An amplifier or receiver is an essential component of most outdoor sound system setups. Not sure if you need one? Or what specifically to get? This article will cover what you need to know, and we’ll make some product recommendations too.
Table of Contents Navigation
- First: What Is A Receiver or Amplifier?
- Do You Need A Receiver For Your Outdoor Speakers?
- How Much Extra Will It Cost?
- Does a Receiver for Outdoor Speakers Need to be Weatherproof Too?
- First Consideration: How Many Speakers Will There Be?
- Second Consideration: You Need Enough Power
- Third Consideration: Features
- Our Current Overall Favorite: The Yamaha R-S202
- For Higher End Set Ups: We Like The Sony STRDN1080
First: What Is A Receiver or Amplifier?
Most speakers, outdoor or otherwise, are called “passive,” meaning they don’t actually generate the power that’s needed to drive the components that create the sound. The basic function of an amplifier is to provide that power, called such because the power from your wall-socket will generally need to be increased to sufficiently power the speakers it ultimately connects to. A receiver is simply a more feature inclusive piece of equipment that includes an amplifier and serves as a general user interface – such additional features might include a radio tuner, a CD/DVD Input, volume control, or Bluetooth to directly pair to a phone or computer as a source component (what actually tells the system what music to play). Receivers are generally standard over a barebones amplifier, and the two can essentially be considered interchangeable for our purposes.
Do You Need A Receiver For Your Outdoor Speakers?
Most likely yes, as most flagship outdoor speakers are passive. We’ve only encountered one active outdoor speaker set that’s decent, the Sound Appeal BT-Blasts, which can simply be plugged into a standard wall socket and are bluetooth compatibly to pair directly to a source component. Though these speakers are a pretty decent option for those who want permanent outdoor speakers but can’t manage traditional wiring for whatever reason, they won’t stand up to a decent pair of passive outdoor speakers for the same price. If you’re thinking higher end and long term, just about all of our top recommended outdoor speakers are passive and will require a receiver.
How Much Extra Will It Cost?
Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be exorbitant – There are plenty of viable choices that will keep your overall price tag in the low to mid three figures, but you might need to spend more depending on what you want it to do. You could have your receiver power both an indoor and outdoor speaker system for example.
Does a Receiver for Outdoor Speakers Need to be Weatherproof Too?
No it doesn’t, nor does it make sense for it to – we haven’t really even seen any such kind of product on the market anyhow. There are two reasons for this generally: One, a receiver can simply have wireless capabilities so you can control it outdoors all the same; and two, often times a receiver will power, say, an indoor home theater in addition to outdoor speakers.
The important thing is that the wiring from an indoor receiver to outdoor speakers is set up properly, which will indeed require the correct wire that’s graded for outdoor runs, through-wall runs, or underground runs perhaps. See our full guide on outdoor speaker wire here for more information.
Alright, with that introductory information, now lets get down to brass tacks and talk about picking a product that will fulfill your set up.
First Consideration: How Many Speakers Will There Be?
For example, if you’re using a boilerplate set up of a pair on either side of the deck, you’ll need a receiver with at least 2 channels. You might opt for a 2.1 unit, which simply means there’s two channels for loudspeakers and one channel for a subwoofer, which you might opt to leave empty at first and fill it later if you think you need the additional bass.
2.0 or 2.1 is probably sufficient for most people. If your area of coverage is larger than, say, 25 feet, you might opt for more than one pair of speakers, which would require a 5-9 channel receiver. If you’re going bigger than that, you’re venturing into a commercial grade set up which might require something like specialty 70 volt equipment.
Second Consideration: You Need Enough Power
Power handling is perhaps the most important metric of quality for a set of all-weather loudspeakers, especially in an outdoor setting where sound doesn’t carry nearly as well. Complementary to that, of course, will be that the receiver has to be able to supply said power to the speakers. In fact, too little power can damage a speaker just as too much power can.
You also want to consider that you might want to upgrade your speakers at some point, so it might be prudent to invest in a receiver that can sufficiently power future higher end speakers, just a thought.
Make sure that the power specified is expressed in nominal or RMS Wattage as opposed to peak power. Lesser reputable companies might use the same deception with receivers as they sometimes do with speakers when they claim, say, 100 Watts of power without clearly specifying that they mean peak power.
Third Consideration: Features
What do you want it to be able to do? We assume you want to be able to control the music outdoors, so wireless compatibility is essentially a requirement. Bluetooth additionally allows you to use your phone and music app of choice as a source. Beyond that, additional customization options might be desired or perhaps intimidating depending on who you are.
Our Current Overall Favorite: The Yamaha R-S202
Why we like it:One of the main reasons Yamaha is one of our favorite audio manufacturers is because they make solid budget-tier equipment for those who don’t want to spend exorbitant amounts of money. The R-S202 is a non overly complicated, competitively priced receiver that’s designed to pair well with just about any pair of outdoor speakers we’ve reviewed on this site. In fact, is often offered as a bundle with the NS-AW150s, which have remained one of our favorite budget-tier outdoor speakers for years. The unit pairs with an included remote or Bluetooth device, making controlling the music from your yard or deck a breeze.
For Higher End Set Ups: We Like The Sony STRDN1080
Most people only need to power a single pair of outdoor speakers, and that’s going to be plenty satisfactory. But, if you want to add more pairs or a subwoofer, you’re going to need a unit with more channels than Yamaha’s R-S202. Unfortunately higher end receivers can quickly get very expensive, but, the Sony STRDN1080 is a 7.2 full fledged a/v receiver that is currently an excellent value for the price:
We haven’t found a better deal on a 7.2 100+ Watt channel receiver, so if you’re looking for a unit to power more than one pair of outdoor speakers, or perhaps a main home theater system with additional outdoor speakers on the side, the STRDN1080 might be a great investment.