Mother Nature is a constant challenge for alfresco audio and AV installs in the UK, none more so than for outdoor loudspeakers. Could Stealth Acoustics’ StingRay 83 be the answer? Richard Stevenson braves the storms to find out.
Torrential rain, frost and snow in the winter, high UV and toasty 30+ degrees heat in the summer and a selection of errant wildlife in between makes being an outdoor speaker a tough job.
Across a variety of outdoor speaker designs over the years, I have suffered water ingress wrecking drivers and electronics, cabinets going from white to yellow in one balmy summer and blue-tits nesting in my bass ports. Most of these issues derive from manufacturers simply trying to make a traditional loudspeaker design mother-nature proof. And we know what Jeff Goldblum has to say about that.
Enter US company Stealth Acoustics’ Stingray 83. This is the flagship of the brand’s innovative outdoor loudspeaker range, designed to deliver audiophile quality whatever the weather. Designed from the ground up as an IP68 outdoor product, it looks like nothing else on the market, being a flat panel fronted, sealed enclosure remarkably similar in dimensions to an early generation 24in LCD TV. With no bass port and a 50cm captive cable tail, the design is IP68 rated, which is capable of being immersed in 1m of water for over 64 hours. That might even keep out British drizzle.
Yet it is not a flat-panel loudspeaker at all. Inside the UV protected marine-grade plastic cabinet it is a three-way full-range loudspeaker with 8in woofer, 30mm midrange driver and tweeter coupled to the speaker’s unique FidelityGlass solid-front radiating surface.
Unlike vibration-panel technologies such as NXT’s Distributed Mode Loudspeaker (DML), the direct coupled approach means you can see and feel the front panel moving, giving it much higher SPL and wider frequency response required for quality sound in larger, open spaces. The panel has a fairly uniform 170° radiating pattern both horizontally and vertically making it equally useful for commercial paging and background audio applications.
Using pistonic drivers has also resulted in a very healthy specification sheet, boasting 160W RMS / 320W peak maximum power handling and 40Hz to 20Hz (@-10dBb) frequency response. The efficiency is relatively humble at 83dB, but the easy 8-ohm load and sizeable power handling means it will comfortably produce in excess of 100dB @1m. The internal crossover features two independent self-resetting protection circuits should the end-user party a little too hard.
The curved back of the StingRay 83 provides horizontal and vertical flat areas, both parallel and angled and the units come supplied with a seriously heavyweight mounting bar. This 7mm thick, powder coated steel plate secures to the speaker mounts with two screws and there are two keyways for the wall mount, placing the speaker tight up against the wall no matter how it is oriented.
The mounting can be a little tricky to get the keyways secure to stop vibration against the wall, simply because you can’t get a driver onto the wall screws with the speakers in place.
Yet the result is that in flat-to-wall configuration, the speaker protrudes just over 100mm from the wall. Cosmetically that is super-neat and a fraction of the size of an 8in traditional cabinet speaker on a U-bracket for example. With a 170° dispersion pattern it is questionable whether you would ever need to use the tilted mounting option in a domestic environment either, making this a cosmetically very clean solution. For alternative installations, Stealth Acoustics offer a trio of optional mounting accessories covering an aluminium ground stake, a traditional U-bracket, and a swivel wall mount.
A round profile UV-resistant cable exits a gland-sealed port on a recess in the rear panel. Its 50cm length would be a little short for permanent install with the cable running through the wall. Stealth provides a couple of water-resistant crimp connectors in the box to attach to install speaker cable, although they were too small a gauge for the heavy-duty (audiophile) speaker cable running out to our patio. A small IP67 junction box could be hidden behind the curve of the cabinet though.
Given the StingRay 83 looks like a flat panel vibration technology speaker, you might be anticipating the same, rather compressed bandwidth and limited output. Not so! With a pair of StingRay 83s mounted flat to an outside wall, the sound is immediately robust, loud and delivered with frankly stunning bass for a speaker in an open environment. While the mounting configuration here does leverage plenty of boundary gain, it is clear Stealth is aiming to deliver genuinely engaging outdoor sound here, not just a background filler.
The frequency response is far from ruler flat but the balance is ideal for an open environment
with a solid lift from 60Hz-120Hz for extra bass clout, and a gentle lift again over 8kHz to add a little sparkle which can so often be lost in an outdoor setting. The relatively humble efficiency does mean they like a bit of power but is immediately rewarded with impressive scale and a punchy, dynamic sound.
The result is an extremely impressive sound, with sweet midrange vocals, good extension and plenty of energy through the usable volume range. Its 103dB maximum output is well controlled and, while not the loudest outdoor speaker we have tried, a stereo pair is likely to be more than enough for most UK residential garden installs.
Even without a ceiling and sidewalls to help boost very low frequencies, deep LF output digs down to below 50Hz. That is mighty impressive given the cabinet’s flat, shallow shape, non-ported design and relatively compact internal volume. It is also more than enough to create convincing bass, engaging output with most audio material from pop to rap. If you need more bass output or LFE for outdoor AV, Stealth’s StingRay 430 is a matching passive subwoofer with two 8in drivers coupled to flat panel radiators on all four vertical sides… yes, eight drivers.
Priced at £1,375 each, the StingRay83 is an excellent outdoor install loudspeaker, combining discreet design, outstanding environmental protection and exceptional sound performance comfortably on par with the very best traditional ‘weather-resistant’ speaker designs. Now just the homeless blue-tits to deal with.