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The right set of marine speakers can really enhance your boating experience. A good sound system will make your day out on the water even more enjoyable. Whether you’re driving a car, or piloting a boat, everything is better with music. And while most modern boats come equipped with a marine sound system as standard, they need much better speakers if you want to actually hear what you’re listening to.
Most standard marine audio systems don’t have enough power to be heard over the hum of the engine or the crashing of waves. That’s why you need to invest in some serious marine speakers. While it might seem like a good idea to transplant your car’s old audio setup over to your boat, think again. Marine speakers are made of tougher stuff, and for good reason.
Marine speakers have to be able to resist a wide range of conditions, from salt water splashes and punishing rain, to harsh winds and powerful UV rays. All of these can cause serious damage to regular speakers, and that’s why you want marine-grade products aboard your ship.
To make sure you get the best marine speakers you can buy we’ve compiled a list of the top products currently available, with a short buying guide to help you find the right setup for your boat and audio system.
Polk Audio is a big name in the audio industry, and the brand has a number of excellent marine speakers on the market. However, we like the brand’s 2-way, marine certified DB521 coaxial speakers best.
They’re marine rated speakers, but they can also be used in your car or truck too. The most impressive feature about these speakers has to be the price tag though. They’re very cheap, but in a good way.
The speakers are manufactured from a wide range of top-level materials. For example, the dome tweeter is made from 0.75” silk-polymer, and the speaker cone is formed out of a polymer and mica mineral composite blend. The result is clear sound, big bass, and very crisp audio.
The clever use of materials helps protect these speakers from harsh marine environments. For example, these speakers are fitted with waterproof butyl rubber surrounds; these keep the water out of your speakers, helping them last longer, whilst simultaneously boosting your bass.
Each speaker is also IP55 rated, which means that they’re waterproof enough. They also resist dirt, salt, humidity, and UV rays too.
These speakers come equipped with a Dynamic Balance speaker. This means that the speaker will adjust itself for the best sound equalization, setting the correct bass, middle, and treble levels for the audio that you’re listening to.
With a peak power output of 300W and frequency ranges between 55Hz and Hz, you can enjoy a full range of sound with big volume. In short, these are big volume speakers for a small and affordable price tag.
Dimensions: 5 1/4” diameter
Top Features: These speakers have a low price tag, but premium quality sound
If you don’t want to spend loads of money on speakers for a boat, but also want something that will actually do your music justice, then these may be the speakers for you. The Boss Audio MR50W marine speaker system comprises of 2 circular 2-way speakers that offer great speaker sound, in weatherproof casings. All for a ridiculously low price.
Each speaker boasts a polypropylene cone with a treated cloth surround. The tweeter is constructed from Mylar, and the whole package is wrapped in a rubber surround that keeps the elements out and improves the sound quality. There’s an aluminum voice coil which can handle high stress tension too. All of the internals are coated to protect against corrosion, but these speakers are not waterproof.
They are water resistant though. The difference is that it can handle a bit of water spray, but it can’t be submerged or exposed to a real splash. While they’re not waterproof, they are protected against UV ray damage, fog, and light rain. All in all, it’s not bad for such a cheap set of speakers.
In terms of sound quality and power, these speakers have a frequency response of 80Hz to 20,000Hz, and an impressive sensitivity of 89dB. The system is rates at 150 watts, which isn’t as high as it could be, but it does have an impressive volume that doesn’t distort the sound quality.
If you’re still not convinced, it does ship with a 1-year warranty.
Dimensions: 5.25” diameter (other sizes are available)
Top Features: They’re cheap, but they do come with a 1 year warranty
Next, we have this pair of marine speakers from JBL. The JBL MS6520 series are reasonably priced, attractive to look at, with excellent frequency response and performance. There are one of the brand’s best-selling speaker systems, and it’s not hard to see why.
The speakers feature JBL’s unique Plus One woofer technology, a design concept that maximizes each woofer cone’s surface area, improving sound and volume. Each woofer is paired with a balanced dome tweeter with a wide frequency response that delivers exceptional clarity. If you want crystal clear sound with big volume and power, these are great choices.
