Outdoor Technology Delivers

A sound system is key to creating the outdoor living environment. Whether it’s a backyard barbecue for the entire neighborhood or a quiet afternoon in the hammock, music sets the mood for the outdoor experience. Fortunately, speaker systems are now able to blend with a home’s architecture or act as a landscape accent. And the garden atmosphere can be further enhanced with some interesting and dramatic lighting options.

“Consumers want sound everywhere they intend to entertain or relax, which more and more includes the outdoor environment,” says Al Baron, product line manager, Polk Audio. “As a result, outdoor speaker sales have grown steadily over the last seven years according to the Consumer Electronics Association market research, reaching over $56 million at wholesale in 2007. This probably tracks the remodeling growth that includes decks, sunrooms and three-season rooms. Also, multiroom [audio] systems are more affordable, so outdoor zones are included in the mix.”

Polk Audio’s Atrium 65SDI has a dual-input/single-input switch that, combined with its dual tweeter array, allows the product to be used either as a single, dual-input speaker for stereo applications, or a traditional single-input speaker for left or right use. The Atrium 65SDI also has special military spec waterproofing features, including a patented waterproof PowerPort bass vent. The product features stainless steel and brass hardware for years of rustproof reliability. The speaker meets or exceeds ASTM D5894-UV salt fog, mil standard 810 immersion and mil standard 883 method 1009.8 for salt and corrosion tests.

“When offered, consumers overwhelmingly agree to an outdoor sound installation,” Baron adds. “The problem is they don’t know it’s available unless someone tells them. During softer economic times, selling the sizzle of quality outdoor sound is just smart business that always results in a customer that is likely to provide great referrals.”

To satisfy nearly any customer need, Paradigm offers the Stylus Series v.3 outdoor speakers in six different models, including two new stereo/mono models. The Stylus 470-SM and Stylus 370-SM provide a dual-directional soundfield for more flexibility in outdoor placement. One SM speaker provides two-channel sound in smaller areas, or where use of a single speaker is preferred. Multiple SM speakers eliminate the sound imbalances that occur outside as people are positioned closer to one stereo speaker than the other. Designed with injection-molded co-polymer bass/midrange cones, the Stylus Series delivers an exceptionally detailed and authentic midrange performance.

Russound’s new Ratio Outdoor is the latest addition to the company’s Ratio line of high-efficiency architectural speakers promising rich, detailed sonics in low-power installations. The Ratio Outdoor is the first model in the series that is intended for outdoor installation. Ratio Outdoor compensates for anomalies that are typically associated with outdoor listening, such as background noise and a lack of acoustic boundaries, with increased sensitivity rated at 94db. Designed for on-wall placement, Russound’s Ratio Outdoor measures 23.6 in. wide by 7.9 in. high by 8.0 in. deep, weighs 11.3 lbs. and is available in black or white.

SpeakerCraft’s Outdoors Elements Series includes eight different speaker models for exterior application. Depending on individual need, these speakers offer 5-in., 6-in. or even 8-in. woofers. Midrange and high frequencies are produced using advanced cone and dome drivers.

Sonance’s Symphony Extreme selection of rectangular in-wall and round in-ceiling designs features the elegance of built-in speakers for outdoor locations. The Symphony Extreme ceiling model is a single stereo design, while three wall systems offer rugged design for superior sound quality. Available designs include flushed-in speakers in protected outdoor locations such as screen porches or poolside deck soffits, or high-humidity indoor locations such as spas or baths. Symphony Extreme is moisture-resistant and built to survive temperatures from -30 to 220 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Rock Rage

A December 2007 survey of leading members of the American Society of Landscape Architects reveals homeowners are asking for outdoor “great rooms” incorporating the living room, dining room and kitchen for family gatherings and outdoor entertaining. To better blend the inside with the outside, some speaker manufacturers have fashioned their products into everyday garden elements.

“Homeowners are reconnecting with their outdoor space, often in creative and imaginative ways,” says Perry Howard, president of ASLA. “It’s no surprise that people want to take elements that work so well inside their home and re-create them outside.”

The outdoor living market isn’t new, but it has recently seen dramatic growth and outdoor technology has caught up. Mark Pickard, director of marketing, Sonance, is well aware of the growth. He says, “It comes from the desire to expand the living space of the home outdoors whenever the weather allows, and when you have invested in a whole-house audio system, there is strong motivation to include the outdoor living spaces in the plan.”

The Sonance rock speakers are full-fidelity loudspeakers and subwoofer disguised as a naturalistic landscaping feature, available in grey-granite or brown-sandstone tones. The SoundHenge Redux rock enclosures follow the same principle but in an outer-enclosure-only design that accepts most of Sonance’s Mariner line of fully enclosed outdoor speakers.

