We have a member of noisylabs who told a story about his little brother, which correlates well with watts for your outdoor speakers.
The story goes like this:
His parents went out working/socializing, and they left him with his brother.
As the older sibling, it’s his duty to make sure he’s safe and does what he has to do.
This night was memorable because he was figuring out a way to feed him more vegetables.
The picture above would’ve been best case scenario…but it looked more like this from what we’re told:
If we were to go the traditional route, the night would’ve went like this; prepare his meal, call him over to eat, argue with him to finish everything.
What the older brother needed was finesse.
It had to be deceiving, and subtle.
What he noticed about his little brother was he always left a specific portion on his plate.
So his master plan was to put more food than normal; so he ate more than normal, but left the same amount.
The risk was he might notice, and just not eat at all.
But it was worth it.
High risk, high reward as the saying goes….
As for cooking, it’s fun until you have to force someone to eat.
The meal took about 20-30 minutes to make.
He called him over, and watched through his peripherals to check if he was eating.
To his surprise, he took a bite, then two, then another until he left his usual amount.
He believes his cooking is to thank, but if you ask us, we think his little brother was just hungry.
Now, why are we sharing this with you?
Because the theme of this anecdote is perception.
Without it, happy moments can be sad, but with it, sad moments won’t last long.
When talking about outdoor speakers, perception matters.
Outdoor Speaker Wattage Perception
Before you installed your speakers, we hope you tried to match both amplifier and speaker, as this helps with sound quality.
But it doesn’t automatically make loudness better.
When we look at watts for your outdoor speakers, we know we’re looking at how much power it’ll bring to the amplifier.
In technical terms, a watt is one joule per second, so if a speaker had 60 watts, it’s giving 60 joules per second.
Think of watts like what blood is for humans. When it passes through, it’s giving energy, and the more watts, the more energy it gives.
The problem is when we think more watts will give us more power towards outdoor speakers.
This relationship between “loudness” and watts is complicated.
It’s measured in a logarithmic way.
For simplicity’s sake, we will give the best explanation we can of what logarithmic means:
If your loudness goes up by 3 decibels, then it takes twice more power from an amplifier to make the sound go up 3 decibels.
If we had a 30-watt amp and we upgrade it with a 40-watt amp, the decibel only increases by 3. So technically, there is an incremental increase, but nothing that a human will notice.
This is one type of mistake when it comes to loudness, but there is another not so obvious reason why perception makes us think it’s louder when it actually isn’t.
Outdoor Speakers Everywhere
It’s natural for you to want more watts for your outdoor speakers.
Sound distribution will sound better, and it’s a better entertainment experience overall.
But the problem when trying to add multiple speakers is there’s only one amplifier.
What happens technicality wise is the power gets distributed evenly between outdoor speakers.
People forget to realize a 100 watts for your outdoor speaker’s specifications are different than 100 watts for amplifiers.
What 100 watts means for speakers is they can handle 100 watts, but when coupled with 1 amplifier, a set of 2 speakers will only get 50 watts each assuming there’s only 1 amplifier.
Speakers share power depending on how they’re wired.
But we also need to know other components to solve this problem.
One of the other terms talked about a lot, but gets confusing is speaker efficiency/sensitivity.
What Is Speaker Efficiency?
Speaker efficiency is how much power a speaker needs to operate.
It gives a potential customer a comparison to how loud a speaker can go if given a certain amount of power, and lets the customer decide if its loud enough for them.
Note that even if speaker specifications are stated, it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s how loud they’re going to play anywhere.
There are other variables into play which determine how loud a speaker is.
To give you an idea why this is the case, here is how speakers get tested for loudness.
It’s measured by putting in 1 watt from an amplifier, and seeing how much sound the loud speaker plays.
Manufacturers test this by setting up a microphone 1 meter away from the speaker, and giving it 1 watt to operate.
If you’re curious as to why speaker efficiency is a concept, then understand this.
Amplifier Energy Distribution
When an amplifier gives speakers their watts, only 1% of that wattage translates to sound.
The other 99% converts to heat.
