This summer I finally decided to put some speakers in my backyard and install all the accouterments that make a great outdoor audio system. This is my project from start to finish. What I wanted to accomplish, what I considered, and what I installed. There are many ways to get high quality sound into one's yard, this is the way that worked best for me.
- In my backyard I have two seating areas, a garden, and a chicken coop. Here are the goals I set out to accomplish.
- Two zones, one by each seating area.
- Fairly weather resistant speakers.
- High quality sound.
- Simple system to use for my family.
- Robust system that works every time we go to use it.
- Wide selection of content including local files, Tidal, Qobuz, and "any" other content such as Spotify, Apple Music, podcasts, etc... that people may want to hear.
- A final installation that is tasteful looking, considering this is an audio system capable of producing high quality audio.
- A project I could handle by myself without professional installation assistance.
I researched potential solutions for this system for months. I considered the Sonos Outdoor by Sonance speakers with a couple Sonos Amps, but just couldn't pull the trigger on it. Something about the system didn't thrill me. Perhaps it was a bunch of little things, such as lack of full Roon integration, limited local file support, and the big unknown of sound quality in my backyard. Sure, Sonos usually sounds good, but I had zero experience with these speakers and I was after something a little better than good.
Most people I talked to suggest I go with some type of wireless outdoor speakers. My response was always two questions to them. Have you seen the options for wireless outdoor speakers and you know they require a power cord right? The wireless outdoor speaker options I looked at were less than acceptable at best.
I considered and actually tested a Mytek based solution using a Brooklyn Bridge and Brooklyn amp. For a single zone this worked pretty well, but the cost, let alone practicality, of this for both zones was a bit prohibitive.
When it came to mounting the speakers, which ever speakers I selected, I considered placing them on my house or on stands. It seems that almost all outdoor speakers are built to be mounted on a house or structure. This didn't thrill me. I did't want two speakers sticking on the back of my house and two speakers sticking on my garage. Sure, if they were a few inches in height and width I'd be OK with it, but the laws of physics get in the way when one wants good sound. Larger speakers are needed, and I wanted more placement options as well. If I were to put them on my house, it would have to be in a location that just wasn't conducive for listening (up too high) or in a location that looked terrible (but at ear height).
I decided to mount the speakers on stands. I figured there must be tone of outdoor speaker stand options because I'm not the first guy to put speakers in his yard. I was in for quite a surprise when I started researching outdoor speaker stands. There really isn't such thing. There are a few mounting options here and there, but nothing I'd ever use. Sure, I could put up a PA system with scaffolding like Pearl Jam was playing my backyard, but let's get real. That's ridiculous.
After considering all my options, or at least the options I could find and talk to people about, I decided to create my own outdoor speaker stands.
I settled on a system that I knew would accomplish my goals and was manufactured by two solid companies.
The speakers I selected are the Dynaudio OW-8. These two-way speakers have an eight inch woofer and one inch tweeter. I love the eight inch woofer because again, it's physics. When it comes to speakers, I encourage people to get the largest models they can. Dynaudio also offers the OW-6 with a six inch woofer, but the size and cost difference was marginal at best, so I went for the larger model.
I purchased two pairs of the Dynaudio OW-8 so I could place two near my house for that zone and two near the garage for the other zone. The cost of the OW-8 are $1,200 per pair.
I combined the source and amplification into single units per zone by purchasing two Bluesound Powernodes. One Powernode to drive the speakers near the house and one Powernode to drive the speakers near the garage. After researching all the options, I really don't think there is a more cost effective solution than the Powernode. It's a stellar tool that everyone should keep in mind for this and many other situations.
The newest version of the Powernode has more power 220W (4 Ohms) / 130W (8 Ohms) than the previous version, and supports all the usual Bluesound goodies such as wide file format support, local library support, Roon and Bluesound native app support, tons of content options, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect, and the critically important facts that it works every time and it's simple to use if I'm not around to be the tech support guy.
Keep in mind that the Powernode sounds great. That's a must, or else I wouldn't eve consider it.
