Re-evaluating Outdoor AV: Are You Just Adapting or Really Changing?

Like nature itself, all things must change.

Change takes time, perhaps even faith, yet change is persistent and knowing when to leave the past behind and embrace something new is the essence of survivability. And, if properly managed, change creates opportunity for success that others have not yet realised.

When you bring your lifestyle outdoors, whether in a small back yard or a palatial estate garden, quality matters and defines your often compacted seasonal experiences. This is why we spend so much time in our outdoor spaces eagerly maintaining them with physical toil and sweat; we simply want to enjoy the results after all the hard work, sit back and listen to that music playlist, or watch that video or football game, and smooth out the charcoal for grilling as the sun sets in a wispy pink glow of satisfaction.

Outdoor entertainment is a burgeoning and rapidly changing class of systems for integrators and their customers with the expectations of system performance rising as users who have stunningly capable indoor systems seek the same performance levels and experiences out of doors as much as space and budget will allow. This leads most manufacturers and harried integrators to “re-purposing” existing systems and components—the act of using something in a manner that was not originally intended. Think of delicate projectors and indoor projection screens, or even speakers and flat screens.

These are examples of core indoor technologies that are trying to migrate to the elements, many times with unwanted challenges, limitations and negative consequences. This is somewhat like putting a coat on a chicken and hoping it is a duck. Yes, it will stay dry for a while and you may teach it to quack somewhat, but the chickens should stay indoors and let true ducks fly outside.


Nature embraces change at its core. In kind, just like the plants, grass or flowers, most existing approaches to outdoor entertainment systems need a lot of maintenance and periodic replacement to keep things looking—and sounding—decent. One hopes the gear will last and not have to be dealt with like the annual replanting of the garden, yet time and again a rusted grill needs replacement, or a critter has chewed through a speaker cone, or moisture has corroded a contact point.

But what if most of that dratted maintenance and replacement didn’t need to occur? What if the re-purposed chickens were replaced by real ducks, by AV systems and equipment that were designed from the ground up to be utilised outdoors 24/7/365? This appropriateness is what customers want and what integrators should seek to give them.

Totally new and exciting AV products are finally emerging for outdoor systems that truly consider how difficult nature can be, by providing better results in performance and longevity in the wild. They include IP68 rated hi-performance speakers that have no grills or openings for nature to intrude through, or for corrosion to occur. They also include burgeoning technologies developed for other sectors that have existed outdoors before in industries besides AV—think outdoor full-color LED big-screens you see popping up in front of roadside business that are viewable in broad daylight, only at much higher resolutions and that rise magically from fully weatherized enclosures.

Smart manufacturers are looking deeply at what really works and lasts outdoors and what doesn’t, not just towards the products they have on the shelf. These manufacturers are leveraging and building upon proven outdoor technologies, improving the specs for AV performance and pushing out new products that just didn’t exist before. A few manufacturers are just off the charts, building hi-performance environmentally durable offerings that perform even better than re-purposed indoor gear. Those providers are out there and growing daily. If you believe in the power of change and want to benefit, seek these leaders out; they are driving our industry in a new and more proper way to the great outdoors.

Do you re-purpose what’s currently available, or do you seek what’s really designed, built and natively intended for outdoor applications? Now is a good time to re-think re-purposing indoor products for outdoor use and give your outdoor projects the specific attention and new gear that will last. Look for these ducks and use them. This sets one free to fire up the grill, forget the weeding and enjoy a spectacular outdoor entertainment experience.

Steve Olszewski is vice president of Stealth Acoustics based in Mount Vernon, Washington.  

Article Categories