Shake off your winter coat – summer’s just around the corner, and its time to head to the backyard to enjoy the warm weather. Smarthouse shows you what you’ll need to turn your backyard into an entertainment paradise complete with music, vision, food and more.
OUTDOOR ENTERTAINING IS a staple of the Australian summer lifestyle. Gathering
around the barbecue with friends and family is an activity millions of us look forward to, so why not enhance that experience by transforming your backyard into an entertainment showcase?
When designing a new house or renovating an existing structure, many of us focus on the interior features. However, when it comes to the outdoors (which in many cases is the largest area of all), we tend to forget an important detail: the audio and vision experience. Many home audio manufacturers have been hip to this luxury for years, but it seems many more are starting to join the fray, offering classy products to help us enjoy the great outdoors like never before.
Good sound is an obvious addition to any leisure area. However, you can’t simply plunk some spare speakers into the planter next to the pool. You need specialty waterproof speakers that will resist the elements and provide great sound for years. When it comes to outdoor speakers, there are two flavours: plastic-moulded speakers and those that look like rocks or planters (designed to blend in with the landscaping).
The rock look-alike speakers provide covert placement. They blend in perfectly with other landscaping landmarks. Look for rock speakers such as Sonance’s CRK20, Rockustics Rocky Jr and new models from Niles, the RS6 series. All provide excellent performance and should weather virtually any storm.
If you have high growth in your planters and can nicely hide the speakers anyway, save some money and go with the plastic-moulded variety. They sound just as good as their rock counterparts, but don’t cost as much because they skip the expensive facade. However, because you’re competing with the sounds of nature (and possibly nearby air and road traffic), absolute fidelity in outdoor speakers is not critical to most people. Many outdoor speakers come with brackets to mount the speaker onto an outside wall or pole. If you are tucking speakers up under the eaves of your house or in an area where they will not get pounded by the weather, a weather-resistant speaker will do fine. Check out Boston Acoustics’ Voyager Series, Definitive Technology’s AW-100, Bose’s Environmental series and Polk Audio’s Atrium series. All of these should satisfy anybody but the most critical listener.
If you are looking for a speaker to hold out against all that nature has to offer, you’ll need a speaker that is weatherproof, not just weather-resistant. Look for weatherproof speakers such as Russound’s OB series, B&W’s WM series, Sonance’s Mariners and Jamo’s I/O series (the 660 model).
WHAT OUTDOOR ENTERTAINMENT system would be complete without video? Whether it’s a poolside TV for big sporting events or a TV in an outdoor bar in the backyard, there are many options available, depending on your lifestyle. If you’re so inclined, you can even have a plasma or LCD TV pop-up next to the spa, as long it is protected properly. The outdoors can be a great place to get creative by integrating your equipment
into your lifestyle (and your budget). If you frequently entertain outdoors during the
day and you like to watch sports, why not customise your environment? Install a
pop-up plasma screen next to the pool and include a motorised swivel.
Products from companies like Surround Imports, which manufactures A/V Lifts, will do the trick. Installations, including the control, start from about $4000. Have your contractor weatherproof the mechanism and the TV and you should enjoy many years of service. Be sure to look at a weatherproof enclosure for your monitor, no matter where you live, as the elements are not forgiving toward any electronics.
If permanence is not your thing, consider portable TV models, such as the latest from Sharp. The new 15″ LC1SL1E works in the Wi-Fi domain. This means that it has a wireless transmitter that works the same way as surfing the internet on your laptop. The best part is you don’t need long cords to give you a great picture and excellent sound.
HAVING AUDIO AND video in the backyard is great, but how do you control it without toweling off and wiping your feet before the long trek back indoors to your equipment rack? It’s easy: just press a touchscreen from a company like Crestron or AMX, and you’ll be in audio/video heaven in no time. Choose between the radio, digital music, CDs or a music server, and you’ll never run out of music or entertainment.
The most important thing to remember when placing equipment outdoors is to make sure the equipment will survive the elements. Some products, such as an outdoor touchscreen, will require some level of weatherproofing, but placing these devices permanently inside a custom-built enclosure is an even better solution, which will also protect the equipment from the glare of the sun. If Crestron or AMX touchscreens are beyond the limits of your budget, look to Russound or Niles Audio for the solution. Products from these companies are more suited for the budget conscious, and while they offer less control, they still provide lots of value for money.
EXTEND YOUR NETWORK
THESE DAYS, MANY of us are completely attached to our emails and our quest to find
the right products to buy on eBay. However, obsessing in the outdoors has never
been easier. Simply extend your home’s wireless network outside and you’ll be web surfing by the pool in no time. Excellent products from Linksys, D-Link, Netcomm, Netgear or Apple (like the Airport Extreme) will unchain you from your desk and turn your entire property into a wireless zone for your whole family.
Belkin is even pushing the speed envelope for wireless, with the imminent launch of its new range of 802.11n-based products. 802.11n is the new emerging standard for wireless, and is said to deliver speeds up to four times faster than current 802.11g technology. This extra speed means easier and quicker streaming of music and video files around the house. The Belkin Wireless Pre-N range is expected to launch locally before the end of this year.
TOP IT OFF WITH FOOD
Now that you’ve sorted out how you’re going to entertain yourself out there, it’s time to put your mind to a most important topic: what you’re going to eat when your friends come around. After all, what would any Aussie backyard gathering be without a good old barbie?
Barbecues no longer need to be dull, soot-covered iron boxes hulking in the corner of your yard. The latest barbecue designs could almost appear in your kitchen.
Barbeques Galore’s new Phoenix (RRP$699), for example, is a concept barbeque with an enamel sky blue roasting hood and fascia, grey aluminium legs, and durable tempered glass in the bottom and side shelves. With a small footprint, the Phoenix is ideal for balconies or small backyards. Phone 13 12 54 or visit www.barbequesgalore.com.au.
If you’re serious about your outdoor cooking, BeefEater’s new SL4000 ($7599) comes with a range of high-tech features that would put some ovens to shame.The SL4000s,available in five and six burner versions and constructed from high-quality stainless steel, comes standard with a host of features, including BeefEater’s ‘Quartz Start’ ignition, stainless steel convection roasting hood and Vaporizer Grid and Heat Reflector System (which reduces heat loss below the burners by focusing heat directly at the barbecue’s cooking surfaces).