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Tips for installing tower speakers on a boat

The great sound is worth the effort

JL Audio tower speakers

With the growing popularity of water skiing and wakeboarding, it’s no wonder that tower speakers – woofers and tweeters mounted in sealed, conical, weather-resistant enclosures – are some of the best-selling marine audio products on the market.

The concept is simple: they attach to your boat’s wake tower and face aft so that skiers and boarders can get down to music as they bounce along behind the boat. The fun factor for any activity grows exponentially anytime you can add music, and tower speakers definitely make a day on the water even more enjoyable for skiiers and wakeboarders.

When you’ve decided that it’s time to add tower speakers, there are three things you need to take into account: power, mounting, and wiring. Here, then, are the basics.

Feed them enough power

Lots of water means lots of watts: tower speakers require plenty of power to sound their best. That’s because they’re mounted so high up, and basically play into the empty air behind a speeding boat, which results in rapid sound dispersion. The more power you can apply to the speakers, the louder they’ll play and the better they’ll sound. As you’re shopping for tower speakers, make sure you also find an external amplifier that’s rated at 75% to 150% of the speakers’ power-handling specs.

JL Audio marine amplifier

An outboard marine-rated amp is exactly what you need to get full performance from power-hungry tower speakers.

Mounting speakers on your tower

The most common way to attach speakers to your boat’s tower is with a set of rust-resistant clamps; you simply place the clamps around the towers and secure them with the included bolts. This allows you to adjust the vertical angle so that it’s just right for your wakeboarders. The clamps then typically allow the speakers to swivel so that you get the best sound dispersion possible.

Tower speaker clamps

Stainless steel clamps keep tower speakers in place. After choosing the mounting spot, loosely clamp them to the tower before mounting the speakers; it's a little easier that way.

When choosing the exact mounting spot, you’ll want to balance spacing with clearance. Place them wide enough apart to get appealing stereo separation, but make sure they’re in spots that’ll reduce the chances of people on your boat knocking their noggins on the enclosures every time they stand up.

Tightening speaker clamps

Once you have the horizontal spacing and vertical angling established, you're ready to tighten everything up.

Many towers are designed specifically to accommodate speakers. We carry a variety of brackets that match various mounting systems; you’ll need to make sure to match the bolt-hole pattern. One of our experts will be happy to help, should  you have questions.

Run the wiring through the tower

The toughest part of installing tower speakers is connecting them to your amplifier. Specifically, running wires through the legs of your boat’s tower can present something of a challenge. But nothing that a little planning and patience can’t overcome.

Many newer towers come pre-wired for speakers; if that’s the case with yours, you’ll simply need to connect these wires to your speakers at the top, and to your amplifier, wherever you’ve mounted it. But if your tower isn’t wired for sound, that’s okay; it’ll still have a channel in the crossbars and at least one of the legs that’ll accommodate speaker wire. 

In our experience, a convenient way to run wire through your tower is to take advantage of the safety light that’s required on the top of any boat tower; it’ll have a wire running from the light, down the tower, and to a switch on your boat’s dash. You can temporarily disconnect the wire from the switch, then tape the speaker wire to the light wire. Then, you can pull the light wire up through the tower, bringing the speaker wire along with it.

Wire threaded through a tower leg

Your tower should have a safety light installed; you can use the light's wire to help pull speaker wire through the tower leg.

Some things to consider:

  • Lubricate the wires so that they slide through the channel more easily.
  • Don’t wrap the tape too thickly around the wires, or they might get caught in the channel.
  • Feed plenty of slack into the tower before you pull from the top; lessening the tension on the wires will make the job easier.
  • Don’t pull too hard or fast; too much strain can cause the light wire to separate from the speaker wire.
  • Pull at least twice as much speaker wire through the tower as you’ll actually need. When that’s done, you can use the extra speaker wire to pull the light wire back down through the tower.
  • Run wires for both speakers at the same time, if possible.

Most towers have holes in the crossbars at the spots where you’ll mount the speakers. You can use a small pick or hook to fish the speaker wire through these holes. In some cases, you’ll need to widen the existing holes or drill new ones. If you don’t already have one, you can typically find special drill bits for use on stainless steel at your local hardware store.

A second method is to thread the speaker wires from the holes in the crossbars down through the legs and into the boat. This can be much trickier, as you’ll have to negotiate the bends and turns in the tower. A roll of fish tape can be a good option for threading the wire. A wire coat hanger, if you can find one long enough, can also be a big help. The thin, pliable nature of a coat hanger can sometimes find its way through a tower’s bends more easily.

When it comes time to splice the wire you’ve run through the tower to the speakers’ wires, we recommend using solder and heatshrink tubing. This type of connection offers the most resistance to water damage or corrosion.

Using a heat gun with heat shrink tubing

Soldering your connections then sealing them with heat shrink tubing and a heat gun will help keep keep corrosion at bay.

When your wires are spliced, push any remaining slack into the crossbar before you secure the clamps. If your mounting location requires the exposure of some of the wire, we strongly recommend covering the wire with loom for both protection and aesthetics.

Next steps

Adding tower speakers brings tons of fun and excitement to any sport boat, and they’ll look fantastic, too. If you’d like a hand sorting through our options or matching them to a suitable amplifier, be sure to contact one of our advisors. And once you’ve gotten your new speakers to your dock, you can count on our free, in-house tech support for over-the-phone installation help, should you need it.

And if you want to learn more about the hows and whys of installing new gear on your boat, check out our "Pro tips from our marine audio experts" article. 

A day on the water is better with music
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