This is an uber high end outdoor sat/sub speaker system that features two sizes of satellites and two sizes of subwoofers. I ordered four of the 6″ satellites and one 12″ subwoofer and installed them in my backyard. A 1,000 watt Crown amplifier with pre-programmed DSP settings specifically calibrated for the speaker system is available through MartinLogan, and I received one of these, too.
I was in no way expecting that an outdoor system could compete with my indoor audio system. That was until I installed the MartinLogan Outdoor Living Series system in my own backyard. This system uses multiple satellites and an excellent subwoofer to evenly fill the space with full-range audio that can stand up to the sound quality you get from even very fine indoor systems.
This is not hyperbole on my part. I wish all of our readers could experience the MartinLogan Outdoor Living sound first hand for themselves.
MartinLogan Outdoor Living Series
- Much more resolution than I expected from an outdoor system
- Bass extension and punch are incredible
- Music fills outdoor space
- Relatively easy to install and set up
- The system made me feel like a bona fide rock star
MartinLogan has developed a complete outdoor audio system they are calling the “Outdoor Living System”.
Outdoor SAT 60
Frequency Response (±3 dB):
90 Hz – 20 kHz
0.75” (1.9cm) aluminum dome, ferro-fluid cooled
6” (15.25cm) mineral filled poly cone
Sensitivity (room / anechoic):
92 dB / 88 dB
Recommended Amplifier Power:
15 – 120 Watts
8-Ohm, 70 Volt (3.75W, 7.5W, 15W, or 30W), 100 Volt (7.5W, 15W, or 30W)
Dimensions (H x W x D – with stem):
12.8” x 8.3” x 11.3” (32.5 x 21 x 28.6 cm)
6.5 lbs./ea (3 kg)
Dynamo Outdoor SUB 120
Frequency Response (±3 dB):
28 Hz – 120 Hz
12” (30.5cm) mineral filled poly cone, 2.5” (6.4cm) high-power oversized voice coil, 4-layer on fiberglass bobbin
Sensitivity (room / anechoic):
91 dB / 85 dB
Recommended Amplifier Power:
15 – 1,000 Watts
Dimensions (H x W x D, barrel only):
15.8” x 15.8” x 20.1” (40 x 40 x 51 cm)
Dimensions (H x W x D, canopy):
8.6” x 14.3” x 14.3” (21.8 x 36.2 x 36.2 cm)
62 lbs/ea (28.1 kg)
Dark Bronze (Canopy)
Amplifier Crown CDi 1000
Frequency Response (±1.0 dB):
20 Hz – 20 kHz
Power Output (4Ω):
500 W x 2
20k Ohms balanced, 10k Ohms unbalanced
Sensitivity (at 8 ohm rated output):
Heat sinks and proportional-speed fan
Dimensions (H x W xD):
EIA Standard 19” W (EIA RS-310-B) x 3.5” (8.9 cm) H x 12.25” (31.1cm) D
19 lb (8.6 kg)
outdoor living system, Dynamo Outdoor SUB 120, Outdoor SAT 60, Amplifier Crown CDi 1000, crown amp, MartinLogan Outdoor Living System, Outdoor Speaker Reviews 2018
This system has highly flexible configuration options by way of two satellite models and two subwoofer models. Each system is optimized to be driven by a professional-grade Crown Class D amplifier that delivers 1,000 watts RMS total power. (This amp is available pre-configured when purchased from MartinLogan.) Since the satellites are compatible with 70V amplification, each Crown amplifier can drive up to 100 satellites each!
The subwoofers are available in either a 10” or a 12” size. These are the type of subs that you bury in your yard and the bass emanates from an exposed canopy. This way, the main part of the woofer is underground, and you can plant flowers or shrubs to shield the woofer from view.
The systems are intended to direct the audio evenly throughout your outdoor space. The satellites can be ground- or surface-mounted and should be evenly spaced around the area, firing inward towards the listeners. The idea is to get good sound in your yard without disturbing your neighbors too much. But of course I have already irritated at least one of my neighbors. Oh well, I guess he doesn’t like great music very much!
For this review, I installed a 4.1-channel Outdoor Living System (4 ~ SAT 60’s, 1 ~ Dynamo SUB 120, and 1 ~ Crown CDi 1000 Amp). Please read on as I walk you through the planning, installation, setup, and enjoyment phases of my review experience.