The speaker stands that I "created" for the OW-8s are a mix and match of pieces not designed for speaker stands. But, they work awesome. I'll detail them all below.
Installing the Bluesound Powernodes, speaker wire, speaker stands, and Dynaudio OW-8 speakers was really easy, yet backbreaking. The one big issue was manually digging an 18-24" trench through my yard to bury the speaker cable. I will never do that again without either a proper machine or hiring a company to do the work. I purchased a trenching shovel and first attempted to dig into the extremely dry backyard. Without much rain this summer the ground was rock hard. The only way I could get through the dirt was to drench it with water before and while digging. This made for both much heavier dirt and a huge muddy mess. After about 70 feet of trench digging AND refilling the trench, my hands were and are still sore. Again, that's the last time I'll ever dig a trench.
Why dig so deep? We have plans for a couple patios in the backyard and the contractor was talking about using some big machines to level the yard. I didn't want to fool around with a shallow trench and worry about the wires being compromised and I also ran new 10/2 UF-B direct burial power wire for my garage while I was at it. The existing power wire was buried by the previous home owner a few inches below the dirt. I found out the hard way. I figured it was time to lay a new wire that I knew was deep and the I knew was buried in a good spot.
I started the trench near a hole in the back of my house where the fiber internet, wireless access point Ethernet cable, and air conditioner lines go in/out of the house. As you can see in the pictures, the trench ran along house for one zone of speakers and perpendicular to the house for the garage zone of speakers.
The Powernode amps are located inside on the east side of the house, but this egress hole is on the west side of the house. This required seriously long speaker cables, a long power cable, and while I was at it I ran two fiber cables for another wireless access point that I installed in the garage (more on that later).
I purchased two 250 foot rolls of Monoprice Origin Series 12 Gauge 2 Conductor Burial Rated Speaker Wire with a water resistant jacket and pure bare oxygen-free copper conductors. This is where I read all the recommendations for speaker cable length, proper burial technique (not next to power lines), etc... and threw them out the window. Not that I wanted to ignore the rules or that I knew better, I just had a a real world situation to deal with. I had a single trench in which I wasn't going to run conduit to separate the power wire from speaker wires, and I also had two 250' rolls of speaker cable that would work if cut right. Sure, I should make all runs of speaker wire the same length. The reality is that the two long runs going to the garage were cur first off each roll. What was left on those rolls was used for the speakers close to my house. I didn't measure the lengths or do anything I "should've" because I was way too tired from digging the trench. Such is life.
Also in the trench I put one 50 meter OS2 LC to LC single mode duplex fiber patch cable and one 30 meter LC UPC to LC UPC duplex OS2 single mode Industrial/Military-Grade fiber patch cable. Why two fiber cables and no direct burial fiber cable? Great questions. I ordered the original fiber cable months ahead of time without thinking about its suitability for outdoor use. Then, at the last minute while I had the trench open, I saw a military grade cable at FS.com and ordered the to throw in the trench as well. I wanted to get the project done and wasn't going to wait for a proper direct burial fiber cable. Again, such is life.
I guess this whole trenching and cable running will be a great test of regular vs military strength fiber cables and super long speaker cables running next to power lines underground. So far, so good :~)
Once the cable was run int he trench and before closing it up, I installed the entire system. I couldn't chance it with a bad cable and re-dig that trench.
The speaker stands are a thing of beauty, if you like researching parts and figuring out what will fit together that will hold a speaker mount that ships with the speakers. There were some mishaps and a bucket of parts that didn't work, but I'll spare readers the gory details. Here is how I "created" outdoor speaker stands from items not meant for outdoor speaker stands.
- 22' long ground screw capable of holding a pipe up to 2 1/4".
- 2" x 48" black steel pipe to fit in the ground screw.
- 2" malleable iron pipe fitting / Cap for the top of the pipe.
- 2 2" cast iron split ring hangers, 3/8 thread size, for each speaker.
