Outdoor AV: What to Consider

From waterproof to weather resistant, keep these features in mind when choosing outdoor electronics.
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Design by DSI Entertainment Systems; photography by Berlyn Photography

Design by DSI Entertainment Systems; photography by Berlyn Photography

By: Krissy Rushing

There is nothing quite like a midsummer night's patio party with the Beach Boys pumping through outdoor speakers or an impromptu showing of Some Like It Hot on your outdoor TV. To create the perfect outdoor entertainment escape, though, the rules are slightly different than those for indoor audio-video.

8 Clever Outdoor Technology Trends

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Weatherproofing Products

Osbee Industries helped design and engineer a gorgeous mahogany enclosure to house a 46-inch weatherproof Sunbrite TV, located on the terrace of this Manhattan penthouse.

Photo By: Amos Chan

Hidden Sounds

"These satellite speakers are placed around the perimeter of the space in garden beds or planters, evenly spaced 6 to 8 feet apart," says Simon Wehr, director of marketing for Sonance. "The form factor allows them to be hidden under foliage."

Backyard Movie Night

This huge outdoor Stewart AllRise screen, installed by Engineered Environments, pops out of a custom weatherproof enclosure for a beautiful, larger-than-life image that is rivaled only by the Maui landscape.

Exterior Integration

Audio Video Interiors carefully matched the wood stain of this porch to the outdoor, weatherproof in-ceiling speakers for an unobtrusive look.

Photo By: Forest McMullin

AV Alfresco

An outdoor TV and multiple zones of audio give this alfresco entertainment space a casual elegance. The TV is recessed into the stone fireplace for a clean look. Photo courtesy of Osbee Industries, Inc.

Photo By: David L Raines

Decorative Speakers

Can you find the speaker in this picture? Rockustics makes speakers designed to match your stone wall for a totally stealth effect.

Poolside Control

The Crestron UFO remote is a high-end, completely waterproof remote that features home automation functions, such as lighting, climate and media control. You can even leave it floating in the pool!

Rock Out in the Backyard

This photo may look like your classic hardscaping, but the rock is actually a speaker. Audio Video Interiors used rock speakers throughout the exterior for the audio landscape, leaving guests to wonder where the music is coming from.

Photo By: Forest McMullin

Don't Put Indoor AV Outdoors

According to Gretchen Gilbertson, CEO of Séura, manufacturer of Storm outdoor TVs, one of the biggest mistakes people make when creating an alfresco AV space is putting equipment that doesn't belong outdoors. TVs designed for outdoor use can withstand extreme heat, cold and insects, are brighter and more rugged, and contain antiglare properties. "This means your TV won't fail right before your big dinner party because a tennis ball hit it," says Gilbertson. "You can also trust it to perform flawlessly when you're watching HGTV at high noon."

Outdoor Entertainment Options 02:08

Here's a look at high-tech electronics that work great in the outdoors.

Wow Your Guests With a Backyard Movie

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This huge outdoor Stewart AllRise screen, installed by Engineered Environments, pops out of a custom weatherproof enclosure for a beautiful, larger-than-life image that is rivaled only by the Maui landscape.

This huge outdoor Stewart AllRise screen, installed by Engineered Environments, pops out of a custom weatherproof enclosure for a beautiful, larger-than-life image that is rivaled only by the Maui landscape.

For a backyard movie bash with a projector and huge screen, you'll want to start the show at night because most projectors can't compete with unbridled sunlight. Some people use a white sheet for a screen, but there are many screens designed specifically for outdoor use, like Airblown's inflatable 12-foot model ($195).

For a better picture, get a portable screen like Da-Lite's Portable Insta-Theater ($420), which you can take in and out of the house as you like. Stewart Filmscreen offers high-end permanent custom solutions, like weatherized screens that descend into or pop up from custom housing. You can also permanently install a projector outdoors, but you'll need special housing to protect it from the elements.

If that's not a viable option, there are a lot of excellent portable projectors available. Epson’s PowerLite Home Cinema 500, for example, lets you connect directly to a pair of speakers or a Blu-ray player, simplifying setup.

When It Comes to Sound, More Is Better

Smart Home Pool Speakers

Smart Home Pool Speakers

In HGTV's Smart Home a whole-home audio system pulls in content from the homeowner?s digital music library, streaming sources and cable TV sources

In HGTV's Smart Home a whole-home audio system pulls in content from the homeowner?s digital music library, streaming sources and cable TV sources

You'll need a good sound system to go with your outdoor display, but it's hard to know how many speakers will fill a particular space. According to Dave Raines, president of Osbee Industries, Inc., manufacturers like Sonance will help you calculate how many speakers you need. "If the budget allows, more is actually better when designing an outdoor space," he adds.

When choosing speakers, pick those designed for outdoor use ($60-$600). Joe Nelson, president of Connected Technology, suggests looking for a speaker ingress protection (IP) rating of five or better. "The five indicates the liquid ingress protection equivalent to water jets sprayed at the speaker for several minutes from three meters away," he says.

Speakers mounted on the wall are common, but for an area where surface-mounting isn't possible, companies like Stereostone and Rockustics offer outdoor models disguised as rocks or garden features. Outdoor speakers often come with a variety of mounting choices for flexible placement, including ground stakes and tree-mount kits. If you are hiding speaker wire in the ground, you'll need to use direct burial wire, preferably in conduit. Don't forget the bone-shaking bass, attainable via an outdoor subwoofer like Terra Speakers’ ACE.SUBe subwoofer, which you can partially bury in the ground so that it isn't obtrusive.

Of course, there is a whole new crop of wireless speakers that you can move out to the patio as you like, and many are actually designed for outdoor use, like Brookstone's $150 Outdoor Wireless Speaker, which streams music directly from your smartphone.

Get Poolside Protection

Finally, since your electronics — such as a DVD player and receiver — will be located inside, it's important to get a good universal remote that will work through walls. A weatherproof or waterproof remote is not a bad idea, like URC's MXW-920 ($500), which you can operate while floating in the pool.

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The Crestron UFO remote is a high-end, completely waterproof remote that features home automation functions, such as lighting, climate, and media control. You can even leave it floating in the pool.

The Crestron UFO remote is a high-end, completely waterproof remote that features home automation functions, such as lighting, climate, and media control. You can even leave it floating in the pool.

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CI-Crestron-outdoor-remote-ufo-wpr-3er-blue-with-dock_s4x3

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