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Outdoor speakers system planning guide

What you need to know before you buy

In this article: We'll offer practical examples of how to plan an outdoor sound system that can fill any space with music, including:

Our Advisors help Crutchfield customers build outdoor sound systems in yards large and small. The key to success for each one? Having a solid plan. We'll give you an idea what to do in some of the most common situations, and show you how to contact us if you need further advice.

SETUP 1: Small deck or patio

Stereo outdoor speakers give you good sound in a small area right outside the house. Figure out where you'll put them before you buy.

For the best stereo effect, we recommend mounting left and right speakers about 10 feet apart. Don’t try to cover a bigger space by moving them further apart, or you may only hear one ‘side’ of the song.

plans for a stereo outdoor setup

The dining table is in the sweet spot for stereo sound, about 12 feet from each speaker.

Have a covered porch?

Our Advisors often recommend in-ceiling speakers for covered outdoor spaces. Some are moisture resistant. They're made with bathrooms and saunas in mind, so they can handle the humidity.

Under the eaves, a popular mounting location

Many outdoor speakers are weather-resistant rather than weatherproof, so they’ll need some cover. Are your eaves close to the ground (or the deck)? Mount speakers underneath, to protect them from rain.

Just don’t mount them much higher than 10 feet above the listening area.

speakers shown mounted under the eaves of a house

Mounting speakers under the eaves also helps hide them for a discreet look.

Music sources and wiring for simple stereo setups

You'll need a receiver or amp to power your speakers and connect music sources. Already have a home theater receiver with "Zone 2" or “ Zone B” speaker outputs? They can be called into service to power your outdoor speakers.

In some cases, it might be much easier to install and operate a separate music source that can be placed much closer to your deck or patio. Consider adding a second receiver or a wireless music player that has a built-in amp, such as the Sonos Amp.

Many home theater receivers can connect to your home network. Most of these let you wirelessly control key functions via a smartphone app. You won’t have to run inside to adjust volume or change playlists. Does your Wi-Fi® reach out into your yard? If not, a new Wi-Fi router or extender can boost your wireless coverage.

How much power do outdoor speakers need?

Inside your home, there are walls to reflect and contain sound. Outside, of course, it’s wide open. To get the same perceived volume outside as you do indoors, you need to double the power.

Want to play your outdoor music quite loud? A powerful receiver or amp would be a good choice. If you’re a Sonos fan, try a Sonos Amp or hook a Port (which has no amp) to your receiver.

SETUP 2: Music for a large yard

To enjoy music across a larger yard, you'll need to cover different areas or "zones" with sound. Think of each zone in your yard as you would a separate room in your house.

You need the right amount of speakers for each zone, so that it's never too loud or too soft in one area. Our A/V Design team can help with this — just send us your contact info and we'll be in touch.

Design for larger yard

Our in-house A/V designers can develop a plan that covers different "zones" with music.

Stereo setups don’t work well in large yards, either. You’ll want speakers that play both left and right channels. There are two ways to approach this. You can get stereo-input speakers that have left and right connections. Or you can get amps that combine left and right channels, sending mono signals to standard speakers.

Outdoor rock speaker

Rock speakers blend into your landscaping and help bring music to zones that are farther from the house.

Read our Outdoor speaker buying guide for more details.

What about wiring?

You can buy in-wall speaker wire with two conductors or four. Use four-conductor cable with stereo-input speakers. These cables contain wires for both left- and right-channel inputs. Use 16-gauge cable for runs of 80 feet or less. Use 14-gauge cable for runs of up to 200 feet.

Our in-wall speaker cables can be buried, but it’s probably best practice to run buried cable through a hard plastic conduit, so you don’t cut it with a shovel. This also keeps the wire protected from rodents.

outdoor speaker wiring

A PVC conduit gives you extra protection from lawn mowers, gardening tools, and critters.

Multi-channel amp

Multi-channel amps deliver a lot of power, and they give you separate volume control for each area. You might want your music loud by the pool and softer near the grill. Or vice-versa.

Illustration of a multi-channel amp

70-volt amp

A 70-volt commercial-grade amp can drive many more speakers than a comparably priced residential-grade amp. It’s easy to add speakers later on. And you’ll need much less wire.

Cost savings can be substantial with 70-volt systems, but system planning is more complicated, and you may sacrifice a little sound quality. You’ll definitely want to contact an Advisor if you’re curious about this approach.