Each speaker is wrapped in a one-piece cast polymer basket, with waterproof motor structures, sealed magnets, and rubber surrounds. These features help to keep the elements out, and prolong the lifespan of the speakers. All in, these marine-friendly speakers are easy to install, offer great value for money, and excellent audio quality.
For the best results, we recommend that you use these speakers with a dedicated amplifier to really make the most of their sound output. And considering the price tag, you can invest in a set of these and a cheap amplifier without breaking the bank. The result will be an enviable sound system, all for a reasonable price.
Dimensions: 6.5” diameter
Weight: 3.09 lbs
Top Features: The Plus One woofer technology is a great addition
These Pyle marine speakers are both affordable in price and quality in nature. They’re another budget model but they offer great value for money. If you’re in need of something cheap that does the trick, these units will certainly do the job.
This two-way speaker system is made from a variety of quality materials. The cones are made from polypropylene with rubber surrounds, promising excellent sound quality with little distortion. The speaker’s voice coils have been constructed from aluminum, offering strength and flexibility to provide the best audio quality that they can. A molded ABS plastic basket holds everything in place, with no rattles or distortions of any kind.
These well-made speakers are also waterproof. However, we recommend against getting them wet. They can handle light spray and light splashes, but anything heavy will probably hurt them. Even if they do get wet, these speakers feature rustproof mesh covers, rubber components, and other weatherproof protectives.
In terms of sound, these 150 watt speakers have more than enough power to make your music heard, without any distortion or sound deterioration. They can operate on frequencies between 45 Hz and 16,000 Hz, with a large 20 ounce magnet keeping your sound in good order.
These are some of the best 6.5 marine speakers that you can buy at such a low price point. If you need a set of 6.5 inchers, then consider these. They even come with a standard 1 year warranty.
Power: 150W (also available in 100W and 120W)
Dimensions: 6.5” diameter
Weight: 3 lbs
Top Features: These small speakers offer excellent value for money
A brand name like Sony needs no introduction. Sony is famous for its audio equipment, and when it comes to marine speakers and other marine audio technology, it’s an industry leader. The brand’s XSMP1611 speakers are some of the best in the industry, with thousands of positive reviews from veteran boaters. And they’re not expensive either!
The speakers are made like most others with a strong plastic shell that holds onto a strong speaker cone with a cloth surround, along with durable voice coil, and a rigid woofer cone that can belt out some high quality tones. The woofer’s magnet is a Ferrite, with a polypropylene diaphragm. It’s available in a black or white finish that will compliment any boat’s interior.
This pair of speakers is waterproof, with a certified IPX5 rating. They are also UV resistant, salt-water resistant, and able to withstand some pretty harsh marine conditions. They are tough, robust, and can handle all but the most extreme outdoor situations.
Sony’s Dual Cone marine speakers have a peak power handling of 140 watts, with an RMS power rating of 65 watts. That’s not as high as others on this list, but what these speakers lack in raw power they make up for in clarity. They support a frequency range from 45 Hz to 20,000 Hz, with amazing audio delivery and sound quality.
These are some of the best 6.5” marine speakers out there, and they’re available in both dual cone and coaxial models.
Dimensions: 6.5” diameter
Weight: 3.09 lbs
Top Features: They look very sleek when installed
Next, we’ve got a set of 6.5 inch diameter, 2-way marine speakers from Infinity. Infinity is a name that you can trust, with a history of creating some of the best audio speakers for both the automotive and marine markets.
This speaker system features a grille-mounted polypropylene half-dome tweeter, and a thumping polypropylene woofer cone, wrapped in a UV-resistant rubber surround. These speakers are mounted into a corrosion-proof cast polymer baskets that keep everything safe, secure, and protected from Mother Nature.
There’s more to these speaker’s protection than a UV-resistant surround. On top of that, the speakers feature durable seals that actively prevent moisture from entering, making the speaker fairly waterproof. This makes it ideal for use in marine environments. If you install it with stainless steel hardware (not included) then you can guarantee that your speakers will remain corrosion and rust free.
In terms of the sound, these speakers have a power handling of up to 225 watts of peak power, and 75 watts RMS per speaker. They have a frequency response between 50 Hz and 20,000 Hz, and a sensitivity rating of 92 dB at 2.83 V.
