To date we’ve reviewed, analyzed, or otherwise looked at pretty much every viable outdoor speaker on the market. The uniquely good thing about the audio electronics market is that (good) products have distinct longevity. The fundamental technology and design of speakers hasn’t really changed in decades. While a 10 year old computer or cell phone will be completely obsolete, there are plenty of 10+ year old speakers that companies continue to sell and that are often still top competitors that we presently recommend.
And while product variety and turnover has increased somewhat significantly in the mainstream home audio market in the last decade or so, this happens much less so with outdoor/all-weather speakers. Just about all of the good and popular outdoor speakers are at least a few years old. So, if you pick a solid product that you like, you can expect it to last several years and beyond.
So which outdoor speaker is the best? Well, there isn’t one really, just like there isn’t a best car for everyone – it depends on how you want to use it, how worthwhile higher quality is to you, and a lot of other factors.
That said, there are a few pretty clear winners in the outdoor speakers category based on factors that, we think, are *generally* important. We’ll go over those first.
Table of Contents Navigation
- Specs or Factors That Make An Outdoor Speaker Good
- …BUT, Baseline Specs Aren’t Everything
- The Important Truth About Buying Audio Equipment
- Our Current Picks
- The Best Overall Outdoor Speakers: The Definitive Technology 6500 (or the smaller 5500)
- The Best Outdoor Speakers With Maximum Power and Loudness: The Klipsch AW-650
- The Best Environmental Rock Outdoor Speakers: The Klipsch AW-650-SM
- The Best Cheap Omnidirectional On-Ground Outdoor Speakers: The TIC GS3
- The Best Cheap/Budget Outdoor Speakers: The Yamaha NS-AW150
- The Best Active/Powered Outdoor Speakers: The OSD Audio BTP650
- Additional Resources and Links
Specs or Factors That Make An Outdoor Speaker Good
Most speaker sales pages are convoluted marketing and filled with “information” that doesn’t actually matter. However, there are a few important specs or design attributes that are important, some of which are unfortunately only found by thumbing through user manuals. Don’t worry, we meticulously do all that in our product reviews.
Here’s a rundown of what we think is primarily important:
Nominal/Peak operating power – expressed in watts (W). How much power a speaker safely receive, which dictates how loud they can get, which of course dictates how good they’ll sound in a given enclosure. A very rough rule of thumb is that a total of 100W of nominal/continuous power (e.g. a pair 50W+ speakers) can adequately fill any “normally” sized backyard.
Sensitivity – expressed in decibels per watt per meter (dB/W/m). How efficiently a speaker converts power into sound. Sensitivity and power handling are complementary – a higher sensitivity means a speaker can play louder with less power.
Frequency Response Range – expressed in hertz (Hz, or kHz). How well a speaker can produce the range of low to high pitches. A low floor is particularly important for outdoor speakers since bass in particular doesn’t carry as well outdoors. A very rough rule of thumb is to go for a range equal to or greater than 60Hz – 20kHz.
Frequency Response Variance – expressed in Decibels (+/- dB). Basically, how accurate/consistent is the volume at varying frequencies. A theoretically perfect response curve is flat (no variance) and plays all pitches at the same volume. In reality, 3 or less dB is generally the standard of quality.
Durability – particularly important for the outdoors. Is a speaker merely weather resistant, or is it fully weatherproof per military grade standards? Is the warranty good?
Convenience – traditionally wiring a set of speakers that are outdoors can be a bit tricky. You need special weatherproof speaker wire that might need to be run through a wall or underground, which is something that not everyone can or wants to do. Anything that makes set up and use easier for the layperson is good.
Beyond that, maybe you care about how they look, how big and heavy they are, what kind of extra features they have, and potentially a bunch of other secondary factors. The above, though, is what we’d say is primarily important.
…BUT, Baseline Specs Aren’t Everything
Industry standard specs give you a basic idea of overall quality as well as a reasonably objective way to compare products, and generally you get what you pay for.
