Back in the spring, my wife and I decided we were finally going to outfit our outdoor space with a proper sound system. Like many folks, we weren’t sure exactly where to start. We definitely wanted the convenience and flexibility of wireless speakers, but had heard stories of decreased sound quality and dropped connections. So I did what I was born to do: deeply research the two options and pick the one that was best for my situation. So, are wired or wireless outdoor speakers the right choice for you? I’ve compiled a complete list of research so you can have all of the information you need. Armed with this handy guide, you’ll be able to quickly choose between wired and wireless speakers!
Pros and Cons
In case you just want to get the information as fast as possible, here’s a list of pros and cons for wireless and wired speakers.
Wired Speaker Pros
- Most dependable
- Better sound quality
- Superior wattage / loudness
- Flexibility for what kind of hardware you can install (amplifiers, receivers, etc)
Wired Speaker Cons
- Not easy to move once installed
- Can be unsightly if you do a poor wire job
- Need to match your speaker power to your amplifier
- More prone to damage from the outdoor elements
- Most expensive
Wireless Speaker Pros
- No wires to contend with
- Flexibility with speaker setup
- Easy to extend with additional speakers
- Less research needed to buy quality system
- Ideal for indoor and outdoor environments
Wireless Speaker Cons
- No control over amplification or conversion
- Reduced overall sound quality
- Difficult to connect external equipment
- Prone to audio interference
- “Meek” sound compared to wired speakers
What We Mean By “Wireless”
So, what are “wireless speakers?” Does it actually mean no wires at all? Although there are speakers that boast no cords whatsoever, wireless is simply no speaker wires. Most wireless outdoor speakers still need to be powered, which means they need to plug into a power source. Speakers require quite a bit of electricity, so it’s hard to find a decent pair of battery powered units. One caveat here, I’m including speaker kits which include wireless receivers. These speakers are technically wired, but because the receiver is wireless you can treat them like their wireless speaker cousins.
Which Are Better?
With that impressive list of pros and cons, you might be wondering which is better: wired or wireless speakers? It depends entirely on your use case. Wireless speakers are better when sound quality is secondary and you want to set a system up quickly without much hassle. Wired speakers are better when you want to maximize your sound quality and expand your system with audiophile hardware later on. However, since we’re talking about outdoor speakers for your patio, it changes the overall calculations a bit.
For an outdoor setup on a patio, I would opt for wireless speakers if you can afford them and don’t mind a reduction in audio quality. Why would you pick wireless over wired for an outdoor speaker set up? Two main reasons — ease of setup and harsh weather.
Wireless speakers are a breeze to setup. You don’t have to run any copper wire, so you don’t have to worry about cable management. You can simply hang the wireless speaker wherever you see a power outlet and turn it on (following the manufacturers instructions). It doesn’t get easier than that.—
There’s another problem with cable management. The mere existence of copper wiring increases the likelihood of a short. This risk is amplified by being outdoors.
When debating between outdoor wired vs. wireless speakers, cost is naturally a concern everyone should have. How much more expensive are high quality wired speakers than the type of wireless speakers on the market. First, let’s look at a few good quality wired speakers.
|Outdoor Wired Speaker
|Polk Audio Atrium 4 80W Speakers (link)
|Bose 251 Wall Mount Environmental Speakers (link)
|Definitive Technology AW6500 Outdoor Speaker (link)
|Kicker KB-6 Full Range Indoor/Outdoor Speakers (link)
Now, let’s compare those prices to their wireless cousins.
|Bose SoundLink Bluetooth Speaker II (link)
|Pohopa Outdoor Speakers with Bluetooth Amplifier (link)
Using Both Together
Is it possible to use both wired and wireless speakers together? Yes, it is! If you have an indoor sound setup you enjoy and simply want to extend it to your outdoor area, you can simply hook up your wireless speakers outside and connect to them via bluetooth. Many folks will suggest that you daisy chain your existing setup outside, but I can’t speak how to effective this is. You’ll want to do your research before attempting a daisy chain setup.
Making Wired Speakers Wireless
If you already have a set of wireless speakers, it makes sense why you’d want to avoid buying additional units. After all, a penny saved is a penny earned. However, it’s completely possible to turn your existing wired speakers into wireless versions of themselves! It’s not wizardry: all you have to do is buy a standard conversion kit.
What are wireless speaker conversion kits? These are innovative pieces of hardware that can turn any standard wired speaker mostly wireless. What do I mean by “mostly wireless?” Well, you still need to run the cabling from the conversion kit to your speakers. However, this distance is usually very short. Wireless speaker conversion kits work by packaging a receiver/amplifier into a small package that only needs a standard 120v outlet. Many are even dual channel and will support multiple speakers.
If this sounds like it’s more up your alley, I recommend the Amphony 1700:
If you’re attempting to make your wired speakers wireless, there are environmental considerations to take into account. So, can speakers spend the night in extremely cold temperatures? Unfortunately, not usually. Unless you specifically buy all-weather speakers, your system may suffer damage when exposed to extreme hot or extreme cold. You’ll want to double check the manufacturer’s recommendations before converting your indoor speakers to wireless outdoor speakers.
Why is this? The speakers themselves will probably be okay in extreme temperatures. People regularly ship speakers in airplane cargo holds where the temperature routinely reaches -30 degrees F. However, the wooden/plastic enclosure will suffer fatigue and damage when regularly exposed to the elements.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t use them for outdoor speakers, but it does mean that you’ll want to take them inside whenever the weather gets too intense.
How Many Speakers Do You Need?
How many speakers do you need outside on your patio? For a small area, usually no more than two. Outdoor acoustics are a lot different than indoor acoustics. While you may see a benefit in a 7.1 setup in your living room, you won’t see the same kind of return outdoors.
Your average patio is roughly 300-500 square feet. A pair of 60-watt patio speakers can give you complete sound coverage for your area. I wouldn’t try to overdo it unless you’re planning on holding a music festival! If you have a larger area or simply want to know how to determine what wattage you need for your patio, you can check out this other guide I wrote.
Should You Cover Your Outdoor Speakers?
Even if the outdoor speakers you end up buying are classified as weather-resistant, you should still fully cover them. You should always place your speakers strategically, typically under awnings and overhangs. They should also be at least a few inches off the ground, as brief standing water can completely ruin your audio setup.
Consider Portable Speakers
Instead of considering wired vs. wireless speakers, you might simply go a step further and pick up a completely portable speaker system. The technology has came a long way since the boom boxes of yesterday and there are many small systems that pack a real punch. Then, when you’re done listening, you can simply bring the speakers back indoors and enjoy your tunes inside.
With portable speakers, you’ll avoid worrying about exposure to the elements, but you’ll also sacrifice a large amount of sound quality / loudness. I’ll leave it up to you to determine which is the best choice for your situation.