The 5 Best Outdoor Speakers of 2024 | Reviews by Wirecutter

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The 5 Best Outdoor Speakers of 2024 | Reviews by Wirecutter

We love the convenience of portable Bluetooth speakers. But for those who want a more permanent—and higher-quality—outdoor audio setup for a backyard or patio, we suggest a good pair of weatherproof outdoor speakers.

The OSD Audio AP650 speakers are your best choice because they sound good, mount easily, and are built to survive harsh weather, bugs, and dust.

These speakers have a clear, full sound that works well for any type of music, and they’re sealed against water and bugs.

These speakers deliver full sound, but they’re not the best choice for places that experience severe weather.

This speaker sounds clearer than our less-pricey picks, and it produces a lot more bass. It’s larger and costs a lot more, though.

This compact, affordable speaker pair is completely sealed, but it doesn’t have as much bass or sound as good at loud volumes as our top pick.

These speakers have Bluetooth and a stereo amp built in, making installation simpler. They sound good, but they won’t play as loudly as our other picks.

Figuring that most people don’t want to spend much on backyard sound, we focused on models costing less than $350 per pair.

We listened to these speakers in a real backyard, the same way you’d be likely to use them at home.

Many outdoor speakers are sold only through AV installers. We tested only models you can purchase directly through retailers.

All of the models we recommend are designed to withstand several seasons of rain, snow, heat, and errant hose blasts.

These speakers have a clear, full sound that works well for any type of music, and they’re sealed against water and bugs.

The OSD Audio AP650 speakers are the best value we’ve found in an outdoor pair. Their clarity beats anything we’ve heard from other models priced under $200 per pair. And they have a full, powerful sound that can easily fill an outdoor space, up to about 1,500 square feet. They have enough bass for R&B, hip-hop, and rock music, even when they’re used with a small amplifier.

Because these speakers have a fully sealed design, there’s no concern about water, dust, or bugs getting in. This pair is also more rugged than most under-$200 outdoor speakers, with a thicker enclosure and a sturdy, powder-coated mounting bracket.

These speakers deliver full sound, but they’re not the best choice for places that experience severe weather.

If you want to spend a little less to get decent outdoor sound, the Yamaha NS-AW294 speakers are a good choice—as long as you don’t live in a place where blustery rainstorms are common, since their ported design may allow water to get in and potentially cause damage. The NS-AW294 speakers don’t sound as clear as our top pick, but they do have a solid amount of bass and can play pretty loudly.

This speaker sounds clearer than our less-pricey picks, and it produces a lot more bass. It’s larger and costs a lot more, though.

The Dayton Audio IO8XTB speaker is roughly twice the price and size of our OSD and Yamaha picks, but we can safely say this speaker offers at least twice the performance. Not only does it deliver much more bass, but its sound is also clearer and smoother. Whether you listen to hip-hop, rock, folk, or classical, you’ll appreciate the improvement.

This compact, affordable speaker pair is completely sealed, but it doesn’t have as much bass or sound as good at loud volumes as our top pick.

Those who want to keep their investment to a minimum will like the Dual Electronics LU53PW speakers. Though they don’t have much bass and can have a rather blaring sound when turned up loud, they sound decent for background music, podcasts, and radio. They’re also more compact than the other non-powered models we recommend, and they are completely sealed to prevent water from seeping in.

These speakers have Bluetooth and a stereo amp built in, making installation simpler. They sound good, but they won’t play as loudly as our other picks.

The OSD Audio BTP525 speakers are a good choice for someone who needs sound for a small area, as well as for those who want speakers that are very simple to install. All of our other outdoor speaker picks require complicated installation and wiring, and a separate amplifier. With the BTP525, Bluetooth and a stereo amplifier are built in, so you just have to mount the speakers, run a wire between them, and connect the power supply to the speakers and an outdoor AC outlet. The sound quality is similar to—although not as loud or full as—that of the OSD Audio AP650 pair.

I’m a senior staff writer at Wirecutter. I’ve worked as an editor or writer in audio publishing for over 30 years, and I’ve reviewed more outdoor speakers than any other writer in the world (which says more about audio publications’ lack of interest in outdoor speakers than it does about me).