All of the heat goes to other parts of the speaker such as the coil, and the rest retain the heat.
The biggest culprit for this inefficiency is due to misaligned impedance from the sound, and air the sound is going towards.
Surprisingly, air can act as impedance also which throws off a speaker’s impedance.
But this is only one part.
Speaker performance also depends on frequency.
Frequency means how many tones a speaker can output at the same volume.
For example, if we left an outdoor speaker at 30% volume, can it produce both deep bass, and high treble?
This is the same concept as a singer who can go high-pitched, or deliver lyrics with a deep undertone.
So when we say a speaker’s frequency isn’t correct, we mean the speaker can’t produce both bass and treble at the same volume.
If you’re impedance and frequency are great, a speaker produces better at a lower power rate.
In addition, your speakers last longer.
But that’s not all.
Components also play a role in a speaker’s loudness.
One noteworthy fact about amplifiers is they have 2 sources of energy:
One negative, and one positive.
It’s estimated that an amplifier gets replenished with energy 60 times in 1 second.
Reading that, you probably think it’s a lot, but in reality, it might not justify buying a speaker.
What happens is the audio drains out the energy faster than it can replenish.
Furthermore, both the amplifier’s channels are sharing energy, this causes even less energy to be put towards audio.
Bringing it back to children again, imagine there are siblings, the parents have to buy food, and split it equally before they eat their own food, this leaves less food (energy) for the parents.
What’s more is they’re the main contributor for food. Just like sound is the main purpose of outdoor speakers.
Another problem we mentioned earlier, but adds on to the problem is the rate energy replenishes.
What do we do if the equipment providing energy isn’t adequate?
This is a hard question to answer, and should be left for another post, but another way we can preserve energy for the most important job is to rethink how the amplifier divides energy.
The real question is how do we do that.
Because if it’s solved, we will have more power which brings in more sound, in turn making your outdoor speaker in your backyard/patio louder.
Even though there is no answer to this question, it’s important to note because it’s something you can try and find a solution for.
Now let’s dive into more nuanced discussion about specific components you can actually change to make a difference.
Wires are also another overlooked component.
Most wires that come with a sound system are thin like cheese strings.
This doesn’t help with sound quality because it doesn’t transmit enough power to the amplifier.
If your speaker system provides 50-75 watts, then you need at least 12-14 size gauge speaker wires.
Audio cables are another important piece to the puzzle.
One benefit to audio cables is they work better against signal/noise ratio which causes distortion.
Other than that, there will be an improved performance on the whole sound system and its overall sound quality.
The first thing to look for if your main concern is loudness is to look at power.
It’s the only thing to look at in specifications if you just want loudness, but speaker sensitivity is also up there in terms of priorities to include in your criteria.
What Does It Take To Increase Perceived Loudness?
The answer to this question is a sum of different components and variability.
To start, let’s talk about variability first.
What we don’t talk about more when it comes to making a speaker louder is its environment.
Factors like cars, airplanes, and neighbors affect the environment around the speakers.
Then you get speaker efficiency, which is a whole other article by itself, and it gets complicated quick.
It’s crazy to know 99% of the energy amplifiers give goes to waste, but imagine what if that wasn’t the case.
Better technology which isn’t in our control (variable) is the lacking force behind watts for your outdoor speakers.
We wouldn’t call it the biggest scapegoat, but it plays a major role.
As for components, there are multiple components which affect watts for your outdoor speakers.
The first components we need to talk about is the amplifier.
This is the main source of power for the speakers, but it doesn’t even perform to its full capacity because of energy sharing.
Those 2 separate reservoirs of energy don’t let the amplifier channel all of its energy stored into audio output.
What a waste of potential.
Smaller components like speaker wires and audio cables also play a big role when put together.
When there are 50-75 watt speakers, your speaker wires need to be 12-14 gauge.
Audio cables on the other hand have no specific size, but should be of quality. Default audio cables that come with the purchase are fine.
But if you upgrade, your sound system and overall sound quality will be better.
Fixing either components or variability will fix the watts for your outdoor speakers.