Sound in the Round

We have a very pleasant patio on the banks of Ashland creek about 80 feet from the house, and I’ve often thought I would like to have music down there. I have some wired speakers on the back deck through which I can play iTunes music, but if I cranked these up so they could be heard down by the creek I’m sure I would hear about it from the neighbors.

There are lots of wireless speaker systems on the market, but most are pretty expensive and many also need 110V power. While browsing on Amazon a while back, I came across this odd speaker (Avtek NXG Wireless Indoor/Outdoor Speaker System) that looks like a cross between a Shop-Vac and a stubby rocket. Classic American Kitsch school of design, complete with blue LED “ambience lighting” which thankfully doesn’t pulse with the music. The speaker is only about a foot high, and the speaker and/or the transmitting unit can be powered either by 110V or by batteries, making it extremely portable. At less than $50, I couldn’t resist.

I got it just in time for the South Texas style BBQ we put on over the 4th of July for some friends and some of our Texas expatriate relatives. What Texas BBQ would be complete without some tunes from Willie, Waylon, Jerry Jeff, Emmylou and the like? YeeHa!

I plugged the transmitter into the headphone port on Myrl’s MacBook in our home office, loaded the speaker with 8 C batteries and took it down by the creek. So how did it work out? Pretty well, actually. At about 80 ft. away, there was no static or distortion. The are no bass or treble adjustments and stereo separation is almost non-existent, but the sound is surprisingly pleasant and sufficiently loud. At least after a few music-appreciation-enhancing beverages. (Couldn’t find Lone Star or Shiners locally so we had to make do with Negra Modelo, Dos Equis, and Bohemia.) The speaker will run for at least 2 1/2 hours on battery, maybe much longer. Someone with superior musical tastes turned it off at this point.

If you want casual outdoor music on your deck or elsewhere at a low price without having to run wires this might be a good choice. Another choice is one of the many battery/110V powered small speakers into which you can plug in an iPod directly. I have one of these also, but I prefer the more robust sound of this funky Avtek unit.