A successful journalist and news reporter in the past, George is now focused on freelance work to be able to dedicate more time to the most important things in his life: family, friends, his dogs, and fishing.
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Last updated: July 20, 2021
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Getting out on the water is always great, and being able to take your favorite music out there too is even better. To do that, you’re going to need a stereo system that can stand up to the sea and the sun. This article is designed to help you find the best marine stereo, so read on.
We’ve examined 34 different marine stereo systems out there and picked ten that we liked the most. We’ve set them out in order of preference so that you stand a far better chance of finding the ideal marine stereo for you. The system at the top of our list is the Editor’s Choice, and we loved the Fusion MS-RA70 because it has that all-important IPX7 rating, can be mounted flat or flush, and looks absolutely fantastic too. If this unit doesn’t float your particular boat, however, don’t panic. We’ve reviewed nine other great marine stereos, all with their own unique attributes.
Taking any item of electronic equipment out on the water presents a certain number of technical challenges for the manufacturer, and we’ve tried to look at the most important of those. We’ve spent many hours sifting through customer feedback and even asked experts to help us. The fact of the matter is that the best marine stereo needs to have at least some fundamental protections built-in. Water, sun, and salt resistance are vital to ensuring performance and longevity, while factors like power, media options, size, mounting options, and even warranties will also go a long way to making your listening experience great. In this article, you’ll find detailed reviews of each product and a handy buying guide that can help you find the best marine stereo system out there.
The first marine stereo we are going to review is the excellent Fusion MS-RA70, and this unit makes the very top of our list for several reasons. The first thing you’ll notice about the Fusion MS-RA70 is that it looks absolutely fantastic. The panel on this marine stereo is sleek and modern, and the manufacturer hasn’t complicated the design of the interface one little bit. It’s sleek, great to look at, and functional.
In terms of sound, the Fusion MS-RA70 packs quite a punch. You get a 4x50w class-A amplifier built-in, and that’s controllable via two zones. The Fusion MS-RA70 connects seamlessly with both iPhones and Android devices, and there’s Bluetooth, as well as a rear USB connection available.
In short, this stereo is very reliable, and it’s a simple fit. The Fusion MS-RA70 is our Editor’s Choice pick because it sounds great and looks the part. It’s worth noting, however, that while this unit has all the power you’ll need to listen to music on the water, you might want to consider a separate amplifier if you’re going to use it while you’re moving at speed in a more powerful boat. All in all, this is one of the best marine stereos on the market.
Next up on our list of the ten greatest marine stereos available to buy is the BOSS Audio MGR350B.6, and this is a gauge-sized marine stereo head unit. The BOSS unit comes with a very generous 3-year warranty, and that speaks volumes about the confidence the manufacturer has in this product.
The BOSS Audio MGR350B.6 comes in a package that includes a pair of speakers, and this unit boasts a healthy IPX6 rating, so it’ll take most of the abuse the sea can throw at it.
Connectivity is excellent on this model, and you get Bluetooth built-in as standard. The BOSS Audio MGR350B.6 is compatible with any smartphone, laptop, tablet, or MP3 player.
There’s also a USB port present on the BOSS Audio MGR350B.6, and the AUX port enables you to use those smartphones hard-wired if Bluetooth isn’t your thing. If you crave more bass, there’s a subwoofer output, and the whole unit is well provided with both input and output options. Some customers reported display condensation problems. However, it was not a common issue. Overall, the BOSS Audio MGR350B.6 is a good marine stereo, which many sailors recommend.
Making it into third place on our list of the ten best marine amplifiers on the market is the Kenwood KMR-M325BT, and this stereo comes in a package that includes four speakers – each rated at 400 Watts of peak power – and a 40-inch antenna.
One of the nicest features on the Kenwood KMR-M325BT is the convenient variable color display – this will be a great advantage if you are going to be using your boat and this stereo in bright sunlight. The Kenwood KMR-M325BT is also compatible with both iPhones and Android devices.
