Spending time on the water with friends is much more fun when you add your favorite tunes. Having a quality marine stereo is not a boating necessity, but it sure does elevate the experience — if you purchase the right stereo, that is.
Installing the wrong stereo in your boat, say one intended for vehicle use, will lead to nothing but static and headaches. A marine stereo needs to withstand the abuse of being bounced around and exposed to the elements, including the heat of the sun. The wrong stereo will not last the season.
We are here to help. By compiling reviews of the best marine stereos on the market, tips for buyers, and even answering a few common questions, it is our hope we can make you a more informed shopper.
Let’s get started with a look at the best marine stereos.
The 8 Best Marine Stereo of 2020: Outdoor Empire Reviews
- Best Budget #1: PYLE Receiver PLRMR23BTW
- Best Budget #2: BOSS Audio MGR350B
- Best for the Money #1: KENWOOD In-Dash Bundle
- Best for the Money #2: JVC In-Dash Marine Boat Bluetooth Radio
- Best High-End #1: KENWOOD Digital Yacht
- Best High-End #2: WET SOUNDS WS-MC-2
- CLARION CMS4
- FUSION ENTERTAINMENT MS-RA70
|Category||Best Budget||Best for the Money||Best High End|
|Receiver Max Power||75W x 4||50W x 4||50W x 4|
|Tuner||Stereo Radio Receiver with AM/FM Radio||AM/FM||AM/FM/Weather Band Tuner with RDS|
|Display||LCD Digital Display Panel||255 Segment 1.5 Line Text Display||2.7” Ultra Bright full color TFT|
|Receiver Dimensions||7" W x 4.3" D x 2" H||9" W x 1.95" D x 4.10" H||5.1" W x 3.1" H 2.9" D|
|Cost||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price|
1. Best Budget Marine Stereo #1: PYLE Receiver PLRMR23BTW
Think you need to spend a small fortune on your marine stereo? Think again. There are plenty of quality units available for far less money than you think, and the Pyle PLRMR23BTW is a perfect example. Not only does it have a low, low price, but it also boasts quality sound and plenty of features.
This unit resembles a traditional single DIN car stereo and installs similarly with its rectangular dash box. The package includes the necessary wiring harness, metal chassis frame bracket, outer trim cover, and remote control.
It features 300-watt peak power and EQ configuration that allows you to adjust treble, bass, balance, and fader for the best quality sound. The digital front panel features an LCD and a combination of button and knob controls.
Also located on the front panel are the AM/FM radio controls, AUX-in jack, and USB/SD slot. An RCA line-out jack is located on the rear of the unit.
Considering the low cost, this unit includes a surprising number of additional features and functions. These include Bluetooth connectivity, hands-free calling, and remote control. You can connect your smartphone or tablet and stream music or take calls directly from the stereo. It even shows the phone number on the LCD.
This is a quality unit that provides far more than expected at this price level.
- Excellent options at a fraction of the price
- Powerful 300 watts
- Ability to connect to many different devices
- Includes installation kit
- Sound quality many diminish when connected to high-end speakers
- No formal certification of water resistance
2. Best Budget Marine Stereo #2: BOSS Audio MGR350B
Gauge style stereos are becoming extremely popular with boat owners. They allow for installation in small spaces and offer a sleek, compact appearance that matches the existing layout of the dash. Thanks to Boss, you now the ability to pick one up for your boat at an economical price.
With overall dimensions of 3.5 inches by 3.5 inches by 3.8 inches and weighing only 1.1 pounds, this is an ideal option for those with limited space. Even owners of large boats will enjoy a small footprint that limits changes to the dash configuration. Many boats may already have an unused gauge space that will be a perfect fit.
Despite its small size, this unit lacks none of the features today’s music lovers want in a stereo. Front, rear, and subwoofer output allow easy hook up to speakers. The USB, auxiliary jack, and Bluetooth connection allow you to stream or download all your music when not listening to the AM/FM options.
A large LCD and easy-to-use backlit button allow for fingertip control.
The entire unit is rated IPX 6 against splash protection. The front panel is also coated for additional UV protection, while the PC board includes a conformal coating.
Those looking for a quality, inexpensive stereo without the bulk will enjoy this unit by Boss.
- Requires minimal dash space
- Multiple preset configurations for easy out of the box use
- Able to be connected to outside devices via Bluetooth, AUX jack or USB
- Includes a three-year warranty
- Wired remote must be purchased separately
- Does not include CD option
BOSS Audio MGR350B is also available at:
3. Best Marine Stereo for the Money #1: KENWOOD In-Dash Bundle
Finding a quality marine stereo is only half the battle. You also need matched speakers and an installation kit to get the tunes playing. That is what makes this Kenwood In-Dash Bundle such an attractive option. That and the low-price tag, of course. It has everything you need at a price less than some stereos alone.
