After the Fire, A Brand New Outdoor Audio System

Networking expert Bjørn Jensen replaced his outdoor audio system with Origin Acoustics' AcoustaScape speakers after a fire. Now he's looking to enhance his multizone audio system by 'shopping' at CEDIA 2016.

Bjorn Jensen: After the Fire, A Brand New Outdoor Audio System

Bjørn Jensen of the networking firm WhyReboot replaced his outdoor speakers with Origin Acoustics, but plans to use CEDIA Expo 2016 to shore up the rest of his audio system.

With CEDIA Expo around the corner it’s time for me to start thinking about what I need in terms of shopping. Sure, CEDIA Expo is a time to meet with clients, partners, friends, etc. It’s also time to get some good training in, learn about new products, see the latest and greatest tech.

But for me the main reason I love CEDIA is because it lets me know how I can outfit my house with something new. This year is certainly no exception. For many of us the reason we’re in this industry is because we get to play with cool toys and gadgets, listen to great sound, see some great video — things that the average person doesn’t even know exists.

CEDIA is the culmination of a year’s worth of companies gathering the best of their offerings together to wow you and get you to come onboard. Well I for one want to take advantage of that, especially this year.

After the Fire, Building an Outdoor Audio System

We recently had a fire in our backyard by the pool. Apparently a palm tree branch fell on a power line which fell on some dead leaves which caught our fence on fire.

This destroyed our landscape lighting, 20 feet of fence, tons of orchids, and sadly all of our outdoor speakers. Luckily we caught the fire early enough, but those 5 minutes of burning did a lot of damage.

Thankful as I was for the safety of my family and the preservation of our house, I was heart-broken at the loss of our outdoor sound system. The first thing I did when I bought this house was put in those speakers.

My most relaxing times are spent in my pool oasis trying to avoid responding to emails (yet wearing a waterproof smart watch so that I can still see if something important rolls in.) One of the speakers was completely melted. I only had two but it’s all I ever had and all I had ever known. I thought it sounded great.

Rebuilding the Outdoor Oasis

So, I immediately set about getting everything back to normal. This meant calling fence guys to erect a new fence, landscapers to cut down other trees too close to the fence, electricians to put new lights in … and someone to build me another outdoor sound system.

“I want to go “shopping” at the Expo and I wonder if any readers can help me figure out what I should look at getting to replace not only my Yamaha receiver but also my [Squeezebox-based] poor man’s Sonos system.”

Since I have a lot of faith in the infamous Jeremy Burkhardt, I wanted to try out his latest line of Origin Acoustics outdoor speakers, the AcoustaScape AS41 Landscape Audio System.

It caught my eye because it’s touted as “transforming any backyard into an outdoor audio oasis.”

Seeing as I already have a visual oasis I figured I should also have an audio oasis as well.

How could I resist? All it took was getting the approval from the wife but considering the relatively low cost of this system  (“retail” price $1,700 for four satellite speakers and a subwoofer), it wasn’t that hard. I say relatively low cost because this system comes with four 4-inch satellite speakers and an 8-inch dual voice coil in-ground subwoofer. That’s a lot of gear and I was excited to be replacing two speakers with a 4.1 system.

As I’m a networking guy and not very A/V-installation savvy I reached out to one of our best South Florida clients, Audio One, to help us get the new system wired up around the garden and hooked up to my “rack.”

These guys (shout out to Jordan Torres and Gerard Deluca) came out on a Saturday to help out and within just a few hours had the whole system installed and working.

In short, the system rocks! I can’t believe the difference in sound. The old speakers sounded great but the Origins literally fill the whole area with sound so that no matter where you walk you hear music as if you had a speaker right next to you.

Another plus was that I couldn’t even see the speakers hidden among the trees and plants. It’s really, really hard to find them even though you hear the music perfectly clear.

Caveats and Next Moves

One thing I’ll say is definitely read the instruction manual and do as they say regarding subwoofer placement.

Unfortunately we live on the Biscayne Aquifer and this means that our ground is basically rock all the way around. Finding a place where the guys could dig far enough to place an in-ground sub was not easy. The best we could do was to plant the lower bass by the side of the pool, rather than a central location as suggested.

Another benefit of this system is that I could utilize an old Yamaha receiver I had lying around because the only requirement for an amp is that it needs just two available channels and some four-conductor wire.

That said, I think there is something wrong with this receiver because it’s just not giving me the power I need and that I know the AcoustaScape can handle. The sound is clear and perfect but I know these things can handle a lot more power and I want to give them everything they crave so that I can really give the neighbors something to listen to.

On top of that the audio source I have connected to the Yamaha receiver is a Raspberry Pi with a version of Squeezebox loaded onto it, kind of a poor man’s Logitech Squeezebox. It’s great most of the time, like a $40 Sonos unit with a few less features.

I can even control it through my Savant home automation system, most of the time. It can be quite buggy most likely because I don’t keep it on any sort of power conditioner or UPS and with South Florida storms things tend to go up and down a lot. That brings me full circle back to the reason I want to go “shopping” at the Expo and I wonder if any readers can help me figure out what I should look at getting to replace not only my Yamaha receiver but also my poor man’s Sonos system.

There should be a LOT of exciting new products out there that can fill this void. I need an all in one solution that will properly power this awesome outdoor sound system while giving me the ability to access Pandora and my local music library.

Preferably I could seamlessly integrate this into our Savant system as well or even a Crestron system. Now that Sonos has opened up their API to some of the players in our industry maybe I should just go that route but I’m not sure if it will be able to properly power the AcoustaScape system.

Unfortunately my knowledge is in networks so I rely on my technologist partners to give me proper advice. So, if you have some advice for me I’m all ears. I can’t wait for CEDIA Expo to roll around and it’s just around the corner! Hopefully I can find something that will meet my needs while still meeting the wife’s approval. After all you know what they say, happy wife happy life!

This article first appeared September 6, 2016 in CEPro

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