Hands-On Review: Affordable OSD Bluetooth Rock Speakers Weather New England Climate
OSD Audio's Bluetooth-equipped BTR-800 rock loudspeakers provides dealers with an easy and affordable way to get clients into an outdoor audio solution that won't break the bank.
Robert Archer · May 28, 2014
Before the crippling economic recession of a few years ago, the outdoor A/V market had begun to blossom. Now following those tough economic times the custom electronics market is adapting to the latest consumer electronics trends. Included in those adapting markets is the outdoor A/V category, which is rebuilding the momentum it lost by closely by adopting key technologies that are driving traditional A/V sales.
A good example of what is going on in outdoor A/V market can be found in OSD Audio’s new line of outdoor rock speakers. The California company’s BTR-800 rock speakers are available in a choice of colors for their integration into a variety of environments and, perhaps more importantly, the speaker is reasonably priced and retrofittable.
According to OSD, the speaker incorporates a two-way design with an 8-inch polypropylene woofer with a butyl surround, and a 1-inch soft-dome tweeter. Internally the speaker is powered by a 50-watt amplifier that is capable of delivering 100-watt peaks. All of this is housed in an enclosure that is engineered for weather from sunshine to freezing cold blizzards.
The two key components that make the $350 per pair BTR-800s a turnkey retrofittable audio solution are its inclusion of Bluetooth wireless technologies and a 110/240-volt transformer and power supply system that enables installers to drop the speakers anywhere the clients requests.
I set the speakers up in my backyard once the winter snow melted from my suburban Boston location. After the speakers were unpacked I followed the company’s setup instructions. Starting with the power connection that is terminated with a “Neutrik-like pigtail” that seals out moisture, water, dust and dirt, I connected the power. Next I ran the 30-foot connecting cable from the main speaker to the slave speaker, which also utilizes the “pigtail-type” connections. To accomplish this I just connected the positive and negative connections and then threaded the protective cover complete that portion of the install.
Finishing up I ran about 50 feet of extension cable from the outdoor outlet located on my deck to the speakers’ position near my kids’ swing set. Lastly I opened up the settings on my iPhone, went to the Bluetooth options found and selected the speakers to stream content from my phone and network.
Related: More on Outdoor A/V from CE Pro
After running the speakers for the afternoon to get a feel of their sound quality, I was pleased with their performance. Considering I was outdoors I thought there was sufficient lower midrange, bottom end information and the coverage area was big enough to envelop the coverage area. Throughout the next couple of months the speakers (I disconnected the power) endured a long New England winter that to my dismay featured more snow, freezing rain, wind and other elements to prolong our cold weather misery.
Getting back to the speakers, after several weeks of lousy weather I grabbed the extension cords and my iPhone and ran the speakers to see how they “weathered” our New England spring. After running the speakers to allow them to break-in, I thought the speakers worked through some initial top-end “brittleness” with some low-res AAC and MP3 files, to sound much fuller and just plain better.
My overall impression is the speakers imaged well to provide nice detail with extension down to approximately 90Hz, and they produced enough volume to engage my listening area without sounding strained. I will point out that I ran the speakers at nearly full volume to accomplish this, and that despite the claims of 150 feet of Bluetooth range, I am comfortable with saying that I achieved about 30 feet of range in my yard before reliability faltered.
I also found the Bluetooth to have some directionality issues and it probably isn’t advisable to put a phone or tablet transmitting Bluetooth in a place such as a pocket or backpack because it could affect signal transmission.
Aesthetically, the slate gray speakers blended well into my yard and with the backs of the speakers facing my driveway there is absolutely no way visitors knew those rocks in my yard were actually speakers.
Summing the speakers up: As an entry-level solution I don’t think installers can go wrong with the BTR-800s, especially when used as a “gateway” product to eventually get clients into permanent whole-house (with outdoor A/V as a zone) or separate outdoor A/V systems.
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Bob is an audio enthusiast who has written about consumer electronics for various publications within Massachusetts before joining the staff of CE Pro in 2000. Bob is THX Level I certified, and he's also taken classes from the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA). Bob also serves as the technology editor for CE Pro's sister publication Commercial Integrator. In addition, he's studied guitar and music theory at Sarrin Music Studios in Wakefield, Mass., and he also studies Kyokushin karate at 5 Dragons in Haverhill, Mass. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Robert at firstname.lastname@example.org
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