You could theoretically get one of these systems with just satellites and no sub, but then you would have about the same bass response that people get from those typical outdoor speakers, and that wouldn’t be any fun now would it? To me, it’s the subwoofer that really sets this system apart. I will discuss the design of the subs after giving a rundown on the satellites.
The four satellites I got in for this review were the larger models. The main driver is a 6” mineral filled poly cone that crosses over at 2.5 kHz to a 3/4” ferro-fluid cooled dome tweeter. The drivers and crossover are contained in a dark bronze metal case that resembles a set piece from “War of the Worlds”. They are available in dark bronze only.
These speakers turned out to be significantly larger than I had expected. And they were substantially weighty, clocking in at 6-1/2 pounds each.
I expected the satellites to be coaxial, but they are not. The tweeter is mounted slightly off-center, above the midpoint of the main driver.
As I mentioned earlier, the satellites can be ground-mounted, mounted on a surface, or mounted in a tree. There are three different mount options that you order separately as needed: The most common option would be the ground stake, which I suspect is just slightly more popular than the wall/surface-mount option. The third option is a different ground mount that contains an enclosed junction box in its base.
I would like to see one additional option. This would be a ball and socket like I had with an old pair of Rock Solid mini-monitors. That’s because I mounted one of the MartinLogan satellites in a corner of my back deck, and in order to aim the speaker down and to the side simultaneously, I had to rotate the mount on its axis so the speaker wound up tilted at an awkward angle. I will discuss this a little more in the set-up section below.
The subwoofer I got was the 12” version versus the smaller 10” model. The cylindrical cabinet of the woofer is sealed for all the right reasons. It contains a single (and quite substantial) driver. It’s cone is also made of mineral-filled poly. The motor features a 2.5” 4-layer voice coil.
This subwoofer weighs about 65 pounds and was awkward to lift and lower into the hole we dug, but it was helped by having a nylon rope around its girth that was most useful when installing the woofer. Again, I will discuss the realities of installing this system in the following section of my review.
Like the satellites, the subwoofer was also larger than I had expected, especially the canopy. Hey, when it comes to making bass, size really does matter!
The last part of this MartinLogan system was the nifty Crown amplifier. This is a two-channel Class D amplifier that can put out roughly 500 clean watts per channel. It is configured to be run with the left channel dedicated to the subwoofer(s), while the right channel is reserved for the satellites.
So the left channel is always run at 8 ohms, but the right channel can be configured to run at either 8 oms or 70 V. The 70 V option allows the use of longer wiring and can support many more satellites than the 8 ohm option. This was my first experience doing a 70 volt system, and I must honestly admit that I wrongfully believed that a 70 V set up was only for junky PA systems or Muzak distribution in an office or mall. There was no way it would be an audiophile capable format. Boy was I completely wrong about that! One key to this is the quality of the transformer in each speaker cabinet. Clearly, MartinLogan has included very high quality transformers in each cabinet.
A few more notes on the amp. It has a forced-air cooling system (fan) that blows air through the case front to back so the unit can be rack-mounted, tightly spaced by other components and it should not cause an overheating issue. I like that. The amplifier is also compact with a large and useful readout on the front panel. When sourced from MartinLogan as my review unit was, it is pre-configured with DSP/crossover settings for the Outdoor Living System.
It was obvious to me that this system had been field- and beta-tested before being put into production.
Our house is on a 1/4-acre lot with a substantial patio and back yard area. Presented below is a quick exhibit of the system layout that I made using our title survey as the background. I started with two satellites straddling the patio area and then placed two ground-mounted satellites along the side fence lines, firing inward into the main part of the yard.
I did not add any satellites along the rear fence because that area is a bit of a no-man’s land and also the house behind is our closest neighbor. (Ironically, he is the one who complained about the noise. But I was testing the system soon after install and running it at a much higher volume than normal. He said the bass was making his whole house vibrate. I find that hard to believe but not completely implausible.)
Now that I have the system installed, I may order an additional pair of satellites for the area along the rear fence. This is partly because we have a swimming pool going in and we are also expanding the patio with a new cover, lights, and a ceiling fan.
The amplifier was installed in our laundry room as indicated on the exhibit. I wanted to place the subwoofer in a spot where it would provide the best reinforcement and blend possible. Also remember that the subwoofer always runs at 8 ohms, so the shorter the speaker wire, the better. That’s why I placed it where I did. I really nailed this placement probably more so than the other speakers.
