability to enjoy the outdoor weather without missing the big game on TV. Either way, having the ideal outdoor entertainment setup will allow you to do more with your outdoor living space, simply by making it a more enjoyable place to spend time.
Before you get started, though, it’s important to realize that an outdoor entertainment system is more than just a set of mounted speakers on your deck. The ideal entertainment setup for your outdoor space is going to depend on the size and layout of the space, and your goals for the system as a whole. In this guide, we will tell you how to size your system based on a few different templates of outdoor living spaces. Of course, our team at Starpower is always happy to help you customize your system based on more specific needs. Feel free to reach out to us at any point if you have questions or want some one-on-one assistance for designing your system.
Planning Your Complete Outdoor System
For the purposes of this article, we break the conversation into distinct categories: entertainment setups for smaller deck or patio spaces and entertainment setups for whole, large yards. Obviously, it’s possible that your outdoor living space might land somewhere between these two poles. We’ll provide a few tips along the way about how you can adapt a setup to suit the size and layout of your specific space.
This setup option is ideal for what is probably the most common type of residential outdoor living space. Most homeowners don’t have huge yards. Even if they do, they often don’t use the entire yard; activities focus instead around the smaller outdoor living spots right beyond the doors of the house. It’s in these spaces where grilling happens, or where you might enjoy evening meals outdoors on pleasant evenings. Regardless, for these small spaces, you don’t need a ton of firepower to achieve crisp, loud, and satisfying audio. A pair of stereo speakers will likely do the trick.
At Starpower, most of our outdoor speakers are intended for mounted installations. Many of these mounted speakers have in-wall or in-ceiling designs, which are unobtrusive and protect the speakers from the elements. Which speakers are right for your setup will depend on a few different factors. For instance, if you have a covered porch area or a charming pergola or overhang, ceiling-mounted speakers might fit the bill nicely. If your outdoor area is mostly an open-air space, then in-wall speakers are probably going to be the preferable option. Most speakers aren’t entirely waterproof or weatherproof, which means that they will need some level of cover or protection. Mounting them right underneath the eaves of your roof will do the trick but be careful not to install them too high: putting your speakers more than about 10 feet above the ground or listening area will result in a weirdly far-off sound.
For stereo speakers in smaller outdoor living spaces, setting things up so that the right speaker and the left speaker are about 10 feet apart will yield the best results. Leaving more space between the speakers will result in a thin and wimpy sound. Since music producers and mixers utilize a lot of “panning” when mixing audio recordings (wherein different sounds or instruments skew toward either the right or left “channel” of the stereo setup), separating your speakers too much can make it feel as if you only hear one-half of the song, depending on where you are standing. Positioning your speakers correctly will ensure a more natural “blend” of sound, creating a full-bodied audio presentation that you and your guests will appreciate. If you feel that you need to spread your speakers further apart to cover a whole area in sound, that might be a sign that you need a more extensive audio setup for your outdoor living space.
For a larger outdoor space—such as a swimming pool area or a spacious yard—you are going to need a more complex audio setup. You want an installation that can deliver enough sonic punch, at even enough intervals, to make sure that there are no “dead spots” in the yard. You want the sound to be loud, even, and clear no matter where you are in the yard. As a result, an outdoor sound system for a pool or a large yard will typically require multiple separate speaker setups, arranged into different “zones.”
If you have a whole-house audio system, you are probably already familiar with the concept of different audio zones. You might have speakers in your kitchen, your living room, and your master bedroom; all hooked up to the same audio system. With a zone system, each speaker setup is effectively separate from the others—even though they are all linked to the same audio receiver and amplifier. In other words, you can play a song on your stereo and have it come through the speakers at each zone, but you also have the freedom to turn off specific zones or adjust the volume differently in each zone.
The same basic idea applies to a zoned outdoor system. Each zone has its separate speaker setup, and you can adjust the volume to each set individually, but they are all linked into the same system. This setup gives you more control over the volume of your outdoor audio while still ensuring that all the speakers are playing the same audio simultaneously. The result is a rich, full-bodied sound—no matter where you are sitting or standing.
If you’ve tried setting one up, only to determine that a pair of stereo speakers aren’t powerful enough to meet your outdoor audio needs, you are likely going to require a zoned system. You’ll need to decide how many zones you need and how to arrange your speakers into a practical zoned layout. Our team at Starpower can help with these considerations.
