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Technomad Oslo Review

Oct 19, 2010 12:00 PM, By John McJunkin

A tough, weatherproof subwoofer for harsh environments.

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Technomad Oslo

Plenty of manufacturers tout loudspeakers that are "weather-resistant" for use in outdoor applications, but there is only one of which this author is aware that offers "completely weatherproof" speakers: Technomad. Technomad offers military-grade audio solutions that are intended to keep the sound coming in the harshest of harsh environments. This type of speaker is useful for applications in which a high amount of humidity or even splashing water is present. A good example is the use of Technomad speakers (14 of them) in Scene 12 of the Jurassic Park attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood. Approximately 1.5 billion gallons of water are recirculated over or around them each year, and the loudspeakers have operated continuously since October 1996. These speakers are typically going to be used in outdoor applications where reliable, high-SPL sound is necessary—for instance mass transit, train yard, airport, or boat terminal sound. And according to Technomad, they're also appropriate for military applications.

So what does "completely weatherproof" mean? In this particular case, the term means that this product meets the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) IP56 rating. According to this rating, "Enclosures constructed for either indoor or outdoor use to provide a degree of protection to personnel against incidental contact with the enclosed equipment; to provide a degree of protection against falling dirt, rain, sleet, snow, windblown dust, splashing water, and hose-directed water; and that will be undamaged by the external formation of ice on the enclosure." Additionally, the Technomad Oslo is "protected against dust," and "protected against strong jets of water from all directions." The only higher rating would make this speaker completely "dust-tight" and protected from immersion in liquid, so these are just about as close as you can get to completely impervious. Technomad introduced its Oslo subwoofer at InfoComm 2010, and I evaluated one and discovered that it is incredibly tough, and sounds quite good as well.

To dig in just a little further on the "100 percent weatherproof" claim made by Technomad, the speaker's driver is treated with a special proprietary substance to protect it from liquids (and is protected by a multilayer grille that's intended to keep liquids away from the driver altogether). The speaker's exterior cabinet is rotomolded from a plastic that is much thicker (more than 1/2in. thick in the case of the Oslo) than the injection-molded plastics that are usually incorporated in speakers (and is impervious to shotgun blasts and burning in direct gasoline flame). Technomad makes the plastic available in 14 different colors to integrate with the application's environment. The cabinet also incorporates draining holes. Technomad acknowledges that liquids can and will get inside the cabinet, so the company wants to ensure that the liquids have a direct way to get back out. This also facilitates the incorporation of a ported cabinet design to enhance the efficiency of the speaker in the low end. The cabinet is also internally braced, front to back, with stainless steel, imparting additional resilience.

The cabinet of the Oslo is 28.5in. tall, 22in. wide, and 19in. deep, and it is surprisingly hefty, although nowhere near as heavy as if it were made of Baltic birch like most other such speakers. It incorporates two flared ports to enhance bass response. Its external metal grille is small-diameter perforated stainless steel to keep out larger chunks of flying debris. Under that is a nylon mesh, followed by an acoustically transparent foam layer, which is treated with a proprietary hydrophobic coating that repels water. Within the cabinet is polyurethane foam, which acts like a massive dust filter to keep dust completely away from the driver. I'm aware of speakers made by other manufacturers to resist weather and liquids, but these speakers go way beyond anything I've ever seen before. I had a bit of a chuckle when I unpacked the speaker from its shipping box. There were no Styrofoam corner pieces or packing peanuts—the speaker was just wrapped in a plastic bag and placed in the box. There was no need for packing materials because of the toughness of the cabinet. This speaks volumes.

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