The Integration Guide to All-Weather AV

The idea of having an outdoor entertainment system is not new, though the challenge has always been finding quality audio and video components that live up to the standard often found in the best home theater systems.
Author:
Publish date:

This Integration Guide was sponsored by Apollo Enclosures, Near, Peerless-AV, Rockustics, Stealth Acoustics, and Terra, as a supplement to Residential Systems, March 2015

Image placeholder title

The StingRay 8-inch speaker by Stealth Acoustics has proven to be a company bestseller. Hermetically sealed with no grill (or any visible opening) and featuring a flat radiating diaphragm exterior made of the company’s fidelity glass, the StingRay allows Stealth Acoustics to take the concept of customization one step further. The idea of having an outdoor entertainment system is not new, though the challenge has always been finding quality audio and video components that live up to the standard often found in the best home theater systems. The punishing reality of the weather plays a large role in this disparity, though that is slowly changing as technology and client demands have upped the ante for outdoor AV designs.

The near omnipresence of wireless technology and advancements in cabling, namely longer AV cables capable of transmitting signals over farther distances, have contributed to the enhanced performance of products designated for outdoor use. Wi-Fi, especially, has been a boon to the outdoor speaker category, which has wasted no time in tapping into robust home networks and myriad streaming music services to deliver on the promise of quality backyard listening. But there is one other factor driving outdoor AV today: humans.

Image placeholder title

Terra’s LS Series outdoor speakers are not only waterproof but also offer landscape lighting. The LS.32 features LED lighting and audio specs that include a 5.25-inch coaxial weatherproof speaker with an ACAD ceramic aluminum cone, a 0.75-inch aluminum dome tweeter and a builtin switch that allows operation as a 70.7-volt or low-impedance system. “The emphasis of homeowners on the importance of outdoor living spaces has led the charge,” said Delia Hansen, residential marketing manager for Crestron. “People want to spend more time outdoors—custom outdoor BBQs with high-end appliances are very popular—as people spend more time in those spaces, they want their entertainment to join. Portable Bluetooth speakers are on the market by the hundreds, but when you are outside grilling your porterhouse steak on your custom outdoor Wolf range, you expect something a little nicer than a pair of 2-watt speakers.”

OUTDOOR LISTENING

“Portability is increasingly changing the game, particularly portability in signals and broadcast,” noted Terra Speakers’ president, James Banfield. “Simply put, now that music can be everywhere, customers are increasingly more interested in taking their music with them wherever they are.”

Terra has had a great deal of success with its LS series of outdoor speakers, which are not only waterproof but also offer landscape lighting. Among the speakers in the series, Banfield noted the popularity of the LS.32, which features LED lighting and audio specs that include a 5.25-inch coaxial weatherproof speaker with an ACAD ceramic aluminum cone, a 0.75-inch aluminum dome tweeter and a built-in switch that allows operation as a 70.7-volt or low-impedance system. The speaker housing can also be rotated up to 358 degrees to direct the sound wherever it is needed.

The StingRay 8-inch speaker by Stealth Acoustics has proven to be a company best-seller. Hermetically sealed with no grill (or any visible opening) and featuring a flat radiating diaphragm exterior made of the company’s fidelity glass, the StingRay allows Stealth Acoustics to take the concept of customization one step further.

“Not only can it accept paint to match its surroundings, but integrators can actually photograph the placement location of the speaker, send us the image file and we will print the photo directly to the face of the speaker—making it blend into its surroundings completely,” explained Brian Azzano, sales manager for Stealth Acoustics, who also noted the StingRay’s lack of exposed metal parts, which means no corroding of the speaker over time.

Considered “wildly popular” for outdoor entertaining, Crestron’s AIR landscape speakers do exactly that and underscores Hansen’s belief that people want more than a tinny speaker while enjoying their garden.

Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title

NEAR Speakers’ IG line is specifically designed for in-ground or on-ground applications where broad, even coverage is required in open areas such as gardens, walkways, decks, and patios, while the LB series is considered the brand’s high-performance bracketmount loudspeaker line and features a mounting system designed for safety, short ladder time, and convenience of the installer. “For integrators, the solid construction and a number of feature enhancements ensure a quick and easy installation and years of reliable performance,” Hansen said. “Featuring a unique “QuickBall” mounting system, the AIR speakers can be mounted to any solid flat surface with the ability to orient and aim the speaker in virtually any position. The QuickBall bracket achieves a very clean and stable installation using a tool-free, ball-and-socket mechanism. Simply position the speaker as desired and flip the clamp lever closed. A security screw is included to deter theft by preventing the lever from being released.”

NEAR Speakers, which is making a comeback in the residential AV space, has two lines of speakers to address outdoor AV design projects. The IG line is specifically designed for in-ground or on-ground applications where broad, even coverage is required in open areas such as gardens, walkways, decks, and patios, while the LB series is considered the brand’s high-performance bracket-mount loudspeaker line and features a mounting system designed for safety, short ladder time, and convenience of the installer.

“The LB6, our 6.5-inch coincident driver loudspeaker system, hits a sweet spot for performance and value,” said William Kieltyka, division general manager for NEAR. “Tremendous LF performance, superb resolution even at low and moderate volume levels, and all the NEAR technologies developed over 25-plus years to fight the ravages of Mother Nature.”

For Rockustics, the Pavarocci has been a hit because, as Jonathan Duran, sales manager for the brand’s parent company MSE Audio, said, “it perfectly hits the price/performance ratio that consumers are looking for in outdoor products.” An 8-inch, 2-way coaxial rock speaker that resembles a weathered sedimentary rock, the Pavarocci provides 70 watts of power and is ideal for use in large patios and small pool areas.

The Turtle outdoor amplified subwoofer system by Coastal Source was custom made to the company’s specs by JL Audio. A low-voltage self-contained subwoofer, the Turtle features built-in amplification and direct streaming from any mobile device.

“Just plug-and-play our power supply, cabling, and any of our satellite speakers to the Turtle,” said Franco D’Ascanio, Coastal Source’s president, “and within minutes your clients will be streaming their music and enjoying their complete high-performance system.”

OUTDOOR VIEWING

“LED TVs are brighter, lighter, and thinner with each new model released,” observed Lynn Stearn, president of Apollo Enclosures. “The invention of HD wireless transmission that can reliably broadcast more than 50 feet is finally here and allows for easier installations. There is also a larger variety of environmental AV options to view TV outdoors.”

To cater to this evolution in outdoor televisions, Apollo Enclosures’ 50-inch model AE5046 enclosure fits TV sizes from 46 to 50 inches. Affordable and featuring a slim, contemporary design, the AE5046 is equipped with anti-reflective glass to reduce glare and increase contrast ratio as well as a filtration system to keep out the dust and insects. A temperature-controlled airflow system protects the TV in temperatures up to 122 degrees, with speaker grilles that maximize the audio of the TV speakers, and includes an environmental weatherproof wall or ceiling mount.

Televisions, too, are becoming more rugged to handle outdoor applications, among them SunBriteTV’s 46-inch Signature Series (4670HD), which is designed for permanent outdoor installation. The 4670HD features a weather-tight exterior, a bright 1080p LED screen for improved outdoor viewing, has a powder-coated aluminum exterior, and can handle temps from -24 to 122 degrees F.

Image placeholder title

Rockustics’ Pavarocci is an 8-inch, 2-way coaxial rock speaker that resembles a weathered sedimentary rock, providing 70 watts of power for use in large patios and small pool areas. “As a direct descendant of the 4660HD, the world’s best-selling outdoor television, the SunBriteTV 46-inch Signature Series (4670HD) is one of our biggest products,” said Jonathan Johnson, director of branding for the company. “We’ve found that the size and the price point ($2,895) combine to form a consumer sweet spot. All SunBriteTV models are engineered from the ground up specifically for permanent outdoor installation, lasting for years in harsh weather conditions across North America.”

