5 weatherproof speakers for your garden: bring the music outside

Bring your tunes to the yard this summer with an outdoor sound system

Sonos Outdoor
(Image credit: Sonos)

We live in a golden era for home entertainment, as the best smart speakers of all shapes and sizes bring streaming tunes and voice assistants to every room in the home.

But what about the garden? Sure, you can take a Bluetooth speaker outside, hook up a smartphone and carry it around when you move from the patio to the lawn, or back into the kitchen when the rain inevitably starts to fall. But if your pockets are deep enough, there are better options – weatherproof speakers that are permanently installed to bring music to the garden all year round.

Make no mistake, carrying a Bluetooth speaker into the garden is a far easier and cheaper way to blast your playlists at the petunias, but here, we’re looking at hardwired, permanent speaker installations – and in most cases you’ll need to connect them to an amplifier too, which only adds to the budgets.

1. Sonos Outdoor Set

Sonos Outdoor Speakers

(Image credit: Sonos)

I’ve always been a big fan of Sonos, so the idea of extending my system into the garden is one I can absolutely get onboard with. Prices are high, even for Sonos, with a pair of the company’s weatherproof speakers costing £899. Available in black or white and with brackets for wall mounting included, they are built to survive life outside, and are protected against humidity, water, salt spray, heat, UV light and freezing temperatures.

Professional installation is recommended (and offered by Sonos) for the Sonos Outdoor Set, and because these aren’t internet-connected smart speakers like other Sonos products, they need hooking up to an amplifier for their power and audio needs. Almost any will do the job, but for the most cohesive system you’ll want Sonos’ out amp, which costs £699 and integrates into your existing Sonos system.

That way, you can have smartphone app-controlled music throughout the home and garden. Not cheap, but surely the ultimate way to extend your smart home music system into the outdoors.

Sonos says its own amp can power up to six of its own outdoor speakers. If you want to build a garden system with more than three pairs, then you’ll need extra amps.

2. Bowers & Wilkins AM-1

Bowers & Wilkins AM-1

(Image credit: Bowers & Wilkins)

Sticking with the high-end theme for now, a Sonos alternative that also caught my eye is the Bowers & Wilkins AM-1. Also available in black or white, with wall-mounting brackets included and a not insignificant price of £680 per pair, the AM-1 is an entirely sealed speaker built to survive a lifetime in the garden.

Weighing in at 4kg each, these are some seriously chunky speakers. These house Bowers & Wilkins’ 25mm Nautilus aluminium dome tweeter and 130mm glass fibre cone for bass and midrange.

These are passive speakers, so require a physical connection to an amplifier using speaker wire. Not a cheap way to go, but if you have the budget I think these outdoor loudspeakers look fantastic (especially in the white and silver colour way) and should serve you well for many years.

3. JBL Stage XD-5

JBL outdoor speakers

(Image credit: JBL)

JBL sells loads of Bluetooth speakers that work great in the garden, but since this article is about permanent outdoor audio I’m going to suggest the company’s Stage XD-5. At just under £500, this pair of outdoor speakers is a fair bit more affordable than the previous two options, while still being waterproof with an IP67 water and dust resistance rating, aluminium dome tweeters and adjustable wall-mount brackets included.

Also available in black or white, the JBL speaker pair have rotating logos so they can be mounted upright or on their side without upsetting their aesthetics, and an IP67 rating means they’re safe to live out in the elements. Again, these require an amp to function.

If you want to make these speakers smarter – and the same goes for the other pairs mentioned in this article – you’ll need to hook up an amp that is itself connected to the internet. That could be via the amp’s own Wi-Fi or Ethernet connection, or via a smart speaker like an Amazon Echo Dot connected to the amp with Bluetooth or an auxiliary cable. Do that, and the outdoor speakers will play whatever audio comes from the Echo Dot.

4. Cambridge Audio ES20

Cambridge Audio outdoor speakers

(Image credit: Cambridge Audio)

We’re getting a bit more affordable now, you’ll be pleased to see. This pair of outdoor speakers from Cambridge Audio is £299, making them a relative bargain compared to many others. They won’t have the acoustics abilities of pricier options, naturally, but should still be plenty powerful enough for a smaller outdoor space – and your neighbours will doubtless be thankful, too.

These speakers house a 25mm aluminium dome tweeter and a 135mm driver to handle the mids and bass of whatever audio you throw at them. They have metal brackets for wall mounting and the familiar set of positive and negative terminals on the rear for hooking up an amplifier.

5. Q Acoustics Qi45EW

Q Acoustics Qi45EW

(Image credit: Q Acoustics)

Lastly, for those who might only need a single outdoor speaker in their garden, I present the Qi45EW by Q Acoustics. Only offered in black, this speaker is much like the others listed here but comes in at an even lower price of £139.

For that you get a speaker that is safe to install outdoors and use in any weather. As always, there’s a versatile bracket included for wall mounting, and all you need to do is connect an amplifier with speaker wire and it’s time to start the decking disco.

How to make wired outdoor speakers smart

I’ve spoken a lot about wired passive speakers here, all driven by amplifiers that need to be housed indoors somewhere. So, what about making these speakers smart? There’s no easy solution, unless you’re happy to use a portable smart speaker like the Sonos Roam.

If you want to smarten up a wired outdoor sound system you’ll need to install an internet-connected amplifier (indoors, remember) and ensure it can be controlled from outside – via a phone app, for example. You might need to invest in a Wi-Fi extender or two to ensure the amp can be reached from the garden.

Want a voice assistant too? You could speak into the Alexa or Google Assistant app of your smartphone from the garden, which then tells the internet-connected amplifier what to do. There are no weatherproof smart speakers designed to live permanently outdoors, so that’s the only realistic solution for now, unless yelling at an Alexa speaker strategically placed by an open window works for you.

Just don’t expect Alexa to bring out another plate of sausages. The voice assistant is limited to serving up sizzling summer playlists, at least for now.

Alistair Charlton

Alistair is a freelance automotive and technology journalist. He has bylines on esteemed sites such as the BBC, Forbes, TechRadar, and of best of all, T3, where he covers topics ranging from classic cars and men's lifestyle, to smart home technology, phones, electric cars, autonomy, Swiss watches, and much more besides. He is an experienced journalist, writing news, features, interviews and product reviews. If that didn't make him busy enough, he is also the co-host of the AutoChat podcast.