Marine Stereo Buyer's Guide | Great Days Outdoors

Marine Stereo Buyer’s Guide

Whether you’re cruising the open waters, fishing on a serene lake, or enjoying water sports with family and friends, a high-quality marine stereo system can elevate your boating experience to new heights. However, finding the right marine audio equipment that can withstand the harsh marine environment while delivering crystal-clear sound can be a daunting task. In this article, we’ll take you through the essential features, considerations, and expert tips to help you navigate the sea of options and make an informed decision when choosing the perfect marine stereo system for your watercraft. So, let’s set sail on this audio adventure and ensure you enjoy your favorite tunes while staying afloat!

Top Marine Stereo Brands

Fusion Marine Stereo

Apollo MS-RA670

Apollo MS-RA670

Features

  • Display: 2.7″ optically bonded color LCD
  • Built-in amplifier: Class-D (2 Ohm stereo-stable)
  • Peak power: 280 W
  • Built-in Digital Signal Processing: yes (with preconfigured DSP profiles)
  • PartyBus™-Network capabilities: yes (wired)
  • Fusion-Link™ control: yes (with MFD, smartphone and Garmin watch)
  • Multi-Zone™ technology: 3 zones
  • Bluetooth wireless technology: yes
  • ANT wireless technology: yes
  • SiriusXM-ready: yes (requires SiriusXM Connect vehicle tuner)
  • DAB+ ready: yes (requires DAB100A antenna module)
  • Optical audio input: yes
  • NRX remote compatibility: yes
  • Software updates: Over-the-air software updates via the Fusion-Link app (when connected to wireless network router), USB

The Fusion® Apollo™ MS-RA670 Marine Stereo System is the ultimate companion for seamless audio enjoyment on the water. This cutting-edge marine stereo redefines excellence, merging advanced technology with robust design. Elevate your boating experience with exceptional sound quality, versatile connectivity options, and intuitive controls. The Fusion® Apollo™ MS-RA670 is built to endure the marine environment while delivering unparalleled entertainment. Dive into a world of superior audio performance with this premium marine stereo system.

RA70 Series

RA70 Series

Features

  • Display: 128 x 64 optically bonded monochrome LCD
  • Built-in amplifier: Class-AB
  • Peak power: 200 W
  • Rated power output (4 Ohm): 26 W rms x 4 @ 14.4 V input < 10% THD
  • Fusion-Link™ control: yes (smartphone and Garmin watch)
  • Multi-Zone™ technology: 2 zones
  • Bluetooth wireless technology: yes
  • ANT wireless technology: yes
  • DAB+ ready: yes (requires DAB100A antenna module)
  • Multi-language interface: Dutch / English / French / German / Italian / Spanish
  • Fits DIN-sized cutout: yes
  • Software updates: USB

Experience the Fusion® RA70 Series Marine Stereo Systems, effortlessly fitting into your current DIN-sized cutout without the need to rearrange dashboard space. Enhanced screen visibility is achieved through an optically bonded monochrome LCD. Manage your music via a compatible multifunction display (MFD)1, smart device, or Garmin watch. Enjoy a wealth of source choices, including BLUETOOTH® technology, advanced SiriusXM® features2, DAB+ radio3, AM/FM radio, as well as AUX and USB connections.

MS-RA60

fusion MS-RA60

Features

  • Display: 2.3″ perimeter bonded monochrome dot matrix LCD
  • Built-in amplifier: Class-D (minimum 4 ohm impedance)
  • Peak power: 180 W
  • Rated power output (4 ohm): 22 W rms x 4 @ 14.4 V input, 4 ohm, 10% THD
  • Fusion-Link™ control: yes (with compatible Apple and Android devices)
  • Fusion-Link Lite control: yes (with compatible Garmin watch)
  • Multi-Zone™ technology: 2 zones
  • BLUETOOTH wireless technology: yes
  • ANT wireless technology: yes
  • DAB+: yes (DAB tuner built in)
  • Multi-language interface: Dutch/English/French/German/Italian/Spanish
  • Software updates: Over-the-air software updates via BLUETOOTH wireless technology using the Fusion-Link app

The MS-RA60 is Fusion’s most budget-friendly marine stereo, showcasing modern design, Multi-Zone™ Technology in dual zones, and advanced connectivity within a sleek form. Enhanced by a bonded LCD for durability and defense against condensation and fogging, you can control your music through your compatible smart device or Garmin watch. Benefit from convenient BLUETOOTH®-enabled over-the-air software updates through the Fusion-Link™ app. Plus, the built-in Class-D amplifier ensures heightened efficiency and superior output.