Obviously, there is some complexity to any zoned speaker setup. You don’t want to buy too many speakers, lest you overspend on your outdoor entertainment system or create a setup that is too loud and overbearing even at lower volume levels. The challenge is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for a zoned outdoor installation. Where you place your speakers and how you zone them will depend entirely on how big your yard is and how you have arranged the layout.
To start, try to think of your yard as if it were part of your house, split into different rooms. Indoors, you’d mostly need a separate zone for each room of the house. Zone 1 might be the living room, while zone 2 could be the kitchen and zone 3 could be the home theater. Zones can be different sizes—for instance, a very large open-concept living room/dining room/kitchen space might only need one zone—but walls or other barriers will likely demand a break in zones. With outdoor entertainment setups, factors such as distance, trees, structures, or simple orientation of speakers/sound can dictate how you arrange the zones. For instance, your porch/patio area might be the first zone, and your pool area might be the second. An outdoor sound system for a pool area works best when the speakers are all angled toward the pool, which means swimming pool spaces are almost always their own zones. Other areas that might necessitate individual outdoor zones include gazebos, fire-pit areas, or hot tub/spa setups.
In any of these zones—barring, perhaps, the patio area—you are going to want to steer clear of stereo speakers. While stereo speaker setups are ideal in spots where you only need two speakers, they pose challenges for larger spaces where you need more speakers. For instance, you might need six to ten separate speakers to surround your entire swimming pool. If some of these speakers are putting out a left channel and others are putting out a right channel, you are going to get a weird balance of sound. You’ll want speakers that have both right and left connections so that each speaker is putting out a full mix of the music.
A Note on Stereo Receivers, Amplifiers, and Connections
Once you’ve figured out a speaker strategy for your outdoor audio installation, the next step is to think about the other components of the system: the receiver, the amplifier, the wiring, and volume controls.
It can be tempting to hook your outdoor system into the same stereo setup you have in your home. That way, you can have the same audio playing indoors and outdoors. If you have “open-door” parties, where the gathering starts in the kitchen or living room but spills out onto the patio or deck, this kind of setup can be ideal. Plus, if your indoor system is already set up so that you can adjust the volume via your smartphone or tablet, this feature will make your outdoor system easier to manage.
This kind of indoor/outdoor setup can work well if you 1) have a smaller outdoor area/system and 2) have an amplifier that is powerful enough to handle all those speakers and zones. Talk to Starpower to find out if your current amp is powerful enough to add an outdoor zone or two. If not, consider either upgrading the amp or having a separate receiver and amplifier setup for the outdoor sound system.
For multi-zone outdoor setups, you are probably going to want a standalone receiver/amplifier setup. A three-zone outdoor sound system for pool, patio, and gazebo/fire-pit/hot tub could demand a dozen or more speakers by itself. Hooking this system into your house audio setup—which might already have 15 speakers—may or may not be possible. Again, consult with our team at Starpower to learn more about what the possibilities are. If you need an independent receiver and amp installation for your outdoor area, we can help you with every piece of that—from picking out the right equipment to installing outdoor volume adjustments, all the way to wiring all the speakers to the system.
Outdoor audio systems are a popular choice these days for many reasons. Who doesn’t want to have a good way to play music during a barbecue or a pool party? It’s significantly less typical to install video capabilities outdoors—albeit, not an unheard-of concept. It’s natural to want to spend as much time outdoors when the weather is perfect. A covered patio space with good airflow can easily serve as a stand-in for a living room during the spring and summer months, and what is a living room without a big-screen TV?
At Starpower, we can help you explore different options for outdoor video—including TV screens, projectors, and projector screens. Linking these elements into a well-planned outdoor sound system can turn your backyard into the equivalent of a summertime drive-in theater—perfect for late-night movies under the stars. You can even invite the whole neighborhood! Just don’t forget to make popcorn.
Contact Starpower for Help Planning Your Outdoor Entertainment System
Whether you are trying to install an audio system for a modest-sized patio or designing a sprawling outdoor sound system for a pool and backyard space, Starpower can help. Not only do we stock the right hardware for the job—from receivers and amplifiers to mounted speakers ideal for outdoor use—but we also have the knowledge and experience necessary to ensure perfect results. Trust us for help with speaker selection, speaker placement, zone design, system control/automation, and much more. With our help, you can turn your next barbecue or patio party into a truly rocking good time.
To get started on your system, contact us today.