The Best Outdoor Speakers for Gatherings and Everyday Listening

The winner is the Polk Atrium 4

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The Spruce / Sabrina Jiang

Outdoor speakers are great for entertaining in your backyard or enjoying music by the pool. “If you have a dedicated outdoor space, then permanently mounted speakers are a great solution that you set up once and use," says Doug Cunningham, Vice President of Product and Experience at Bose. "But oftentimes, you want to move the music—even if that just means to a different part of your yard. Or maybe to bring with you on a day trip or weeklong vacation. In that case, having the flexibility of Bluetooth and battery power means you never leave your music behind.”

We spoke with Cunningham and several other audio experts and researched options from the biggest names in audio to find the best speakers based on several parameters, including ease of installation, durability, and overall sound quality. Based on our research, our top pick is the Polk Atrium 4, a stylish speaker pair that offers excellent sound quality, placement flexibility, and weatherproofing.

Here are the best outdoor speakers.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Polk Audio Atrium 4 Outdoor Speakers (Pair, White)

4.6
Polk Audio Atrium 4 Outdoor Speakers

Amazon

What We Like
  • Beautiful design

  • Rich, well-rounded sound

  • Rugged, weather-resistant build

What We Don't Like
  • White color susceptible to dirt

  • Requires external amplifier

  • Permanent installation required

Polk is known as one of the best middle-of-the-road brands for home audio that offers truly impressive speakers without the need to shell out premium dollars. The Atrium 4 provides full, rich sound without unnecessary bells and whistles. There’s a 4.5-inch main speaker cone with a three-quarter-inch tweeter in each enclosure, so these speakers can support plenty of full-bodied bass and the focus and sparkle you’ll want at the top end of your music.

We went with the white pair to match a clean, modern deck setup, and because you can mount the speakers vertically or horizontally, they’ll fit whatever nook you’ve got set aside for them. They also have Polk's All-Weather Performance protection, including military-grade protection against salt fog, moisture, and corrosion, and a thick aluminum grill to ensure they last a while.

The white color means that you might have to take extra precautions to reduce some cosmetic wear and tear as time goes on. Also, because these aren’t powered speakers (they're passive), you’ll have to wire them to an amplifier. But for the price and style, these are an appealing option.

Dimensions: 5.7 x 6.7 x 8.6 inches | Power Source: Wired (passive) | Weather Resistance: Yes | Connectivity: Speaker cables

Best Budget: Klipsch KHO-7 Outdoor Loudspeaker

Klipsch KHO-7 Outdoor Loudspeaker

Amazon

What We Like
  • Solid, weather-resistant build

  • Great sound

  • Affordable price point

What We Don't Like
  • Requires permanent mounting

  • Bulk size compared with competitors

  • Silk tweeter may lack some power

Klipsch speakers are favorites of home audio enthusiasts, and the KHO-7 speaker pair is a breath of fresh air for your open-air sound system. The 5.25-inch speaker cone and 1-inch silk tweeter mean that you’ll get that same theater-like sound on your patio or by the pool, though maybe not as powerful. The UV-resistant ABS plastic enclosure and the rust-resistant aluminum grill make the durable shell a bit bulky but not too heavy, and the white coloring gives these speakers a high-end appearance.

Though these speakers require permanent mounting, you can position this unit horizontally or vertically for solid versatility and a nice setup. Based on the list price, this speaker pair is a bit pricey, but you can find them at a reasonable sale price most days of the week. Overall, the KHO-7 is an excellent pick if you're on a budget or don’t want your outdoor sound system to sound on a budget.

Dimensions: 12.25 x 6.75 x 8.25 inches | Power Source: Wired (passive) | Weather Resistance: Yes | Connectivity: Speaker cables

Best Design: Bose 251 Environmental Outdoor Speakers

Bose 251 Environmental Outdoor Speakers

Amazon

What We Like
  • Premium Bose sound

  • Classy design

  • Weather-resistant

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Requires amp and permanent installation

  • Look best when mounted vertically

Bose is a brand that exudes luxury, and while most manufacturers opt for rugged, utilitarian looks for their outdoor speakers, the Bose 251 Environmental Speakers channel that classy Bose look for your deck space. This speaker pair can hold up against various weather extremes, including snow and rain, and the clean black grill and curved wave-like design will sit perfectly under your eaves.

As for sound quality, Bose has put in what they’re calling an “architectural speaker array,” which means that the speakers inside the enclosure use that enclosure’s airflow to enhance the sound. You also get a powerful bass port to help the lower, bassier sounds in your music project all the way across the yard. However, the speakers are passive and require permanent mounting, so you'll need to wire them into an existing amplifier system. But once you set everything up, they’ll sit like a piece of art, not just a utility.

