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Published October 15, 2004


Athena Technologies AS-06 Outdoor Loudspeakers

Last spring, as the weather warmed up and the academic year ended, I began to prepare for the long, hard days of lying in my backyard hammock and grilling on my patio. Only one thing seemed to be missing: music. Sure, I could, and do, use my Nomad Zen and HeadRoom’s Total BitHead portables, but that wasn’t going to cut it when we had friends and family over for parties. Luckily for me, the Athena Technologies AS-06 outdoor speakers arrived ($299 USD per pair). They would certainly solve my backdoor music needs, but could they live up to my audiophilic sensibilities? I was skeptical of the sound quality that any outdoor speaker could provide. I was also ready to try them out.

Features and setup

The design of the Athena AS-06 is clearly dictated by its outdoor application. The speaker measures 13.125" x 8" x 8.375", and its rounded corners taper slightly to a curved back. It weighs roughly eight pounds. The enclosure is of hard plastic; the front grille is of metal and cannot be removed. The input connectors are at the bottom of the speaker’s rear, protected from the elements by a plastic enclosure that covers the top and sides. The connectors are push-in types: you press the connector, slip your speaker wire through the exposed opening, then let go.

The AS-06’s tweeter is Athena’s 1" Teteron dome, the woofer a 6.5" injection-molded polypropylene cone with a rubber surround. The speaker’s rated impedance is 8 ohms, its sensitivity 89dB, and it can handle up to 125W. The product literature states that the AS-06 will work fine in hot and cold temperatures, and even under humid conditions. The instructions do warn, however, not to expose the speaker to direct rainfall.

The Athenas come with metal mounting brackets and all the hardware you’ll need to secure them to walls. Athena suggests you make sure the screws will be driven into the wall studs; otherwise, the weight of the speakers might tear the screws through the drywall. The brackets attach to the AS-06’s top and bottom and allow them to be rotated from side to side.

The mounting brackets are easy to install. You’ll need a drill and a screwdriver for the actual mounting, and a tape measure will ensure that the speakers are placed at the same height off the ground. (Remember to measure twice and drill once -- you don’t want extra holes in your exterior walls.) Once the brackets are in place, the speakers are easily mounted to them, and easily removed for the winter or the occasional storm. In general, though, they’ll survive the elements and make cleaning up after parties that much easier. The colors of speaker and bracket are matched: matte black or matte white.

A quick look at the competition at a local Best Buy made it clear that the AS-06 is on the large side for an outdoor residential speaker. It’s big enough that its placement needs to be thought out -- in the wrong locations, a pair of them could stick out. Whether or not such décor is right for your house is up to you.

I attached the AS-06s to a classic Marantz 2238B receiver that I have in the basement, along with a Sony SCE-775 SACD player. This allowed me to easily feed the speaker wires through a basement window and into the backyard. Bare wire makes the easiest connection with the AS-06’s push-in connectors. Luckily, I had two 25’ lengths of generic speaker wire from an old home-theater installation (I knew they’d come in handy someday). I was a little concerned that the spring mechanism wouldn’t be as secure as a screw-on, but the connection ended up being nice and tight; I didn’t worry about it coming loose at all.


When I installed the Athenas outside, I wanted to be able to control what I was listening to without going back indoors, so I connected an inexpensive FM transmitter to my Creative Labs Nomad Zen portable digital player. Such transmitters can be bought at places like RadioShack and Best Buy for around $15 (Belkin sells a more expensive one for $40). I found them in the MP3 section of Best Buy, labeled for use in cars with digital music players. This wasn’t the most hi-fi of choices, but the convenience was hard to beat.

I was able to set up playlists and change music on the fly in my backyard, which turned out to be a lot more fun than I’d thought it would be. It was great to be able to go out in the yard and play just about anything I wanted to hear. My son and I could play soccer with the Beach Boys serenading us, then we could immediately change to a playlist of the mellow Brazilian music he likes to read books by. Through the Marantz receiver, my Sony SACD player provided better sound than the portables, but not nearly the convenience. I also thought that while the sound was better with the wired connection through the SACD player, the Athena AS-06’s sonic signature remained similar.

When I was assigned this review, what first came to mind were memories of the bad PA speakers of my youth. But the Athenas performed much better than I expected -- the sound was full and fun. Still, it’s important to keep in mind that some of the things audiophiles strive for in their stereo systems simply cannot be delivered by speakers designed for outdoor use. I would never use the Athenas to become totally engrossed in music while sitting alone in my listening room, but they did provide lively accompaniment to outdoor social functions.

For example, while I was listening to the Beach Boys’ Little Deuce Coupe/All Summer Long [Capitol 31516-2], the Athenas displayed a lively, punchy sound that fit well with what I wanted from them. Wherever I wandered into my backyard, the Athenas were able to throw their sound sufficiently to keep the music present. I could have easily annoyed all of my neighbors, but I followed Rule No.1 of suburban partying: Always invite the neighbors! The AS-06s played loudly enough that, even during relatively large gatherings, the sound was not drowned out by the bodies of all of my milling, circulating guests.

But the Athenas can be used for more than just party music. One thing that I’d hoped to do with them was to set up a backyard movie theater. Along with a DVD player, a projector, and some long cables, the Athenas could make my backyard the neighborhood’s new movie theater. I never got my act together to do this, but, if you do, expect your neighborhood approval rating to skyrocket.


The Athena Technologies AS-06 speakers sound good outdoors and, I bet, sound better than many speakers that people end up with when they buy an inexpensive home theater in a box. They can’t do double duty as part of a serious listening system, but their sound is probably better than anything you ever expected to hear in your backyard. Their performance, combined with their attractive price and intended function, make them easy to recommend. As long as they’re here, I look forward to some bossa nova brunches, rockabilly barbeques, and outdoor dinners accompanied by my favorite jazz performances -- all in my backyard.

...Eric D. Hetherington

Price of equipment reviewed

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