Sony Marine Stereo

DSX-M55BT

Sony DSX-M55BT

Features

  • Marine digital media receiver with AM/FM tuner (doesn’t play CDs)
  • Built-in amplifier (17 watts RMS CEA-2006/55 peak x 4 channels)
  • Integrated Bluetooth with Simple Secure Pairing
  • Plays MP3 and WMA files
  • Partially detachable face with low glare LCD display
  • Conformal-coated circuit boards resist moisture
  • USB port compatible with iPod®, iPhone®, Android™ smartphone
  • Dynamic Reality Amp
  • 5-band equalizer with 8 presets
  • Digital Clarity Tuner with Radio Data System (RDS)
  • Compatible with SiriusXM satellite radio tuner
  • Inputs: front USB input, front AUX input
  • Outputs: 2-volt rear-channel & subwoofer RCA preouts

Crafted specifically for marine environments, Sony’s DSX-M55BT digital media receiver lets you savor your cherished music while cruising on your boat. With integrated Bluetooth® and a convenient front USB input, it offers various options for enjoying your digital music, all while maintaining dependable performance thanks to its coated circuit board, UV-resistant front panel, and glare-resistant display, ensuring longevity throughout the seasons ahead.

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DSX-M80

sony DSX-M80

Features

  • Marine digital marine receiver with AM/FM tuner
  • Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio streaming
  • Detachable face with dual-zone variable color illumination
  • Sound synchronized illumination
  • Built-in iPhone and Android control
  • Compatible with Music Center app for iPhone and Android
  • Pandora control
  • Voice control with Siri and Android
  • Digital Sound Enhancement Engine improves digital file sound quality
  • EXTRA BASS adds low-end depth to your music
  • EQ10 10-band equalizer
  • Subwoofer Direct Connection combines the two rear channels to power a sub
  • High- and low-pass filters
  • Plays MP3, WMA AAC, FLAC, and WAV files on USB
  • Compatible with SiriusXM satellite radio tuner
  • Inputs: front panel aux input, front and rear USB inputs
  • Outputs: 6-channel preamp outputs (5-volt front, rear, subwoofer)

When you equip your boat with Sony’s DSX-M80 marine digital media receiver, you can soundtrack every aspect of your aquatic adventures. This robust and water-resistant stereo is designed to withstand the rigors of outdoor life, including sun exposure, salt, and splashes, thanks to its dedicated circuit board coating and UV-resistant front panel. Additionally, Sony’s integrated amplifier delivers an impressive 40 watts RMS per channel, ensuring a powerful performance that resonates over the water, and the inclusion of two USB inputs makes device control and charging hassle-free.

Clarion Marine Stereo

M608

clarion M608 marine stereo

Features

  • Marine digital media receiver with AM/FM/WB tuner
  • No internal CD player — plays digital music files from your iPod and other external sources
  • Works with Apple® or Android smartphones
  • Built-in Bluetooth® for music streaming
  • Bluetooth aptX for superior sound quality from Android phones
  • 2-line black-on-white LCD display
  • 3-band parametric EQ with 11 preset sound curves
  • Fully-adjustable fader and subwoofer level controls
  • Compatible with SiriusXM satellite radio tuner
  • Built-in iPod control
  • 3-band EQ lets you shape your sound
  • Low-pass subwoofer filter
  • Rear USB and AUX inputs
  • Outputs: 8-channel preamp outputs (4-volt)
  • IP55 tested and certified for water resistance
  • Conformal-coated circuit board

Clarion’s M608 digital media receiver offers a sleek design, advanced technology, and marine-grade durability, making it an excellent choice for enhancing the audio experience and aesthetics of your boat. This versatile and robust receiver features integrated Bluetooth®, extensive connectivity choices, eight preamp outputs, and the peace of mind that comes with its IP55-certified water resistance, ensuring top-notch performance on the water.

