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Buying a new boat radio isn’t as straightforward as buying a new car stereo system. Anything that’s ocean-bound needs to be built from sterner stuff, with materials that can resist water, sun, and salt but with enough power to deliver high-quality audio over the roar of the engine and the splash of the sea. Searching around for a new marine stereo requires a little more effort than you might’ve thought!
This guide on boat radios is specifically focused on marine stereos: audio devices for playing music and other media. It’s best not to confuse this with VHF communication systems. VHF radios are an essential part of boating; audio players are luxury items.
Some marine radios for boats are equipped with some kind of VHF communication systems, but the vast majority are not. To make your boating experience as safe and enjoyable as possible, we recommend that you invest in a dedicated VHF boat radio, as well as one of these marine stereo systems. And while you’re at it, a GPS system won’t hurt either!
So, without further ado, lets take a look at the best marine stereo system and boat radio products the market has to offer!
Fusion’s MS-RA70 is a small and stylish boat radio that comes jam packed with top of the line features—all for a relatively cheap price. It comes equipped with the latest marine technology, along with everything that you’d expect from a quality Fusion marine stereo. If you’re not familiar with the Fusion brand name, it’s a company that’s partnered with Garmin, so you can depend on the quality of their products.
The MS-RA70 is designed to fit any standard DIN sized recess without the need to cut new holes or reconfigure anything. It can be mounted directly into the dash with a flush finish, and into most generic mounting areas. If you’re looking for easy boat radio installation, this one is as simple as they come.
It’s also marine-ready, since it’s manufactured from tough and durable components, including an optically bonded glass display, that offers IPX6-rated water-resistance when mounted properly.
This Fusion boat radio is a 4 x 50W class A amplifier with a wide range of cool features. It comes equipped with advanced Bluetooth operation for seamless streaming of music and media from your Bluetooth-enabled devices. There’s also an AUX-in, USB port, and of course, AM/FM radio.
One of the most interesting features is the Fusion-Link app compatibility. This app connects your smartphone directly to the device, allowing you to use your phone as a wireless remote control, controlling the source navigation, track selection, and radio stations all from your phone’s interface.
First up, we have this sleek and compact, budget-friendly marine stereo from Boss Audio. It’s a circular gauge-style radio, which is ideal for mounting on your boat’s dashboard along with your other instrumentation.
Manufactured from high-quality, weatherproof, and marine-quality materials, the MGR350B can resist water (with an IPX6 rating), defends against UV damage, and delivers quality audio from an easy-to-use, unobtrusive interface—all for a bargain price.
This Boss Audio unit has everything you’d expect from an entertainment system. It can play audio files directly from SD Cards, USB drives, and external devices. Audio streaming using Bluetooth technology is possible, allowing you to use Spotify and Pandora on the go. There’s an Aux input for Smartphone and MP3 player connectivity, and a USB port that can be used to stream files, and charge devices.
Other features include a standard FM radio, RDS tuner, pre-amp outputs, preset equalization, and more. Since it’s a compact unit, there’s no provision for CDs to be played, but given the amount of other audio input methods, not having a CD player isn’t going to stop your fun.
Installation is easy, with the device mounting in a 3 inch hole, and each package ships with an antenna, and a 3 year manufacturer’s warranty. It’s easily the best budget boat radio with Bluetooth on the market that’s actually weather resistant too!
Compact boat AM FM radio
IPX6 water resistance
Product Weight: 1.1 lbs
Product Dimensions: 3.5” x 3.5” x 3.5”
Warranty: 3 year manufacturer’s warranty
Next, we have another budget-friendly option. This time, it’s from Sony. Since it’s from Sony, you can depend on a certain quality standard, and can rest assured knowing that you’re not buying junk. What makes this such an interesting purchase is the fact that it’s a boat radio and speakers. That’s pretty decent value for money.
It should be said that while the marine stereo section of this product is excellent, the marine speakers aren’t quite as “marine” as they could be. However, if you’re careful with them and keep them protected from the elements, they can last a long time.
Like most marine stereos, this one is fashioned like regular car stereos: with a faceplate that inserts into your dashboard or center console. However, unlike car stereos, this one is made from water resistant materials (with an IPX5 rating), complete with UV protection, an anti-glare display, and a specialized circuit board coating that keeps salt and spray from harming your electrics.
This Sony marine stereo system features integrated Bluetooth technology for easy wireless connection to your devices, USB and AUX inputs, SiriusXM satellite radio compatibility, and full playback support for a variety of file types, including MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV, FLAC, and more.
If you’re looking for all-inclusive marine stereo packages that won’t break the budget, then this should be on your list. It’s a great boat audio system.