Earlier this year, Stealth Acoustics debuted the Stealth Patio Theater, an outdoor television that, according to Azzano, brings “the same technology that comprises Jumbotron displays in prosports venues into your backyard.” Large-format, high-resolution, and super-bright, the LED screen rises from its enclosure via an integrated lift system.

“Unlike LCD screens that are limited in size or projectors that are practically useless in daylight or bright conditions, the Patio Theater is very large and excels in these lighting conditions,” Azzano said. “Offered in three stock sizes (103-inch, 130-inch, and 155-inch) the Patio Theater is our most exciting product offering in the outdoor category. The Patio Theater is truly a turn-key solution with available integration of a complete theater audio system included as well.”

The Séura Storm Ultra Bright weatherproof outdoor TV is among the company’s most requested products and is notable for its sleek profile and robust outdoor technology, which includes LuminOptics, a proprietary combination of anti-reflective screen coatings and 700-nit brightness rating that refracts reflections from both the sun and the TV itself.

“Séura Storm Ultra Bright employs LuminOptics to provide the brightest outdoor TV so viewers can enjoy a vivid image outside in natural lighted settings, even in direct sunlight,” said Gretchen Gilbertson, Séura’s CEO and co-founder. “Séura makes it possible to bring indoor technology outside in a safe and elegant way that won’t detract from the home décor.”

Peerless-AV’s line of 47-inch TVs, including the consumer model (CL-4765) are viewable from far distances and features a sealed frame, as well as safety glass and a unique heating and cooling system that allows it work in all climates.

“The way that a panel has been sealed in a frame for outdoor weatherability has given many users the option to view all types of content outdoors,” said Jack McKeague, general manager and VP of sales, display division, Peerless-AV. “This advancement, along with technology making it possible for a wireless signal to be delivered from almost anywhere in today’s market, allows a client to put a display in various locations that were not possible before.”

Image placeholder title

Crestron’s AIR landscape speakers underscore the belief that people want more than a tinny speaker while enjoying their garden.ON THE HORIZON

As we get more comfortable bringing the entertainment pleasures so carefully chosen for our interior living spaces into our increasingly stylized and dedicated exterior spaces, expectations are high that the line separating the quality of the AV that define these projects will blur. How? Wireless is the touted game-changer, but there are still limitations.

“Down the road we expect wireless systems will change aspects of the outdoor market,” said Terra’s Banfield. “But currently there are some major limitations with those technologies that have been holding us back in that arena, particularly since our products are all weather. Wireless capabilities within this realm are still greatly limited. We want to be sure that before we adopt a technology, it’s been fully tested and vetted. Since we have a lifetime warranty we have to be sure that the product is solid all the way through. We want to see those obstacles moved out of the way so that the customer doesn’t have to find themselves frustrated with service calls.”

NEAR’s Kieltyka has similar concerns, noting that wireless still has tremendous obstacles to overcome to produce permanently installed outdoor wireless speakers.

“The technologies exist in various forms to assemble such a device, but it’s not pretty, or practical, or economical,” Kieltyka explained. “The portable devices now in existence are good for the temporary uses for which they are designed. Designing high-performance wireless systems that can be permanently installed in outdoor venues will require the continued evolution of several current technologies to reach this goal.”

The Internet of Things, which is grounded in the near-future ubiquity of wireless technology, will also have an impact on outdoor AV as fantastically foreseen by Hansen, who illustrated the probability thus: “One of our dealers integrated the BBQ into the control system, so when grilling, the homeowner can monitor the temperature of the meat and adjust the pit temperature from anywhere. They can receive alerts if the pit or meat temperatures go down so they know when to add more coals. We see more integration with outdoor appliances, pool/spa, irrigation systems, and more.”

How’s that for sophisticated?

Related