It's Springtime. The grass is getting its first feeding, you are probably planning the planting of new bulbs in the garden, the birds are out and you are looking forward to the summer months ahead. Ahhh, you can smell the sweet scent of hickory chips, corn on the cob and briskets already.
It is no mystery that this time brings out all the big projects in you but among the most daunting to some is planning (Nevermind executing) your outdoor audio project. Let's face it: It's big a game changer. Silent lulls become filled with pleasant audio from your music library. It lightens moods throughout your home and you don't even need to hire a DJ. Simply pick your favorite playlist that fits and press "Play".
The issue home and business owners struggle with whole house audio, commercial audio and outdoor applications is that no system is made alike. All yards are different, all layouts are different. Judge too small and you will barely make a dent in the needs of your home. Judge too big and you may likely find yourself with angry neighbors (and an angry wife).
Things to Consider:
Whether you are considering adding audio to your home to the first time or you are trying to bring the comforts of your music to the outdoors, there are multiple considerations that one has to take in before such projects can take place. Aside from the obvious concerns of volume, positioning, style, and type of audio system you may consider, but there are multiple saftey, code, and performance considerations you need to account for as well. Afterall, trenching speaker wire in your yard may sound simple but not if you do it incorrectly and find yourself redoing it the following year or worse, hit something buried that you didn't intend on being there.
Before any outdoor project can be performed, my first tip is call the utility companies to mark off their locations prior to digging...EVER. This is not just for your saftey and the saftey of your neighbors, but it's also the law! Many utility companies perform this service free of charge and for those who reside in the Northeast/New England area, all you have to do is dial 811 or contact Digsafe. They are a not for profit agency that will contact the utility companies for you so you don't have to fuss with the phone calls. It's simple, it's safe and it's free. The utility companies will then mark any areas that you need to steer clear of so you do not chance hitting any buried utilities below. This service has no limit of usage either so if you did use them in the past, you can use them as many times as needed in the future. Rule #1: Being safe is never having to say "I'm sorry".
70 Volt Systems vs Impedance
Aside from what type of speakers they should use, many clients of mine are often left in the dark with what system of amplification they should go with. Many may not even aware that there is more than one they saw at a Best Buy. While there are many forms of amplification methods out there, we will focus on the two most popular; 70 Volt and Impedance.
Both systems have their advantages and shortfalls. When designing your system, it is important to consider how each type of system performs over the other. For instance: If you, my client was just looking to add 2 speakers to a small area of your yard and wanted supurb quality, I am not going to reccomend a 70 Volt System as they do not perform well for the dollar in samll applications and do not offer near the sound performance as impedance based systems. Here is a basic list of what both offer and applications.
Size – best suited for large systems
Design – fast, easy system design
Wiring – longer runs over smaller gauge wire
Scalability – easily add speakers later
Volume – individual tap settings at each speaker
Tuning – amplifier DSP to fine tune performance
Mono Audio -stereo sound isn’t consistent in large areas without twice the number of speakers and amplifiers.
Size – best suited for smaller systems (fewer than 6 speakers)
Cost – ability to use existing amplifier vs. dedicated 70V amplifier
Flexibility – can use Powered Zone2 output from an A/V receiver
Performance – speakers can handle more power, which is ideal when using a few speakers at high volume
Stereo sound - better sound quality in small listening areas.
Please note: This list has flexability and is a general discription of differences. There are variables that do come up in a number of applications that I run into, but for the most part, this should give you the general idea.
Seek the Advise of a Pro:
It may sound cliche, we know but just as you would seek the advise of a medical expert when you run into an unknown condition, you should do the same with any application that is unfamiliar territory.
No one is an expert on everything, no one expects this and as a professional in the field, I can saftely say that I love questions and answering them. It's kinda what we enjoy doing in our job and you maybe surprised on how much you may find out. Maybe you will discover what that annoying hum is coming from your speakers. Maybe you'll discover that you wired the speakers incorrectly. Or maybe you found out it is about time you have a professional take a look at the problem for you. You are never going to come to an answer if you do not ask the questions and in the end every service pros job first is support.
I have first hand seen ideas and great visions come to life just by a simple question from a vast number of my clients. Together with the advise of a professional, the right gear and the right approach, they are now enjoying the spoils of thier springtime efforts from years past and so can you. Beleive me: Victory never sounded so good!