M508

clarion M508 marine stereo

Features

  • Marine digital media receiver with AM/FM/WB tuner
  • No internal CD player — plays MP3 and WMA music files from your iPod and other external sources
  • Built-in Bluetooth® for music streaming
  • Bluetooth aptX for superior sound quality from Android phones
  • Enjoy Pandora using your iPhone®
  • 2-line black-on-white LCD display
  • Designed for single-DIN applications
  • Specially sealed against the elements for use in the marine environment
  • Conformal-coated PCB circuit board
  • Covers for front USB and AUX inputs
  • NMEA 2000 connectivity with optional MW6 module
  • Marine remote ready
  • Built-in amplifier (20 watts RMS/50 peak x 4 channels)
  • 3-band EQ with 11 preset sound curves
  • Fully adjustable fader and subwoofer controls
  • Compatible with SiriusXM satellite radio tuner
  • Built-in iPod control
  • Inputs: front USB and AUX inputs
  • Outputs: 8-channel preamp outputs (front, rear, sub, zone 2)

With Clarion’s M508 digital media receiver, you can wirelessly play music from your smartphone or any Bluetooth-enabled device through your boat’s audio system. Utilizing Bluetooth aptX processing, which is also present in numerous Android smartphones, it revitalizes the brilliance that may be diminished during compression, ensuring a significantly enhanced audio quality for your enjoyment.

CMM-20

Clarion CMM-20 stereo

Features

  • Marine digital media receiver
  • High-contrast TFT display
  • Built-in Bluetooth 5.0 streaming
  • Works with Apple and Android smartphones
  • Global AM/FM/Weather Band tuner
  • Illuminated buttons
  • Built-in amp (4 x 25 watts RMS at 4 ohms)
  • 2-zone source and volume control
  • Inputs: AUX and USB
  • Outputs: 2-channel preamp outputs (3.5 volts)
  • Works with Clarion CMR wired marine remotes

Featuring a sleek design and resilient marine-grade construction, Clarion’s CMM-20 marine digital media receiver is a fantastic enhancement for your boat. This adaptable receiver offers built-in Bluetooth®, an array of connectivity choices, and 2-channel pre-amp outputs, along with other impressive functionalities.

Kicker Marine Stereo

KMC5

Kicker KMC5 marine stereo

Features

  • Marine digital media receiver (does not play CDs)
  • 3.5″ full color LCD display
  • AM/FM/Weather Band tuner
  • Built-in 6-channel amp with 4- and 2-ohm stability
  • 25 watts RMS (50 watts peak) x 6 (4 ohms)
  • 40 watts RMS x 6 (2 ohms)
  • Dual-zone capability
  • Favorites for AM, FM, and Weather Band
  • Built-in Bluetooth® for music streaming
  • IPX66-rated watertight face
  • Day/night mode
  • Customizable 6-band EQ with five presets
  • SiriusXM-compatible with optional tuner (not included)
  • Inputs: rear USB input, rear RCA input, camera input
  • Outputs: dual-zone 8-channel preamp outputs (4 volts)
  • NMEA port
  • Fits into a standard gauge opening
  • Cutout opening: 3.0″ diameter x 6.6875″D

Enhance your boat’s audio experience significantly with Kicker’s KMC5 marine digital media receiver. Kicker provides a robust six-channel power option for those looking to incorporate multiple speakers into their party barge setup. The receiver boasts a vibrant 3-1/2″ full-color display, offering control over two audio zones on your boat depending on your configuration. Additionally, its video capability allows for the connection of an onboard camera, facilitating smooth docking procedures. Furthermore, the generously sized and clearly labeled buttons ensure easy visibility and operation, even when wearing gloves.

