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Most people think that after mounting outdoor speakers you can just 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 go a long way. For the type of outdoor speakers that are not water or weatherproof maintenance is absolutely essential unless you want to frequently buy new speakers.
The user guide that comes with your speakers usually contains all the information you need to know 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 have a big impact on how much maintenance is going to be required, so a speaker in a shady spot under the eaves is obviously going to have an easier life than one in the dirt next to the pool.
Inspection & Cleaning
Depending on how much you use our outdoor speakers it is a good idea to perform regular inspections to ensure that they are still in good condition. For speakers that are 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 obviously 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 exterior of the speaker and keeping the area around the speaker clean is the best course of action. You definitely 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 is also effective, but no matter what type of speaker you have don’t use a hose with high pressure or try forcing water into the acoustic ports and grill while cleaning.
For outdoor speakers that are wired you have to take extra precautions when it comes to the speaker wires 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 it will ensure that they remain out of harm’s way and will require way less maintenance in the long run. Using silicone bead 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, for example RTV adhesive in order to protect the bare ends of the speaker cord. After application check the connections every once in a while and reapply the silicone caulking material if needed.
Protect Against the Elements
If your outdoor speakers are not waterproof and they are mounted outside, regularly check that they are still protected from the elements. These types of 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 if used to ensure that the speakers are still securely fastened and not in any risk of falling down 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 check to make sure that nothing has changed in the environment that may have caused the amount of shade to decrease. Extremely cold temperature 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 that is used by many theme parks for their outdoor speakers as added protection and it is just as effect 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, at freezing temperatures you have very little business being outside and listening to music so this shouldn’t be an issue, but it is something worth bearing in mind if you want to extend the longevity of your equipment.
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 speaker there is no need to fuss over it every day, but a little bit of maintenance every 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 that is expendable and your wallet will thank you.