If you want to upgrade your stock speakers and improve your sound system, you could start by installing a set of these. They’re appropriately priced, and installation is as easy as pie.
Dimensions: 6.5” diameter
Weight: 3.09 lbs
Top Features: They’re available in a wide range of colors and they’re easy to install
These Rockville RWB80B marine speakers are an excellent choice for those looking for big sound at an affordable price point. They’re pricier than some of the others on this list, but they’re worth the extra investment. Designed for wakeboard towers, these units deliver big, quality sound from small speakers, and you won’t be left disappointed.
In terms of construction, these speakers feature cones that are made from tough mica-injected polypropylene, resting in a Santoprene surround. The result is clear audio from a housing that dampens resonance and reduces distortion and improves bass response. The dome tweeter is made out of a polyamide composite, with a neodymium magnet that converts current to sound in a crystal-clear way.
Since these speakers are primarily designed for wakeboard towers, they’re more robust than many other units on the market. Rockville’s RWB80B speakers can easily withstand the negative effects of fresh and salt water, thanks to the application of rubber gaskets which keep the water out. They are completely water and rust resistant. If you want wakeboard tower speakers, these are the ones you need.
They can be mounted very easily, with adjustable mounting clamps that can be bolted onto just about anything, from roll cages to grab rails. They’re tough, easy to mount, can handle up to 300 watts of peak power and deliver series sound. All for an affordable price tag.
For the best results, make sure you have a proper amp to power it, or your sound won’t be as good as it can be.
Dimensions: 8” diameter (also available in 6.5”)
Weight: 17.37 lbs
Top Features: They’re very easy to install and offer loud and clear sound quality
Buying The Best Boat Speakers: A Guide
Buying new speakers isn’t as easy as selecting a set online and plugging them in. There are quite a lot of factors to take into account before you hit the buy button. They need to have the right volume and good sound quality, and they need to be the right size and shape, and able to withstand everything that a life on the water can throw at them.
With so many products on the market it’s hard to know what’s good and what’s not. If you want to make sure that you get the best music playback experience that you can, here’s some buying advice!
The first thing to consider when upgrading your factory speakers to aftermarket units is their purpose. Naturally, since we’re talking about marine speakers, we can assume that they’re going to be fitted to a boat. But what will you be doing on the boat? What kind of speaker you need will depend on what activities you undertake onboard.
For example, if you’re a casual fisherman and you just want a bit of background noise or gentle music while you’re fishing from a stationary boat, then you probably won’t need to invest in powerful speakers. However, if you’re into water sports and want to blast music while you’re towing wakeboarders and skiers, then you’re going to need some serious volume output.
Louder speakers require a higher wattage. Working out what you need them for, and what power they require, is a good place to start your search.
Output & Volume
Power is measured in wattage, but volume is measured in decibels. Speakers that can draw more power can make louder noise. And that’s great when you’re out on the ocean with no one else around you. But what about when you’re moored at the marina, or dropping anchor in the middle of a lake? Loud speakers can get you in trouble with your neighbors really quickly.
That’s why it’s important to find a set of speakers that can play music loud, but can also play music well at a lower volume too. Good speakers from reputable brands will produce sound without distortion at both high and low volumes, and a good volume range is what you need.
It’s also worth remembering that sounds of over 85 decibels can lead to hearing damage, and 100 dB or more has been known to cause permanent hearing loss if you’re exposed to it for 15 minutes or more. Keep that in mind too!
If you’re buying boat speakers, they need to be waterproof—or at least water resistant. They need to be built from components that can successfully resist water, and stop water from creeping in. Moisture contamination can ruin circuitry, corrode components, and destroy your speakers from the inside out.
That’s just rain water. Salt water can be even more aggressive. Sun and UV ray damage can make even the sturdiest looking products wither and fall apart if they’re not built with UV resistant materials.
Since boats are exposed to a wide range of weather conditions, and at the most extreme ends of the spectrum, investing in hardy, weatherproof speakers is a much better idea than buying a pair of cheapies and hoping for the best.
How and where you plan to mount your new speakers will no doubt influence your buying process. If you’re planning on an entirely new audio experience, there’s lots of research and planning that you’ll need to do first, but we’ll get to that a little further down. Most boaters will want to use their existing factory speakers, but even that can be a trickier task than you’d think.
