Bookshelf Speakers

Definitive Technology AW 6500 Outdoor Speakers

ARTICLE INDEX

Introduction to the Definitive Technology AW 6500 Outdoor Speakers

Today's consumers have lots of choices to fill their home with music inside and out. I, for one, have a rapidly growing digital music library and I've been on a quest to find better ways to enjoy this music while in the great outdoors ("My Backyard"). This quest naturally involves finding a high quality pair of affordable outdoor speakers.

Thankfully, Definitive Technology makes some fine all-weather speakers. Definitive Technology is one of the great value for money speaker companies so their outdoor speakers naturally caught my eye while surfing the web looking for ideas on how to improve my personal outdoor listening experience.

Definitive Technology has two outdoor speaker models, the AW 5500 and the AW 6500. They both have Balanced Double Surround System (BDSS) Drivers, Race Track Planar Low Bass Radiators and 1" pure aluminum dome tweeters in Poly Stone cabinets. The AW 5500 has a 5-1/2" main driver and the AW 6500 has a 6-1/2" main driver. Both models are available in black or paintable white. I'll be evaluating the larger AW 6500's in this review.

DEFINITIVE TECHNOLOGY AW 6500 SPEAKER SPECIFICATIONS

  • Design: Two-way with Passive Radiator
  • Drivers: One 1" Aluminum Dome Tweeter, One 6.5" Mid/Bass, One 5.5" x 10" Passive Radiator
  • MFR: 40 Hz – 30 kHz
  • Sensitivity: 92 dB
  • Nominal Impedance: 6 Ohms
  • Recommended Amplifier Power: 10 ‒ 200 Watts
  • Dimensions w/Bracket: 8.9" H x 14.4" W x 9.3" D
  • Weight: 10 Pounds/each
  • Finishes – Black, Paintable White
  • MSRP: $249.50/each
  • Definitive Technology
  • SECRETS TAGS: Definitive Technology, Audio, Speakers

 


Design of the Definitive Technology AW 6500 Outdoor Speakers

The AW 6500 all-weather speakers feature the latest advances from Definitive Technology. The woofer is a 6-1/2" Balanced Double Surround System (BDSS) driver. The bass from this driver is augmented by a 5-1/2" x 10" race track Planar Low Bass Radiator while the tweeter is the same 1" pure aluminum dome found in Definitive Technology's award-winning indoor speakers.

The BDSS drivers in the AW 6500's include Definitive Technology's newest voice coil/magnet structure, the dual surrounds and the advanced waveguide. The BDSS drivers' cones and surrounds are polymers that shed moisture while their cast aluminum baskets are naturally corrosion-resistant.

The AW 6500 signal input is via a pair of stout, gold-plated 5-way binding posts. Since the input cup sits on top of the cabinet for most horizontal installations, it is designed so water that may want to collect in the area of the binding posts will drain away through small channels that are formed in the cabinet.

Since the driver and binding post materials are water and corrosion resistant, Definitive Technology simply created a sealed enclosure to make the speakers suitable for outdoor applications. This cabinet is a lightweight Poly Stone available in black or paintable white. The cabinet is certainly light and I was afraid that it might be a bit on the resonant side. But no worries here as the speakers sounded and tested fantastic.

The speakers come with a typical mounting system as far as outdoor speakers are concerned. It is via a U-shaped bracket that attaches to the top and bottom of the speaker with locking knobs. This means the AW 6500's can be mounted vertically or horizontally and they swivel in a single plane. The locking knobs are machined so they bind properly and the speaker is unlikely to sag over time.


Setup of the Definitive Technology AW 6500 Outdoor Speakers

The Definitive AW 6500's replaced a pair of outdoor speakers I'd been using for the last two years or so. The old speakers also have a 6-1/2" woofer, but the AW 6500's felt much larger in my hands. As it turned out, the holes on the old speaker brackets were spaced just wide enough for me to re-use the same holes in my home's siding. This was nothing more than dumb luck, but not having to fill and drill sped along the installation process significantly.

So I installed the brackets, attached the speakers and connected the speaker cables. I used the existing 14 gage braided cables from the prior installation. I screwed down the bare ends of the wires with the binding posts. By now, it was quite obvious that these speakers have been field-tested - the binding posts did not spin freely in the cabinet while the milled knobs on the brackets held firmly and the speaker was well balanced when mounted.

Once the AW 6500's were mounted under the eaves of my 16' x 24' covered patio, they appeared to be much smaller than when I was holding them in my hand. They blend in nicely from a visual standpoint too. The angled cabinet is designed to direct low bass from the radiator towards the adjacent boundary while direct sounds from the active drivers are aimed at the seating area. This brilliant concept offers boundary reinforcement for the bass while direct radiating the mids and treble.

Since there is a lowish roof over my 16' x 24' covered patio, the AW 6500's sounded a bit tubby in the bass whenever I sat on the patio. But they sound perfectly balanced at a distance when I was out in the yard, away from the patio cover. So I knew the issue was with the set-up, not the speakers. Since we spend most of our outdoor time in the shade of the patio cover, I turned down the bass about 3 – 4 db on my pre amp and that livened up the frequency balance nicely.