The Kenwood KMR-M325BT has that all-important Bluetooth connectivity built-in, and you get full EQ control on this model, which is a lovely touch from the manufacturer. There’s also a front panel-mounted USB port, which makes connecting any device to the unit easy.
Kenwood does say that the Kenwood KMR-M325BT is a water-resistant marine stereo. However, it’s unclear just how water-resistant this device actually is. Caution should be employed in terms of siting the unit, but Kenwood does offer a 30-day return guarantee in case there are any problems.
Why did it make our list?
Handy single din mounting
Variable color display
Speakers and antenna included
What is not ideal about it?
Water-resistant rating is not specified
Some problems reported with failure due to moisture ingress
Next up on our list of the ten best marine-rated stereos is the JVC KD-X35MBS. This unit is another handy single din stereo, and the water-resistance here is pretty much flawless – with the JVC KD-X35MBS boasting an excellent IPX7 rating against moisture ingress.
That’s not where the great features stop, however, and the JVC KD-X35MBS also comes with a special anti-rust coating, which should greatly prolong the life of this unit when it’s frequently used out at sea.
There is a fantastic social feel to the JVC KD-X35MBS, courtesy of its JVC Streaming DJ feature, which allows up to five people to connect via Bluetooth simultaneously. That gets the party started by giving everyone a turn at choosing the tunes – but beware – you might face a few arguments if you let the kids loose!
The JVC KD-X35MBS also features a thirteen-band graphic equalizer, so it should sound fantastic, no matter what those multiple DJs choose to play. There’s a front-mounted AUX port, just in case you don’t want to use the built-in Bluetooth. It’s possible to control this unit remotely, but you’ll need to make a separate purchase. Additionally, some shipping issues might occur, but no need to worry since your money is safe.
The Aquatic AV AQ-MP-5BT is another modern-looking, well-designed piece of equipment, and it will really look the part on just about any boat out there.
First up, the Aquatic AV AQ-MP-5BT comes with Bluetooth capability and works with just about any smartphone or MP3 device out there. The FM radio features thirty presets, which makes it a fantastic option for anyone who likes to listen to the radio when they are out on the water. If security is an issue for you, then the Aquatic AV AQ-MP-5BT has an old-school removable faceplate, and the stereo is basically worthless to any thief without that.
The incorporated amplifier here is a very impressive 288 Watts, which is enough to power quite a substantial set-up. You can also connect up to a maximum of eight different speakers to the Aquatic AV AQ-MP-5BT, so all in all, this model offers the scope to build yourself a very powerful and intricate sound system. Unfortunately, not everyone found this unit quite reliable.
The next marine stereo on our list of the ten best is the excellently priced Pyle PLMR27BTB, and this model takes the Best Budget title. It’s hard to get past the extremely good value for money that the Pyle PLMR27BTB represents. The manufacturer really has pulled out all the stops here to produce a marine stereo that gives far more than you would ever expect to get from a unit at this price point.
The first surprise comes when you realize that the Pyle PLMR27BTB comes complete with remote control, which is a very unusual inclusion on this list, and in the general marine stereo market.
The Pyle PLMR27BTB is capable of running a whopping 300 Watts, and that is divided into four 75 Watt output channels. You also get EQ control, Bluetooth connectivity, and this marine stereo will work with both Android devices and iPhones. However, there is poor customer service. Some people also noticed that these units are not very durable.
There’s an AUX port, a USB port, and an SD slot on the front panel, and this unit is standard single din mounting. The last thing missing here is an explanation of how Pyle has managed to do this for the money – an outstanding budget option.
Here we have the Sony DSX-M55BT. The first thing to say about this unit is that it comes with Bluetooth technology built-in. The Sony DSX-M55BT features a front-facing USB port, and you can hook up to most devices via that option, plus this unit supports MP3, WMA, WAV, and FLAC files.