Dimensions: 5.75 x 8 x 13.5 inches | Power Source: Wired (passive) | Weather resistance: Yes | Connectivity: Speaker cables

Best Portable: JBL Xtreme 2

JBL Xtreme 2

 Courtesy of JBL

What We Like
  • Rich, bass-forward sound

  • Solid battery life

  • Easy to take around

What We Don't Like
  • A bit heavy and bulky

  • Lacks the stereo sound of permanent units

  • A tad pricey

An outdoor speaker sometimes works best when it’s a portable unit like the JBL Xtreme 2. Sporting a familiar, cylindrical “Bluetooth boombox” shape, the JBL can be carried from backyard to beach and back again—made even easier with an included shoulder strap.

But don’t let the portability fool you. While the sound quality can't match permanently installed speakers, this little speaker really bumps with two 20-watt channels of power and plenty of bass support on deck. At more than 5 pounds and measuring almost a foot long, it isn’t the most portable Bluetooth speaker around. But with IPX7 water resistance (to splashing and submersion up to 3 feet) and around 15 hours of playtime on a single charge, it will go the distance in most conditions.

Dimensions: 11.3 x 5.4 x 4.2 inches | Power Source: Wireless (battery-powered) | Weather resistance: Yes | Connectivity: Bluetooth, 3.5-millimeter connector

Best for Versatility: Bose S1 Pro

3.9
Bose S1 Pro

Amazon

What We Like
  • Tons of inputs

  • 11 hours of battery life

  • Excellent Bose sound quality

What We Don't Like
  • Lacks stereo sound

  • Not as loud as it could be

  • Pretty expensive

You may be most familiar with Bose’s smaller-format Bluetooth speakers, but the S1 Pro Portable Bluetooth Speaker does two things well: It acts as a Bluetooth speaker with solid headroom, and it gives you PA-style options to plug in microphones, instruments, and more. If you want a loud Bluetooth speaker to soundtrack a party, then the S1 Pro has you covered. It has plenty of range and power thanks to the tilt-back design. With dual XLR/quarter-inch inputs and basic effects on board, this unit also works as a battery-powered amp for small events like a backyard wedding ceremony.

The S1 Pro is portable enough to toss into the back of your car for traveling to parties or gatherings, but with only one main speaker cone, there is a lack of stereo sound. Also, it isn’t the loudest speaker on the list because of the size, and it's quite pricey. But in terms of overall versatility, it’s quite impressive.

Dimensions: 9.5 x 11.2 x 13 inches | Power Source: Wireless (battery-powered) | Weather resistance: Yes | Connectivity: Bluetooth, XLR, TRS, 3.5-millimeter connector

Best Splurge: Soundboks Soundboks 3

Soundboks 3

Soundboks

What We Like
  • Very loud

  • Excellent build quality

  • Resistant to distortion

What We Don't Like
  • Huge and bulky

  • Very expensive

  • Not a subtle design

SOUNDBOKS is the most party-forward brand on the list, and the SOUNDBOKS 3 is an ideal option if powerful sound is at the top of your list. If raucous pool parties and ear-splitting volume aren’t your thing, this packs a great punch for everyday listening too. The proprietary speaker cones are designed to provide near-concert levels of sound without distortion, meaning that you can take this speaker way out into the back yard, and you’ll hear it well into the front yard.

The massive metal enclosure provides a ton of durability, including splash and shock resistance, but it's fairly heavy and bulky, so make sure you’ve got someone strong to tote it to your destination. It also offers nearly 40 hours of battery life so you won't have to continuously recharge. While the SOUNDBOKS 3 comes with a premium price tag, it's packed with features. If you want the loudest volume you can get in a portable design and app control over sound modes, this robust speaker could be worth the splurge.

Dimensions: 17 x 13 x 25.6 inches | Power Source: Wireless (battery-powered) | Weather resistance: Yes | Connectivity: Bluetooth, XLR, 3.5-millimeter auxiliary

Expert Buying Tip

“Indoor and outdoor environments are very different from an acoustic perspective. Indoors, sound waves have lots of surfaces to bounce off, which has different effects, including amplifying specific frequencies. This isn’t the case outdoors, where the environment is typically wide-open, and people tend to be more spread out around the speaker.”—Stephen Hempton, Principal Product Manager, Sonos

Best Hidden: Innovative Technology Technology Outdoor Rock Speaker Pair

rock shaped bluetooth speaker

Innovative Technology

What We Like
  • Incognito design

  • Easy wireless functionality

  • Weather-resistant

What We Don't Like
  • Fairly quiet

  • Lack some bass and body

  • Require charging from time to time

While many speakers fit with your outdoor decor, these Rock Speakers from Innovative Technology blend in with the natural topography of your backyard. Once you turn them on and connect your phone via Bluetooth, you’ll hear just how well they work for a little light music during your gatherings. They're also weather-resistant, so they’ll be fine in most conditions.

There are only 5 watts of power per speaker, so they certainly aren’t the loudest or fullest options on this list, but you'll get up to 30 hours on a single charge or 10 hours of play time at top volume. If a more discreet aesthetic is your priority, at a passing glance, these speakers appear more like decorative ornaments than functional speakers.