In the course of producing the original version of this article and many updates, we’ve conducted brand-concealed listening tests to get feedback from numerous listeners, including senior staff writer Lauren Dragan.

These speakers are for people who want a more permanent audio solution for a patio, backyard, or other outdoor space, as opposed to using a portable Bluetooth speaker.

Outdoor speakers are weather resistant, so in most cases you can leave them mounted outside without having to worry about them malfunctioning due to water damage. These speakers have metal grilles and fairly rugged plastic enclosures, so they’ll usually survive minor impacts, and bugs will find it difficult to nest inside them.

Most outdoor speakers are passive designs that must be powered off of a separate amplifier. They don’t need to be plugged in or recharged, but you will need to run speaker wire to them from the amp. You can power the speakers off of an existing home-theater receiver, if you have a couple of unused amplifier channels. Most stereo receivers have a “speakers A/B” button that lets you route the sound to a second set of speakers, or you can use an inexpensive speaker switcher. You can also use a mini stereo amplifier.

You will have to keep the amplifier indoors and run the wires through your walls or attic to the outside of the house, which requires skill, effort, and experience. Most localities allow running low-voltage (namely, audio, video, and networking) cables through walls without a permit, but you should check your local building codes to confirm. Be sure to use CL2- or CL3-rated cables, which are fire-rated for safety.

A simpler alternative is a set of outdoor speakers with amplifiers and Bluetooth built in. With this option, the only wires you have to run are the cable between the two speakers and the connection to the power supply. You’ll need a nearby outdoor AC outlet, and you’ll probably prefer to unplug the power supply when the speakers aren’t in use.

The environmentally minded shopper may appreciate that a decent set of outdoor speakers should last many years; we’ve had a couple sets that lasted more than a decade. The same can’t be said of active speakers (such as Bluetooth speakers) that use rechargeable batteries, which typically lose much of their ability to hold a charge after a few years of use and are usually difficult or impossible to replace. There’s also no technology in passive (unpowered) outdoor speakers that might become obsolete.

Outdoor speakers rarely sound as good as a decent set of bookshelf speakers designed for indoor use. The very things that make them suitable for outdoor use can hinder sound quality—the plastic enclosures tend to produce a boomy sound, and the perforated metal grilles can partially block the sound waves coming from the speaker drivers.

So our search for the best outdoor speakers focused on finding the ones that make the fewest sonic compromises while offering easy setup and good weather resistance.

Here are the criteria we considered:

I started the testing process by breaking in every speaker with music for 10 hours. I then listened to all of them in my backyard. If any speaker exhibited severe anomalies, such as distortion in deep bass notes or harsh treble that made voices sound grating, I eliminated it.

Next, I conducted brand-concealed listening tests with three speakers at a time, using an Audio by Van Alstine AVA ABX remote-controlled switcher and Outlaw Audio Model 2200 amplifiers. I mounted the speakers side by side on large wood panels attached to the walls of the house, covered the speakers with thin black fabric, and used the AVA ABX to match the levels of the speakers to within about ±0.3 decibels and select among them. I then asked the listening panelists for their opinions on performance. Lastly, I revealed the identities and prices so they could judge the looks and value.

These speakers have a clear, full sound that works well for any type of music, and they’re sealed against water and bugs.

The OSD Audio AP650 speakers are the best outdoor pair because they’re rugged and fully sealed against weather and insects, they sound good, and they’re reasonably priced.

They sound good. Our listening-test panelists picked the AP650 speakers as their favorite because they delivered a more even balance of bass, midrange, and treble than all the other speakers we tested in their price range. Bass and kick drum, sax and vocals, and cymbals and acoustic guitars all came across about even, and no instrument drowned out the others.

We did find the midrange and treble to be a little boosted and coarse-sounding, which could make voices sound a little “scratchy.” But for an affordable outdoor speaker pair, these are pretty great.

They’re more rugged than most speakers at this price. The mounting bracket is folded at the edges to add stiffness, so it won’t sag the way simpler, cheaper brackets sometimes do. It’s also powder-coated, which means the finish is less likely to flake off and encourage rust.

Heavy-duty, spring-loaded, push-button binding posts provide a firm, reliable connection for the speaker cables. OSD provides a snap-on cover to help prevent water from dripping into the speaker connections.

