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Get Wired: Backyard Speakers

Once upon a time, backyard audio meant a boom box and a volume knob turned really, really loud. Backyard video? Who are you, George Jetson? Times have changed and with the outdoor living trend going strong, having a backyard that’s wired for sound – and even video – is increasingly common.

“I couldn’t enjoy myself out in my backyard without my music,” says Ryan Peddle of Liptons Audio Video in Newmarket. “The vast majority of what we do in terms of outdoor entertainment is based on audio, and that means installing outdoor, all-weather speakers. Different companies make different shapes and sizes and they’re wired into the house.”

A couple of speakers out back is just right for many folks, and Peddle says a setup with 2 nice speakers, some wiring and the distributed audio devices to get your computer, smart phone or iPod talking to the network costs about $1200.

He notes, it’s a misconception that having more speakers will be too loud or upset the neighbours. Usually the opposite is true. If you’ve got a big back yard, and only a couple of speakers, you’ll have to turn your volume up louder to hear your music from any distance. If you had speakers set up to properly cover your space, the volume levels could remain much lower.

The other misconception is that a “wireless” system means wireless speakers. It doesn’t. Peddle is adamant about this. “Speakers require power,” he says. “You need to power them with something. People think batteries will work, but you’d have to run a car battery to power some of these speakers. Everything else is easy. Wiring is critical. And we can wire anything. We do systems with just a couple of speakers on a deck, all the way up to a completely wired pool area and pool house.”

Speakers come in all shapes and sizes – some of them designed to look like rocks and nestle amongst the posies in your flower bed. Plan ahead and you can easily have speakers built into the walls or ceiling of any backyard structures. “If you’ve got a covered area, you can do in-ceiling speakers. As long as the wire can get to the location, you can put speakers there.”

And what to do with your speakers in the winter?

“Most speaker brands can be left outside,” says Peddle. “If you’re not going to use them in the winter, it can be a good idea to take them down. If that’s not possible, the best thing to do is just cover them up to keep the moisture off. They’ll be fine.”

So we’ve got speakers covered. But where does the music actually come from? Your iPod, probably. Peddle sets up distributed audio systems, and Sonos Connect is at the heart of most of them. “The best way to describe it is this: it’s distributed audio with wireless controls. Sonos is a networking product, so it can read music stored on your iPod, for example.” Or your computer or any other devices you add to the network.

Outdoor video is becoming increasingly popular, too. Peddle says it’s important to remember that television sets are not made to be outside, so you need a very specialized product to cope with a Canadian winter and any kind of wet or humid conditions.

Companies like SunBrite make outdoor TVs that can stay outside year round. A 46 inch indoor/outdoor TV from the company costs about $5000. “They have their own little eco-system with built in cooling and heating.” All you need is electrical wiring, cabling and a wall mount.

Peddle says audio and video installations have come a long way in the last 5 years. “I think the main element is the distributed audio. The Sonos products are amazing. And these days, everybody has some sort of smart device. So really, with a couple of speakers, a network and iPhone and you’re off to the races.”