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A Tale of Two Boat Audio Installations


There's a lot to enjoy about taking your boat out for a day on the water. Whether you're fishing, waterskiing, wakeboarding, or just cruising around, it can be even more fun when you have a capable marine audio system to provide the music. Here's how we outfitted two different boats belonging to Crutchfield employees. Each boat was equipped with a system designed to suit the boat and the activities of the owners.

A sea-worthy system for fishing and cruising

Captain Doug

Doug, our Operations Manager in Charlottesville, looks forward to weekends at Virginia Beach every summer. That's where he berths his 25-foot Grady-White and takes it out for fishing and cruising in the Chesepeake Bay. Doug wanted to upgrade existing system to provide good sound all around the boat, while also giving him more entertainment options.

The receiver is the heart of the system

We installed a Clarion M502 marine digital media receiver in the bow cabin. Digital media receivers don't have CD players, but Doug was fine with that, since he listens primarily to his iPod® and satellite radio. The M502 has a USB input and iPod controls, plus it's satellite radio-ready, so Doug can take his SiriusXM tuner out of his car and use it in the boat, too. Built-in Bluetooth® connectivity allows Doug and his guests to stream music wirelessly from their devices to the receiver.

clarion receiver in a grady-white boat

The Clarion M502 receiver was installed in the bow cabin

Clarion MW1 marine remote control

The Clarion MW1 marine remote control fit neatly near the helm

Although we mounted the receiver below decks, we also installed a Clarion MW1 wired remote control at the helm. The remote's LCD display provides feedback, while the waterproof buttons give Doug easy control of the receiver. The wired remote controls the receiver from the helm.

Filling the boat with sound

Doug and his passengers could be anywhere on the boat while they're cruising or fishing, so we wanted to provide good sound throughout.

A pair of Polk DB401 marine speakers fit nicely in the bow cabin, where they're protected from the elements. At the helm, we installed a set of JL Audio MX650 marine speakers.

For the rear of the boat, we added a Polyplanar marine audio system. It includes an amplifier, enclosed subwoofer and a pair of waterproof speakers. With the sub mounted in a stern compartment and the speakers under the gunwales, the bass response and sound in the stern was greatly improved.

Watch our video about the installation in Doug's Grady-White

Fun on the lake

J at the helm of his Moomba Outback

J, Crutchfield's in-house photographer, keeps his 20-foot Moomba Outback on the inland waters of Virginia's Smith Mountain Lake, where he enjoys taking out friends and family for wakeboarding and exploring. Having a system with plenty of power to cut through the sound of the wind, waves, and engines was important to him.

Keeping the receiver safe and dry

It gets damp inside a fast, open boat, so we wanted to find a protected location for the receiver. Fortunately, the Moomba has a variety of watertight compartments that were perfect for the installation. Not only does the compartment provide an extra degree of protection for the Kenwood KMR-550U marine CD receiver we installed, but it also protects devices connected to it from spray. A Kenwood KCA-RC107MR wired remote lets J control the receiver from the helm.

Kenwood KMR-550U

The Kenwood marine CD receiver and devices stay safe and dry in this waterproof compartment

Kicker 11KM6200 marine speakers

Three pairs of Kicker KM6200 speakers provide full-range sound

Adding an amp and speakers

We installed three pairs of 6" KM6200 Kicker marine speakers in the boat's existing speaker openings, covering the front, middle, and rear of the craft. We kept the amplification in the family with a Kicker ZXM700.5 marine amp.

The amplifier is essential to providing the punch necessary for clear sound when the throttle is up and the boat is humming along the water. And, since the amp has a separate subwoofer channel, J can add a sub to the system later if he wants.

Watch our video about the installation in J's Moomba.

Tips for your marine stereo installation

Putting a system into your boat may seem like a daunting task. Here are a few handy tips from our installers at Crutchfield that'll help make the process a little easier.

  • Take your time, and try to plan the installation out in advance. (This should actually apply to any installation.)

  • When drilling into any fiberglass or wood surfaces, always check what’s on the backside. It sounds silly, but it’s easy to forget and you don’t want to drill into a fuel line or worse yet, through the hull!

  • If you need to cut a large hole using a hole saw (like we did for the Clarion remote control in the dash), run the hole saw backwards against the gelcoat to score it. This will prevent chipping of the surface. And always go slow and steady with a hole saw.

  • Anytime you pull wires, also pull an extra piece of polyester twine with the wires and leave it in the run. This can serve as your pull string for future installations.

  • Before you button everything up, make sure all of your components are working as expected.

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