Illustration of a 70-volt system

Volume control options

Sonos and other wireless audio systems let you control volume from your phone. But what if you’re on a call or your wireless network drops out? Separate, weatherproof volume controls come in handy, especially in pool areas near water, where you might not want your phone.

outdoor volume control

Separate volume controls let you turn your music up or down while you're outside — even while your phone is in use.

SETUP 3: Music for special events

Throw a lot of big parties? Need a sound system for an amateur band or DJ? Portable PA systems include mixers to plug in instruments, turntables, and microphones. Many have built-in Bluetooth or aux inputs so you can connect your phone for DJ duty.

Eli Cook on the mall

Musician Eli Cook performing in downtown Charlottesville with a portable PA system.

Need help getting started? Contact us

Sound like a lot to take in? Contact our Advisors for help. It goes so much easier with a little guidance from one of our experienced professionals.

Quinn and Polk

A/V designer Quinn is one of several friendly, knowledgeable Advisors available to help you plan your outdoor system.

  • judith lerner from Vallejo, CA 94591

    Posted on 9/4/2022

    I'm a middle school teacher and I'm hopelessly confused about what I need. I want to get a portable speaker, with a mic if possible, to play music during lunch for about 500 students in our school quad. It's a large, outdoor space. I'd like to be able to play music from a play list on a phone or laptop (I guess blue tooth right?) Rechargeable battery would be nice, but we can also manage if we have to plug it in. We have basically no money. I'm gonna pay for it myself and say it's from PTA. The kids are not all right and we desperately need to do something positive for them at lunch. I'd love to come in under $200 if at all possible, but I don't want to spend $80 on something that won't work for us. Any thoughts?

    Commenter image

    Eric A. from Crutchfield

    on 9/6/2022

    Judith - you've come to the right place. There's a line of Bluetooth speakers by JBL called PartyBox, and several of them come with microphones. The cheapest one is the PartyBox On-The-Go, which is slightly more than your budget, but it definitely does exactly what you want, and will be very reliable. They are on sale right now, so if you can swing it, that would be my recommendation. Good luck with the school year!
  • Fernando Aguila from Miami

    Posted on 5/16/2022

    Hi. I have a pair of Polk Atrium 6 speakers for my patio plus a Sony Subwoofer 130w. I am confusing about get a receiver or amplifier for them. I need something that I can equalizer the audio to get the best quality sound. I have a Sony home theater system that handle 850w, over 100w per channel and 140w for the subwoofer but and can't equalizer the music to get the best sound. I need help to choose the right equipment.

    Commenter image

    Eric A. from Crutchfield

    on 5/17/2022

    Fernando - many home theater receivers have room correction software built in, but that's for an indoor space. I have yet to see a consumer product that offers a way to easily fine-tune an outdoor system. There may be a commercial product that can do it, but that would involve installing an entirely new system. It may be worth your while to check in with one of our system designers to see if they have a recommendation, though! Thanks for the question.
  • Kevin Ratcliffe

    Posted on 4/3/2022

    Great article. Do you sell any AV parts to allow an outside setup to be seasonal? I have 2 Polk Audio Antium 8 SDI speakers, 2 Klipsch AWR-650 speakers and 1 Earthquake Sound Granite-10D Outdoor Subwoofer power by a sub amp and to Sonos Amps which I will be installing in my outside pool and kitchen area. I would like to setup the Klipsch and subwoofer during summer months and seeking a water proof box that will make seasonal connections relatively quick and easy. Any suggestions?

    Commenter image

    Eric A. from Crutchfield

    on 4/5/2022

    Kevin - I know the brackets for the speakers allow for pretty easy removal, but I don't know of any purpose-built waterproof boxes with connectivity that we might carry. We'll keep our eye out for something like that.
  • Frank from Florida

    Posted on 3/30/2022

    I'm interested in purchasing a set of outdoor speakers for my 20' x 20' lanai in south Florida. I would like weather proof, self powered, Bluetooth speakers. What do you recommend?

    Commenter image

    Eric A. from Crutchfield

    on 4/1/2022

    Frank - The permanent-install outdoor speakers we sell are passive, so the Bluetooth would have to run through whatever receiver or amp you decide to use. Something like this Phase Tech OS-440 does a nice job. If you're looking for something more versatile, we have a number of waterproof portable bluetooth speakers that may serve your needs. Please feel free to contact us via phone or chat if you want more detailed advice.
  • Francisco Tapia from San jacinto

    Posted on 2/20/2022

    Do they make a wireless amp for outdoor Bluetooth wireless speakers? Sounds like a lot but I'm not trying to run speaker wires and back yard is big.