- 1/4" machine screws 5/8" length to fit the 1/4 hole in the Dynaudio mounts.
- 3/8" carbon steel self locking thread inserts with 1/4" internal thread size to make the 3/8" split ring hanger thread smaller.
- 1/4 power driver to put the thread inserts into the split ring hangers (impossible to do without this).
I screwed the 22" ground screw into the ground as deep as possible. Along the house, I put these into the window wells to hide them and the steel pipe as much as possible. Screwing these into the ground inside the window well isn't the easiest thing, but I think it was the right move. Once the pipe was firmly in place, I put the first split ring hanger around it. The Dynaudio mount attached the to the OW-8 speaker has two screw holes. I attached the speaker and mount to the single split ring hanger, then placed the second hanger in the proper position, aligned with he other speaker mount screw hole.
Once all the screws were tightened and the speaker wire reasonably hidden around the pipe, the installation was super solid. Each speaker is adjustable via the ball in the mount. The speakers near the garage seating area are exactly at ear height. This is great for me because it's where I listen to audio outdoor the most. If I'm using the the other two speakers, I'm usually walking around the yard and ear height isn't that important.
The way I mounted the speakers to the stands will enable me to remove them for the winter easily. I know they are rated for cold, but -25 degrees fahrenheit may be a bit much.
Note about the fiber / access point - The fiber I ran underground goes into my garage through the floor. I've used long runs of copper Ethernet cable in the past and been displeased with their performance, so I wanted to run single mode fiber capable of going several kilometers if necessary. This fiber terminates into fiber to PoE conversion box (UniFi F‑POE‑G2). This box requires a PoE injector that plugged into a wall outlet in my garage because fiber carries zero power signals. From the conversion box, an Ethernet cable both power and carries the signal from a UniFi access point. Here are images of the installation.
Enjoying The System
I couldn't be happier than I am with the system I installed. The sound of the Bluesound Powernodes and Dynaudio OW-8 speakers is really terrific. There's definitely something to listening to one's favorite music while sitting outside, that causes one not to fret too much about the little things. That said, even when I tried to find the little things about which to fret, I couldn't. This system sounds so good it has surprised me many times. I hear absolutely no issues because of long analog speaker cables and no issues because of the power wire run along side the speaker wires.
I sit outside for hours while the chickens hunt and peck, just watching them and listening to tunes. I've even put a moue on my iPad Pro while streaming the audio through the Powernode connected to the garage speakers. It was really fun to have "big" sound outside while watching the movie. I'm sure the neighbors loved it.
My wife can use either Roon or the Bluesound app without any issues. She also uses AirPlay from her phone once in a while for a podcast. Either way, the Powernodes and Bluesound ecosystem just work, every time.
The chickens and I enjoying a little Bill Evans in the backyard :~)
A couple shots of the backyard currently. The garage speakers are back in the nook to the right of the coop.
Shots of the trench
The hole into the house can be seen where my yellow fiberglass tool for pulling wires is sticking out.
Left and right speakers by the garage. You can see everything pre-rust / rain, and the ground screw sticking up a few inches. I've since replaced that outlet on the garage with an in-use outlet. The speaker cable isn't buried yet in these shots.
You can see the way I attached the speaker amounts to the steel pipes and the cable running down the back of the pipe.
This is a shot of the left channel against the house. I ran the speaker cable underground to the house, then through a hole between the house and the window well. You can see the cable coming out of that hole below.
After a few rains the cap is rusty. I like the look.
After the entire summer, the speaker looks a little worn.
The right channel by the garage is hidden fairly well by the garden, but exposed just enough to project audio at ear height.
The garage nook / seating area is off to the right of the coop.
The chickens and our cat Steve enjoying the sounds of summer.
Items mentioned in this article and links to where I purchased many of them.
American Ground Screw Model 2 Premium No Dig Ground Anchor - Round Post & Flag Pole Base Ground Mount - Screw in Post Stake, 22" Inch Long, (Fits Round Poles 1” - 2 1/4") Replacement Fence Post Anchor