46KMC4

Kicker 46KMC4 marine stereo

Features

  • Marine digital media receiver (does not play CDs)
  • 3″ full-color LCD display
  • AM/FM/Weather Band tuner
  • 2-ohm stable built-in amp
  • 25 watts RMS x 4/50 peak x 4 channels at 4 ohms
  • 38 watts RMS x 4 at 2 ohms
  • Favorites for AM, FM, and Weather Band
  • Built-in Bluetooth® for music streaming
  • IPX66-rated watertight face
  • Day/night mode
  • 6-band EQ with five presets
  • Inputs: rear USB input, rear RCA input
  • Outputs: 8-channel preamp outputs (4-volt front, rear, sub, and Zone 2)
  • Works with KRC12 wired remote (not included)
  • Fits into a standard gauge opening
  • Cutout opening: 3.0″ diameter x 4.375″D

Seeking a stylish solution to manage your boat’s audio system? Kicker’s KMC4 marine digital media receiver offers a sleek 3″ full-color display for seamless control of two audio zones on your vessel. Its large, well-defined buttons ensure effortless visibility and operation, even in glove-clad conditions.

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JBL Marine Stereo

R4500

JBL R4500

Features

  • Marine digital media receiver (does not play CDs)
  • Built-in amplifier (20 watts RMS/55 peak x 4 channels)
  • 4″ color LCD screen
  • Built-in Bluetooth® 5.0 for music streaming
  • AM/FM/Weather Band tuner
  • IPX7-rated watertight; UV-resistant front panel
  • NMEA 2000-ready
  • Inputs: rear AUX and USB ports
  • Outputs: 2-channel preamp outputs
  • 2-ohm stable so built-in amp can power up to 8 speakers
  • Three sets of line level differentials
  • Wired to work with select Infinity or Milennia remotes

The JBL Wake Series marine digital media receiver merges JBL’s renowned sound quality with rugged marine-grade durability. Featuring a compact, weather-resistant construction, a built-in amplifier, and a vibrant 4″ color LCD display, it serves as the perfect focal point for your boat’s audio setup.

R3500

JBL R3500

Features

  • Marine digital media receiver (does not play CDs)
  • Built-in amplifier (20 watts RMS/55 peak x 4 channels)
  • 4″ black and white LCD screen
  • Built-in Bluetooth® 5.0 for music streaming
  • AM/FM/Weather Band tuner
  • IPX7-rated watertight, UV-resistant front panel
  • Inputs: rear AUX and USB ports
  • Outputs: 2-channel preamp outputs
  • 2-ohm stable so built-in amp can power up to 8 speakers

Within its compact, weather-resistant construction, this JBL marine digital media receiver seamlessly integrates an array of impressive features, designed to withstand sun, spray, and inclement weather. Whether you prefer traditional AM/FM/WB radio or wish to tap into your favorite tunes from a USB drive or portable music player via the USB and auxiliary inputs, this WAKE Series receiver caters to your preferences. Furthermore, it boasts the latest Bluetooth® 5.0 technology, enabling seamless music streaming from your smartphone or other compatible devices.

Understanding Marine Stereo Systems

Marine stereo systems are specifically designed and constructed to withstand the unique challenges posed by the marine environment, setting them apart from regular audio systems used in cars or homes. They have protective seals and gaskets to prevent water from entering the electronic components, ensuring the system can handle exposure to splashes, rain, and even submersion.

Marine environments are also exposed to intense sunlight and saltwater, which can cause damage to regular audio equipment. Marine stereo systems use materials and coatings that are resistant to UV rays and corrosion from saltwater, enhancing their durability and longevity. To prevent moisture from seeping into electrical connections, marine audio systems often feature sealed connectors and specialized coatings that provide an additional layer of protection against water intrusion. They also utilize non-corrosive materials like stainless steel or marine-grade plastics to withstand the corrosive effects of saltwater and humid marine air.

