The S4SATs have 60-degree dispersion with an “optimal listening area” six to 20 feet from the satellites.Modern entertaining and living frequently extends beyond the boundaries inside the home. Big summer kitchens, outdoor patios, fire pits, swimming pools…these are the modern hangout spaces. But many integrators continue providing audio same as it ever was–hanging weatherproof speakers off the side of the house or maybe some green “mushrooms” or rocks dispersed amongst the landscaping. It’s a workable solution, but the sound is never quite right; it’s too loud in some places, too quiet in others, with thin and uneven bass.
Sonance’s SLS system is an impressive alternative for sure. From my review of the San Clemente, CA, manufacturer’s Landscape Series (SLS) system (RS, August 2012) I wrote, “It was actually weird to hear music sounding this good outdoors that wasn’t at a concert or something.” But the SLS had one major drawback: the price. Let’s be honest, we often have a hard enough time convincing clients to spring for multiple pairs of speakers to cover an area, let alone the $6,715 for the SLS entry-level system.
Fortunately, Sonance recognized the need for a lower priced solution, and that’s where the SONARRAY SR1 fits in–a just-add-amplification outdoor solution all-in-one box. While similar, there are some major differences between the SLS and the SONARRAY system. Besides playing lower and louder, the SLS is a 70-volt system and includes a Crown amplifier with specially tweaked EQ curves, whereas the SONARRAY is 8 ohms driven by a typical receiver/amplifier. Second, where the SLS system is scalable–add more satellites or subs for larger areas–there is no adding (or taking away) from the SONARRAY system.
Fortunately, the SONARRAY is a pretty awesome package as is that is perfect for entertaining in typical-sized (up to 2,000 square feet) backyards. The SR1 includes eight S4SAT speakers and one S8SUB. The speakers are 30 ohms, but when four are connected in parallel, they present a stable 7.5- ohm load to the receiver/amp. The S4SATs have 60-degree dispersion with an “optimal listening area” six to 20 feet from the satellites. Sonance recommends placing them six to eight feet apart along the perimeter of the listening area, alternating left/right with the sub placed in the middle.
I ran a length of 14/4 speaker wire around the curve of my deck, focusing the S4SAT’s sound across my pool and back toward the house. The speakers are landscape-friendly dark brown color and have ground stakes attached for easy placement and wire concealment. The sub looks like a big, brown mushroom and the bottom-half can be buried for a more discreet look. The system includes siliconefilled wiring nuts for a weather-proof connection. I lived with the system for several weeks, and can attest that they held up to all manner of South Carolina weather conditions–sun, cold, rain, wind, etc.
The SONARRAY by Sonance SR1 outdoor speaker package includes eight S4SAT speakers and one S8SUBEven though the SR1 is rated at 50-125 watts, it sounds best when connected to a good, high-current power amplifier. I drove them with Sonance’s SonAmp 275SE, which was a great pairing.
With the SONARRAY, I found myself making excuses to go and sit outside to listen. Plopping into a chair with a glass of wine or a beer and just… listening. When’s the last time you ever wanted to go outside to listen and enjoy music?
Much like the SLS, the SR1 created a rich wall of sound that was reminiscent of seeing outdoor concerts at the Concord Pavilion as a teenager–REM, Sting, Elvis Costello, all of them just playing away to the thousands of us on the lawn during a Northern California summer night. Vocals and instruments hang and float on this huge, open, airy space, and bass emanates from everywhere; filling in and supporting the music and making it sound less like typical “outdoor audio” and just more like just great music. The SR1 gave me a good bit of that same feeling.
The lowest bass notes in songs like The Crystal Method’s “High Roller” didn’t hit as deep, hard, or tight as an indoor sub, but pop songs like the Black Eyed Peas’ “Don’t Lie” had solid, well-defined bass lines. The speakers conveyed all the quirky articulation in Fiona Apple’s voice along with the rock and bombast of Led Zeppelin.
The SR1 also plays plenty loud; I measured over 90 dB at my listening position almost 30 feet from the speakers with more room on the volume dial. Fortunately (for my neighbors) the sound drops off quickly behind the speakers, lowering about 10 dB just 10 feet behind them. I did notice that the SR1 system didn’t have as much presence as the SLS system at lower volumes.
The best way to sell the SONARRAY system is simply to let a customer hear it. Arrange for a demo–preferably at their home– and once they hear how great audio can sound outside in such a discreet and affordable package, they likely won’t want to live without it.
A complete outdoor audio solution with great sound at a price that won’t shock the budget
Can’t add (or subtract) to the system; use a good amp to drive them
• System includes (8) S4SAT, (1) S8SUB
• S4SAT resemble landscape lighting and have 3.5-inch woofer; Covers 60-degree listening area from 8-20 feet
• SATs mounted on ground stakes
• S8SUB can be buried for discreet install; features 8-inch dual voice-coil woofer and covers up to 2,000 sq. ft.
• System frequency response is 40-20kHz +/- 3dB
• System impedance is 8 ohms per channel (4 SATS and one voice coil of the SUB connected in parallel)
• Sensitivity is 85 dB (SATs) and 89 dB (SUB) 2.83V/1 meter
• 3-year warranty