The package includes Kenwood single-DIN marine stereo receiver, four EnrockMarine 6.5-inch speakers, Enrock Marine cover, and an installation kit.
The receiver offers multiple options for listening to your favorite music. Whether you enjoy local AM/FM stations, CDs, or streaming from your favorite device, it is all available to you.
The back-lit LCD allows viewing in any light conditions, and touch-button controls are aligned across the front of the panel for easy access. The speakers are also LED light for extra flair.
All components are designed to prevent water or salt damage. The conformal-coated circuit board, openings and speakers are all resistant to water, UV, and high temperatures, making it perfect for long-lasting performance in a marine environment.
- Everything you need in one package
- Includes cover for extra protection when not in use
- Skip-resistant CD player for use on the go
- Includes a one-year warranty and 30-day money-back satisfaction guarantee
- May require modification of dash area
- May not fit smaller boats with limited dash space
- Some users may prefer speakers without LED color display
4. Best Marine Stereo for the Money #2: JVC In-Dash Marine Boat Bluetooth Radio
As a leader in the audio industry, it should come as no surprise that JVC has made an appearance on this list. What is surprising is that they offer an in-dash bundle at such an affordable price. This package comes with a stereo, speakers, and wiring for less than you would expect to pay for any of them separately.
This bundle includes a JVC KDR99MBS Multi-media receiver, 2 Enrock Marine 6.5 speakers, a water-resistant, tinted shield protector, and 50 feet of Enrock 18-gauge wire.
The receiver is ready to connect to your favorite devices through the front USB port, AUX input, and Bluetooth and AndroidTM connections. There is even a CD player.
Large LCD color can be adjusted to match the existing dash display. Easy push-button controls allow you to operate options without unnecessary distractions or searching.
All equipment is certified water resistant, and the fully sealed front cover is waterproof and UV-stabilized. All mounting hardware is stainless steel and rustproof.
- Matched receiver and speakers for the best possible sound
- Weather-resistant components and waterproof cover
- Include many options for listening to other devices
- Includes CD player
- Clock display not easy to read
- Speakers are only available in white
5. Best High-End Marine Speaker #1: KENWOOD Digital Yacht
Those who genuinely enjoy their music do not want to settle for lower quality when on the water. Thanks to the Kenwood Digital Yacht, you won’t need to. Now you can have the same high-quality sound on the water as in your favorite vehicle.
This package includes a Kenwood KMRM328BT receiver, four Kenwood 6.5-inch two-way marine speakers, a Kenwood four-channel amplifier, and a 40-inch antenna — everything you need in a single package.
The receiver is a marine/motorsports single DIN digital media unit. It includes multiple options for listening to your favorite music including AM/FM, Bluetooth, USB port, and AUX jack. It is also SiriusXM ready and includes a control for Pandora and Spotify.
The speakers feature water-resistant cone woofers with one-inch balanced dome tweeters with a 50-watt capability. The four-channel amplifier in a compact Class-D model provides superior sound.
This entire unit is specially designed for the harsh marine environment and comes from a well-known manufacturer. It will supply you with many seasons of quality sound at a reasonable price.
- Full bundle from a well-known manufacturer
- Includes a four-channel amplifier for better sound quality at higher volumes
- Includes the ability to connect to a wide range of devices and music services
- Includes 40-foot antenna for better reception
- Speakers are only available in white
- The water-resistant cover is sold separately
6. Best High-End Marine Speaker #2: WET SOUNDS WS-MC-2
Although gauge-mounted stereos are the hot item when it comes to marine stereos, some uses find the small, round face difficult to use. Wet Sounds have found a perfect compromise in the WS-MC-2. It still mounts in a standard 3-inch gauge opening put provides a more traditional, easier-to-see square face.
Plus, it includes all the features today’s users expect and the power needed to enjoy them.
Although compact, this unit features 50 watts of power on four channels and 2/7-inch TFT display. Front and rear pre-outs allow for easy speaker connection, and a wired remote is also available.
In addition to the standard AM/FM channels, you also have instant access to Weather Bands, a big advantage when on the water. Plus, it offers multiple means of connecting to your other devices including a USB port, AUX jack, and secure Bluetooth pairing.
Because this unit is designed for use in a marine environment, it comes with an IPX6 rating and is designed to withstand high pressures, water spray, and extreme temperatures common when on a boat.
If you are searching for a unique, modern option when it comes to quality sound system, it will be hard to beat this unit.