Because the AP650 speakers are sealed, you don’t need to worry about water, dust, or bugs getting inside. I tried blasting an AP650 speaker with a hose, and the speaker survived just fine. The AP650 carries an IP (Ingress Protection) rating of IPX6, which means it can withstand powerful jets of water.

They’re versatile. These speakers swivel back and forth, and unlike most outdoor speakers, they can also tilt up or down plus or minus 25 degrees, thanks to a series of holes drilled in the mounting brackets. This feature will come in handy if you have to mount your AP650 speakers high on an exterior wall.

A 70-volt version of the AP650 is available for an extra $10 to $15 a pair; this option is useful if you want to string multiple speakers around your yard, but it requires a special 70-volt amplifier.

These speakers deliver full sound, but they’re not the best choice for places that experience severe weather.

The Yamaha NS-AW294 speakers are not built as well as the OSD AP650 pair, but they usually cost around $30 less, and our panelists felt they sounded almost as good. Their styling is arguably a little nicer than that of many competitors, right down to the swiveling logo, which can adapt to horizontal or vertical positioning.

They don’t sound quite as full or balanced as our top pick. These speakers mildly boost the treble, which adds emphasis to cymbals, violins, and acoustic guitar and also makes voices sound slightly thin—although this character also makes the sound seem a little more spacious, which can be desirable for outdoor listening.

The NS-AW294 speakers have a decent amount of bass, and the fidelity of the bass is pretty good. “The lows have an actual pitch to them, not just a boom,” Lauren noted.

They aren’t built as well. Even though the NS-AW294 speakers are about 38% bigger than our top pick, they’re 34% lighter, largely because their plastic cabinet walls are much thinner. But the speaker’s bracket has a powder-coated finish that should survive well outdoors.

These speakers can’t tilt vertically like the AP650 speakers can. They have spring-loaded speaker-cable terminals, but they’re of the cheap plastic variety and require a very firm push to open all the way.

Also, we noticed a couple of complaints on Amazon about the grilles on the white version rusting, so it might be wiser to choose the black speakers for harsher climates.

The ported design is a downside. Water might get in and damage the speaker. I blasted the speaker’s front grille with a garden hose for about six seconds, and when I shook the speaker, I could hear that a couple ounces of water had gotten in. However, a direct hose blast is a worst-case scenario for most outdoor speaker installations, and small amounts of water will eventually evaporate.

Still, if you live in a climate where thunderstorms are frequent, you might want to spend the extra money for our top pick. If you do choose the NS-AW294 pair for this type of climate, be sure to mount the speakers under eaves where they’ll be less exposed to nature’s fury.

This speaker sounds clearer than our less-pricey picks, and it produces a lot more bass. It’s larger and costs a lot more, though.

Listening tests of outdoor speakers are usually like taste tests of under-$3 wine—one hopes for transcendence but is wise to keep expectations low. That’s why it was such a delight to find the Dayton Audio IO8XTB.

This speaker sounds great and plays loud. It has the same smooth, natural sound with voices that you can expect from a good indoor bookshelf speaker, which few outdoor speakers deliver. This model also has a lot more bass than most outdoor speakers.

The IO8XTB’s speaker drivers—an 8-inch woofer, a 1-inch tweeter, and a bass-boosting passive radiator on the back—work together flawlessly, so the IO8XTB exhibits none of the roughness with voices that’s typical of outdoor speakers.

Also unlike most outdoor models, the IO8XTB can play loud, deep bass notes from hip-hop and EDM tunes without distorting. I found that a pair of them could easily fill my 1,800-square-foot suburban backyard with loud, clear sound.

The IO8XTB is bigger than many outdoor speakers. It measures 15 inches high and weighs 10.8 pounds, so it may look obtrusive in some settings. It’s available in black or white (if you prefer a white finish, look for model number IO8XTW).

This speaker carries an IP66 rating, which means it’s dustproof and can tolerate direct blasts from a hose.

The IO8XTB uses a standard mounting bracket, so it attaches easily to a wall or under eaves. The bracket doesn’t seem as sturdy as the one that comes with the OSD AP650, and we worry that it might sag a little after a few years.

The spring-loaded binding posts are sturdy and secure, but they are placed in a way that makes attaching the speaker cables difficult. However, that’s likely a one-time task.