Boats can experience rough conditions, such as waves and engine vibrations, which can impact audio equipment. Marine audio systems are designed to absorb shocks and vibrations, ensuring they remain functional and reliable. They must also adhere to specific safety standards and certifications, such as ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) and IPX (Ingress Protection) ratings, to guarantee their suitability for use in marine environments. As a result, the controls and display panels on marine audio systems are often sealed to protect them from water damage, allowing users to adjust settings and operate the system safely. They are also engineered to withstand extreme temperature fluctuations, humidity, and exposure to salt, all of which are common in marine settings.

marine stereo system
Marine stereo systems use materials and coatings that are resistant to UV rays and corrosion from saltwater. (Photo courtesy of FUSION)

Finally, boats and watercraft often have limited space for audio equipment installation. Marine stereo systems are designed with compact and flexible configurations to fit into tight spaces while maintaining optimal performance.

Challenges To Installing Marine Stereo Systems

Installing marine stereo systems comes with several challenges due to the unique environment of boats and watercraft. As mentioned, boats and watercraft typically have limited space for audio equipment installation. Finding suitable locations for speakers, amplifiers, and head units can be challenging, requiring careful planning and optimization of available space. Running power cables and wiring through the boat’s hull and structure can be difficult, especially if the boat is already constructed. Fishing wires through tight spaces and ensuring proper connections without damaging the boat’s integrity is a significant challenge.

Ensuring a watertight installation is also crucial to protect the stereo system from moisture, splashes, and potential submersion. Properly sealing connections, drilling holes, and mounting speakers without compromising the boat’s integrity require meticulous attention to detail. Securing the stereo components to prevent movement and potential damage from vibration-induced impacts is essential.

Boats also have limited electrical capacity, and installing a marine stereo system may require additional power management solutions to ensure the audio system does not overload the boat’s electrical system. The boat’s existing electrical systems, engine, and other onboard equipment can also introduce electrical interference, leading to audio signal distortion. Shielding the stereo system from these sources of interference is necessary to maintain audio clarity.

To overcome these challenges, it’s advisable to consult professional marine audio installers who have experience in working with boats and watercraft. Their expertise can ensure that the marine stereo system is properly installed, waterproofed, and integrated into the boat’s design while maintaining the best possible audio performance on the water.

Key Features To Consider In Marine Stereo Systems

When shopping for marine stereo systems, several key features are essential to consider to ensure you select the right audio solution for your boat or watercraft. Here are some important features to keep in mind:

Water Resistance and Waterproofing: Look for marine stereo systems with water-resistant or fully waterproof components to protect the equipment from splashes, rain, and potential submersion. Check for IPX ratings to gauge the system’s water resistance level.

UV and Saltwater Resistance: Consider marine audio systems with materials and coatings that can withstand the damaging effects of UV rays and corrosion from saltwater. UV-resistant faceplates and rust-proof hardware are crucial in marine environments.

Power Output and Audio Quality: Ensure the marine stereo system delivers sufficient power output for your boat’s size and the audio quality you desire. Pay attention to wattage and RMS power ratings for both the head unit and speakers.

Power Management: Consider power management features in the marine stereo system, ensuring it doesn’t overload the boat’s electrical system and cause issues.

User-Friendly Interface: Choose marine audio systems with user-friendly interfaces and intuitive controls for easy navigation and operation, especially when out on the water.

By considering these key features, you can find the best marine stereo system that meets your audio preferences, withstands the challenges of the marine environment, and enhances your boating experience with exceptional sound quality on the water.

