Choosing Marine Audio Gear
Marine audio gear at Crutchfield
There's a wide variety of durable, high-quality marine audio equipment on the market these days. In addition to an array of receivers, speakers, subs, and amps, you'll also find a number of marine-rated products that allow you to listen to satellite radio on the water.
When you outfit your boat at Crutchfield, you get the peace of mind that comes from our more than 30 years of mobile audio experience, along with our lifetime technical support. Have questions? Just pick up the phone and call our friendly Advisors at 1-888-955-6000. They'll be able to help you decide what you need to build the floating system of your dreams.
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Satellite radio has become popular with boaters everywhere.
These installation tools will simplify your installation.
Marine audio gear is different from car audio products
Unlike car audio components (which live in the watertight interior of your vehicle), marine equipment has to be able to stand up to the elements. The water, salt, and sun that make cruising around the waves so much fun can also wreak havoc on your electrical components. If your gear isn't designed to withstand this sort of abuse, it won't last a season.
There are several types of weather protection typically found in marine audio gear:
- Water resistance — Can handle splashes and light rain, but not built to handle submersion. Levels of resistance vary by manufacturer.
- UV resistance — Designed to withstand sun damage. Found on receiver faceplates, speaker cones and grilles.
- Waterproof — Able to be fully submerged, though depths and the amount of time underwater vary by manufacturer.
- Anti-corrosion — Specifically designed to resist rust and the corrosive effects of salt water. Examples of anti-corrosive features include coated circuit boards, plated connections, and a rust-resistant chassis.
Marine audio components
The Sony DSX-MS60 lets you bring your iPod to your day on the lake.
Receivers — You'll want to buy a radio with a coated circuit board, a water-resistant faceplate, line-level outputs for sending signals to an external amplifier, and satellite radio controls. A weatherproof faceplate cover and a watertight remote control are great accessories to add on.
Speakers — Look for plastic cones (such as polypropylene) and rubber surrounds for maximum weather protection, corrosion-resistant mounting hardware, and enough power handling to pump out tunes over wind, water, and engine noise. Be sure to look at where you're mounting your speakers — if your speakers are near your compass, they should be magnetically shielded.
Create some serious sound on the water with the Rockford Fosgate M400-4D's 75 watts per channel.
Amplifiers — You'll want coated circuit boards, plated, non-corrosive connectors, and plenty of power.
Subwoofers — Look for plastic cones and rubber surrounds for maximum weather protection. Free-air rated component subs or enclosed subwoofers are good for the challenging mounting locations you'll often encounter in a boat. If you do not plan on adding an external amplifier, look for a powered enclosed subwoofer.
Speaker wire and cables — All wires should be tinned; bare copper can corrode quickly in salt water conditions.
Satellite radio — Satellite radio is truly a "must-have" marine audio component, because satellite radio reception extends up to 200 miles off shore. Many marine receivers are satellite radio-ready, which means you can add an external tuner, mount it out of sight, and run the cable into the radio. Even better, plug-and-play satellite radio tuners can be transferred from car to boat to home. Look for a marine kit for your plug-and-play tuner, including a marine-rated satellite radio antenna.
GPS — Okay, so it's not technically an audio component, but most boaters wouldn't leave shore without GPS navigation. When considering which GPS unit is best for you, look for conveniences like rechargeable batteries, a bright color screen that won't wash out in direct sunlight, Blue Chart compatibility, and, of course, weather resistance. WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System) compatibility is another good feature to look for in a marine GPS unit; WAAS-enabled GPS units have up to five times better accuracy, which helps keep you out of the hidden rocks or other underwater trouble.
Power Inverter — A power inverter is incredibly handy to have on board. Charge up the camcorder battery, a laptop computer, or even a soldering iron without running miles of extension cords down to your dock. Be sure that the inverter has a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter, which protects you against accidental shocks.
Fit and placement of components on your boat
Unlike most vehicles, there isn't one ideal place to install audio equipment in a boat. Given the various power and space limitations, each installation presents a unique set of challenges.
If you're replacing an existing radio and speakers, you can probably use the existing mounting locations and wiring. Otherwise, you might need to cut some paneling or run wires for the components. Most marine receivers are a standard single-DIN size, and connect to a 12-volt marine battery.
Amplifiers and subwoofers can go in a compartment under the seats, under the bow, or even on a wakeboard tower. Midrange and midbass speakers and tweeters can fit into side panels or under the dash.
Grounding your electrical components can be a challenge in a boat. Some boats have specific grounding plates that can be used. Consult your manufacturer for more information on where to ground components in your boat.
Finally, here are some other things to keep in mind when cruising for high-quality marine audio gear:
- Materials that will stand up to the elements — Nothing ruins a party like audio equipment that can't handle the elements, so make sure that all of the electronics on your boat are protected against salt, sun, and water. If you need an extra measure of protection (or want to use an unprotected component on your boat), install a universal cover. It will shield your receiver from the outside world, then flip up out of the way so you can get to the controls. A waterproof, wired remote control is an excellent alternative to exposing your receiver to the elements — you can mount the radio inside a watertight compartment and not worry about shorting out your tunes.
- Good specs — Better specs mean better sound quality, on land or at sea. For receivers, look for a high CD signal-to-noise ratio, a wide frequency response, and plenty of RMS power. If radio's your thing, check the FM sensitivity spec — the lower, the better. Speakers should fit nicely into your cabin panels, be made with UV-resistant materials, and handle plenty of power.
- High power — Since you'll be listening to your music out in the open (as opposed to within the acoustic confines of a car), plenty of power is a must for clean, clear sound. Aftermarket marine receivers come with built-in 4-way amplifiers, but if you love it loud or want to drown out the nautical background noise, you might want to consider adding an external amp to your system.
- Audio options — The days of the basic, one-trick CD receiver are long gone. From satellite radio controls to connections for your iPod, today's aftermarket components offer of a wide variety of A/V entertainment options. If you have a larger system in mind, get a receiver with an auxiliary input, allowing you to add another audio source later. Multiple sets of preamp outputs make it easier to install component amplifiers and subwoofers. And if your cruising will take you out into the wild blue, consider the entertainment value of satellite radio — satellite radio signals can reach up to 200 miles off shore.