Digital Decorating 101: Outdoor Decorating, Part 1 - Setting up your Audio

Welcome to Digital Decorating 101! If you’re interested in taking your digital decorating to new levels of awesomeness, then this is the place to be. In this series, we’ll be covering lots of advanced tips to enhance your holiday display and make your house the best on the block! (Updated September 2021)

First let’s talk about outdoor decorating. Adding an outdoor speaker to your digital decorations can significantly enhance the effectiveness of your holiday display. Sound effects and music add an emotional dimension to your decorations, giving your holiday visitors a greater sense of excitement. There are lots of solutions for setting up audio, and this article is designed to help you choose the right one.

To get started with your audio experience, let’s consider whether your speakers will be wired or wireless. Most decorating devices like projectors and media players will feature a ⅛” (3.5mm) audio jack, like the kind you use for headphones on a phone or MP3 player. With an audio jack, either of these options is possible.

Wired Setups

Consider using wired speakers if:

  • Your speakers don’t have to be very far from your playback device
  • You have a covered porch or protected area where your audio equipment won’t be easily damaged by moisture or dust
  • You want to avoid using battery-powered wireless speakers

Using wired speakers is usually less expensive and easier to install than wireless setups. However, it’s important to remember that speaker wires can be a trip hazard, so you should be very careful to secure any loose cables on your porch or walkway with duct tape, gaffer’s tape, or a wire mold.

Wireless Setups

Consider using wireless speakers if:

  • Your decorations are inside your home and you need audio outside 
  • You need to place a speaker up to 30 feet away from your decorations
  • You want to avoid trip hazards and unsightly cables 

Wireless options include Bluetooth enabled devices and FM radio transmitters. Keep in mind that Bluetooth connections can occasionally create a small lag between your audio and video, which means your audio may seem slightly out of sync. However, this is not a problem for all Bluetooth connections and usually isn’t noticeable. If you need wireless sound with perfect audio sync, an FM transmitter may be a better solution.

Did you know your Amazon Echo Dot can work as a Bluetooth speaker AND you can dress it up in its own Halloween decoration?

If you want to use a Bluetooth setup, be sure you can pair your decorating device with a Bluetooth speaker. If your decorating device is not Bluetooth enabled, you can purchase a Bluetooth transmitter that will connect to your device’s audio jack. If you have any trouble getting your Bluetooth to pair or transmit, click here refer to our Bluetooth troubleshooting article.

Protecting Your Equipment

Since you’ll be using your speakers outdoors, it’s very important to make sure your equipment is protected from dust and moisture. It’s a good idea to check your speaker’s user manual to determine whether it’s water resistant and suitable for outdoor use.

If your speaker is not rated to be used outside, you can place your speaker under a covered porch or even beneath the table you use for your candy dish. Always use your best judgment about the security of your speaker to make sure it isn’t stolen.

You may also purchase a ready-made outdoor speaker enclosure or build one yourself from a variety of materials. A quick web search will return a number of DIY project plans that will guide you through creating your own.

An example DIY speaker enclosure diagram - Be sure to use a front panel with holes, or a fabric mesh, to allow for the sound to travel

Speaker Placement — Mono and Stereo

How many speakers you use will determine where to place them. It’s important to position the speaker(s) in a way that creates the illusion that the sound is originating from the decoration. If your sound is too far or too off-center from your decoration, you risk spoiling the illusion. Consider where your audience will be viewing your display and aim your speaker(s) directly at that spot.

For a mono setup, aim your speaker directly at the listener

For a stereo setup, place your speakers on either side of the decoration and angle your speakers slightly toward the listener

Even very simple speaker systems can really improve your display. Make sure to carefully consider your needs and the specifics of your display before you purchase any equipment. With a little thought and planning, audio will greatly increase the drama and power of your AtmosFX Digital Decorations.

So now you’ve got your decorations prepped, your projector covered, and your speakers set up. Now it’s time to have some fun! We love seeing the creativity of our decorating community, so if you are proud of your outdoor display, send us some pictures. A short email to our team could make you the next AtmosFAN of the Week. It is easy to send your photos and/or videos here!

Click the links to see the other articles in this series:

(To check out the AtmosFAN Hall of Fame, click here.)

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