Outdoor Speakers Technology Showcase
Jun 6, 2011 11:54 AM, by Mark Johnson
Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” While often cited as the United States Postal Service creed, the same can be said of outdoor speaker systems as well. Built to withstand the harshest of elements, outdoor speaker systems are key players in helping to create atmosphere in many types of environments—including background music at a shopping mall, music and sound effects to reinforce an area theme at an entertainment park, and in large-scale high-power systems keeping sports fans entertained and informed in a stadium or arena. Outdoor speakers come in a variety of form factors including the familiar rectangular box shape, the popular slightly trapezoidal profile, the rock-like camouflage, and the utilitarian, low-profile look that blends in with the landscaping.
Making a loudspeaker impervious to the elements is no small task given the variety and severity of conditions to which it may be exposed. Because of the physics of how a loudspeaker system works, the act of protecting a speaker against the weather can alter the performance of the system. For example, some manufacturers offer port cover or plug options that help restrict the entry of moisture through the ports, but they also restrict the airflow.
Manufacturers offer products that are by degrees weather-resistant, weather-protected, and weather-proof. Some of the more stylized systems are classified as “indoor/outdoor” speakers for interior or exterior application. The most commonly used material in the construction of outdoor speakers is some type of molded plastic or composite material that provides a pretty high degree of protection of the components from moisture and has an added benefit of being inherently nonresonant. There are also weatherproof paints on wooden cabinets or fiberglass (either laminated on wood or as the enclosure itself), though the most ubiquitous application is a molded plastic.
While there is no shortage of manufacturers who make rocks that can rock and high-end outdoor hi-fi systems for residential applications, we’ll be looking primarily at systems targeted toward commercial outdoor application for a sports, themed, or retail environment. Some systems are also available with subwoofer options. You can check the websites listed for additional models and options.
Atlas Sound manufactures the in-ground ATS183GL garden speaker with two different bases: a surface-mount base and a deep base for in-landscaping burial. The speaker features an 8in. coaxial polypropylene/Kevlar cone driver mounted in a polyethylene enclosure oriented for 360-degree coverage.
Bogen Communications’ NEAR brand features the A12 all-weather loudspeaker with dual 6.5in. metal alloy woofers and a 1in. exit compression driver housed in an injection-molded mineral-filled polypropylene enclosure. Connections for 16Ω and 70V operation are included.
The Bose Free Space 51 environmental speakers are designed for on- or in-ground placement in the landscape. The speaker features a downward firing 4.5in. fullrange polymer fiber composite driver that affords 360-degree coverage.
The WET series II from Community Professional Loudspeakers features a range of products from a two-way 8in. system to a three-way with a 15in. LF driver. There are also three subwoofer options. The enclosures are constructed of multilayer glass composite, and the low-frequency drivers use carbon fiber cones.
The Dynacord SP 20 and SP 20D sound projectors are white plastic cylindrical enclosures loaded with one or two drivers. They come with 100V transformers tapped to full, half, and quarter power. Continuous power handling is 20W.
The EAW SMS5 is a compact two-way system featuring a 5in. carbon fiber woofer mounted in a semi-expanded high-density polystyrene foam enclosure. Coverage is 110 degrees horizontal and vertical. The speaker is available in a matte black or white scratch-resistant finish. The maximum SPL is 109.5dB at 1 meter.
Electro-Voice features the Sx300PI and Sx300PIX weather-resistant speaker systems with enclosures made from polypropylene structural foam. An integral 65-degree-by-65-degree high-frequency constant directivity waveguide and 12in. woofer provide a frequency response of 85Hz to 25kHz. Optional port covers, which provide additional protection where increased weather resistance is needed, are included.
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