In many parts of the country, it's finally time to put away the snow shovels and get back to enjoying the warmer summer months. One of the hottest new categories in consumer electronics is outdoor home theater. Years ago, the idea of lugging a CRT projector and fixed screen from your purpose-built media room to your backyard was simply unthinkable. Today's micro-sized "pico" projectors and easy-to-assemble screens make home theater al fresco not only possible but pretty darn affordable.
Video projector retailer VisualApex.com has an entire suite of products for outdoor home theater, ranging from a $100 portable projector stand to any number of screens perfect for outdoor use, starting at under $200. They also sell a host of small projectors from the likes of Epson, Optoma, and others that are perfect for a rocking an outdoor theater.
Weatherproof TVs are another growing category. Sunbrite TV, which is now part of the Snap AV family, has an entire line of 1080p and Ultra HD TVs that can perform in the bright sun and can take a weather beating in a way that a standard monitor couldn't dream of. This gives customers more flexibility and creativity when designing an outdoor entertainment system, with the option to place the TV closer to a swimming pool, barbeque island, or pretty much anywhere.
Home theater isn't much without booming sound, though. Bluetooth speakers are being used in many creative applications nowadays. Aperion Audio's Allaire Bluetooth speakers are a good example of a portable product with five-star performance. There are various types of outdoor speakers from nearly every notable speaker brand that you can think of, including Paradigm, Bowers & Wilkins, Boston Acoustics, Polk, Dayton Audio, and Monitor Audio. Episode Speakers has a nice bundle with four speakers and a powerful Crown amp that rocks hard even when parked next to your posies; you can read our review here. Focal is known for its audiophile-grade speakers, but the company recently come out with a pretty nifty pair of swiveling speakers for outdoor use.
If you want to go to the next level, Snap AV has a monstrous 12-inch subwoofer that gets buried in your landscape, thus leaving a mushroom-like form in your plants that pumps out the deepest bass. I recently put two of these beside my new swimming pool.
What does a typical outdoor theater rig look like? Most people don't do surround sound, as it's just too complicated to install and requires a receiver-based setup. A good tabletop speaker or two-channel system will do when watching Hollywood stars under the stars in your backyard. Video rigs vary, but an inexpensive pico projector sitting on a table will work nicely. These projectors can be used in any number of locations and are so small that they don't take up much space. Run an HDMI cable into it from your Blu-ray player, and you are off to the races. You might be surprised at how much light you can get onto your screen.
As for screens, Visual Apex has a whole host of unique screen applications that are light, portable, and affordable--check out our review of one of the company's outdoor models here. If you want to go on the cheap, you could always paint a piece of drywall with Screen Goo or even use a sheet drawn tight. We'd suggest that you buck up for an inexpensive screen designed to live up to your performance expectations when installed outside.
So fire up the grill and invite some friends over for dinner and a movie outside. You don't need Dolby Atmos and Ultra HD video to have a truly wonderful time. Just pick the right movie, invite your best friends and family, and settle in for a backyard treat. One last note: be mindful of your neighbors, as you will likely be making a good amount of noise. Perhaps plan to wrap things up by 10:30 p.m. or so.
• Is the Popularity of Soundbars Good or Bad for the Audio Industry? at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• How DSP Can Take Audio to New Heights in 2016 at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Evolve or Die: The Changing Face of the CE Retail Landscape at HomeTheaterReview.com.