Looking for an outdoor sound system for my camp at Burning Man.
August 18, 2011 10:17 PM   Subscribe

My camp has this giant tarp on poles to protect us from the desert sun. My wife has decorated it romantically. Now I feel like it needs sound. Am I dreaming, wishing of speakers to put around the outside of our shade structure, pointing in? That don't cost a lot of money? That can withstand the sun? That have decent sound and some clear bass? That has an iPod dock? I have a generator for AC power, though a battery option would be nice (but not a requirement!) and I don't mind using speaker wire, so iwireless or not, fine with me.
posted by DesmondDoomsday to Technology (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Definitely doable.
But first you need to establish a budget: what is "a lot of money?"
This is important because some consider $100 a lot while others think $10,000 is a lot.

A Google search for outdoor speakers turns up quite a few online retailers that offer several options: Best Buy, Crutchfield, Amazon, and many more.

Most of the speakers are small, so they aren't going to output much low-end bass. To get proper bass you'll need a subwoofer.

A simpler option might the modern-day equivalent of a boom-box.
posted by nickthetourist at 12:05 AM on August 19, 2011

Best answer: The requirement to have the speakers outside makes this more complicated and expensive than it needs to be. Why not just hang them from the top of the poles, in the corners?

Also, +1 for a subwoofer for anything outside. A reasonably cheap 2.1 satellite & sub system should give a good sound. They all come with iPod docks, as long as your definition of 'iPod dock' includes a 3.5mm jack plug. That always used to be good enough, hah.

I can thoroughly recommend the Logitech Z-2300, by the way.
posted by alan2001 at 3:11 AM on August 19, 2011

Best answer: If I were you I'd look at thrift stores or pawn shops or Craigslist or just ask around to see if anyone has old equipment lying around that they don't want anymore. These thoughts are based on the idea that you're not likely to get high quality sound outdoors anyway and the equipment is likely to get really worn out if not completely destroyed. For me, that means cheap junk that's better than nothing but won't be an issue if it dies.YMMV
posted by CathyG at 7:21 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

You might look into renting a small PA, like a Fender Passport. Even a tiny generator can easily drive one, you'll have more sound-producing capacity than you need, and when you're done with it you don't have another thing lying around.
posted by adamrice at 8:11 AM on August 19, 2011

Best answer: You want a boombox. Anything more complicated will be much more hassle for little improvement in sound (unless you're going to install a full 500w PA system). Lots of 'em have stereo mini line-ins, so you can plug your MP3 player of choice up with a cheap cable. Most of 'em have the option to run on an armful of D cell batteries. No wiring necessary. They'd probably be okay in the sun, although you might want to set it in the shade if you're running it all day.
posted by echo target at 9:09 AM on August 19, 2011

Do you actually want music, or just background noise? The cheapest thing would be to hang up a windchime.
posted by annsunny at 9:28 AM on August 19, 2011

Best answer: Just go to your local thrift shop and buy half a dozen sets of old computer speakers. You'll get a basic sub and two satellites for about $15. String these around your shade structure, rig them up with a bunch of splitters, and you're golden. If you want to get fancier you can add a cheap headphone amplifier.

Which camp are you with? I'll be at 2:45/B with the Shame Project.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:15 AM on August 19, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice all. @nickthetourist I think I'm hoping to figure something out under $350. I could do more but ugh spent so much on this thing already.

@Mars Saxman when you say splitters do you just mean those little cheapie doo-dads that are basically one jack out to two? We don't have a registered camp. We're just going and winging it!
posted by DesmondDoomsday at 1:18 PM on August 19, 2011

Yep, that's exactly what I mean - just get a few of those cheap Y-cables and plug all the computer speakers into them, with the point of the Y going back to your computer or ipod dock. This is not a good idea for passive devices like headphones, but it works fine for self-powered speakers.
posted by Mars Saxman at 3:58 PM on August 19, 2011

Response by poster: I should have listened to you guys more closely. I was seduced by "satechi x-mini max" and "wowee pad" miniature technologies. Didn't work out well at all. The little speakers sounded light and tinny, and the wowee pad was defective right out of the box, making horrible distorted noise.

Between now and next year I'll be seeking out deals on Craigslist using the above advice.
posted by DesmondDoomsday at 12:27 PM on September 18, 2011

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