In the last few years, there has been a noticeable shift in the way we use our backyards. In fact, some say it is no longer their “yard,” but an extension of their home.Today, you see so many creative and innovative uses. Barbecues have turned into full blown kitchens, umbrella tables have turned into large dining rooms with serving buffets, coolers have turned into walk up bars complete with beer taps, refrigerators and sinks, and lawn chairs have transformed into living rooms including fireplaces and HD television screens. It is quite impressive what people are choosing to do in their backyards. And why shouldn’t we transform these areas? You paid good money for the real estate. You should enjoy every inch of your property.
One thing I have noticed is, while tens of thousands of dollars are being spent on appliances, stonework and furniture, we sometimes forget one of the biggest pleasures of relaxing outdoors – the music. Music sets the mood, welcomes visitors to your backyard wonderland and just makes everything better. No summer seems complete unless we have a little Jimmy Buffet playing “Margaritaville” while we sip those magical drinks around the pool.
One thing to consider is that using your backyard for entertaining brings about a different listening environment than your home theater. Traditional on-wall outdoor speakers, or “rock” speakers, often result in “hot spots” where music sounds almost perfect in a specific area but not very good in the majority of the yard. Both hot spots and dead spots can be quite annoying.
Many believe just adding more speakers will fix the issue. However, often times it does not. Part of the problem is the technology used in traditional outdoor speakers is designed to project sound to a particular point (hot spot). This contradicts most people’s goals of filling the backyard with sound. Filling an area with sound is best accomplished by using commercially engineered audio systems.
I am sure you have heard these systems before but may not have realized. Think of outdoor shopping centers where entire outdoor parking areas are filled with sound. Or a resort where you stayed and listened by the pool. Whatever the experience, I’ll bet you remember it. You probably felt connected to the environment by not having to move your chair to find a good place to sit, nor did you have to scream your conversation to be heard. One thing you probably won’t remember is seeing the speakers. That is because they are mostly hidden. Buried underground or disguised behind shrubbery, these systems perform best when they are not even seen.
Commercial quality sound systems perform superbly in open-air environments and offer sound that “fills” rather than “projects.” There is a lot of technical explanation, but what is important is that, if properly designed, a commercial landscape system will create a “full” experience.
Until recently, these systems were too costly and used rarely used outside of high dollar commercial applications. Manufacturers of these systems historically custom made each of them, resulting in high costs. But standardizing solutions and a lowering of the cost of this technology has increased demand for these types of sound systems. You will still spend slightly more for this system than traditional speakers, but the spectacular systems are well worth the cost. The backyard literally becomes your own private concert venue, complete with heart pounding bass and a rhythm you “feel” rather than listen to.
At lower volume levels, the system still performs by warmly filling the air around you with your favorite music. One of the key advantages is that is does not overwhelm – it naturally enhances the outdoor environment as if it is not even there.
Systems such as these complete, with everything you need to begin playing music, start around $2500. One wonderful feature is these systems are scalable, as you may want to start out covering a smaller portion of the yard and then build up over time. There is some underground wiring for these systems that can be installed by you or a landscaper. It will be important that you have a proper design; this is not something that you will want to do “off the shelf.” An expert needs to guide you, but it is simpler than you think.
Summer is in full swing and now is the time to enjoy the backyard. So go outside and play – you will rediscover your backyard all over again.