That said… A speaker that has better specs on paper might not necessarily sound better. Why?
For a lot of reasons potentially: cabinet structure, driver materials, your specific room where they’ll be, and your ear for that matter. All speakers have their own unique sound that is subjectively better or worse for some people.
It’s always a good idea to actually listen to speakers you’re thinking about buying if you can. But we do realize this isn’t so easy with outdoor speakers. You’d need to venture to an establishment that not only carries a full selection of specialty outdoor speakers, but has them actually set up for listening. Such places are going to be far and few in between. Even less likely that they’ll offer the best price. An additional concern that’s pertinent is an unavoidable discrepancy of how well speaker sounds in an enclosed indoor showroom as opposed to where it’s actually going to end up in your open-air yard/patio/wherever.
Alternatively, it might be prudent to just take an educated guess, reconciled with what’s currently the best deal (we’ll discuss pricing in a moment), and take advantage of a return or exchange policy if you need to. Most reputable speaker companies have a 30 or so day return policy. One thing worth mentioning here: Just be sure to check the actual policies of the vendor you decide – for example, even if you buy something on Amazon, it might actually be fulfilled by a 3rd party that has a different return/exchange/warranty policy than the actual speaker company’s.
The Important Truth About Buying Audio Equipment
We always say this in our roundup articles:
Product prices can fluctuate significantly in the audio market, and often times for no apparent reason.
Therefore, the “best” product choice often comes down to whatever the best available deal is at the time among the top/popular contenders. It’s definitely worthwhile to shop around. One tool that’s useful for doing this is Amazon best-sellers lists – they update hourly and these good deals often rise to the top. The table below is populated in real time with data from these best-sellers lists. You’ll usually see our picks among them.
Our Current Picks
And now, without further ado, listed below are what we think the best overall outdoor speakers are. Not ranked in any particular order or by any particular metric, but rather based on what “category” consumers are typically interested in. What is it that you want specifically? Maximum power? The best value? Something that’s inexpensive? Something that’s simple and easy to set up? There’s no unilaterally right/wrong choice, and there are a wide range of products that cater to all such preferences.
The Best Overall Outdoor Speakers: The Definitive Technology 6500 (or the smaller 5500)
If we had to recommend one pair of outdoor speakers overall, these are our choice for a few years running now. The main reason why is that they have the best response range that we’ve seen on outdoor speakers. Outdoor speakers that can reproduce adequate bass on their own are particularly desirable because, while it’s relatively easy to add a subwoofer to conventional indoor bookshelf speakers, it’s trickier to do so with outdoor speakers or sometimes not even feasible to begin with.
Beyond that, the DTs have great specs and a great build all for a solid price that’s been significantly discounted from the MSRP since they’re actually now over ten years old. And that’s actually a common advantage of older speakers – they remain just as good yet get an inevitable “age” discount due to the overall churn and burn nature of the electronics market. There’s a reason DT still makes these speakers as they are and they remain top sellers. Do note that these are often sold as singles, so you’ll have to get two for a complete pair.
The Best Outdoor Speakers With Maximum Power and Loudness: The Klipsch AW-650
This was one thing that we changed our mind on in the 2019 update of this article – The 650s used to be our favorite overall outdoor speakers, but we subsequently decided the DTs above are actually slightly better overall. The main reason why is that, while the 650s have more power handling, the response floor is high enough that a two-way outdoor speaker might have perceptible drop off in the bass. As we said, this is generally not an issue with conventional speakers since you can just easily add on a subwoofer (most indoor subwoofers are self powered and merely need to be plugged in), but this isn’t so much the case with outdoor subwoofers. Some do exist, but they’re generally expensive and passive, meaning you’ll need a beefier receiver to additionally power it. Plus you’ll need to wire and position it, which is more difficult to do outdoors. Klipsch also used to offer a lifetime warranty on its outdoor speakers, which was absolutely amazing, but they’ve since downgraded it to 5 years (the same as DT’s warranty).