- Compact, modern gauge design
- Easy to use
- Installs easily in smaller craft
- Water-resistant faceplate
- The shape may interfere with other already installed gauges.
- Remote is not included and must be purchased separately
7. CLARION CMS4
Clarion spends a great deal of time designing and testing their equipment to ensure it will provide the best performance available, and the CMS4 proves it. This is the marine stereo for the music lover, regardless of how you like to listen.
This is more than a marine stereo; it is an all in one media hub. The black box design is not only modern in appearance it is also modern in function. Whether you listen to local channels, satellite radio, or store your favorite song on a media device, this hub will allow you to access it.
The USB slot, AUX jack, and Bluetooth connectivity allows connection to a smartphone, tablet, or other electronic storage devices. It is also SiriusXM ready as well.
The hideaway module contains all the system’s hardwired connections, including a four-channel amplifier and AM/FM/weather tuner. This module connects to display via 10-foot CAT-5 cable.
The module is IPX5 rated for water resistance, and the watertight command unit is IPX6 rated. The 3.5-inch color LCD is protected by a bonded Gorilla Glass screen and includes brightness adjustment for optimal viewing in any conditions.
The CMS5 is designed for simple pairing with your iPhone or Bluetooth device and includes a direct connect for iPhones for charging. The display will show song and artist information and allows easy browsing of a playlist.
- Well-designed, easy-to-use display
- One of the few color displays available in a marine stereo
- Easily connects to a range of devices, including Apple products
- Ability to charge Apple devices on the go is a rare feature
- USB and AUX connections are in the rear and difficult to access
- Does not fit standard stereo cutouts and dash modification may be necessary
8. FUSION ENTERTAINMENT MS-RA70
This sleek, modern design allows you to modernize your stereo while still using the already-present traditional-style cutout.
The single DIN rear and face will fit a traditional cutout, but this radio is anything but traditional. The face incorporates a sleeker, cleaner modern design with LCD and large, easy-to-use controls. Plus, you can connect to almost any device or media storage that you use to store your favorite playlists.
In addition to the standard AM/FM option, there is also a CHARMS/iPhone/iPod/Android interface, built-in Bluetooth for easy pairing, and a USB connection.
When it comes time to listen the playback, quality is exceptional. The four 50-watt Class A amplifiers will let the music blare. A bonded-glass display and IPX6 rating ensure the unit will withstand the harsh marine environment and provide many seasons of enjoyment.
- Sleek, modern design without dash modification
- Ability to connect to most media options
- Bonded-glass face for increased protection
- High-quality Class A amplifiers
- USB is in the rear, making access less than optimal
- Does not include ignition wire, so you must turn it off separately
What Are the Benefits of a High-Quality Stereo System? Why Can’t I Use a Car Stereo System?
A high-quality stereo system allows you to hear the music as it was intended to be heard. You will enjoy every note without distracting static. It provides a listening experience that is as close as possible to live performance. Unfortunately, low-quality stereo systems do not allow this same experience.
Having the same high-quality sound on your boat makes spending time with your friends and family more enjoyable. But you must purchase not only a quality system but one specifically intended for use in a marine environment.
Even the best-built car stereo system is not designed to operate in these conditions. Once exposed to the increased vibrations, bouncing, and of course, water, car stereos will begin to fail.
Buying Advice: How to Choose a Marine Stereo
Are you ready to shop for a new marine stereo system? If so, let us help you ensure you select the best radio for your situation. Regardless of the type of boat you have or your budget, it is still possible to enjoy high-quality sound if you keep some important shopping tips in mind.
Water and UV Resistance
If you plan on using your new stereo in a boat, it is important to select a stereo that is protected from the conditions it will face. Regardless of how careful you are, your stereo will eventually get wet, be it from splashing or rain, and it is impossible to boat and escape the damaging rays of the sun.
While it is unlikely you will be able to purchase a stereo that is fully waterproof, this level of protection is not necessary. What you do need is a unit rated for protection from splash and spray, as this is what you will encounter regularly. Having a waterproof cover is optimal for boats that are stored at a slip as it will provide additional protection from heavy rain.
Size and Shape
When installing a replacement stereo, it is easiest to select a model of the same general size and shape as the unit you are replacing. However, when first installing a sound system, you have more options than you would for a car stereo.
Standard Rectangle. These resemble a traditional car stereo and are the most common type of stereo installed in both vehicles and boats. If replacing an existing unit, this is likely your best option. This is a more compact design intended to be installed in the confined space of a boat’s dash.
Most are round and mimic the already-existing gauges in the cluster, while some are similar-sized square units. Many can be installed in unused gauge cutouts that are already available.