In my case this was a total DIY install, but most consumers would hire a custom installer to do the planning, layout, and installation. Those guys have access to a temporary system they can deploy into the space to help dial in the best number and placement of the various speakers. My layout would have benefited from just such an exercise.
You can adjust the variable wattage setting of each satellite which changes the output so you can somewhat improve the blend you are getting, but I do wish MartinLogan could include a variable attenuator of some sort on each satellite. That way, the installer could make that fine-tuned adjustment so the satellites would blend even better.
Now that I had my layout in mind, I needed to source the speaker cables. I chose direct-bury, jacketed cables. I used a two-conductor run going to the three satellites that are East of the laundry room and quad-conductor for the run to the woofer and then to the satellite to the West.
All satellites were set to 70 V by way of a nifty switch on the back of the housing. There are different taps for the transformer that are selected based on the total number of satellites in the system. The speakers are wired in parallel for this sort of system. All speakers are connected via leads that emanate from the cabinets. The connections are all completed by using the supplied silicone-filled wire connectors.
A friend of mine has a landscaping company, so I hired him to come over with a little track backhoe and cut trenches for the buried speaker cables. He also excavated the hole for the subwoofer. I personally installed all the speakers and wired them up before his crew returned to backfill the trenches.
The subwoofer was large, awkward, and fairly heavy. So MartinLogan supplied it with a handy nylon rope around its girth which was the only way I could manage the speaker into and out of the hole. I left this rope in the ground in case we ever need to pull the subwoofer out for service or for any other reason. I did follow the instructions and provided a bedding of pea gravel under the woofer housing. You are supposed to leave approximately 5” from the finished grade to the bottom of the canopy, and I pretty much nailed that too.
The ground-mounted stakes are long enough and substantial enough that they should do well to lock in the satellites. But in our area, we have a lot of expansive clay soils, and I can see the speakers shifting over time. It is a simple process to loosen the mount and re-align the speaker as this migration plays out over time. I am considering concrete footings for these speakers as a future upgrade.
In reference to the surface mounts, I already opined how I wish they were a ball-and-socket type. That would make the process of aiming them much smoother. I also discovered that the process of tilting the axis of the speaker (the “roll” in aeronautical terms) placed an asymmetric load on the mount, and the first time I installed one in this manner, it later slipped. So I had to really crank down the nut on the back of the mount to make sure it would not rotate on its axis again. This connection would benefit from a lock nut of some sort.
There was no issue locking in the “pitch” of the brackets as that axis is fixed by way of a ratcheted joint. MartinLogan views the ball and socket type mounts as not viable over the long term and that is why they have not produced this style of bracket. All in all, this mounting concern was a very minor issue.
With those few minor quibbles aside, I found the installation to go about as smoothly as I could have imagined. There are many products I reviewed, and I wonder if they field-tested any of it. Not so with the MartinLogan Outdoor Living Series. These products are definitely tested and re-tested. And then, somebody who is good at explaining things wrote up a coherent and easy-to follow-manual. That ain’t easy when you consider all the possible configurations this system can be deployed. I am sure some people may find it lacking, but not me. The documentation is superior. I did ask one question of MartinLogan to verify a detail of the install, and it turns out I was correct. So it was basically 100% good as far as I am concerned.
The speaker outs at the back of the Crown amp use a supplied Phoenix connector. This connector is pre-wired by MartinLogan to mix the left and right channels so the system runs in mono. This is perfect for the type of system it is. Many people may not know, but most concert venues run their systems in mono. This is so you hear it all whether you are sitting on one side or the other. They do at times run signals in stereo for certain artistic effects, but the lion’s share of the time, it is run in mono.
I needed a preamp and a source. I have used an old Adcom SSP (configured to stereo) as my outdoor system preamp for many years. And I used it again this time. I like that it has IR control, and I have an IR repeater that controls it and a CD player I used in the past. I also had an Airport Express in there as a source. But the CD player died an inglorious death, and I never really liked the AirPlay system very much. So now I have but one source for my outdoor system – an Audioengine B1 Bluetooth receiver. My wife and kids rejoiced this decision and we have not looked back.
So now we stream music from a tablet or phone via Bluetooth to the Audioengine receiver. I also plan to mount a television under the patio and I will choose a TV that has Bluetooth (typically for a soundbar) but use it to transmit the audio over the big system. There are several HDTV flat-panel displays available that are designed for outdoor use.
Now that I had it all together and ready to roll, it’s time for a little listening test.
