Extremely Rugged Outdoor Speakers That Last
I installed these speakers around my pool area about 10 years ago. I was a little unsure about installing speakers in the landscaping with worries that the surrounding foliage would block out or muffle the sound and that they simply would't survive out in the elements (particularly after paying quite a hefty price for them). I am pleased to report that not only do they sound fantastic, but they still work flawlessly after years of use outside (even after being submerged in flood water twice). What's ironic is that I have also bought two pairs of Bose model 151 outdoor speakers that I mounted in protected locations under the eaves of my patio (completely out of the weather) and both died within four years. These Freespace 51's sound much better than those and I have since installed another pair of them to cover the patio. The sound the 51's produce is very pleasant and well balanced and I also like the fact that they hide away easily and can be placed much closer to the listening area (instead of blasting a single pair of patio speakers to be heard at the pool). I should probably mention that there are cheaper options like the TIC GS3 and GS5 Omni Speakers that are very similar in design and can be purchased online from places like Amazon at a much lower cost than the Bose Freespace 51's. In my experience, they seem to perform well and may be worth a look if you're on a budget, however I can't comment on their longevity since I personally don't own them. I can say for sure though, that while a little pricey, these Bose Freespace 51 speakers really are fantastic and will defiantly last for years outdoors.
Freespace 51's in the Australian Climate (connected to Sonos ZP120 (PlayAmp))
I own a pair of Freespace 51's in Melbourne Australia, connected to a Sonos ZP120 (Play Amp).
Where I find their ascetics to be a little "easier" on the eye (residing in a garden bed surrounding a Spa / Jacuzzi), I have mixed feelings about the performance.
Without effecting the EQ settings, I find their Treble to be lacking, the mid range to be full & thick, where the bass is present its not plentiful. Like many Bose professional / commercial products, changing the EQ settings produces more desirable results: Increasing the treble corrects the high frequency loss, increasing the bass corrects the bass loss, but when not buried in thick soil "colours" the sound a little "boomy" for my liking.
-Aesthetically pleasing, fits in well in most garden beds (And can be easily painted)
-Works well with a Sonos Amp (ZP120) (when used in >10m distance from ZP120 (my ZP120 is mounted in a metal waterproof electrical box (~$100 form an electrical wholesaler) next to a pool pump / controller.
- Easy to install
- Bass response can appear lacking without EQ setting changes, it improves slightly when buried in more dense soil and mulch on top- I have mine in very dense soil and with wood chips on top.
- Perfect for pools / spas
- V-E-R-Y durable (Mine are subjected to constant Melbourne weather (rain, hail, shine, heat, cold)
- Great talking point at parties dinner parties! "Hey, is the music coming from your pot plants???".
- Dog proof!!! (My Pug is obsessed with sitting on them!!!)
- Overpriced (Consider the TIC GS3/5's if on a budget- are used in USA theme parks and come in a few options (Inc a subwoofer version if desired))
- Limited technical data on performance
- Requires a bit of amplifier power to "play" nicely (ZP120 is usually run @ 40-50% to get a comfortable listening level in a 10x10m area)
- Treble is lacking, Bass is lacking, Lots of Midrange- Requires correction by the amplifier EQ to achieve a balance (Typical for most Bose commercial / install products however).
Once the EQ is set, they play quite nicely. Unfortunately Bose's prices in Australia are uncompetitive, making them a product on the expensive side. They are a well designed speaker with big potential when installed correctly. Take your time and plan their install (I personally temporarily connected them to an Amplifier and tried a few different positions before permanently installing them) for years of listening enjoyment.
The Bose Freespace 51's Vs the TIC GS5's
I have owned a pair of the GS5 Omni garden speakers from TIC Corporation for about five years now. They provided my backyard with surprisingly good audio reproduction despite their low cost and were not harmed by Melbourne's changeable weather conditions. However, when The opportunity came to purchase Bose's version of an omnidirectional garden speaker, I decided to go for it, assuming that the much higher price meant much higher sound quality and durability. After installing the units along side the existing TIC Omni's, I was able to get a direct comparison of the speakers.
I found that the Bose units had a nice even response, the bass was present, but not overpowering, the mids and highs are clear and I was able to hear many of the subtle features in the music even while standing reasonable distances away form the speaker. Just the pair covered my rather large backyard well and were able to overpower many ambient noises in the environment, which was a surprise considering the small size of the driver. While I cannot test the longevity of these speakers in the elements at this current time, they appear to be well made and I believe they will stand up to some harsh weather. All in all, the Bose Free Space 51's are a great addition to any yard.
Let's not forget about those TIC Omni Speakers though, as they are also a worthy purchase. But there being such a huge price difference, many would assume that you are loosing some features in the TIC model. The truth is however, you aren't! In fact, TIC even throw in 50ft of weatherproof cable for each speaker. The Omni's are well built and the components are well sealed up and protected from the elements. The only difference is the sound quality. While the TIC GS5's sound good on their own, when put up against the Free Space 51, It becomes obvious that the Bose produce much clear heights than the GS5's. They have the tendency to sound a little 'muddy' and sometimes 'boomy' due to the lack of treble. This can however, be easily corrected by changing the EQ settings on the amp or audio source. All other frequency ranges naturally come through quite well in my opinion. The GS5's also cover a large outdoor area and blend in extremely well with garden shrubbery. To sum it up, the TIC GS5's are a real bang for your buck solution that are comparable to the much more price hearty Free Space 51's.
In conclusion, The Bose Free Space 51's are a fantastic outdoor speaker that look the part and sound fantastic! However, the TIC GS5 Omni Speakers offer surprisingly similar quality at a much lower price point. Both models will stand up to the harsh Australian outdoors. For the high-end audio enthusiast, the Bose is the choice for you. But for the average consumer, The TIC GS5's are an amazing product that provide many of the same features at a price you can afford!
Sound Quality and Build
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