Music for Entertaining
Music for Entertainment
It’s party-time! You’ve invited all the friends and relatives over for your birthday and you are having a barbeque outside on the porch. But the mother-in-law is coming and she likes to talk shall we say a bit too much. What to do? Ah, of course, play music the whole time and that will keep her quiet. Having sound outside is a good idea if you love your music or want to entertain. Many years ago most people simply dragged their normal hifi speakers outside with a long cable. This is not a good idea as generally they are not water or beer proof and there days not many of us would like a red wine stain on the wooden cabinet! Plus they can easily suffer damage especially if there are children or your mates have had too much to drink. There is no excuse however as many solutions exist.
One of the simplest is the good old portable radio; many are still available from major electronic stores and some even come in cool retro looking designs. Some are weatherproof or tradesman type models so these models are preferable if they can get wet. They should certainly be able to take some knocks. They are usually battery powered so look for models that can be mains powered or you’ll run out of music halfway through the night! Having an outdoor power point is very useful, so if you don’t have one, I highly recommend having one installed. Usually best for listening to the radio as changing CD’s can get messy, everyone wants to hear something different. Sound quality is quite varied, try them out first but they generally wont be anything like real hifi! Of course these might not go loud enough if the party really starts going, so something else may be required.
Having permanent outdoor speakers is probably the best solution overall. They can be properly installed so wont become a trip hazard, they are mostly weather proof so can be left in position all the time and come in a variety of shapes, sizes and mounting possibilities. Ceiling mount are probably the most common; by having them mounted in the eaves they are well protected. Some have rear enclosures as well to improve bass. Watch out for the joists, as eaves often don’t have much space above them. Cabinet type outdoor speakers are also very good as they are most often wall mounted and can give pretty good bass response from a small box if well designed. Some brands offer hanging varieties, these are suspended from the roof or beams and can be excellent if getting sound right where it is needed. Other types of enclosures include fake rocks; these can look very realistic and remain “hidden” in the garden leaving guest wondering where the sound is coming from. I have even seen animal shapes with built-in speakers! One very interesting version available is a hanging pot plant basket with the speaker mounted in the base. You can grow a fern in the top. Perhaps the music will make the plant grow better. Ensure that they have a dust and waterproofing rating, often called the IP (ingress protection) rating. The higher each number the better. The first digit refers to protection from solid objects and the second to water protection.
In all the above cases it is important to have the wiring rated for outdoor use as well, waterproof and UV stable or it will perish pretty quickly in the Aussie climate. It is also important that it is run out of the way so doesn’t form a trip hazard. The ceiling is often the best place but make sure you have someone qualified to do this for you. For garden speakers it is good to run the wires through a conduit for extra protection. Never run with mains cable! A set of terminals near your amplifier and a volume control near the outdoor area can be mounted on the walls to allow good flexibility. Take care not to have too much of a load on your amplifier at once, refer to the manual to see what it can cope with. Some amps have multiroom features; this is great as you can have a different source playing outside than inside and both can be switched independently. Every now and again you should carry out some maintenance. Ensure the speakers are dirt-free and that water is not pooling anywhere. Check the wiring for splits and cracks and especially the copper for corrosion. You can strip back any corroded copper and make a new connection if needed. For this it is a good idea to ensure you have some slack wire when installing the system in the first place.
The latest systems can have the entire house wired for sound with full control of not only the volume but also the source as well. Digital control panels, wireless remotes and even voice control can be setup. Not only sound, but also video, automatic control of awnings, lighting and gates can be controlled, all for the ultimate experience of luxury. Music servers are fairly new and can allow the distribution of a great range of music. Some work on wireless systems, other via power cable transmission or by network cables. You can access music you have on your computer of even radios station broadcasting over the Internet. With the right setup you can have your own playlist going for the entire party! So, sit back and enjoy that glass or two of Merlot…
Written by Leon Gross, originally published in Audio & Video Lifestyle magazine.
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