A look at Meyer Sound’s Ultra Weather process

While self-powered boxes carry a number of advantages (mainly ease of use and consistency), one of their biggest disadvantages involves weather resistance. Self-powered speakers – by their own philosophy – integrate both the driver components and the amplifier package within a single box, forcing installers to place high-voltage equipment in challenging environments. Since passive systems offload power and processing to a separate relocatable module, these speakers can often be placed in harsh environments without exposing sensitive electronics to moisture, heat or dust.

In addition, because most manufacturers strictly offer passive boxes, or a combination of passive and self-powered models, most simply choose not to offer weather protection for their self-powered speakers. Case in point, JBL explicitly notes that their high-end self-powered VP Series of loudspeakers “are not intended for fixed installation in outdoor or high moisture environments.”

So, enter Meyer Sound and their complete and utter dedication to the self-powered ideal. To deviate from the self-powered philosophy would be sacrosanct to the folks at Meyer, so instead, the company elects to offer a weatherized option for almost every single box in their lineup, ranging from the tiny UPM to the large LEO and LYON line array loudspeakers. Indeed, despite the proliferation of self-powered speakers, Meyer Sound mostly stands alone – whether due to stubbornness or sheer perseverance – in offering the most comprehensive line of weather-protected self-powered speakers on the market today.

Since they mostly still stand alone in this field, let’s take a look at what makes an Ultra Weather (UW) box tick, and how Meyer Sound eventually created the most durable lineup of self-powered boxes in the world.

The Process

Let’s start with a description from Meyer on how the Ultra Weather process works:

Rear panel electronics may be shielded with optional rain hoods made of tough ABS plastic that mount using existing screw locations. The hoods allow wiring hook-ups and cooling air flow while preventing water from getting into the electronics, and are strongly recommended for outdoor applications.

Designed with the requirements of installed systems in mind, the weather protected cabinet starts with epoxy treatment to all end grains. Marine epoxies are used for all joinery, and stainless steel or powder-coated hardware is used throughout, with special sealants and caulking around potential leak points. Finally, a special latex enamel is used for the finish which allows for cabinet expansion and contraction without cracking.

To summarize, Meyer’s Ultra Weather boxes include treated wood, stainless steel hardware, rain hoods and a weather-resistant coating designed to repel water and withstand heat. In addition, Meyer also notes that their amplifier modules are designed with environmental challenges in mind.

Let’s start with the cabinet:

Jargon aside, Ultra Weather cabinets feature treated wood and a thick outer shell that helps protect the speaker from moisture and constant sun exposure. This shell not only looks thicker compared to Meyer’s standard cabinet, but it also features a different texture – no doubt from the additional layers of paint used to shield the wood from external elements.

In addition, sealant is also used around any potential juncture points (such as the handles) to prevent the ingress of water. This sealant – coupled with stainless steel fasteners and screws – help the box maintain its integral structure without any theoretical rust points or inlets that could allow water to seep in. Any inlets that do exist in the box’s design (such as the top and bottom plates of the UPQ) are modified accordingly to prevent the collection of water.

A look at Meyer Sound’s Ultra Weather process

An Ultra Weather Meyer Sound CQ-1 at Tokyo Disney Sea at Tokyo Disney Resort

While some can attribute the UW coating process to pure marketing speak, the effects are indeed real.

While the photo above shows an Ultra Weather Meyer Sound CQ-1 relatively unaffected by the effects of sun and moisture, the photo below of a Meyer Sound UPQ-1P shows a cracked cabinet with signs of chipping. If you look closely, you can also see the juncture points of various pieces of wood that make up the UPQ cabinet. Not good.

A look at Meyer Sound’s Ultra Weather process

A non-Ultra Weather Meyer Sound UPQ-1P exposed to the elements at Disney California Adventure at the Disneyland Resort

To treat the grille, Meyer adds a sealant designed to repel moisture from corroding the metal frame. Alongside the standard mesh, the company also adds foam behind the grille to further shied the drivers from sun exposure or water.

A look at Meyer Sound’s Ultra Weather process

A look at Meyer Sound’s Ultra Weather process

Two weather protected Meyer Sound UPA-1Ps at World of Color at Disney California Adventure

Finally, to protect the electronics, Meyer also includes a rain hood to prevent the ingress of water into the back of the cabinet, as pictured below:

A look at Meyer Sound’s Ultra Weather process

A typical rain hood for the Meyer Sound UPA-1P

A look at Meyer Sound’s Ultra Weather process

A Ultra Weather Meyer Sound PSW-2 at Tokyo Disney Sea – note the cabinet’s texture and the all-encompassing rain hood

Unlike many other self-powered manufacturers, Meyer designs almost all of their boxes with rain hoods in mind, allowing the user to install and mount a hood over the amplifier module and/or heat sink fan when necessary. Most – but not all – of these hoods also include a lip that sways inward in addition to an interior plastic plate that prevents the ingress of water from below. Foam is also used within the hood to filter air when the box relies on active fans internally, such is the case with 600-HP, CQ-1 and PSW-2.

Overall, this cumulative approach towards making the boxes weather-ready seems to work relatively well, all things considered. No, these UW measures do not make the boxes immune from complete water immersion like Community’s WET series, but they seem to work well enough to allow them to operate in relatively harsh conditions without many issues. So while still imperfect, Meyer’s Ultra Weather process still produces the most durable self-powered boxes on the market. While I’m hesitant to call them the most weather resistant boxes ever made, they certainly hold their own when compared to other top tier manufacturers like d&b audiotechnik and L-Acoustics. In fact, it’s not uncommon for me to hear about use-cases of outdoor Meyer installations that have far outlived their expected lifespan, including at Tokyo DisneySea and at Disney California Adventure.

In Tokyo DisneySea’s case, the park serves as a good example of Meyer’s earlier attempts at weatherizing their boxes with some interesting results.

A look at Meyer Sound’s Ultra Weather processAn early Ultra Weather Meyer Sound CQ-1 with exterior foam (yuck!)

A look at Meyer Sound’s Ultra Weather processAn early rain hood for a Meyer Sound CQ-1 – do note the exposed inlet on the buttom

A look at Meyer Sound’s Ultra Weather process

An early Ultra Weather Meyer Sound PSW-2 – do note the tape above the rain hood and the warped screw points

Terrible foam grilles aside (which would initially fall off regularly due to wind, forcing DisneySea’s technical crew to add metal wiring to secure the foam), these boxes used a primitive version of Meyer’s weather coating and weather hoods.

If you look at the coatings of the boxes carefully, you’ll see that successive layers of paint that have been added to protect the cabinets from sun and moisture. For the hoods, you’ll see a lack of a hood lip and plate, allowing moisture to enter from the bottom alongside unfettered access to amplifier module’s vent. In addition, you can also see the hood’s loose connection of the box itself, forcing the crew at Disney to add aircraft-grade tape to prevent the ingress of water from above into the hood. Meyer has since addressed both of these flaws with a redesigned hood mated with a secure rubber gasket, but these boxes serve as good examples of how Meyer’s Ultra Weather process as progressed over time.

Anyhow, thanks for reading, and feel free to reach out if you have a comment or suggestion.