Replacing Existing Speakers
Replacing your existing speakers is the easiest way to improve your sound system. Naturally, you’ll want to find replacement speakers that have the same dimensions as your old ones, allowing for easy installation. Diameter’s are one thing, but don’t forget to look at depths, screw depths, and mounting locations before investing. Once you know what you’re looking for and what will fit your existing holes, you’ll be able to find a suitable set of replacement speakers.
Even though this is an easy task, it can be further complicated with dodgy wiring. While you’re replacing your speakers, take a moment to check the wiring and make sure everything is ship shape before calling the job done.
If you’re feeling more adventurous and want to go for a whole new system, with new speakers and locations, you’re going to need a little more planning. Here are a few key factors to take into account while you’re planning your audio renovation.
Installing speakers in a new location can be difficult. First, you’ll need to follow your speaker’s mounting template to see what hole dimensions need to be cut, and to what depth. Before investing in new speakers, check that they will fit where you want to mount them.
Sound waves travel in certain directions, and when you mount a speaker you need to keep the direction of sound in mind. Once mounted, speaker sound direction can’t be adjusted. Some speakers can be tweaked, but most cannot. That’s why you need to place them correctly from the beginning.
They should face towards the area of your boat where you want your music to be heard the most. And that’s not all. You also have to consider the balance of sound too. Sound needs to be heard by both the left ear and the right ear, and that’s why most speakers are mounted to the left and right sides of a boat or car.
Finally, you should be aware of what kind of speakers that you want. Do you need large bass units that can really thump out low sounds, or do you need a couple of extra tweeters to enhance your treble?
You are at the mercy of your boat’s size, really. We recommend finding speakers that deliver the best sound but take up as little space as possible. After all, you’re on a boat, where space is always at a premium.
Magnets and compasses don’t mix. Speakers require magnets, and navigation requires a compass. Or rather, it used to. Nowadays, most people don’t rely on manual compasses, but there are still devices out there that can be affected by magnets, and the last thing you need when you’re out on the water is distorted readings.
If you want to install speakers near any of your navigational equipment, ensure that they have magnetic shielding. If they don’t, mount them as far away from your navigation gear as possible.
An amp is an essential piece of audio equipment if you really want to get the most out of your speakers. A set of speakers can be rated at any power, be it 100 watts or 300 watts, but they’ll never reach that kind of output on their own. They’re at the mercy of the stereo’s maximum power output. An amplifier can boost an audio signal from a stereo and amplify it to a louder volume without distorting the sound.
If you want to install an amplifier, make sure you get yourself a marine amplifier that has been built to withstand marine environments and all the salt and spray that goes along with it.
Lastly, there’s the matter of your budget. Audio equipment can cost as little as a few dollars to tens of thousands. We recommend that you set yourself a realistic budget and stick to it. This budget should reflect how much you’re willing to pay and how much you actually use your boat. If you use your boat for an hour, one day of the year, then don’t spend much on a new speaker system. However, if you spend all of your time on board, then treat yourself to something decent.
What’s the best speaker option for your boat? There’s no single product that’s the best. What works for one boater might not suit another. Still, if we had to choose a top three, for different criteria, these would be our favorite options:
If you’re looking to spend less, then the Pyle Dual 6.5-inch speakers offer great value for money. These budget units are well-made, weatherproof, and offer high quality audio playback with a broad frequency response. Installation is easy and painless, and each unit ships with a 1 year warranty from the manufacturer.
At the other end of spectrum—but still not at all overpriced or reserved for the mega wealthy—we would recommend the Rockville RWB80B 8” Speakers. They’re more expensive than others on the list, but they’re designed to deliver big sound in a tough environment. They’re made for wakeboarding towers, so you can get an idea of just how robust (and loud) these speakers have to be.
Lastly, we’d say that the overall best marine speakers, that aren’t too cheap and aren’t too expensive, would be the Polk Audio DB521 speaker system. These offer the best value for money, with great sound quality, in a durable package that won’t let you down, for a price that won’t leave you bankrupt.
Joe Appleton is an outdoor enthusiast who loves everything from bushcraft and hiking to wild camping and boating. If he’s not out in the woods, you’ll find him out on the water.