SpeakerCraft’s wide-coverage Rox fires woofers in opposite directions to fill the area with sound. The product is designed with two 6½-in. polypropylene woofers with sealed voice coil and silicone-encased leads. The company’s Sub8 Rox line features an 8-in. polypropylene woofer and BBxw10 250-watt powered amplifier. It has rear-mounted low-pass crossover and phase control with front-mounted volume control.

Niles Audio offers a number of GeoRealistic weatherproof rock loudspeakers designed to look like real granite, speckled granite, sandstone or coral rocks. The lineup consists of three series, for a total of 12 loudspeakers. The RS5 Series features a 51/4-in. woofer and a 3/4-in. tweeter. The RS6 Series features a 61/2-in. woofer and a 1-in. tweeter. The RS8Si Series features a dual-voice coil 8-in. woofer and dual 1-in. tweeters. Several of the loudspeakers can be installed in either single speaker monaural, traditional two-speaker stereo or as a single-speaker stereo input “Si” configuration. All Niles RS Series rock loudspeakers are fully weatherproof and durable.

Niles also recently introduced the PS6si Outdoor Planter Speaker. This unique speaker is a powerful, all-weather speaker that also holds live plants and flowers. The PS6si is designed to blend with pools, patios, porches, decks and gardens, while delivering high-quality sound thanks to a proprietary 61/2-in. dual-voice coil woofer and two 1-in. fluid-cooled Tetron tweeters. With the tweeters mounted at opposing angles, a single PS6si can project a stereo soundstage of depth and clarity from a single speaker. To withstand the elements, the PS6si is made of fiberglass and is protected by a UV-resistant paint. Its 10-gal. capacity and three drainage holes ensure plants will stay healthy, while screens allow for acoustic transparency, and keep bugs and debris out.

Landscape Luminosity

Landscape lighting can spotlight outdoor design, illuminate to create atmosphere or provide nighttime security. Many stylish lighting options are now on the market delivering mesmerizing effects, captivating colors and bright glows.

Vision3 Lighting’s low-voltage cast bronze pathway bollard comes with a 25-year warranty. Its compact size and heavy-duty construction make it ideal for residential applications where light-duty, low-voltage path lighting cannot survive. Lamping options include halogen and LED, and it can be ordered with or without an integral transformer. Vison3 also offers a round step light that is available with LED and MR16 halogen lamps. The step lights feature heavy walled cast aluminum or bronze faceplates with all stainless steel hardware. An adjustable faceplate allows for perfect rotational alignment.

Radiant Lighting Solutions offers a unique line of LED fixtures that can be mounted directly inside masonry, thanks to the long life of the light source (more than 80,000 hours). LEDs provide the basis for a line of ground-recessed pavers, drive-over markers and wall fixtures designed to ensure nighttime accessibility. The LED fixtures are available in white, amber, blue, green and red. Suitable for both indoor and outdoor applications, this new line of Radiant LED fixtures combine design and durability with technology.

Malibu, a product line of Intermatic Inc., offers an array of attractive and durable outdoor lighting fixtures and accessories that are easy to install. The SolarSelect Premium Metal Garden Lights line includes eight new styles perfect for lighting driveways, pathways, patios and decks. The lights are constructed of cast aluminum with a variety of finishes from oil-rubbed bronze to tarnished copper. Malibu also offers Premium Post/Deck Light in a new design that features four-way use, including in-ground, post-mount, bracket-mount for wall mounting and/or tabletop. The fixture has a cast aluminum structure and features a frosted globe. For home security, Malibu’s solar flood lights have a four-LED design that delivers 30 percent higher light output for optimum coverage and safety.

Intermatic’s 24-hour outdoor timer handles up to two on and two off settings per day. A full 15-amp capacity controls lighting and heavy-duty loads such as motors and pool pumps. The timer includes a grounded plug and a manual override on/off switch. Additionally, the product includes a waterproof cover and a heavy-duty 18-in. grounded cord. Maximum on time is 23½ hours and minimum on time is a half hour.

Sonance’s Pickard offers advice on speaker selection, which applies to all outdoor products. Builders and remodelers should be careful in choosing outdoor speakers that are designed for harsh environments from a supplier that doesn’t have a history in the category, he says, because “... materials can deteriorate in both sunny and wet spaces, so be sure the customer will stay delighted with the installation for years to come.”

When the only lighting outdoors is coming from a television, the e-coating from Peerless Industries can be applied to virtually any of the company’s TV mounts to make them safe in outdoor areas. The coating is applied to the mount before it is shipped and protects it from the elements such as the rain, snow and cold. The e-coating has been used in outdoor venues for the past 10 years such as stadiums and other various outdoor locations, and is now available. When the television needs to be removed from the mount due to weather concerns, the mount stays protected from the elements.