The two most important features in an outdoor speaker are good sound quality and durability. Good sound outdoors is no less important than indoors, and few homeowners want to replace their outdoor speakers every few years. I tested the Paradigm Rock Monitor SM-60 stereo rock speaker to find out how it stacks up in sound quality and to check out its build quality for the outdoors.
The Rock Monitor SM-60 is the smaller of two stereo rock speakers offered by Paradigm, a Canadian speaker and electronics manufacturer. Paradigm has a wide variety of mid to high-end indoor speakers, in-wall and on-wall speakers, subwoofers and electronics. The SM-60 is a stereo outdoor speaker using a single 6 ½" cone with dual voice coils and two 1" dome tweeters, coaxially mounted for improved stereo separation. Its rocky, jagged exterior is matched by a rugged, solid enclosure and finish, seemingly tough enough to withstand some pretty extreme weather conditions. Paradigm classifies the SM-60 as weather, water and UV-resistant. The Rock's internal components are sealed at the bottom with a thick caulking and the exterior incorporates self-draining fissures to prevent water from gathering in the enclosure. The grille, shaped and painted to look like rock, is made of stainless steel to resist corrosion. Although I don't have time to test its long-term life, suffice to say the Paradigm would probably be working in my garden long after many other outdoor structures are gone. Paradigm offers a five-year limited warranty on the Rock Monitor.
Not far behind concerns about sound quality and durability are appearance and ease of installation. The Rock Monitor blends easily with other rocks and garden features and is available in three finishes: Northeastern Dark Granite, Western Sandstone and Fieldstone. Western Sandstone might look more natural in my southwestern garden surrounded by cacti and native plants, but the Northeastern Dark Granite fit right in. The Rock Monitor(s) can be used in pairs (left + right channels) or as a single stereo speaker. Its coaxially mounted dual tweeters are positioned for added stereo separation and wide horizontal dispersion. A security cable connected to a steel stake attach to the bottom of the Rock Monitor to help prevent it from unexpectedly disappearing from your garden. It's not impossible to remove, but when installed the cable and stake will likely slow down a potential thief.
Achieving balanced sound quality in a speaker outdoors is a challenging task. The lack of walls and other reflective surfaces changes the way sound moves through air and usually means the speaker needs to be played loud to be heard clearly, especially in large outdoor spaces. You can crank it up, but you might disturb the neighbors. I set up the Rock Monitor on my deck, facing a large open area of the yard and connected to a receiver in single speaker (stereo) mode. The Rock Monitor easily filled the entire area with great sounding tunes, even when played at low to moderate listening levels. In fact, the speaker's clear midrange and strong bass made it unnecessary to crank it up to enjoy it. The speaker has excellent horizontal dispersion and remarkably it maintained the same tonal quality when standing over 50' away, albeit at a lower volume and a little less bass. A few guests remarked about the exceptional clarity of the Rock Monitor even when played at background music levels. It can handle higher volume levels, but it's not necessary to enjoy the clear, full sound quality. To cover large areas Paradigm recommends multiple speakers played at lower volumes rather than fewer speakers played loudly. In my opinion, one or two Rock Monitors would easily be enough for most mid to large outdoor living areas, such as around a pool or near a gazebo.
Conclusion & Specifications
ConclusionsOutdoor speakers are not made for critical listening, but the Paradigm Rock Monitor SM-60 made outdoor listening pleasant and effortless, whether playing music, talk, sports or news. With three finishes, the Rock Monitor will fit right into most gardens, planters and other outdoor spaces and won't even be noticed until it's turned on. When playing music, the Rock Monitor just might become the gathering place in your backyard.
Paradigm Rock Monitor SM-60 Stereo Outdoor Rock Speaker
- Design: Single speaker system with Stereo L/R inputs, 3-driver, 2 coaxially mounted high-frequency drivers
- Bass / Mid Driver: 6 ½" with dual voice coils and die-cast frame
- High-Frequency Drivers: Two 1" dome tweeters
- Enclosure: weather, water, UV-resistant sealed enclosure
- Crossover: 2nd-order electro-acoustic at 3.0 kHz
- Low Frequency Extension: 44 Hz
- Frequency Response: On-Axis: ±2 dB from 66 Hz - 20 kHz 30° Off-Axis: ±2 dB from 66 Hz - 18 kHz
- Sensitivity: Outdoors 89 dB
- Suitable Amplifier Power Range 15 - 100 watts
- Maximum Input Power 70 watts
- Impedance Compatible with: 4 ohms Mono; 8 ohms Stereo
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 11-1/8" x 12-3/16" x 10-5/8"
- Weight: 12.1 lb.
- Finishes: Northeastern Dark Granite, Western Sandstone, and Fieldstone
- Warranty: 5 years limited
- Price: $299.00
- Contact: paradigm.com