Dimensions: 10.25 x 8 x 10.5 inches | Power Source: Wireless (battery-powered) | Weather resistance: Yes | Connectivity: Bluetooth, Micro USB

Best for Smart Homes: Sonos Outdoor Speakers

Sonos Outdoor Speaker

Amazon

What We Like
  • Elegant design

  • Work seamlessly with Sonos systems

  • Excellent sound quality

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Best when used with Sonos Amp

  • Require permanent installation

Most of the speakers on this list fall into two camps: wired architectural speakers or full wireless Bluetooth speakers. The Sonos Outdoor Speakers are the option for those who want the best of both worlds. These speakers aren’t powered and require that you wire them to an amp, but if you fold them into your Sonos-run system, they’ll work seamlessly with your wireless smart home.

You can beam music and other content via the Sonos app, enabling one-touch playlist control and high-quality Sonos sound. The speakers are sleek and all-white, with a UV-, dustproof, and weather-resistant enclosure so you can mount them and wire them into a Sonos Amp system without fear of degradation over time. While this speaker pair isn't the most affordable option, because they provide full-bodied sound akin to the rest of your Sonos speaker set, they’ll fit right into your whole-home audio system.

Dimensions: 12.93 x 7.86 x 7.51 inches | Power Source: Wired (passive) | Weather resistance: Yes | Connectivity: Speaker cables

Final Verdict

If you want the best value and the best sound for a traditional outdoor system, go for the Polk Atrium 4 speakers at the top of our list. If you want the versatility and portability of Bluetooth, turn to an option like the JBL Xtreme 2.

What to Look For in Outdoor Speakers

Setup

The first question to consider when diving into the outdoor speaker market is whether you have an existing sound system/amplifier running the audio in your home (think: the receiver that powers your home theater system). If you’ve got that, then a passive pair of installed speakers will work. “If you’re just getting started building an outdoor system, a pair of passive speakers is a great way to go, as they can be hung externally under the eaves and still create a rich sound experience,” says Casey Clemens, Director and Installation Expert at Sonos.

If you want something more standalone, without the need to run wires and cabling, consider a powered speaker, perhaps with Bluetooth functionality. "In the end [where you mount a speaker] should be in a place that aesthetically makes the most sense for the owner and/or in some cases the most convenient way to get speaker wire to the outdoor speaker," adds Cunningham.

Connectivity

Once you’ve determined whether you want a powered speaker or not, it’s important to consider how you will feed music to that speaker. Passive speakers nearly always use standard plus/minus speaker cables fed to an amplifier. On the other hand, powered speakers offer more inputs, such as Bluetooth, 3.5-millimeter auxiliary, or even live instrument inputs via XLR or quarter-inch cables.

Durability

When you’re considering a speaker meant to live outdoors, durability is an important factor. Ensuring that the speaker has some degree of weather resistance will be crucial for speakers left outdoors indefinitely. “Many good-sounding speaker elements like carbon and aluminum are inherently weather-resistant,” says Frank Sterns, president of Polk Audio and Definitive Technology. So many speaker manufacturers harness these weather-resistant materials to ensure your speakers sound good for a long time.

FAQ
  • Where should you place outdoor speakers?

    With speakers that are permanent fixtures on your home, considering their placement is paramount for the best sound quality (and so you don’t have to move them around once they’re installed). While placement can be an aesthetic choice, it also affects the sound quality. “We recommend placing passive speakers about 10 feet apart and no more than 10 feet above the listening area for a clear, immersive sound experience,” says Clemens. But consider your own space and place the speakers where you will use them the most.

  • Are outdoor speakers weatherproof?

    Any speaker billed as “outdoor” will almost certainly feature a degree of weather resistance. “Everything [in an outdoor speaker] must be able to withstand the harshest of environment and situations that a typical indoor speaker would never encounter," says Cunningham. However, the emphasis here is on the word “resistant.” Even if a manufacturer promises that something is weatherproof, it’s challenging to truly weather-seal an electronic device. Even ratings like IPX7, which often means a product can handle submersion in water for up to 1 meter, are only lab-tested to withstand a certain water intensity.

    Most average users will have no issue leaving their speakers out in inclement weather, but it’s best to install them properly and put them under eaves or overhangs for longer life.

  • How loud are outdoor speakers?

    “Because the outdoors lack walls to reinforce bass, this requires a little more clever engineering to provide more bass output in [outdoor speakers], while also being careful to not alter the sound too much,” says Cunningham. That’s why many outdoor speakers project loudly—not to harness a room’s inherent acoustic qualities. It’s important to remember that most outdoor speakers are passive, so the loudness rating on their spec sheet is only as good as how much power your amplifier can push out.

Why Trust The Spruce?

Jason Schneider has been a tech writer, musician, and audio enthusiast for decades. For this article, he considered both portable Bluetooth party speakers and permanently-installed outdoor enclosures—with an eye on the right balance between quality and price. When researching, he dug into the installation process and made sure to consider the design and purpose of the speakers. He also sought the expertise of Stephen Hempton, Principal Product Manager and Casey Clemens, Director and Installation Expert at Sonos; Doug Cunningham, Vice President of Product and Experience at Bose; and Frank Sterns, President of Polk Audio and Definitive Technology.