Marine Stereo Audio Source Options

Marine stereo systems offer a variety of audio source options to provide boat and watercraft owners with versatile connectivity for enjoying their favorite tunes on the water. These audio source options include:

  • Bluetooth Connectivity: Bluetooth is a popular audio source option in marine stereo systems. It allows wireless audio streaming from compatible devices like smartphones, tablets, and laptops. With Bluetooth, you can play music, podcasts, and audio content directly from your device without the need for cables.
  • USB Port: Many marine stereo systems come equipped with a USB port. This allows you to connect USB flash drives or external hard drives loaded with your music library. It’s a convenient way to carry a large selection of audio files without relying on an internet connection.
  • AUX Input: The AUX (Auxiliary) input is a standard feature found in marine stereos. It enables you to connect audio devices, such as MP3 players, satellite radio tuners, or other external devices, using a standard 3.5mm audio cable.
  • AM/FM Radio: Most marine stereo systems include an AM/FM radio tuner. This traditional audio source option allows you to listen to local radio stations, news, and music while out on the water.
  • CD Player: While becoming less common, some marine stereo systems still feature a CD player for those who prefer physical media. If you have a collection of CDs, consider marine stereos with this option.
  • Satellite Radio: Some marine stereo systems support satellite radio reception. With a subscription to satellite radio services like SiriusXM, you can access a wide range of commercial-free music, news, talk shows, and more.
  • Internet Radio and Streaming Apps: Certain marine stereo systems have internet connectivity, allowing you to stream music from internet radio stations and music streaming apps like Spotify, Pandora, or Apple Music. Internet access may require a mobile hotspot or onboard Wi-Fi.
  • Digital Media Players: Marine stereos may support various digital media formats, such as MP3, WMA, AAC, and FLAC. Ensure that the stereo system is compatible with the formats of your preferred audio files.
  • Smartphone Integration: Some marine stereos offer smartphone integration features like Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. These systems allow you to mirror your smartphone’s screen on the stereo display, providing access to additional apps and features.

When choosing a marine stereo, consider the audio source options that align with your preferences and devices. A versatile marine stereo system with multiple connectivity options will ensure you have a wide range of audio sources to enjoy while cruising or relaxing on the water.

Additional Accessories And Features For Your Marine Stereo System

Marine LED Lights

LED lighting and visual enhancements in marine stereo systems offer a captivating and functional upgrade to on-water entertainment. These systems come equipped with built-in LED lighting features that add a mesmerizing glow to the boat’s interior or exterior. The LED lights can be synchronized to pulse with the beat of the music or set to a static color, creating an immersive audio-visual experience for both daytime and nighttime cruising. Besides the aesthetic appeal, LED lighting also serves a practical purpose by providing ambient lighting for better visibility during evening trips. LED-illuminated marine stereo systems not only elevate the boat’s ambiance but also add a touch of sophistication to the audio experience, ensuring that every moment on the water is accompanied by both great sound and stunning visuals.

An LED-illuminated marine stereo system can take your nighttime boat rides to a new level.

Remote Control Options

Remote control options for marine stereo systems offer convenient and safe ways to manage audio settings and playback while boating. These remote controls come in two main types: wired and wireless. Wired remotes are physically connected to the stereo system and typically mounted at a convenient location on the boat’s helm or dashboard. They provide easy access to control functions without the need to reach for the head unit. Wireless remotes, on the other hand, offer even greater flexibility by allowing users to control the stereo system from various locations on the boat. Some wireless remotes are handheld, while others may be integrated into steering wheel controls or even smartphone apps. With remote control options, boaters can adjust volume, change tracks, switch audio sources, and manage other settings without leaving their seats or taking their hands off the wheel, enhancing both safety and the overall boating experience.

Final Thoughts On Marine Stereo Systems

As you embark on your journey to find the perfect marine stereo system, we hope this comprehensive buyer’s guide has provided you with the knowledge and confidence to make an informed decision. Remember, investing in a high-quality marine stereo system is not just about enhancing your boating experience with exceptional audio, but also about ensuring the durability and reliability needed to withstand the challenging marine environment.

Consider the key features that set marine stereo systems apart, such as water resistance, UV protection, and corrosion resistance, while also factoring in your audio preferences, boat size, and budget. Whether you’re cruising the waves or casting your line, a well-chosen marine stereo system will provide the soundtrack to your unforgettable aquatic adventures for years to come. So, set sail with your favorite tunes, and let the melodies carry you to the rhythm of the open waters!


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