A switch lets you use the IO8XTB with a 70- or 100-volt audio system. So you can drive large groups of speakers with a single amplifier, but this requires an amp designed for that purpose.

This speaker’s grille dents easily. And unlike most speaker grilles, this one can’t be removed easily. So if you try to pull the grille to pop a dent out, you may end up putting more dents in it.

This compact, affordable speaker pair is completely sealed, but it doesn’t have as much bass or sound as good at loud volumes as our top pick.

The Dual Electronics LU53PW speakers are ideal for those who want light music in an outdoor space and don’t want to spend much money. The LU53PW sounds better than anything else we’ve tried in the mid-double-digits price range, although it’s a clear step down from our other picks.

They don’t sound as full and satisfying as our top pick. These speakers sound somewhat thin because they don’t have much bass. They can also sound harsh when you crank up the volume because they emphasize the midrange (i.e., voices) too much.

But at least these speakers don’t distort when asked to play hip-hop and heavy rock, which is something few cheap speakers can claim. For casual background music, they’re fine—but if you want to create more of a party atmosphere, you’ll be better off with one of our larger picks.

The Amazon page for the LU53PW says it has a 1.6-inch midrange driver and a 0.75-inch tweeter. However, the one we ordered from Amazon has what appears to be a 1-inch tweeter with a 0.5-inch “supertweeter.” We haven’t heard the version with the midrange driver.

The speakers seem pretty rugged, despite their low price. There are no ports that might permit water or bugs to enter, and the powder-coated, stamped-metal mounting brackets seem strong enough to support a speaker of this size and weight. Soaking an LU53PW with a garden hose seemed to have no effect on its performance.

The back panel has two ¼-20 threaded sockets for use with gimbal mounts. A standard set of metal binding posts is provided to connect the speaker cables. A version with a black cabinet and grille, the LU53PB, is also available. Unlike most other outdoor speakers, the LU53PW has tiny feet on the bottom that allow it to rest on a shelf or stand if you choose not to mount it.

These speakers have Bluetooth and a stereo amp built in, making installation simpler. They sound good, but they won’t play as loudly as our other picks.

For someone who wants outdoor speakers that are very simple to install, we recommend the OSD Audio BTP525 because they have built-in Bluetooth and amplification—you can send audio signals to them wirelessly, and you don’t have to run speaker wire. But you do have to plug them into a power outlet.

Installation is simple. Many people are probably more willing to eat live crickets than they are to drill a hole in the side of their house to run speaker wire. Yet that’s exactly what most installations of passive outdoor speakers require. And it’s what you’ll have to do if you want the most powerful, yard-filling sound.

But if you’re just looking to do some light listening on the patio, the OSD Audio BTP525 speakers can give you that. In most cases, each should take only about 15 minutes to install. Just screw the brackets into the wall or fence, connect the power supply, connect the supplied cable between the two speakers, and plug in the system.

These speakers won’t play as loudly or sound as full as most of our other picks. However, they will sound more robust than most portable Bluetooth speakers. And they deliver true stereo sound.

The BTP525 speakers sound pretty smooth for their price, with none of the peaks and dips in response that make voices sound harsh, sibilant, or boomy. We did find ourselves pining for more bass sometimes. However, when we played hip-hop tunes at full blast, the bass didn’t distort, and voices still sounded clear—which is not the case with many small speakers we’ve tested.

A larger version, the BTP650, is also available. It has a fuller, bassier sound, but it costs much more than the BTP525. We’re guessing that those looking for a quick, simple solution to outdoor sound for a small patio would probably choose the BTP525. But if you’re going to play your system loud, go for the BTP650 pair.

Bluetooth pairing was easy with my Samsung phone. When I got a phone call, I put in my Jabra earbuds and the phone switched over automatically; it automatically switched back to the speakers when I was done. The Bluetooth connection is always available, as long as the speakers are powered on. I got about 80 feet of range through one window, so you can probably bring your phone indoors without having the signal drop out.

The power supply is IP67-rated. That means there should be no danger if it gets wet. However, when you plug it into an AC outlet, that connection will be vulnerable if it’s exposed to the elements. So you can’t leave this system plugged in all the time if there’s a chance the AC outlet could get splashed or hit with rain.