This is a fairly nice looking marine stereo, it has a traditional appearance, reminiscent of a car stereo unit, and the interface is pretty clear, sleek, and promotes ease of use. There is a Mega Bass function built into this model, which will make music easier to listen to when you’re traveling at speed out on the water, and the EQ control will not hurt the sound from this unit.
For a marine stereo of this price, it’s a pleasant surprise to see that Sony offers a remote control unit as standard with this particular model. Nevertheless, these units could be more durable. All in all, the Sony DSX-M55BT is a reasonably priced marine stereo from a manufacturer with a good reputation.
The next marine stereo on our list of the ten best marine stereos available to buy is the Infinity INF-PRV250. This marine stereo comes fully equipped with Bluetooth, as you’d expect, so you can use this unit with any device that also comes with that function.
The built-in amplifier here offers impressive 200 Watts, and that’s channeled through four 50 Watt outputs, giving you a versatile stereo. With the Infinity INF-PRV250, you also get a USB port, as well as a pair of RCA outputs.
This marine stereo is great to look at, and it does have some handy features and attributes. One of the most noticeable things about the Infinity INF-PRV250, however, is that it comes a bit smaller than 2-din size. Whilst the bigger faceplate may allow for a more visible interface, it’s worth remembering that if you do want to swap this unit out for a different one in the future, you’re unlikely to be able to find one the same size – and that might present the need for some cosmetic work on your boat. Moreover, some customers mentioned problems with buttons.
The next radio on our list of the ten best marine stereos on the market is the gauge-shaped Rockville RGHR2. The first thing you’ll notice about this particular marine stereo is that the manufacturer got the design process right – it looks compact, attractive, and the controls are clearly laid out.
The Rockville RGHR2 comes with a wired remote control that has a range of just over 30-feet. While a wired version can be more cumbersome than a wireless remote control, a hard-wired version guarantees the reliability, which can often be an issue at sea.
There’s a USB port on this model, and the unit is reasonably powerful, too – putting out four separate 72 Watt feeds. The Rockville RGHR2 also comes with a built-in EQ controller, and you can choose from four presets. The Rockville RGHR2 is IP-rated at IP66, which makes it more than capable of standing up to the elements. However, the media functions are not that impressive compared to premium models. All in all, this unit is a convenient, easy to install option that will appeal to many sailors.
Last on our list of the ten best marine stereos on the market is the compact JBL PRV175. This radio certainly looks the part and fits in a standard gauge opening, so it will be relatively easy to install. The controls are clearly marked and sensibly laid out, and the display looks precisely how you would want a boat stereo display to look.
This isn’t the most powerful marine stereo available to buy with just 4x 45 Watts. However, that will be enough to do the job for many boating enthusiasts. You get USB, AUX, and the all-important Bluetooth on the JBL PRV175, and all the basic features you would want to see are present and correct. Water-resistance here is an impressive IP66, which should make this stereo suitable for most weather and conditions at sea.
One thing to note here is that although the JBL PRV175 is controllable remotely, you will need to spend extra and order that unit separately, but this isn’t a ridiculously expensive marine stereo, so the extra spending may be worth it if this unit seems like the one to suit your needs.
Why are we impressed?
Remote control compatible
AUX, USB, Bluetooth
Easy to install
What negatives must you be aware of?
Reliability and quality issues
Could be more powerful
Things to Consider
If you’re going to find the best marine stereo receiver for your needs, you’ll need to know about some of the essential features and attributes that these water-going sound systems possess. Our buying guide will look at things like sizes, connectivity, and water resistance. We’ll also delve into what makes a great marine stereo system and check out the importance of pre-amps and speaker ratings, as well as the prices of stereo systems in this section.
How to pick the best marine stereo
The success when selecting your perfect marine stereo system is going to come down to if you have a realistic idea about what you need from your unit. As you’ll discover in our buying guide, marine stereo systems come in many different forms and have a range of features and ratings, so they’re not all created the same way. The best marine stereo system for you will be the one that fits your lifestyle out on the water and can withstand the demands of how you use it. Remember to think about the environment your system will be exposed to, and the sound quality you want to have, then look for the features that make up the marine stereo you need.
