Looking for the best sound system for your boat can be a daunting task. Not only are there are a ton of options out there, but there are too many sweeping generalizations that are going to try to tell you why this system or that one is better for your boat. The truth of the matter is that you’re the only one that can choose the right audio system for your boat.

This guide is designed to help you learn about your options for marine audio systems available in today’s market. From understanding the fundamental differences between marine stereos and other portable sound systems to looking into the best models of 2019 and what they have to offer, you will find plenty of information to help you make your decision. As you’re looking around, you can use these tips and insight to narrow down the options and find the perfect sound system for your boat.

Waterproof Boat Stereo Receiver

Photo BY: Poly-Planar.

Boat Sound Systems Versus Car Stereo Systems

To the average consumer, most boat sound systems look just like the aftermarket systems that are available for most vehicles on the market today. Therefore, some people may errantly assume that they don’t necessarily have to buy a boat sound system to get the quality that they want. The fact of the matter is that boat sound systems are made just for boats—and for a good reason.

Waterproof Speakers Designed For Marine Use

There aren’t a lot of differences between vehicle and marine stereos, excluding the high-end systems that include navigation, fish finders, and other marine-specific features. However, it is the one main feature of marine sound systems that make them a must for your boat: waterproofing. Everyone knows that water and electricity don’t mix, and if you try to cheap out with a non-marine model, it will likely cost you a lot more in the end. At the very least, it will ruin the stereo and speakers.

If you aren’t careful, damage to your boat sound system could even lead to damage to other electrical systems or cost you a small fortune to repair or remove and replace with a marine-ready model. Anti-corrosion features and UV resistance are also crucial for any components of your speaker system that are going to be exposed to the elements, and you don’t usually find these features on basic audio not explicitly designed for marine use. If you’re buying a sound system for your boat, make sure it’s a marine system. That’s all there is to it.

How Do You Wire A Marine Radio?

Although there are just as many types of systems with a vast selection of bells and whistles as there are people in the world, the basic marine sound system is relatively simple. It usually only has two real main components: the receiver and the speakers. The receiver allows you to tune your favorite stations, load up your mp3s, play a CD, or choose another playing method. The speakers will let you hear the great sound from your new system. If yours are old, you might be surprised at the improvement.

Buying a package is a great way to save money and get everything in one purchase. This is especially ideal if you’re already planning to upgrade your entire system, or if your boat doesn’t have a system at all. You can even find packages that include a basic audio system with a fish finder and a satellite tuner to get all the best sports, music, news, and weather while you’re out on the water.

Systems designed for sound will also include amps, subwoofers, speaker wires, and cabling, and other components to give your system the best sound quality. If you want to up your game, add a power inverter to the system so that you can charge phones, tablets, laptops, or even run small electronic items. Just make sure that you choose one with a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) to protect from shocks.

How to Choose Your Boat Stereo System Setup

Now that you know a little more about the components involved in marine stereo systems, you should start looking at the things you want to add to your system. Primarily, your focus will be on your intended use or what you want from a boat sound system. Are you looking for basic audio for enjoying some tunes on the water? Do you want a high-end setup with subwoofers and LED speakers that change with the beat of the music? There's something for almost everyone.

Think about what you want in a receiver. Here again, you’ll have so many options for everything, from basic models to satellite-ready, GPS-enabled touchscreen systems. Depending on your budget, you can find just about any combination of features to create the ideal receiver, which will be the base of your entire system. If you’re going to choose a package system, knowing what you want in your receiver will help you decide your other options and figure out where you might need to compromise.

Speakers are the second most important part of your system. Basic speakers will offer decent sound, which is all you want if you’re doing a lot of fishing. Bass is sure to scare off anything worth catching, after all. Fortunately, for those that want a thumping sound system for their boat, those are available, too. You can pick and choose from a wide variety of subs and amps, and some retailers will even help you build the perfect system rather than settling for a package that might not have everything you want.

If you’re replacing an existing system, don’t forget to check the fit and make sure that you’ll be able to put the new unit where the old one was. In some cases, you might be able to do a quick retrofit, but if you aren’t familiar with installing stereos and speakers, this is best left to the pros.

Some essential factors that are unique to marine systems:

  • Materials that will stand up to the elements

  • Good specs: wide frequency response, RMS power, and strong signal-to-noise ratio

  • Plenty of power, since you’ll be out in the open and need clear, clean sound

What Is The Best Stereo System For A Boat in 2019?

Despite the hundreds of options on the market, some systems will always stand out among the rest. Check out the best-rated and top-selling systems below, listed in no particular order, and with no preference. With any of these systems, you’ll be sure to love the results, no matter what you choose.

Fusion Entertainment MS-RA70 Marine Stereo

This stereo system offers a sleek, simple design with Bluetooth and a full Android or Apple interface. It’s easy to use and comes with a 4x50w amplifier (Class-A). This stereo incorporates the latest in marine technology for great boating sound no matter where you’re headed. The receiver includes an AUX connection and rear USB hookup, too, so you can listen to your tunes any way that you’d like.

