Summer may be winding down, but there's still plenty of time left to enjoy the outdoors in your backyard or on your balcony. And nothing enhances those breezy outdoor hangouts like a great outdoor speaker.
Our pick for the best outdoor speaker overall is the Polk Atrium 4 ($90), which combines quality audio and a sturdy design for a good price. If you're on a budget, the Dual LU53 ($54) delivers excellent sound for around $50.
But there are plenty of great options out there — ranging from wireless Bluetooth setups, to speakers mounted up high, to units that can blend seamlessly into your garden. There are also lots of smaller Bluetooth speakers that make the perfect companion at the beach or on a hike.
How We Tested
For this comparison, we set a price limit of $500. We tested 11 outdoor speakers from eight manufacturers, using a wide range of music with a heavy emphasis on how bass and treble came through. Speakers were placed at ear level, and pairs were spread 8 feet apart. The overall design, quality of materials, ease of installation and price all varied considerably from speaker to speaker, and were factored heavily into the final ratings.
Polk Atrium 4: Best Overall
A great outdoor speaker has to withstand the elements and deliver robust bass, crisp treble and full midrange with enough power to be heard over both the wind and the chatter of a party. These Polk speakers check all the boxes, and still cost less than $100.
At 8.6 x 6.7 x 5.7 inches, the Atrium 4s are small enough so that they won't dominate your landscape and big enough to deliver full sound. With a 4.5-inch mid-woofer/tweeter and a 0.75-inch tweeter inside each speaker, the Atrium 4 aptly handled both the distorted guitars of classic rock and the thumping bass of hip-hop while producing clear vocals.
If you want more bass and have the space (and some extra cash), consider Polk's $150 Atrium 5, which come with 5-inch midrange woofer/tweeters.
Drivers: 4.5-inch mid/woofer. 0.75-inch tweeter
Output: 80 watts
Mounting Hardware: Included
Dual LU53: Best Value
With big bass and full vocals, the Dual LU53 speakers are a steal for about $50. The 10.1 x 7.3 x 7.3-inch three-way speaker houses a large 5.25-inch woofer, a 1-inch midrange driver and a 0.8-inch tweeter. The drivers help it produce enough bass to be heard outdoors while the vocals remain prominent in the mix.
Although not as crisp or as detailed as the Atrium 4s, the Dual LU53's bigger size creates a wide soundstage that can entertain the crowd at your next barbecue. Don't mix up the LU53 with the cheaper Dual LU43 — there's a world of difference between the sound of the two models.
For a slightly more detailed sound in a more compact form, take a look at Yamaha's $75 NS-AW150. These speakers also feature Yamaha's bracket mounts on the underside that swing from top to bottom, rather than the far more common left-to-right movement.
Drivers: 5.25-inch woofer, 1-inch midrange driver, 0.8-inch tweeter
Output: 60 watts
Mounting Hardware: Included
Klipsch AW-650: Best Premium Outdoor Speakers
If you subscribe to the "go big or go home" school of outdoor entertaining, the AW-650 speakers are for you. These monsters of rock measure 15 x 11 x 9.5 inches and feature a 6.5-inch woofer and 1-inch tweeter. The result is thunderous bass and crisp, full vocals that can easily overpower the ambient noise of the outdoors when you want.
The AW-650 speakers are built like a tank, with a UV-resistant ABS plastic polymer enclosure that's backed by Klipsch's lifetime warranty. And at 9 pounds each, you'll want to make sure you securely mount them if you choose to place them up high; they would also work well at floor level.
But all that power will cost you: A pair of AW-650s runs between $360 and $400 on Amazon.
Drivers: 6.5-inch woofer, 1-inch tweeter
Output: 85 watts
Mounting Hardware: Included
Klipsch AWR-650-SM Outdoor Rock: Best Hidden Speakers
Give the folks at Klipsch credit: When they promise a speaker that looks like a rock and can seamlessly blend into your backyard surroundings, they really deliver. The AWR-650-SM is more than part garden decor and part undercover agent; like our premium pick, the Klipsch AW-650, it also delivers spectacular sound.
The housings of these ingeniously designed speakers are made to resemble 17-inch-high hunks of either sandstone or granite, depending on the overall aesthetic of your patio or garden. The undersides are slathered with sealant, and the wiring is thick and waterproof. But on the inside, Klipsch has packed these faux boulders with punch: Dual 0.75-inch tweeters and a 6.5-inch woofer deliver superior sound quality, with brass that pops and bass that comes in heavy and authoritative.
The biggest knock on these rocks? Price. Each one will set you back almost $300, and they really should be experienced as a pair. The 13-pound weight is not terribly heavy, but these are clunky to carry. (They are, in essence, large rocks, and need to be handled as such.) But if you're willing to go the distance for maximum outdoor sound and minimal footprints around your grounds, pony up a few extra clams for these secret speakers.
Drivers: 6.5-inch woofer, dual 0.75-inch tweeters
Output: 50 watts
Mounting Hardware: None
Fugoo Style-S: Best Portable Outdoor Speaker
For the money, you won't find a Blueooth speaker that sounds better or has more features than the Fugoo Style-S. And the Style-S is as tough as any wireless speaker you'll find, thanks to its IP67 rating, which means it's waterproof, dustproof and shockproof. And with its tweed cover, it's super-stylish. But if tweed isn't your thing, Fugoo sells a number of covers that you can swap out at your leisure.
The Style-S looks good and plays rough. It also delivers well-balanced sound across the spectrum — treble, midrange and bass — making it a versatile performer. Equipped with four acoustic drivers, including a pair of bass radiators and two full-range, the Style-S is capable of delivering 360-degree audio. Boasting up to 15 hours of battery life, this slick and durable speaker hits the sweet spot of price and performance, while sounding almost as good as competing systems that cost $200 or more. Purchase one or more of its optional mounts and you'll have a mini party in the box that's ready to go anywhere and everywhere.
Drivers: Four custom acoustic drivers, one subwoofer
Output: Not listed
Battery: 15 hours
Mounting Hardware: Optional Bike, Strap, Multi-Mount
Read our full Fugoo Style-S Review.
Other Products Reviewed
We tested a number of outdoor systems like the BRV-HD Bluetooth Speaker ($120), which offers great audio and can charge mobile devices, and the OSD AP640T ($105), which delivers good lows and a sturdy build. We also spent time with the Pyle PDWR5T ($83), but the low-cost speakers didn't make the cut regarding audio quality.
Credit: Shaun Lucas/Tom's Guide