Single DIN boat radio with Bluetooth
IPX5 water resistance
Product Weight: 1.54 lbs
Product Dimensions: 7” x 1.97” x 4.72”
Warranty: Optional but not included as standard
This Infinity marine stereo is a tough and robust digital receiver that can stream media in the great outdoors. It’s a versatile receiver that’s designed specifically for outdoor use, making it an ideal option for you truck, jeep, snowmobile, or boat.
It’s small and compact in design, and it’s made out of durable, weather-resistant materials. The faceplate is marine-rated waterproof tight, with a water-resistant finish, making it ideal for marine use. It also features a UV-resistant face to keep sun damage to a minimum, along with a cool LED display that lets you know what you’re listing to and other important details. Each pack includes a 50W x 4 amplifier, and one pair of RCA outputs.
In terms of features, the Infinity INF-PRV250 Multimedia Receiver is equipped with AM/FM radio, Bluetooth capabilities, AUX inputs, and USB compatibility. You can play music directly from the radio, or you can stream it through a smartphone, or play your existing files via USB technology.
It doesn’t have CD compatibility, and it also doesn’t have a satellite radio receiver. However, it does have a number of extra connectors, such as rear-mounted preamp outputs, that will allow you enhance and expand your system with additional equipment later on.
This is a great little marine audio radio receiver: it’s small and compact with a sleek and stylish design, all for a reasonable price.
Bluetooth compatible marine stereo system
LED screen, with large button interface
Marine-quality but can be used on other vehicles
Product Weight: 2 lbs
Product Dimensions: 6” x 4” x 2.5”
Warranty: 1 year manufacturer’s warranty
5. Kenwood KMRD765BT Marine CD Receiver with Bluetooth
Kenwood is one of the biggest names in the audio industry, and the brands products aren’t limited to car stereos and home audio systems. They also produce impressive marine-quality audio and entertainment products too. This model, the Kenwood KMRD765BT, is one of their more budget-friendly boat radios.
It’s a tough and durable radio system, with a theft deterrent faceplate (TDF) which can be removed and stored separately. Built with marine-focused parts and components, the KMRD765BT resists water, is corrosion proof, and can handle a few sprays here and there.
The Kenwood KMRD765BT supports HD radio, NFC (near field communication) radio, and it also plays CDs too! It’s compatible with a wide range of media files, including MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV, FLAC, and more. The smart LCD display also shows your media’s ID tags, so you know what track is playing. This Kenwood stereo has two USB inputs, which can be used for direct streaming from iPods, iPhones, Android devices, and USB memory sticks, as well as regular device charging.
It has received its fair share of negative reviews though. When we installed it, it was no problem at all. Most issues seem to be with the setup, though one or two mention the menu function being a little problematic. As long as you know what you’re doing for the installation, you should have no issues with this excellent Kenwood marine stereo system.
Inputs include Bluetooth, AUX, radio, USB, and CD
Multiple equalization settings
Fully iPhone and Android compatible
Product Weight: 3.5 lbs
Product Dimensions: 9” x 9.5” x 4”
Warranty: Only the face plate is covered under Kenwood’s warranty
Best Overall Choice
6. JBL PRV-175 Marine Digital Media Bluetooth Receiver
JBL is a popular manufacturer of speakers, stereo systems, and other audio equipment. This American company’s marine stereo range is particularly impressive. The PRV-175 Marine Digital Media Bluetooth receiver is a great product that offers high quality audio, a practical and intuitive interface, at a reasonable price point.
JBL’s marine audio package is based around a stylish, circular gauge-style receiver that’s built from tough, water-resistant materials. There’s a water-resistant and dustproof rubber cover, UV-resistant components, and a water tight and water-proof main chamber that will successfully keep out salt, sun, and moisture when you’re out on the water.
The actual receiver has Bluetooth compatibility, allowing you to stream music from your devices. There’s also an auxiliary input, a USB input, and a cool AUX to USB converter. Naturally, it also boasts an AM/FM radio, which features a top notch Enrock radio antenna, which is one of the best boat radio antenna arrangements available.
There’s also room for expansion too, with hidden, rear-mounted preamp outputs which can be connected to a marine amp later on.
This marine radio also features a fancy LED display that lets you know what station you’re tuned to, and what song you’re listening too. It’s a cool little system, and it’s easy to see why it tops the list of best sellers time and time again.
Product Weight: 2.25 lbs
Product Dimensions: 4” x 4” x 5”
Warranty: 1 year hassle-free warranty
7. Clarion CMS20 Digital Media Receiver
The Clarion CMS20 is an excellent marine stereo. This boat radio has been designed from the ground-up to offer exceptional audio quality through an intuitive interface that can withstand a high level of marine-based punishment. Tucked away in an unassuming black box, this Clarion boat radio is one of the best available.