The system installs quickly and can be integrated into a glass helm with flush mounting if you want a sleeker look. It’s water-resistant and packed full of features for the price, offering a great model for those looking for something basic.

Kenwood Bluetooth Digital USB AUX AM/FM Radio Marine Stereo

This one offers the complete setup package, including four Lanzar 400-watt 6.5-inch marine speakers in silver, a USB panel, wireless streaming capabilities, and Drive EQ, to help cut through the noise on the open water. While the former model was a great starter set, this is the ultimate in marine audio packages when you want state-of-the-art equipment. The Bluetooth range is impressive, and the speakers are marine grade, which is a must-have. Plus, when you buy the Kenwood package, you get a one-year warranty on the entire system.

While this might not be the system for boat parties, it’s great for those who want a “starter kit” that is more than a basic stereo model. It has everything you need in the package, too, so you won’t be spending a fortune on components and accessories.

BOSS Audio MGR350B In-Dash Weather-Proof Marine Stereo

This system from BOSS Audio offers a stylish, small footprint with a unique shape and design. It also includes connectivity via AUX, USB, and Bluetooth. There’s no room for a CD player, but that rarely presents an obstacle for most boaters these days. This stereo is also compatible with all smartphones and mp3 players, so you can sync up your Bluetooth and be on your way to a great time.

The BOSS receiver includes a UV-coated front panel and two shapes from which you can choose. There is also a three-year warranty on the stereo system, which is a lot more than you get from most audio brands. Whether you select the circle or the square, you can guarantee that you’ll be in good shape with this marine stereo.
Aquatic AV AQ-MP-5BT Bluetooth Waterproof Marine Stereo
Aquatic AV is no stranger to marine-grade equipment, so you can trust that their marine sound systems are designed to withstand the elements with the best of them.

This waterproof, durable radio also offers a remote control (sold separately) for even more functions, but it comes packed with plenty right on the dash. The stylish design includes an internal power source so that you can charge devices while you play music. If you remove the face of the stereo, there is a shelf where you can put your device while it charges or plays music for you.

The bright display makes this radio easy to see, and who doesn’t love a secret shelf? The display is more basic than some high-end models, but there are traditional knobs and buttons to handle just about every function you could need.

Sony DSXM55BT Digital Marine Stereo

Sony is known for being a leader in sound and innovation, and this sleek stereo is no different. This digital marine stereo system includes one-touch technology with NFC-ready devices, a front USB, and Siri voice controls for Apple users who want to go hands-free. This radio has enhanced sound quality for marine applications, and it comes with a Sony wireless remote control, allowing you to control the music from anywhere onboard.

This system includes a lot of innovative technology, including standard Bluetooth and more. The receiver itself looks good in any boat, and the buttons make controlling the music easy. With Siri and NFC technology, this is one of the most innovative systems on the market, and it’s still reasonably priced.

Pyle Bluetooth Receiver Marine Stereo

When you’re looking for sound and power, this seemingly simple system is the one that you need. A sleek display may mislead you that this stereo lacks features, but the include wireless remote will remind you of all that it can do. It puts out 300 watts of power for great sound even at full speed, and you can adjust all the audio controls manually. Bluetooth is included, as well as a built-in microphone for hands-free calling. The brilliant display and stylish design stand out, but the power is the reason that this marine stereo needs to be on your shortlist.

Poly-Planar MRD60 Waterproof Boat Stereo Receiver

The Poly-Planar MRD60 AM/FM CD stereo is specifically designed to stand up to the rigors of the marine environment. The front panel of the stereo is waterproof and does not require an additional cover when mounting the system above deck on your boat. The front panel folds down for easy CD loading, and then, when closed, a silicon rubber gasket keeps the unit tightly sealed to protect it from the elements. A bright electro-luminescent LCD display is easily visible both at night and in direct sunlight.

The system has an integrated 4-channel amplifier that produces up to 45 watts per channel, for a total system power of 180 watts. The amplifier has a distortion limiting feature that illuminates clipping at maximum gain and provides high quality sound even at full volume.

Choosing The Right Stereo System For Your Boat

Each of the boat sound systems and stereos listed here has plenty of benefits to offer. They have different features, but they’re all designed for enjoyable boating, no matter what type of music or media you intend to play. Remember to choose a system that fits your needs (and that will fit into the space provided unless you’re ready to retrofit the boat for a sound system upgrade).

If you want to make waves with your sound system, you can upgrade to party systems, add subwoofers and amps, and customize just about any marine stereo system, thanks to the available components and accessories on the market today. If you’re not familiar with wiring and stereo installation, check with your local boat shop, dealer, or stereo seller to see if they offer installation services. If you want to make the most of boating, some good tunes can go a long way, and the right boat sound system will make all the difference.