The Best Outdoor Speakers - OSD Audio AP650
October 24, 2018
by Brent Butterworth
After testing 16 new models, we think the OSD Audio AP650 is the best outdoor speaker for people who want an affordable, weather-resistant speaker that delivers clear, backyard-filling sound and is impervious to water, dust, and bugs. It mounts easily, and its relatively high sensitivity means that it plays loudly even when connected to a small, low-powered amplifier.
The OSD Audio AP650 is the best value we’ve found in an outdoor speaker. Its clarity beats anything we’ve heard from other models priced under $200 per pair, and it has a full, powerful sound that can easily fill a typical suburban backyard. It has enough bass for R&B, hip-hop, and rock music, and its relatively high sensitivity lets it deliver loud volumes when paired with a small amplifier. Because it’s a fully sealed design, there’s no concern about water, dust, or bugs getting in. It’s also better made than most affordable outdoor speakers, with a thicker enclosure and a sturdy, powder-coated mounting bracket.
Why you should trust us
I can confidently state that I’ve reviewed more passive (that is, non-Bluetooth) outdoor speakers than all other audio journalists in the world combined—a fact that says much less about me than it does about the almost total lack of attention these speakers get from audio publications. My outdoor-speaker testing experience includes numerous single-product reviews and six multi-product shootouts: one for Home Theater magazine, one for Home Entertainment magazine, one for Sound & Vision, and three for Wirecutter. I custom-built an audio switcher specifically to do blind testing. And perhaps most important, I have a backyard—and I’m not afraid to use it.
In the process of producing and updating this article over the years, I’ve also had listening input from three Wirecutter reviewers. Lauren Dragan, Wirecutter senior staff writer and headphone expert, has also written audio reviews for Sound & Vision magazine and has been a participant in numerous blind audio tests I’ve conducted in the past decade; she has a bachelor’s degree in both music performance and audio production from Ithaca College. Wirecutter editor-at-large Geoffrey Morrison, who helped with all of our past tests, has two decades of experience reviewing audio gear for Home Theater, Sound & Vision, Forbes, and Wirecutter. For the most recent testing round, we were joined by Wirecutter junior staff writer Daniel Varghese, who covers the audio/video and smart-home categories. In all, this crew has evaluated a total of 39 outdoor speakers.
In many ways, the OSD Audio AP650 is the outdoor speaker we’ve been looking for all these years. It’s fairly inexpensive, it’s rugged, it’s fully sealed against weather and insects, and it sounds good. It has a 6.5-inch woofer for bass and midrange, and a 1-inch silk-dome tweeter for the treble. Its mounting bracket offers more range of adjustment and is powder coated for durability. You can hang a pair (or several pairs) of these speakers in the backyard and play whatever music you like, and they’ll sound pretty good.
Lauren and Daniel both picked the AP650 as the clear favorite of all the speakers we tested, largely because it delivered a more even balance of bass, midrange, and treble than the other speakers. Bass and kick drum, sax and vocals, and cymbals and acoustic guitars all came across about even, and no instrument drowned out the others. Daniel said, “It’s the only one that had a mix of all the things I wanted to hear.” Lauren agreed: “In general, every range of audio is at least represented in some way.”
Anyone who likes to listen to music while hanging out in the backyard—and doesn’t mind a bit of wiring and installation work—would enjoy having outdoor speakers. They’re weather resistant, so in most cases, you can leave them mounted outside for years without worrying about them malfunctioning due to water damage. (They may not survive severe weather such as hurricanes, and a few models will admit water under certain conditions.) They have metal grilles and fairly rugged plastic enclosures, so they’ll usually survive impacts with errant volleyballs, and bugs will find it difficult or impossible to nest inside them.
To read the entire article on The Best Outdoor Speakers by Brent Butterworth on The Wire Cutter click here.