Conventional "box" speaker manufacturers whose products are designed for protection under a roof soffit should not be compared with a rock/landscape-type product that is designed for the elements

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Alan Rottner | StereoStone

Between a Rock and a Hard Place
How to Choose the Right Outdoor Speaker System for Both Performance and Aesthetic Requirements
By Alan Rottner VP, Sales & Marketing

Conventional "box" speaker manufacturers whose products are designed for protection under a roof soffit should not be compared with a rock/landscape-type product that is designed for the elements

As outdoor entertaining becomes increasingly popular and as technology tries to keep up with today's trends, more and more companies are jumping into the world of outdoor audio systems. It seems as if every day there is another product out in the market that makes just relaxing in the backyard pool with the kids or firing up the BBQ pit for 50 of your closest friends an acoustic experience…one that is to be enjoyed with a sound system comparable to, or sometimes even surpassing, the one in their home theater or listening room.

Synthetic rocks and tree stumps, planters, and common "weatherized" speaker boxes are just some of the choices available to consumers today. But, landscaping requirements, installation procedures, aesthetic desires, durability, and performance are prime considerations one must think of when deciding what system best meets one's needs.

For many, there has been a conflict between what it takes to get the ultimate sound performance without compromising the outdoor aesthetic lifestyle desires of consumers. It just has become commonplace that if you wanted an audio system in the yard, it would be of minimal audio quality and aesthetically unappealing.

The purpose of StereoStone, and other rock-type speaker manufacturers, is to help consumers and landscape designers specify beautiful and elegant speaker solutions that don't look at all like common, everyday speakers. Unfortunately, this is where the performance part of the equation has become a problem for many manufacturers that utilize inferior parts or designs. Where form meets function, for nearly 20 years StereoStone has solved the technical challenges of incorporating high-end consumer audio systems into a package that integrates seamlessly with the outdoor environment. This allows do-it-yourself consumers as well as landscape designers to meet their own or their clients' needs, both in aesthetics and performance.


One of the most, if not the most, common terms used today in the home audio electronics industry is "WAF", or "Wife Acceptance Factor". Basically, what aesthetics will be acceptable to both partners while the performance of the electronics also meets the desire of one or both of the partners? In the world of outdoor audio systems, the WAF is just as important as the performance of the system itself.

In one's home, the WAF has almost become a daily occurrence and why there are so many beautiful home theater systems designed to be aesthetically pleasing and performance-driven, as well. Outdoor systems were never thought of that way. Now they are.

Now, the question that needs answering is: "What outdoor audio system solution will fit seamlessly into an aesthetically-featured yard without compromising the performance of the system or the yard's landscape requirements?"

Overall, the consumer electronics industry has not done a good job of recognizing the important role that landscape designers play in incorporating and utilizing speakers that compliment a landscape's aesthetic appeal. For the better part of two decades, StereoStone has had the answer, and many other speaker manufacturers are finally realizing that this niche part of the industry is becoming quite popular and a moneymaker.

The Elements

A crucial factor when deciding what outdoor landscape speaker system to choose is how the elements will affect the system over a given period of time. The climate the speakers are expected to perform in is also a worthy consideration. Does it rain a lot? Is the average summertime temperature over 100 degrees in direct sunlight? Possible insect infestation?

Conventional box speakers with some weatherproofing that are designed for outdoor use under canopies or patio overhangs are no where near protected enough and would probably not make it through a single winter if left in the elements. One must remember that these speakers that look like normal, everyday sound systems that you could use inside are not designed to weather the elements like most rock-type speakers. They are not designed to handle the sun's constant bombardment of UV rays or getting soaked by torrential downpours.

Build quality is also an important factor when deciding what product would be best for a particular installation, especially if you don't want to have to replace your speakers every couple of years due to deterioration or flat out failure because they could not handle what Mother Nature throws at them.

For instance, American-made StereoStone products are triple protected from outdoor elements, including protection from insects, rain, snow, and ice, as well as from the sun's ultraviolet rays and provide high quality audio performance, and includes a lifetime warranty.

StereoStone has revolutionized the manufacturing of rock speakers because of the unique requirements needs for outdoor audio systems. Rather than using "cement" (too heavy) or "fiberglass" (insufficient density), StereoStone uses several different forms of resin to form the rocks and planters out of molds designed and built at the StereoStone facility in southern California, the hotbed of outdoor leisure activities. Additionally, StereoStone originated the flush "soundstealth" screen replacing the molded open hole/slotted facia previously found in rock speakers.

Landscape requirements

Choosing the correct system is mainly dictated by the landscape's unique aesthetic feel. Putting a StereoStone "Tree Stump" speaker in desert landscape would not make much sense, nor would putting a "River Rock" speaker in a heavily wooded landscape. For those in an urban atmosphere, such as an apartment or condominium with a terrace, either conventional weatherproof box speakers or a StereoStone "Planter" speaker would be the right choice.

Installation of landscape audio systems, however, is what concerns many people, but it is not as difficult as one would think. Underground conduits (such as PVC pipe) and a sand bed are the primary required installation materials. Disturbing the natural landscape is minimal…just enough to bury the thin conduit pipe from the speaker(s) in the yard to the volume control installed on the home's outer wall (which is connected to the audio system within the home) or to the system's electronics if it is all contained outdoors.

The speaker should be pushed down firmly into a sand bed so that there is a solid dense base under the entire speaker bottom. This is for the best sound quality. A dense base ensures the sound will be driven through speaker openings and much less loss through the thinner bottom plate.

Privacy vs. Intrusion

In many cases, outdoor speakers designed to mount underneath a patio cover or high upon a deck may be the most appropriate route when selecting a system for outdoor entertainment. But, many times one does not think of his or her neighbors. How would you like it if ever Friday and Saturday night your next door neighbor had parties and their music sounded like it was emanating from your own yard because of the speaker placement?

StereoStone and other companies' rock speakers are designed "not" to intrude upon the listener by hanging over their heads on the patio and blasting out to the neighbors. Instead, they are designed to be placed discretely on the perimeter of the yard and blend in with the surroundings while directing music towards the listener on the patio or in the pool while "not" bothering the neighbors.

The Bottom Line

Consumers should not make the mistake of making apples to oranges comparisons when choosing a system. Conventional "box" speaker manufacturers whose products are designed for protection under a roof soffit should not be compared with a rock/landscape-type product that is designed for the elements, such as StereoStone's products. Other conventional looking box speakers may claim that they are weather-proof and can be fully exposed in the middle of a yard, but the weary consumer should do one's homework before choosing such a product to see how many seasons they can get out of such a product before it needs replacing. The same goes for any outdoor speaker system, including rock-type architectural landscape systems, no matter the manufacturer and no matter what their claims of endurance and performance may be.

Other factors, such as the importance one puts on American-made versus foreign made products and the inherent quality differences in build quality should also be considered.

As with most things, you tend to usually get what you pay for, so seek the best deal for the product that best fits your needs.

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