  • Kevin from San Jose

    Posted on 11/20/2021

    I will be installing an outdoor setup in my small backyard powered by a sonos amp. Speakers will be under the eaves. I plan on running the speakers in mono mode. What is the optimal distance from one speaker to another if I go with something like an Atrium 6?

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 11/22/2021

    Kevin - There are a few factors to consider about your specific layout, so I'd highly recommend calling an Advisor who can ask you a few questions and tailor the recommendation to your needs. Thanks!
  • Joe McClelland from Danville, CA

    Posted on 6/1/2021

    I have a 30'x24' freestanding covered patio and will be mounting two speakers under the eaves. I'm considering the Bose 251 environmental speakers. I will be streaming music from my phone. I will not be playing the music too loudly. I am looking for a separate affordable receiver or wireless device. Your recommendation would be appreciated.

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 6/2/2021

    Joe - My favorite device for this kind of application is the Yamaha WXC-50. It's designed for streaming flexibility and its form factor makes it easy to install just about anywhere. If you want to spend less money, the Yamaha R-S202 stereo receiver has Bluetooth built-in, but you'll have to find more space for it. Hope that helps!
  • Kevin from Chicago

    Posted on 3/4/2021

    Great article! I've currently got a Sonos amp in the basement wired to a pair of in ceiling klipsch speakers on the ground floor and am looking to build a deck in the spring. Current problem I have is I don't want to run speaker wire from outside down to the basement and I also don't like how you'll need to have the inside playing music as well as the outside at the same time. I also don't want to just get a portable sonos speaker as I want more of a permanent solution I can leave outside. So I'm thinking about getting an echo dot and putting that in a weatherproof outdoor (hinged) enclosure with a mini amp and then connecting that to a pair of outdoor speakers. Can you recommend an amp (that would fit in that enclosure) and speakers that would work well with? I saw the Vanguard Dynamics Vail Amp 3 which would be perfect but it's not rated for outdoors. That's why I'm thinking of a similar solution but placing the dot in a weatherproof enclosure. I'm not sure the Dot will be able to hear me in the enclosure but I can always 1) open the hinged top or 2) control it through spotify on my phone. Thoughts?

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 3/5/2021

    Kevin - This doesn't help with the desire to use the Dot, but we do offer a Sonos Outdoor Speaker Bundle that would play very nicely with your existing Sonos system and allow you to have different content playing in different zones. If that's still not quite what you're looking for, I highly recommend having a quick call or online chat with one of our Advisors. Thanks for the question!
  • Ryan Macomb from Tucson, AZ

    Posted on 3/3/2021

    I'm getting a patio cover installed out in my backyard, it will have 4 can lights and a ceiling fan installed. I want to install two ceiling speakers, but can't decide how my set up will be. I want to listen to radio, connect via Bluetooth and even play cd maybe. I'm thinking bout something like what I have in my car but in my covered patio.

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 3/4/2021

    Ryan - You've come to the right place. Your desire to listen to terrestrial radio and have Bluetooth narrows down the selections quite nicely. Here's a filtered list of stereo receivers that have both. Personally, my eye always strays toward Yamaha in these situations, because they're feature-full and pretty powerful. But your decision may come down to which one has inputs for other sources, or some other small point that puts it over the top. If you want any help narrowing the list further, you can always call or chat with one of our Advisors. Hope this helps!
  • Brandon lowery from RAWLINGS

    Posted on 12/3/2020

    I purchased 2 of the polk atrium 8 speakers for my deck. I read in your guide that stereo sound doesn't work well outside. Would I be better off wiring each as a single? They will be mounted under the eave. On one side the area is a bit recessed and I have some odd angles that I feel like will somewhat give the sound something to bounce off of, on the opposite the one speaker will be basically pointed towards open air. Is it necessity that speakers are mounted at same height for sound quality? Looking forward to your response. Thank you!

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 12/4/2020

    Brandon - In your case, stereo will work very well, because the Atrium 8 speakers have two tweeters and you can configure each speaker to put out stereo on its own. Stereo does not work well if you're trying to use a left and right speaker to produce left and right channels, because it's difficult to place them so the sound hits your ears at the right time from both. Long story short, yes, wire them as singles. If you have any other issues with them, give our tech support a call and we can diagnose, but I think you'll be in good shape. Thanks for the question!
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