It’s designed for real marine durability. Once the black box is installed properly, full control of the device is given to the IPX6-rated wired controller, which is 100% watertight and tough enough to handle the most challenging weather conditions and environments. It can resist salt water, UV sunlight, and the effects of heavy fog and heavy rain.
The overall design has also been engineered for maximum functionality. It features an LCD display that can display up to four lines of text, making menu navigation and mode selection simple and hassle free. That’s fairly useful, since the Clarion CMS20 has a lot of features to explore.
The CMS20 comes equipped with an AM/FM and Weather Band tuner, with full Bluetooth compatibility that allows you to stream music directly from your Bluetooth-enabled devices. There’s also a USB port that can play MP3 and WMA files from USB thumb drives. It’s also SiriusXM satellite radio ready too, but that tuner isn’t included.
It’s also a great starter block for building your own personalized stereo system, since it features a built-in amp, 3-band parametric equalization, and it boasts three pairs of preamp outputs too. If you’re looking for something tough, robust, and infinitely expandable, then this could be the best boat radio for you.
Global AM/FM/Weather Band tuner
Stylish, unassuming “black box” design
Product Weight: 10 lbs
Product Dimensions: 6 7/8” x 2” x 6 3/4”
Warranty: 1 year manufacturer’s warranty
8. Rockford Fosgate Punch Marine PMX-2 Media Receiver
Rockford Fosgate’s PMX-2 receiver is one of the best marine stereo systems available. It’s a tough and compact receiver that has been specifically designed for both marine and motorsports applications—which should be more than enough to convince you to give one a try. It’s not designed for the odd sprinkle of rain: it’s designed for aggressive and treacherous conditions.
It’s a compact system built around a 2.7 inch color TFT screen, which is both water-resistant and glare resistant too. The entire faceplate can withstand direct water and UV rays, while the internals have a special coating that protects the electronics. All in, it’s IPX6 rated, and it truly can handle the worst of weathers without losing functionality.
The system features an integrated 4x50W 2-Ohm stable amplifier that can be connected to your existing marine speakers. It can stream content using Bluetooth audio streaming, which also includes album artwork, Pandora control compatibility, via an AUX-in, or through the integrated USB port (which also has a charging function). A wide selection of equalization controls are also available.
One of the most interesting features that the Rockford Fosgate Punch Marine PMX-2 Media Receiver has to offer isn’t even related to the audio systems. It has a very useful voltage gauge alert function which warns you when your boat’s battery’s voltage falls below a certain amount, giving you time to start your engine and recharge the system. You wouldn’t want to be left stranded out on the water, would you?
2.7” full color TFT display
IPX6 water-resistance, for marine and motorsport applications
Advanced voltage alarm system
Product Weight: 2.2 lbs
Product Dimensions: 4.1” x 2.6” x 1.0”
Warranty: Full 2 year warranty
Buying A Boat Radio System: A Buying Guide
There’s a wide range of marine stereos on the market, and if you don’t do your research you may end up throwing your money at a piece of junk. Unlike car stereos, marine stereos have to be tough, durable, robust, easy to operate, with enough volume output to overpower engine noise. If you thought you could just install a car stereo system into your boat’s dash, then think again. Boat radios are on an entirely different level!
What Is A Marine Stereo System?
While a boat radio has most of the same features as your car’s stereo system, it’s made out of tougher and more durable components. This is because boats have to face far more challenging conditions than your car endures. A car stereo sits comfortable inside a watertight cabin, and is almost never directly exposed to the elements. A marine stereo system, on the other hand, is at the mercy of the weather, from punishing sunshine to persistent rain, with wind, and salt water spray making it even more dangerous. That’s why it’s important to invest in a real marine-grade system that’s designed and built with these key features in mind:
Key Features To Look Out For
Water resistance is one of the most important things a marine stereo needs. Water resistance means that an object can withstand light splashes, spray, and rain but not submersion. If something is waterproof then it can be submerged to a degree. Water-resistance and waterproofing vary in levels, so it’s best to consult the manufacturer and see what rating each item has to determine what’s best for your needs.
Since you’re on a boat, contact with water is more-or-less inevitable, so water resistance is essential.
In the event that water does get into your system, or near to it, you’re going to want some kind of corrosion protection. Salt water can wreak havoc with both metal and electrical components, so it’s essential that any metal is rust-resistant, and that any internal electrics and circuit boards have a special anti-corrosion coating, and plated components. Salt can be a real nightmare for boaters.
UV resistance is one of the most overlooked features for marine and outdoor stereo systems. Most boats are exposed to the elements, and one of the most punishing elements of all is the sun. UV rays can cause damage to just about anything, so it’s important to have some UV protection. That doesn’t just count for your receiver; your speaker cones, and any remote controls should also have UV protection.
