Choosing the best marine stereo for your boat can be a challenge. The sheer number of marine receivers out there is enough to make your mind spin.
To help you make an informed buying decision when you’re shopping for a new receiver for your boat, we’ve put together this resource – a one-stop-shop, all-inclusive comprehensive guide on how to choose the best marine stereo.
Best Marine Stereos Reviews
This marine CD receiver packs in a ton of great features including Bluetooth connectivity for hand-free calling and wireless music streaming, two USB inputs (front and rear) to access your playlists,,front AUX input, three sets of preamps as well as a wired remote connection.
Additionally, the Kenwood KMR-D765BT also supports internet radio – Pandora and iHeart Radio. And, if you’re a satellite radio fan, you can add a SiriusXM tuner and you won’t miss any of your favorite music, sports, and talk, even when you’re miles and miles offshore.
As with most high-end Kenwood stereos, the KMR-D765BT is very well-engineered and well-conceived. It has a large volume knob and its buttons are intuitively placed for eacy access and to reduce distractions. This marine receiver features a big, variable-color 1.5-line LCD display that will makes it easy for you to see song titles and channel information, even in bright daylight or when you’re blasting through choppy water.
As for audio features, the KMR-D765BT is fitted with a built-in 13-band Drive EQ that you can use to fine tune the sound and compensate for exterior noise. It has a built-in MOSFET amplifier that can put out 22 watts RMS to each of its four channels.
The JBL PRV-175 is one of the best marine round digital media receivers on the market. Despite its tiny size, this multimedia receiver packs a lot of features into a compact design which makes it one of the most widely sold marine digital media receiver out there.
The JBL PRV-175 is a digital media receiver, what this means is that it doesn’t have a built-in MP3 player. So, this receiver would be a great investment for anyone who no longer uses CDs.
This marine digital media receiver features built-in Bluetooth® connectivity so you can stream music from any Bluetooth enabled device. It also has a rear aux input for your portable music player, as well as a rear USB port in which you can plug in your smartphone or a thumb drive.
The PRV-175 can fit neatly into a standard tachometer/speedometer opening. It has a set of rear-mounted preamp outputs, so you can upgrade and expand your boat audio system with a marine amp later.
What makes marine stereos different?
Unlike car audio components — which live in a safe environment in the interior of your vehicle — marine audio component have to be able to endure harsh outdoor elements. The water, salt, and sun that make your boating so enjoyable can wreak havoc on your boat’s audio electrical components. And unless these components are made to endure this sort of abuse, they won’t last a season.
Marine certified audio component including speakers and receivers undergo several hours of extensive pre-production tests such as ultraviolet tests to determine how well (or not so well) the component will hold up after years of sun exposure, salt fog test to simulate years of exposure to harsh salt water environments, as well as blasts of water to test and ensure that all the buttons, knobs and ports are water-proof. Additionally, most marine receivers also use an extra layer of special conformal coatings to protect the internal circuitry.
So, when you’re shopping for a new marine stereo for your boat, here are a few ke things to take into account.
- Water resistance: If a marine receiver is said to be water-resistant, that means it can handle light rain or water splahes from all directions but it can’t handle being fully submerged in water. Levels of water resistance vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. The key here is to look for IPX ratings. The IPX standard gives you a clearer picture of how water resistant your marine stereo is. Marine stereos featuring an IPX rating of at least 6 (IPX6 : protected against high pressure water from all angles ) are a must. An IPX rating of 7 (IPX7: can be fully submerged for up to 30 minutes at a depth of one meter) is even better.
- UV resistance: Your marine stereo should be built to resist sunlight and extreme temperature. UV resistance is an important key feature to look for on receiver faceplates, speaker cones and remote controls.
- Anti-corrosion protection: Unless the audio component designed for marine use have some sort of anti-corrosion protection, they won’t last a season. That’s pretty obvious as salt water and humidity can wreak havoc on these components in no time. Most marine certified receivers have coated circuit boards, plated connections, and rust-resistant chassis components.
Marine Receivers Types
Each boat is built differently. Some boats are quite large and offer plenty of space in the dash or bulkhead, while other smaller boats have a lot less space. Marine audio manufacturers are aware of this, which is why marine receivers come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and configurations. So the question is, which marine stereo type is for you? Let’s find out.
- Single-DIN receivers: Single DIN (2″ tall) receivers are the most popular marine receivers on the market. They are designed to perform just like any standard car receiver. The main difference between car single din head units and marine single DIN receivers is that the latter ones are built to resist marine elements. They feature water-resistant faceplates, and special covers for CD openings and/or USB and AUX ports which allows them to stand up to moisture, sunlight, and salt.Single DIN marine receivers will fit neatly into most boats out there (not to mention Jeeps, ATVs, and golf carts…), The thing you want to take into consideration before you order is the depth of the enclosure/opening in which it’s going to be mounted in. If your boat has a shallow opening, then you might want to consider a digital media receiver instead of a regular receiver, that’s because digital media receivers (also known as mecheless) have no built-in CD player, therefore, their chassis isn’t nearly as deep, so they fit into tighter opening.In case your boat has no bulkhead or control panel space for a single DIN head unit and you still want it, then you might want to consider a universal waterproof marine housing/bracket which makes it easy to install in the best spot on your boat.
- Round receivers: these round digital media receiver have no built-in cd player are specially designed to fit into standard-size (3″) openings, so you can enjoy your tunes even if you have very limited space in your boat. And like all marine rated receivers, they’re coated and sealed in all the right places, so they’ll give you great performance for many years to come.
- Black box receivers: What sets these “black box” receivers apart from the other marine rated stereos is that these are designed to be installed out of sight. Don’t get me wrong, they can give you access to all the functionality and connectivity you’d ever want from a standard marine stereo. The downside, however, is that while these receivers can resist moisture and corrosion, they’re not as water-resistant as receivers designed specifically for outdoor and marine use.
What should you look for in a marine stereo?
Aside from the type of the receiver, there are many other technical things you should take into consideration before you buy a marine stereo. Remember that the better the specs of your receiver mean better sound quality. The things to take close attention to are : RMS power, USB ports, a wide frequency response. Additionally, if you like listening to radio that much, then look for FM sensitivity spec — the lower, the better.
High power output
Since you’ll be listening to your music out in the open and your boat isn’t acoustically perfect (as opposed to a vehicle), you’ll want your speakers to play louder, therefore, you need to give them enough wattage. Most marine receivers come with built-in 4-way amplifiers. What this means is that they can power 4 speakers simultaneously. If you want your speakers to really sing, consider adding an external amplifier to your boat audio system.
Other useful features
The other useful features you might want to consider are but not limited to :
- Bluetooth for hands-free calling and wireless music streaming.
- SiriusXM satellite radio – which let you enjoy your favorite music, sports and talk up to 200 miles offshore.
- Multiple USB inputs for plugging in your iPod, thumb drive or MP3 player.
If you are going to build a relatively large boat audio system, it’s wise to invest in a marine stereo with multiple sets of preamp outputs. This will save you money down the road if you decide to add external amps and subs.
Being able to control your boat receiver remotely is a very convenient feature. It’s not mandatory, but it’s very convenient.