Maintaining Your Outdoor Speakers

Bryn De Kocks | July 19, 2015 9:34 am

Most people think that after mounting outdoor speakers, you can forget about them until they start giving problems or it is time for replacements. While this is true for some of the more resilient models that are water and weatherproof, a little maintenance can ensure that your outdoor speakers last for years. Maintenance is essential for outdoor speakers that are not water or weatherproof unless you want to buy new speakers frequently.

The user guide with your speakers usually contains all the information you need, whether it is safe to leave your speaker out in the elements or whether it is time to pack everything up and move indoors at the first sign of bad weather. The initial placement of your speakers, especially for wired and mounted models, will significantly impact how much maintenance will be required, so a speaker in a shady spot under the eaves will have an easier life than one in the dirt next to the pool.

Maintaining Your Outdoor Speakers 1

Inspection & Cleaning

Depending on how much you use our outdoor speakers, it is good to perform regular inspections to ensure they are still in good condition. For speakers left outdoors in the elements, check that there are no obstructions in front of the grille that can cause degradation of the audio quality. Check the operating guide that came with your speakers to see if it is possible to open the speaker casing or remove the grille to check the interior for any debris. Remove any debris, rocks, sandy particles, or bugs that you find inside the casing, especially ones that are directly on the drivers for speakers that face upwards, as these will cause distortion and crackling sounds as they bounce around on the speaker cones, which are undesirable.

If the casing of your outdoor speaker is sealed against the elements, do not force it open to inspect the interior for dirt, as you may compromise its weather and water resistance. With speakers like this, preventative maintenance, such as cleaning the speaker’s exterior and keeping the area around the speaker clean, is the best action. You want to keep the grille clear of obstructions as this will impact the sound, so remove any leaves, spider webs, or debris that may have blown into any openings on the speaker.

To keep the exterior of your outdoor speaker looking good, you can use dishwashing liquid or other very mild detergents for cleaning. For waterproof units, a hose and clean water are also effective, but no matter what speaker you have, don’t use a hose with high pressure or try forcing water into the acoustic ports and grill while cleaning.

Maintaining Your Outdoor Speakers 2

Wire Maintenance

You have to take extra precautions with the speaker wires for wired outdoor speakers, as these will usually be the weak spots. Never leave the wires exposed and above ground where they can be damaged by the elements, lawnmowers, or someone tripping over them. Running the speaker cables through PVC piping and burying them will ensure they remain out of harm’s way and require way less maintenance in the long run. Using silicone beads to seal each length of pipe will keep out the moisture and bugs for extra longevity.

Remember to use only cables that are rated for direct burial as well.  If your speakers are installed in an area with saltwater exposure, you may want to use a silicone caulking material, such as RTV adhesive, to protect the bare ends of the speaker cord. After application, check the connections occasionally and reapply the silicone caulking material if needed.

Protect Against the Elements

If your outdoor speakers are not waterproof and are mounted outside, regularly check that they are still protected from the elements.  These speakers are typically installed on the underside of eaves and overhangs for protection, so inspect the area and ensure nothing has changed that may have exposed the speakers. Also, check the brackets or wall mounts are used to ensure that the speakers are still securely fastened and not at any risk of falling, which can cause damage.

Another thing to check is exposure to direct sunlight, which may cause deterioration of the speaker cones depending on the design of your outdoor speaker. If you installed the speaker in a shady spot, ensure that nothing has changed in the environment that may have caused the shade to decrease. Extremely cold temperatures can also be detrimental to your speakers, so covering your speakers with a plastic bag or container when it snows for some added protection is also a good idea.

This is a trick used by many theme parks for their outdoor speakers as added protection and is just as effective for your backyard. If the weather is freezing, you should probably hold off on using your outdoor speakers as there is a chance that the internal components could be more brittle and susceptible to damage. Of course, you have very little business outside and listening to music in freezing temperatures, so this shouldn’t be an issue. Still, it is worth bearing in mind if you want to extend the longevity of your equipment.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that no matter how resilient your outdoor speakers are, you can always squeeze a few more months (or even years!) out of them with proper maintenance. Depending on the type and quality of the speaker, there is no need to fuss over it every day, but a little bit of maintenance now and then can make all the difference in the world when it comes to the longevity of your equipment. Treat your outdoor speakers like an investment instead of something expendable, and your wallet will thank you.

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Author: Bryn De Kocks

Bryn has worked in the field for several years, writing in-depth speaker reviews for various audio publications. His work has historically focused on headphones and Bluetooth speakers, while incorporating his understanding of the Bluetooth speaker market to help educate potential buyers.

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