While this isn’t one of the most important features that a marine or boat radio system needs to have, a display that you can actually read is fairly useful. You’d be surprised how many media systems out there can’t be seen in full sunlight, even with your hand to shade it from the sun. Read the reviews of any potential system you’re thinking of buying and see if anyone has mentioned finding the display difficult to read!
It’s important to invest in a system that can play your media loud. While loud music is great, it actually needs to be loud for marine applications. Your boat radio has to be powerful enough to be heard over the sound of engines, waves, and wind. For the best results, you’re going to need a set of marine speakers, and for those speakers to work, you’ll need a unit that can amplify the sound. Searching for a marine stereo with a number of outputs is a great way to get big volume.
A higher power rating is advised for boaters who are sailing in noisy and challenging conditions. However, if you’re on calmer waters, then a high-powered system probably won’t be necessary.
Fit & Installation
Before you hit the “buy” button, think about where you’re going to place your new boat radio. If your boat already has a slot ready to accommodate a regular DIN sized radio, then installation will be easy. However, if you’re looking at something different, or if your dash doesn’t have a specific mount, you’re going to have to be creative to install your new radio.
You may need to cut out parts of your dash, and you may need to fill in old holes. If you’ve got your eye on a particularly complicated looking radio, then you should do a little research first to ensure that you’ll be able to wire it up and install it without giving yourself too much of a headache.
There’s more to modern audio systems than a CD slot. Today, radios are very advanced and can play a wide range of media, from a variety of different sources. Here are some of the different types that you should be looking out for.
AM/FM Radio: Almost all marine stereos are equipped with an internal AM/FM radio system which can pick up and broadcast local radio stations, and important weather reports. Having this feature is fairly essential when you’re out on the water.
AUX: An AUX-in connector is fairly standard on most modern radios, allowing you to connect a music playing device directly into your radio.
CD Player: Not all modern devices will have a CD player. CDs are on the way to becoming obsolete. However, there are a number of radios and stereos on the market that still have CD compatibility. You’ll need one of these if your music collection is still on disc!
USB & SD Storage Devices: Many modern marine stereos will have a USB port, but some will also have an SD card reader. Both USB sticks and SD cards can be used to store media which your stereo can play back. The most popular file types are MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV, and FLAC.
Bluetooth Streaming: Bluetooth technology is installed in most modern stereo systems. This allows for wireless communication between two devices. This means that you can synchronize your phone with your boat radio, and play songs from your own collection without having to plug anything in.
SiriusXM Satellite Radio: The most advanced boat radios on the market are SiriusXM satellite radio-ready. This means they can be upgraded with a satellite radio that’s sold separately. A satellite radio allows you to tune into almost any radio station in the world, from as far away as 200 miles off shore!
The addition of a SiriusXM satellite radio isn’t the only way to expand your system. For those looking for the ultimate stereo experience, it’s worth looking for a system that can be added to and expanded. Multiple preamp outputs make it easier for you to connect more speakers, amplifiers, and subwoofers, to give you the ultimate marine audio experience. Some can even be expanded to operate with remote controls, allowing our passengers to wirelessly control the music while you’re concentrating on steering the ship!
Lastly, it’s always important to look at what’s included with your purchase. Or, more importantly, what’s not included. Speakers are only included in certain marine stereo and speakers packages; radio antennas aren’t always included; wiring connectors usually come with the purchase, but make sure before you hit the “buy” button.
In Summary: What’s The Best Boat Radio System?
So what is the best marine stereo out there? The answer largely depends on your individual needs, the conditions that you’re boating in, and how deep your pockets are. If we had to whittle down our list to a top 3 or best of the best, these would be our top choices:
For boaters looking for a radio receiver that looks smart, does the job, and won’t cost the world, we’d have to recommend the Boss Audio MGR350B. This circular radio system is easy to install, and looks surprisingly expensive, considering the cheap price. It compact, waterproof, and has a long list of interesting features, including Bluetooth streaming and USB connectivity, and a sleek interface.
If you’re looking for a fully-comprehensive marine stereo system that can do pretty much everything and perform well even in the harshest weather, then we’d recommend the Rockford Fosgate PMX-2. Since it’s specifically designed for marine and motorsport activities, you can guarantee that it will handle anything you can throw at it. Plus, it has excellent audio quality, a sleek interface, and even though it’s the most expensive on the list, the price tag isn’t outrageous.
However, if we had to pick one marine stereo that offers exceptional value for money with a good selection of features, all wrapped in a tidy package, then we’d have to choose the JBL PRV-175 Marine Digital Media Bluetooth Receiver as our top all ‘rounder. It’s appropriately priced, can do pretty much everything, and it comes in a cool gauge-style shape. Plus, it comes with an advanced Enrock radio antenna, and a no-hassle 1 year warranty!
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.