Size matters when it comes to choosing the ideal marine stereo system for your own needs. You’ll find that the systems in our review section come in a range of shapes and sizes. Some marine stereos conform to standard stereo head sizes, such as a single din unit like the Sony DSX-M55BT. Other stereos are made so that they can be mounted within standard gauge housings, and this makes them easy to install. The JBL PRV175 is a great example of a gauge stereo unit. Certain marine stereos come in non-standard sizes, such as the Infinity INF-PRV250.
Power matters more if you intend to have a larger stereo system with a higher number of speakers, or incorporating more powerful speakers – or both. If you are looking to connect up to 8 speakers, the Aquatic AV AQ-MP-5BT will do just fine. This marine stereo also offers 288 Watts of power.
You’ll need to pay careful attention to the power rating of your stereo unit and make sure that you don’t exceed the total number of watts it can supply when you buy your speakers.
These days, we don’t use magnetic tape or even CDs to store our music, and audio is delivered digitally in files. Audio files come in different formats, such as MP3, WAV, and WMA files. Free Lossless Audio Codec files, also known as FLAC files, are the preference of many music enthusiasts because this format compresses the data similar way as an MP3 file without any loss in the quality of the music. It’s essential that you look for a stereo with your own preferred file compatibility.
Marine stereo systems come with a range of options for connections, and it’s vital you examine each unit that you are considering to make sure that they offer the options you will need. Buying a marine stereo is no different from buying any other piece of audio equipment when it comes to connection methods. If you predominantly use Bluetooth to connect your phone, tablet, or even a laptop to a speaker or other piece of audio equipment, then make sure that you look at marine stereos that have Bluetooth connectivity built-in. The Aquatic AV AQ-MP-5BT is a stereo in our review section worth looking at if Bluetooth is your go-to method of connecting to the audio kit. Other marine stereo systems use a simple auxiliary port (AUX) or may feature a USB port – like the BOSS Audio MGR350B.6. Some systems will have an SD card slot (the Pyle PLMR27BTB is a great example of a system with an SD slot) so that you can quickly transfer music files from a laptop or phone if you don’t want to risk taking it on board.
When you are looking around at different marine stereo systems, you will notice that most, if not all, marine audio equipment feature a water resistance rating. If you’re unsure where to find this, it will be represented by the letters IP, followed by two figures. This is what is known as a standard IP-rating, and it refers to protection levels against the ingress of both water and particles, such as dust.
When you read an IP-rating, the first figure relates to particles, and the second figure refers to the ingress of moisture.
Marine environments can be extremely harsh when it comes to electronic equipment of any kind. Therefore, the higher the numbers in an IP-rating, the better.
Consider buying the Fusion MS-RA70 if you need to prioritize water resistance and are seeking out the best waterproof marine stereo.
As we all know, the sun can do as much damage as the sea over time, and UV levels can be ramped up significantly out on the water. Just as you wouldn’t dream of subjecting yourself to sun-glare from the reflective surface of the sea on a hot day without applying some sun-block, it’s also vital to consider the implications of UV damage for your sea-going electronic equipment. If you tend to fish or get on the water in a hotter climate, it’s an excellent idea to make sure that the marine stereo you’re looking at has a decent level of UV protection.
Salt water protection
The marine environment threatens many ways to damage sensitive or fragile electronic equipment, and salt water is undoubtedly on the list. Not only will salt quickly cause problems internally in the case of marine stereos and other similar items of equipment, but unprotected casings and housings will rapidly corrode too.
Marine-friendly coatings and high-grade stainless steel housings are a massive plus when it comes to sea-going electronic equipment and hardware, and they will prolong the life of your marine stereo.
