Take these 10 tips for choosing marine stereos to heart, or there’s a good chance that the expensive sound system you install on your boat will soon be croaking instead of crooning.
1. Never buy anything that says “marinized." This is code for saying it’s an automotive system with a spray-coated circuit-board, which is being marketed to boaters. Chances are it won’t last long in the marine environment.
2. Mount the head unit belowdecks whenever possible. Then put a waterproof remote at the dash. That will extend the life of the stereo significantly, even though the remote may need replacement every season or two.
3. Look for IPX ratings. Even if your stereo is mounted belowdecks, the moist marine environment will soon take a toll. Stereos with an IPX rating of at least 6 (tested with blasts of pressurized water) are a must. An IPX rating of 7 (which requires test units to be submerged for up to 30 minutes at a depth of one meter) is even better.
4. MP3's rule. CD’s will skip, radio coverage on the water is spotty, and cassettes are… can someone remind me what cassettes are, again? On a boat MP3 players are the way to go, period.
5. Head units that open to accept and store the MP3 player inside are the best. Ones with a jack are apt to get corroded where you plug it in, and can leave your MP3 player exposed to salt spray and rough rides.
6. Install a sub-woofer. Acoustics on a boat stink, virtually all the time. On top of that, out on deck wind noise will cancel out much of the sound a stereo produces when you’re at cruising speeds. The solution? Install a beefy sub-woofer. This sends those good vibrations booming through the fiberglass itself, and makes a huge difference in how good those tunes sound both at rest and when on the move.
7. Never use regular speaker wire when installing a sound system on a boat; it’ll corrode and break in no time. Instead, use the same tinned-copper marine cable you use for electrical accessories.
8. Double the watts. Whatever you feel is powerful enough on land, it’ll usually take twice as many watts to satisfy you on an open boat.
9. Choose enclosed speakers. Flush-mounting in the inwales or console usually leads to poor sound quality, because the space behind the speaker has an effect on how it sounds. With enclosed speakers, that space has been designed to match up to the speaker itself.
10. Always save the receipt – even properly designed marine stereos, remotes, and speakers tend to fail at a startling rate, so be prepared to trade them in when necessary.
Bonus Tip: Read our in-depth article on marine stereos.