That said, Klipsch is usually the emphatic winner when it comes to maximum power for your dollar. The 650s still have the most power we’ve seen in a set of non commercial outdoor speakers, and at a good price for that matter – you’re going to get maximum value for your dollar (which doesn’t mean least expensive, understand).
If you need speakers to get big and loud, and don’t mind a potential drop off in bass, the 650s might be the best choice. But a lot of people simply don’t need this much power, or they might not like the forward kind of sound that Klipsch speakers generally have. Again, there’s no unilaterally right/wrong choice. Do note that these are also typically sold as singles, so you’ll have to get two for a complete pair.
The Best Environmental Rock Outdoor Speakers: The Klipsch AW-650-SM
There are several so called environmental speakers that look like rocks or other such inanimate outdoor objects, if you’re into that concept. Also more practically relevant is that rock speakers can rest on the ground and you don’t have to worry about mounting them (but they are a little more laborious to wire).
Most of the rock speakers we’ve reviewed (so far) aren’t that great, with the exception of Klipsch’s 650-SM – it’s still the most powerful non commercial grade speaker available of the on-ground “environmental/aesthetic” variety, and also a great value power/dollar ratio like their 650 outdoor box speaker discussed just prior.
The Best Cheap Omnidirectional On-Ground Outdoor Speakers: The TIC GS3
These remain the best budget-tier 360 degree speakers that we’ve seen. Similar power metrics to the seemingly more popular Bose Freespace 51s, but a fraction of the price. TIC is an interesting company because they exclusively produce outdoor/all-weather audio gear, which is a pretty specific niche. These are a good less expensive alternative to a set of the Klipsch 650-SMs.
The Best Cheap/Budget Outdoor Speakers: The Yamaha NS-AW150
For the penny pinchers, the 150s have remained the best deal for years – they’re a good set that you can typically aquire for under three figures, not to mention they come with speaker wire which is actually not common (but do note that it might not be the right speaker wire for you, which can depend on your situation).
Alternative choice: the Dayton IO655 (or the smaller 525) – a similar budget choice for the bass lovers, with specs close to on par with the DT 6500s/5500s mentioned above. Not quite as great a deal as the Yamahas, but, still a great brand that’s hard to go wrong with. If your priority is strong bass and you’re on a budget, these are a great choice. They now appear to be discontinued, but you can probably find a pair online with some thrifty googling.
The Best Active/Powered Outdoor Speakers: The OSD Audio BTP650
It’s great to see a very solid active/powered outdoor option for those who either can’t or simply don’t want to deal with the set up for passive speakers, which entails running outdoor grade speaker wire through the appropriate conduits, often through a wall or underground, ultimately to a receiver, which is yet another additional required expense with passive speakers. These OSD speakers, in quite contrast, simply need to be plugged into a standard wall socket with the included AC adapter and they’re ready to go. The savings and convenience is definitely an appealing option for those who want to keep things easy and simple. These speakers are also Bluetooth compatible, so you can easily stream directly to them with a phone, tablet, laptop indoors, or any other such source device. Most receivers can now do that too though, mind you.
Alternative choice: the very similar Sound Appeal BT Blast 6 – the best pick between two might simply be whichever’s the best deal at the time.
Additional Resources and Links
For a list of the current best selling outdoor speakers on Amazon, click here (includes wireless). Amazon best seller lists are useful because they’re constantly updated and the best deals generally creep to the top for as long as they last. If anything on here is up top there, that’s probably a slam dunk choice.
Most speakers need separately sold speaker wire, and outdoor/all weather speakers have particular wiring requirements. Read this guide on how to pick the correct speaker wire for all-weather/outdoor speakers.
Most outdoor speakers are passive and thus need a separate receiver or amplifier to power them – not sure what to get? Check out our current picks for best receivers/amplifiers for outdoor speakers here.