Taking to the sea means subjecting yourself, your boat, and your marine stereo system to the elements. That can include the full force of a glaring sun when the weather is ideal for sailing. While this is a great scenario if you want to get a suntan, it can be problematic when it comes to electronic visual displays of all sorts. Most of us will experience difficulties when attempting to read our phone screen on a very sunny day, and marine stereo displays can be the same. Some systems, such as the excellent Kenwood KMR-M325BT in our review section, incorporate a feature that allows you to change the color of the text on your stereo display. Green text can be easier to see in strong sunlight, so this is another excellent option to look out for if you live and boat in sunnier climes.
A good warranty offers peace of mind. Knowing you’re covered against faulty workmanship and breakdowns is always preferable to having to pay out more money when something goes wrong. A decent warranty with a reasonably long period also signals that a manufacturer has confidence in the product they’ve designed and produced – and that’s never a bad thing.
You can get a 3-year limited warranty with the BOSS Audio MGR350B.6. Not only the manufacturer makes sure that the product will last, but also many people admit the high quality of this marine stereo.
Other useful features
Other things you may well want to consider when you’re looking for your marine stereo system are features, which just make using the unit slightly more convenient. It’s surprising how specific design features, which seem insignificant, can make a massive difference to user experience. Options such as app compatibility, a remote control unit, EQ, and even included speakers and cables will make your life a lot easier. You can check for remote controls and antennas included too.
A look at our review section will reveal the marine stereos that sit across an extensive range of pricing. It’s possible to go out and buy one for as little as $35 – as in the case of the Pyle PLMR27BTB. Although the price tag for this model is low, you will get everything you might need.
Next, you can spend as much as $250 on the premium system like the Fusion MS-RA70, which boasts impressive sound quality, high water resistance, and sleek design.
Whether or not you need an amplifier will depend on the type and number of speakers you intend to connect to your new marine stereo unit. If you exceed the recommended rating of the stereo, then you’ll need to add a separate amplifier to the overall system. In some cases, when the stereo incorporates a built-in pre-amp, you might not have to do so. It’s always a good idea to carefully consider the ratings and recommendations for each marine stereo before you make a purchase. An additional amplifier can increase the volume level of your system, as well.
The simple answer to this question is that a high IP-rating doesn’t necessarily mean that a unit is completely waterproof. Submersion in water is an entirely different prospect to a situation where a piece of electronic equipment gets subjected to splashes or high humidity. A look at the official IP-rating definition reveals that only a water ingress rating of seven or higher guarantees varying levels of submersion protection. Usually, these units have the protection for their faceplates, which is essential to stop the water from getting inside.
The best place to mount a marine stereo is usually in the single din slot if there’s one provided on the dash or console of your boat. Some stereos offer more than one mounting option and can be installed either flat or flush. If it is a gauge-sized model, you will need to find a proper gauge hole on your dashboard. As long as you remember to follow all manufacturer recommendations for the unit you’ve purchased, and to consider the IP-rating and capabilities of the stereo you’re installing, you’re free to go ahead and install the unit in a way that suits the overall look and feel of your boat.
So, we’ve looked in detail at some of the best marine stereo options available on the market today, and we’ve also learned much about the attributes and features, which make up the different styles of stereo out there.
The model that came out well and truly on the top of the heap, however, is the brilliant Fusion MS-RA70. We loved pretty much everything about this sea-going audio gem, and it has incredible mounting options.
Just missing out on our Editor’s Choice award, but still representing an excellent option for any boating enthusiast who likes to rock and roll while they, well, rock and roll, is the BOSS Audio MGR350B.6. This unit has basically got everything that most sailors will need in order to listen to music out on the water. We absolutely loved the unique shape of this stereo.
Making up the final place in our top three is the very useful Kenwood KMR-M325BT. This unit comes in an excellent package that includes speakers and features a great display.
We hope that this information was helpful. All what’s left to do is to get the best marine radio and enjoy your leisure time listening to your favorite songs!