We know boats and we're intimately familiar with sound. It isn't just the vast variety of audio and video items and products we stock, but even more so we're totally into marine audio gear. Our staff is almost obsessed with music on the water and as eager to help you equip your boat with superior gear so to get you sailing to crisp sound.
So what's the deal with marine audio gear?
Contrary to cars, trucks, and motorcycles, life on the water is incomparably more fun but at the same time very difficult for your boat's electrical components. If your equipment hasn't been designed with the marine environment in mind, they just will just go into disposable mode and will need replacement before you know it. This goes for anything and everything within, on, and attached to your boat: if not meant for marine life, they'll simply perish before the season is over.
For your convenience, we've put together a quick, easy glossary containing the meaning for some typical terms and phrases you'll come across frequently when shopping for marine audio gear. Keep in mind, that a number of similar terms -- say "-resistant" and "-proof" -- sound similar but are of fundamental difference as far as quality and durability are concerned.
So, here goes:
Water-resistant. With emphasis on "resistant," this means that the gear or equipment can tolerate drizzle, blobs, and light splashes. They're not, however, built to withstand heavy rain, persistent splashing, and full submersion. The level of tolerance vary and are different for different manufacturers.
Water-proof. Products under this category should be able to take harsh rain, persistent water sprays, and full submergence. Again, there's no industry standard for amount of water they can take, or depth of submergence, and they'll vary for various manufacturers.
Anti-corrosion. Those are designed to resist the abrasive effects of salt-water, which tend to cause rust and corrosion on many parts of electrical gear.
UV-resistant. When equipped as such, the speaker cones, grills, and receiver faceplates will deflect the harsh ultraviolet sun-rays, which will otherwise cause harm to your gear.
Marine Audio Gear and Components
Receiver. When shopping for a marine receiver, you should be looking for a device with a coated circuit board, water-resistant faceplate, line-level outputs (meant for sending signals to external amplifiers), and satellite radio controls. If you're tilted towards perfection, some good accessories to add would be a waterproof faceplate cover and a watertight remote control.
Speakers. Like the rest of the marine gear, your speakers need special attention and protection against the harsh marine environment. We recommend plastic cones with rubber surrounds, and corrosion-resistant mounting hardware. The wind, water, and engine noise tend to compete with the music; so be sure your speakers contain enough power for you tunes to outsound them. If your speakers will be mounted near the compass, make sure they're magnetically shielded.
Amplifier. They should come with coated circuit boards, plated, non-corrosive connectors, and lots of power.
Subwoofers. Bass on the boat is a big deal. Your subwoofers should include plastic cones and rubber surrounds. Remember that mounting them on your boat could be a bit challenging, so enclosed subwoofers or free-air rated component subs will take you a long way in installing your subwoofers on mounting locations.
Speaker Wire and Cable. All wires and cables pertaining to marine audio systems should be tinned. Otherwise, they'll quickly corrode in salt-water conditions.
Satellite Radio. Since regular radio reception tends to fade the further into the see you go, a superior substitute like SiriusXM, with its up-to-200 miles reception capabilities, is an important boat companion. There's a variety of plug-and-play satellite radio-tuners, which you can simply transfer from your home or car to your boat. Alternately, get a marine receiver that is satellite radio-ready. All you need to do is add an external tuner, mount it out of sight, run the cable into the radio, and you're good to go.
Power Inverter. You're very likely to take one of those along with you on your boat. Just make sure that it comes with a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter, meant for protecting against an accidental shock.
Placement and Installation
Installing a stereo in a boat is a bit trickier than a home or even car system. Unlike your home or automobile, boats don't generally provide you with that one obvious spot intended for audio equipment. And, depending on the possible power and space limitations you might encounter, your boat installation could turn out to be quite a challenge.
Some boats are equipped with grounding plates. There are, however, some which aren’t and grounding a stereo without those plates could be difficult. Consult your manufacturer on where to find the best spot for grounding apparatuses in your boat.
If you're replacing a radio, you should be able to use the existing mounting location and wiring. Otherwise, you might need to cut some paneling or run wires for the components.
The current market offers a wide range of resilient, long-lasting, solid-quality marine stereos. There are many things to consider while shopping for a marine audio system, so be sure to examine the specs and specifics for each product, so in order to assure that you’re getting the one best suiting your needs.
Things to Keep in Mind
Good specs. Just like car gear, where better specs mean better sound, your marine gear can come in many qualities – with the better ones producing better results. For receivers, look for a high CD signal-to-noise ratio, a wide frequency response, enough RMS power, and a sufficient amount of USB ports. For speakers, you'll want plenty of power, as well as rubber surrounds, weatherproof cones, and UV-resistant grilles.
High power. Don’t forget that while in the comfort of your cozy boat, you'll be listening to music out in the open. High power is a must for crispy, clean, clear sound. Many marine receivers come with built-in 4-way amplifiers; but if you love it loud, or just want to drown out the naval background noise, you should consider adding an external marine amp.
Useful features. Today's marine receivers are every bit as powerful and feature-packed as their automotive cousins. Built-in Bluetooth® lets you stream music or make calls without taking your hand off the wheel. SiriusXM satellite radio tuners will stream your favorite music, sports and talk as far out as 200 miles offshore. USB and aux connections will allow you to enjoy your entire music collection by plugging in an iPod® or MP3 player. Today's aftermarket marine receivers have everything you need to stay entertained at the dock and on the water.
Stuff that can Take it. Most importantly, all gear and every component should be built for marine life and protected against the conditions of the sea. Be sure that all electrical components are protected against, salt, sun, and sea. For an extra measure of protection, install a universal cover. A great idea would be to get a waterproof, wired remote control, thus preventing exposing your receiver to the elements.