Marine Stereo Shopping Guide
How to choose the marine stereo that's right for you
by PSW Inc.
So, you're prepping your sport boat for the season and it hits you: great-sounding tunes will turn your summer fun up a notch. You know that a regular car system won't survive the open water, so what to do? Consider the many marine-specific stereos from brands like BOSS, Kenwood, Sony, Pyle, and others.
How is marine audio gear different?
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.
* Water resistance — this means the components can handle splashes and light rain, but are not built to handle submersion. Levels of resistance vary by manufacturer. Waterproof products are able to be fully submerged, though the specifics do vary.
* UV resistance — designed to withstand sun damage. Found on receiver faceplates, speaker cones and remotes.
* Anti-corrosion protection — 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.
What should you consider when stereo shopping for your boat?
* Materials that will stand up to the elements — at sea, survival is job one, 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 a non-marine-specific component on your boat), install a universal cover. It will flip down to shield your receiver from the outside world, and then flip up 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.
Get Everything You Need
Many marine stereos can control a satellite radio.
Have an iPod? Check to see if there is an iPod adapter compatible with your new stereo.
A cover will protect your boat's in-dash stereo from sun and spray.
Don't forget the accessories, including remotes, power inverters, patch cables, and power and speaker wire.
* 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 power. If radio's your thing, check the FM sensitivity spec — the lower, the better.
* High power — since you'll be listening to your music out in the open (as opposed to within the acoustic confines of a car), high power is a must for clean, clear sound. Brand name marine receivers come with built-in 4-way amplifiers, but if you love it loud or just want to drown out the nautical background noise, you might want to consider adding an external marine amp to your system.
* "The System" — the days of the basic, one-trick CD player 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 connect and control external 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.