I was driving the AW 6500's with a 100 wpc Onkyo stereo amplifier which is fed by an Adcom preamp. Sources were steaming via Apple Airplay over an Airport Express box and CD's/SACD's played on an old Sony SACD changer.


The Definitive Technology AW 6500 Outdoor Speakers In Use

Let's start by discussing my initial impression of the AW 6500's. One might say that I had a positive first impression of the AW 6500's. What evidence is there that might support my claim, you ask? Well, just the small matter that I sold my previous pair of outdoor speakers within the first week of installing the Definitive Technology AW 6500's. Yep, I sold them old speakers right quick. That's not to say that the AW 6500's didn't improve with some break in and those improvements were pretty obvious in several key facets of their performance. But this wouldn't have affected my decision any as the unbroken-in AW 6500's basically blew away my old speakers.

It gets very hot down here in South Texas, but we still use our patio most every weekend. Whether for an all-day homebrew session or for an evening barbeque, we spend a bunch of time outdoors. So I've enjoyed several months of excellent audio action from the AW 6500's.

As mentioned earlier, the bass was a bit too much under the roof of my patio so I turned down the bass on my pre amp. This worked out well in so far as the bass contour on the preamp tamed the bass peak without muddying the rest of the low range. The bass was now balanced and much more expressive with this minor tweak.

I found that these Definitive Technology speakers really shone on a variety of material, including jazz, blues, pop and rock. Of course, I tried a little classical, but it just doesn't feel right in a rugged outdoor setting. So I stuck with more typical genres for an outdoor party.

Methinks the AW 6500's are pretty sensitive and I quickly found out that with 100 wpc backing the system, I was able to play the system loud enough that I could be cited for violating our local noise ordinance. But I usually keep the volume below that level for the purposes of promoting social intercourse. It is still very nice being able to crank it up a bit when nobody else is around.

A prime example of music to kick off a brewing session would be the Buddy Guy album, "Living Proof". Man, this guy can still shred that guitar! This album played back over the AW 6500's was perfectly gritty while preserving each nuance of Guy's playing. The speakers kept pace with the rhythm of the tunes and the treble was really, really clean. I couldn't resist performing my own nonstop air guitar action during this album: consequently, the wort scorched on the bottom of my brew kettle that day.

Next, I might really pump it up with the pop-reggae infused musical styling's David Lindley's 1981 album, "El Rayo-X". This inaugural album from Lindley was produced by Jackson Brown. This album is so excellent through and through - I could listen to it ten times in a row. The bass lines were extremely catchy through the AW 6500's while the vocals shone through with an uncanny neutrality.

Perhaps now might be a good time to throw on a little funky jazz with the 2002 effort by Monty Alexander on the Telarc label, "My America"? The music on this SCAD is mostly instrumentals and Alexander's piano was as pure as can be while the few vocals on the album were natural and engaging.

Then I may wind down while enjoying Nils Lofgren "Live", sitting awash in his virtuoso style of guitar playing while enjoying a good beverage and good company. A perfect ending to a perfect day.


The Definitive Technology AW 6500 Outdoor Speakers On The Bench

I placed a single AW 6500 on a heavy cast metal stand, using Blu Tac to hold the speaker in place and decouple the cabinet from the stand's top plate. The tests were run indoors in my large listening room. The frequency response tests were performed at 1-meter while the distortion measurements were taken on-axis in the near field.

The on-axis response of the Definitive Technology AW 6500 shows a surprisingly flat response between 80 Hz to 20 kHz. Contrary to popular belief, not all outdoor speakers are voiced for extra bass. This plot was run without the benefit of nearby boundary reinforcement as would be expected in a typical installation.

At 30 degrees off-axis, the AW 6500 was a bit choppier than the on-axis test. Much of the unevenness was in the bass and was likely affected by the room. This is nonetheless a very good test result.

The THD at 1 kHz and 95 db was 0.15%. That is really low distortion for a $249 outdoor speaker.

At 250 Hz and 95 db, the THD measurement was only 0.17%.

At 10 kHz and 90 db, the distortion was a very respectable 0.12%.

The AW 6500 had just 1.19% THD at 95 db and 80 Hz.


Conclusions about the Definitive Technology AW 6500 Outdoor Speakers

I enjoyed every minute of my time with the Definitive Technology AW 6500's. They were a breeze to install; their sound was balanced transparent, emotive and clean. I actually decided that they would be my new outdoor speakers within the first week.

But then I took them inside for bench testing and all I could do was exclaim, "Zooey Mama!" the way Greg from "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" might say. That's because the AW 6500's tested better than many indoor speakers that have passed through my system. It really surprised me, to be honest. Sure I knew they sounded good, but I didn't expect the results that I was able to measure.

So the AW 6500's get my highest recommendation for outdoor speakers. Give them a listen if you are looking for outdoor speakers that are easy to drive while offering a balanced, clean sound that can fill a large open space.