For those who are old enough to remember the original Sirius receivers, this style will look familiar. Although compact like the gauge style units, they are not intended for installation like a gauge cutout. Some even require a receiver to mounted remotely form display.
Before selecting any stereo, it is important to ensure it will fit the space available. Many manufacturer customer service centers can assist you either online or via a telephone call.
Most of today’s displays are LCD and provide a bright, clear visuals. Many include the ability to control brightness, and a few let the user select the background color. While display quality may appear to be a personal preference, it is also a matter of safety.
Operating a boat is a complex task and requires the utmost attention. If the display does not allow easy, quick interaction, you are more likely to become distracted.
The ability to connect an auxiliary device to your stereo was once thought of as a luxury. Now it is considered a standard feature. The question becomes which devices you can connect and how easily it can be done.
Since most users already rely on a smartphone for music storage, the ability to connect yours to the stereo is something most buyers will want. Most units will include both a USB slot and Bluetooth pairing. The original AUX jack is still a standard feature and is useful for connecting tablets or MP3 players.
Advanced features such as voice recognition and the ability to take or make phone calls via the stereo are becoming more popular and will soon be expected by most users as well.
Regardless of which stereo you select, the best performance is achieved when paired with matching speakers. One of the easiest ways to ensure the speakers and stereo are properly matched is to purchase in a manufacturer bundle. Plus, it is often cheaper than purchasing each item separately.
Ability to Grow
Does anyone remember the eight-track? Cassette tape? If so, you probably remember that each was intended to be the next breakthrough in portable music. How many of these systems are still in use?
Although it is hard to predict what the future may hold, it is best to be prepared for whatever is coming.
When it comes to selecting a marine stereo, this means choosing a model that can grow or adapt to new technology. A current unit that offers a wide range of connection options is the best way to ensure its longevity as technology advances.
There are dozens of companies that offer marine stereo systems. Some focus on high-quality systems that rival the best car stereos, most are mid-level systems designed for the average user, and the remainder are cheaper units for those looking for music but aren’t as concerned about quality or the longevity of the system.
It is impossible to review every company, but here is an introduction to some of the more popular brands.
Originally formed in 1946 as the Kasuga Radio Co. Ltd., this company had produced a long line of consumer electronics, adapting to the current trends easily. Over the years they have created CB radios, home entertainment systems, amateur radio equipment, and in-car replacement stereos.
Today their focus is primarily on home audio, aftermarket car stereos, and amateur radios. Kenwood marine radios are produced as part of the aftermarket car stereo line.
The Kenwood brand offers a diverse line of options, including items are caring price levels. No matter which price level you are interested in, each Kenwood product include the latest in innovation and features.
This company was started in a New Zealand garage in 1998 because the founders were not happy with the current selection of audio systems. Since then, they have grown into a global leader in both car and marine audio equipment.
Their current line of marine products includes stereo units, speakers, amplifiers, subwoofers, remote controls, and even an app to link everything to your smart device
Fusion products focus on high-quality, modern designs that include the latest innovations and features. These stereos are intended for serious music lovers and specifically designed to provide the same high level of service on the water as you expect at home.
This Texas-based company is a newcomer to the stereo market, but that does not mean they cannot deliver some of the best marine audio equipment available. Started in 2005 by industry experts who shared a passion for boating, they immediately introduced an impressive line of marine audio equipment.
Because they know both stereos and boating the products, their products are specifically designed to overcome the challenges encountered on the water, including high speeds, noise, and harsh conditions.
Wet Sounds is one of the rare high-end marine-grade audio manufacturers. Their focus is on providing exceptional audio systems and accessories of luxury quality.
Since 1960 Pyle has been a leading manufacturer of high-quality audio components. What started as a line of advanced woofers has grown to include car stereos, speakers, home and marine audio, and even musical instruments.
Many of their products are highly sought after by professional audio engineers, performers, and sound-system experts. They have used the knowledge obtained producing high-end products to launch a line of reliable, economically priced consumer electronics that include several marine stereos.
Many of these home consumer products are budget friendly and target the general user. They are an excellent choice for those seeking modern designs and features for a fraction of what many of the other brands cost.
Are marine stereos and radios the same?
No. Although the terms are often interchanged, they are not the same. A marine stereo is like the stereo found in your vehicle and is intended for playing music either through connection to external sources or accessing AM/FM channels.
A marine radio is a communication device designed to allow voice communication between vessels or shore-based units. Although some marine radios will have the ability to pick up AM/FM/weather bands, they are not intended as a ship-wide entertainment system.
Marine stereos are intended strictly for entertainment and do not allow communication with either other vessels or shore.