After installing all the speakers, I went about the wiring-up process in my spare time over several evenings. The last day I worked on it I finished up late in the evening after work on a Wednesday. I plugged in the last wire around midnight. So of course I went straight to bed so I could be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at work the following morning. Uh, well, I’m an audio addict so of course I poured a drink and test fired the system. I was blown away almost immediately and wound up playing music into the wee hours of the morning.
The first thing that really stood out was the amazing bass response. I thought the bass would waft away being that I was outdoors, but it did not. It was strong and forceful all throughout the yard. So that was something I didn’t expect but really, really liked about the system. It had bass response that could rival many an indoor system. I even turned down the bass a couple of notches so it would blend better with the satellites.
It didn’t take long for me to begin appreciating the midrange and treble equally as much as the bass. The MartinLogan system replaced a pair of larger outdoor speakers driven by a 100 wpc amplifier. The MartinLogan system’s improvement over this old system was remarkable. The old setup was being run in stereo, and it tested well on the bench, I came to view them as tubby sounding with an unnecessary mid-bass hump that obscured musical details. The MartinLogan system was open, airy, and delivered many times more bass punch, extension, and transparency.
Both my kids were home for the summer, and they enjoyed using the outdoor system. The subwoofer for my home theater is in the corner of the room, right by our driveway. One day I came home from work for lunch, and the bass from the system was shaking my pick up truck as I pulled into the driveway. I immediately thought they must be listening to the indoor system. But no, the bass that was shaking my vehicle was from the MartinLogan Dynamo sub which was at least 75 feet away on the other side of the house!!!!
I got to where I would go outside to listen to music not as much to be outside but because the audio quality was so excellent over the MartinLogan system. This is still becoming one of my favorite practices. As evening is winding down, I pour a bourbon on the rocks, venture outside, and fire up some great music. Our covered patio is my new “man cave”, and the audio quality rivals most indoor systems.
The most use the MartinLogan Outdoor Living system gets is when I am brewing beer outside. When in the throes of brewing, I like to use Tidal’s artist radio stations. Two artist channels that I have enjoyed recently are Townes Van Zandt and Steely Dan. There are countless others, but these are two that I enjoyed most recently. I love pulling out my tablet, starting the channel, and then getting to work. The excellent audio quality and great music on tap make the day go by more quickly.
For demo purposes, when I want to show off the system for my friends, I have recently settled on a couple of newer choices – Hot Chip “In Our Heads” and Glass Animals “How to be a Human Being”. I like both of these because they showcase the incredible bass response of the MartinLogan Outdoor Living System. But again, this system is no one-trick pony. The bass is great, but the midrange is warm and laid-back while maintaining a sweet transparency. The treble is also laid back but nicely extended and airy. This system is a major winner!!
The MARTINLOGAN OUTDOOR LIVING SYSTEM is a highly flexible sub/sat outdoor system that fills an outdoor space with high-end audio quality unlike any other outdoor system I have heard.
- Very well made, truly high-end components
- Fills your outdoor space with quality audio in all corners
- System rivals many indoor audio systems
- Excellent headroom and output capability
- Bass extension and blend on a par with indoor system as well
- Even more mounting options (perhaps a ball and socket)
- Attenuators on satellites that can be used to dial in the best possible blend
If you can’t tell for sure then let me clarify that I simply loved the MartinLogan Outdoor Living system. It took some effort to get it installed and wired up, but the payoff was tremendous. And consider most people will have it professionally installed so the owner won’t have to get their hands dirty. Even if you choose to do the work yourself, you will be guided by excellent product documentation and top of the line customer support. I was impressed that the components have apparently been thoroughly tested in the field which is more rare than common these days.
So that’s all great but the real test is how does it sound? As I mentioned earlier, this system blew me away from the very beginning, and it never faltered once over several months of regular use. This system is by far the best outdoor system I have heard. It really does rival indoor systems in every respect: bass extension, bass slam, midrange transparency, clean highs, and a very well integrated, musical presentation. It made my outdoor space an area where I would seek to go and listen to music as if it were a second system in a spare room or something like that. The fine audio is evenly distributed throughout the space as well.
I am not able to listen to the system on this day because this little audio system inspired me to go ahead and get that pool we’ve been dreaming about. Construction is currently underway on the pool and our large covered patio. In the end, I will have a flat-screen TV out there as well so I can brew beer while watching my favorite sporting events (or with the game on but music going instead of the oftentimes bloviating commentators). I am eagerly anticipating that coming day!