This year we finally put up some permanently mounted outdoor speakers, as opposed to dragging out my old receiver and bookshelf speakers each summer and hacking in a sound source. I set up a Squeezebox server a few years ago, and it is without a doubt the absolute best way to get music streamed around the house. The only downside is that the various receiver units they make are over-priced, so we have only bought a single “radio” unit and one receiver. I wanted to tie the patio speakers into the receiver we had in the kitchen pantry to avoid having to buy a separate one just for the patio.
The project was pretty easy, other than the awful job of routing the speaker wires through portions of the attic that are basically inaccessible. That turned into a 3 hour messy, solo job. Yuck. I added a second “t-amp” in the pantry, so that we’d have independent volume control for the patio, as well as not overtax the original amp we had for the kitchen. For anyone that’s not familiar with t-amps, they are awesome pieces of audio gadgetry. Instead of a traditional amplifier design, they use an ultra high frequency switching amp that offers both fantastic sound quality as well as ultra high efficiency. The little one on top (Dayton DTA-1) puts out a very clean 10 watts/channel, which is plenty for reasonable listening volumes. Besides sounding great, it idles at 0 watts when no music is playing. The old receiver I used to use idled at 50 watts! We would always forget to turn it off and be blasted by a wave of heat when we opened the pantry door the next morning. This little amp creates no heat at all, so we can just leave it on all the time without wasting any energy. The larger one (bottom) I got for the patio speakers idles at only 4 watts, but we can turn that off when not playing music outdoors. Best of all, the t-amps are a fraction of the size of a receiver, which is great in our space-limited pantry closet. The top amp and the Squeezebox receiver are each the size of a small paperback book.