The speaker itself does not carry an IP rating, but it’s a sealed design and should be about as water resistant as a typical passive outdoor speaker.

If you want outdoor speakers that can be hung overhead or staked into the ground: Consider a set of pendant-style outdoor speakers. They’re designed to either hang from a cable (in which case they point downward) or be staked into the ground (in which case they point forward, presumably at the listener). We tested the Dayton Audio WP65BT and the OSD Audio Forza5 and Forza6, and we found that the WP65BT and the Forza6 looked and sounded the same. Both sounded good when they were hanging from my eaves, and they have enough bass that they don’t really need a subwoofer. They seem to emphasize midrange sounds, such as voices. The Forza5 didn’t sound as good; it seemed to cover up the sounds of voices to some extent, and it made them sound coarse.

When I tried mounting these speakers near the ground, facing me, the sound was somewhat glaring. However, OSD sent along the Forza10 passive subwoofer, which connects between an amplifier and the speakers. With the subwoofer connected to the forward-facing Forza6 or WP65BT, the subwoofer’s deep bass better balanced out the sound. And I got a big, yard-filling sound that would be perfect for parties—although at a total cost of close to $400.

So if you find the pendant style appealing, and the speakers will hang down, the Dayton WP65BT and the OSD Forza6 are both recommended. If you want speakers you can stake to the ground and hide in the landscaping, we recommend adding the Forza10 subwoofer (or the Dayton Audio IOSUB, which appears to be identical).

At the CES 2024 trade show, Victrola announced the Rock Speaker Connect ($100 each), a rock-shaped Bluetooth speaker that recharges through a USB-C connection or its integrated solar panel. It incorporates a 4-inch full-range driver and a 1-inch tweeter. The IP54-rated design should make it waterproof and dustproof enough for outdoor use, and Victrola says that it can run for as long as 22 hours on a charge. You can pair as many as 20 Rock Speaker Connect units to extend the sound farther into a backyard. Victrola says that the speaker will be available this spring.

We have evaluated numerous outdoor speakers in the course of several comparison tests. Although many of them fell short of our top picks in performance, some of them are viable options. If you’re interested in a certain model that’s not listed below, check out our running list of the outdoor speakers we’ve tested.

Dayton Audio IO65XT: This is the smaller version of our upgrade pick, the IO8XTB. Although it’s only about half the price of the IO8XTB, it’s just an average performer in its price range; the bass sounds somewhat bloated, and voices can sound a little rough.

Definitive Technology AW5500: We generally liked the AW5500, but we found its midrange-heavy sound rather unengaging.

Klipsch AW-525: We found the treble of the AW-525 pair exceptionally clear, but we thought it overpowered the midrange and the bass, making the sound somewhat thin.

MartinLogan ML45WH: These little speakers offered wonderfully clear reproduction of voices and most instruments, but their bass distorted.

Monitor Audio Climate 60: Although the Climate 60 is a beautifully designed speaker, its midrange didn’t sound very smooth, and it needed more bass.

Monoprice 13614: We found these speakers to have an extremely bright and blaring sound.

OSD Audio AP640: This inexpensive model didn’t fare well in our panel tests—it didn’t produce enough bass, and the balance of bass to midrange to treble sounded skewed.

OSD Audio AP850: This big speaker sounded way too bassy to most of our panelists.

Polk Audio Atrium4: The Atrium4 sounded too midrange-heavy to our panelists, making voices and many instruments sound blaring.

The Sound Appeal SA-BLAST5 Bluetooth outdoor speaker pair costs a little less than the OSD BTP525 speakers but sounded slightly distorted in our tests, which reduced the clarity of vocals.

Yamaha NS-AW390: This former top pick is good, and it’s still for sale even though it’s been replaced by new models. But our current picks sounded better in tests.

This article was edited by Adrienne Maxwell and Grant Clauser.

Brent Butterworth is a senior staff writer covering audio and musical instruments at Wirecutter. Since 1989, he has served as an editor or writer on audio-focused websites and magazines such as Home Theater, Sound & Vision, and SoundStage. He regularly gigs on double bass with various jazz groups, and his self-produced album Take2 rose as high as number three on the Roots Music Report jazz album chart.

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The 5 Best Outdoor Speakers of 2024 | Reviews by Wirecutter

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