How to Install Marine Speakers (Properly)

Installing marine speakers is simple enough. However, you must take steps and prepare to ensure the job is done properly. As mentioned in our article on the best marine speakers, saltwater and sea air are unforgiving. You need to ensure your installation is such that you are protected as much as possible against rust and corrosion.

Tools Required for a Marine Speaker Install

Before you do anything, you must ensure you have the correct tools for the job. Here is a list of tools you’ll need. We have provided a link to where you can purchase these online should you be missing anything. You can order any missing tools at the same time you order your speakers, so you’re ready to go when your new marine speakers arrive.

  • Marine-grade speaker wire – this will depend on which speaker you choose, the cable run length, and the speaker’s impedance. (see How Do I Know What Cable Gauge to Use? below for more details.)
  • Crimp-on female spade terminals (size will depend on your cable gauge, speaker, and amplifier terminals)
  • Diagonal cutters
  • Wire strippers
  • Crimping tool
  • Power drill with ½-inch chuck (needed for hole saw) and bits
  • Hole saw (size will depend on the mounting diameter of your speaker. Mostly likely 5” saw)
  • Screwdriver set
  • Electrician snake (for running wires and cables)
  • Spool of cord (for pulling wires and cables)
  • Wire looms and zip ties
  • Heat gun with *** heat shrink

Planning Your Speaker Layout

Depending on the size of your boat, you may want to consider more than one pair of speakers. Even on smaller boats, you want to consider a pair of bow and stern speakers. This will avoid turning the speakers too loud so people on the bow can hear the speakers on the stern and vice versa.

For the best sound quality and stereo imaging, position each pair an equal distance apart, facing each other. Most boats are almost symmetrical, so this shouldn’t be too difficult to achieve. Also, try to place the speakers as far apart as possible to get the best stereo image.

When placing your speakers, ensure they won’t be in the way or in a position where they could get damaged. For example, if the marine speakers are low down, ensure they’re in a position where they can’t be kicked. Also, if you mount your speakers near the dash, ensure they’re not in a position where people might lean on them or spill their drink, bait, etc.

Make sure you also consider what’s behind the speaker. For example, you don’t want to mount the speaker in a position where the speaker’s rear ends up in a storage compartment. This could lead to damaging the speaker from items moving around the compartment.

Running Cables

Once you have your speaker positions marked out, start looking at cable runs for the speakers. Ensure cables are inside the transom, hull, or under the gunnels wherever possible. You want to ensure they can’t get snagged, especially where the wires go into the back of the speaker or amplifier. Do this BEFORE you start cutting holes for your speakers. You might have issues with running cables and must rethink your speaker position. This is where your cable looms, zip ties, and heat shrink can be handy.

If you are happy with the cable runs and positions, start running the cables from the amplifier to each speaker.

Installing The Speakers

  1. You’ll need to attach your speaker template to the chosen position and cut a hole using a hole saw. Boating magazine has an in-depth article on how to cut holes in your boat’s hull.
  2. Once your speaker position is cut out, drill the holes for each mounting screw.
  3. Place the foam gasket on the back of the speaker and align it with the speaker hole. (a foam gasket will be supplied with your speaker. Put this on before the speaker cable, or you won’t get it in place once the wire is connected).
  4. Connect the speaker wires to each terminal, making sure the positive and negative are connected properly.
  5. Slide the speaker in place and secure it with the provided screws. Use some thread locker to keep the screws in position. Spray each screw with a little bit of anti-rust spray to prevent rust and corrosion.

Maintaining Your Marine Speaker Install

Once the installation is complete, the work is not done. If you own a boat, you’ll know something always needs maintenance. Your marine stereo system is the same. Here is a list of things you want to do to ensure your marine stereo system lasts as long as possible.

  1. Every time you return from a trip, spray a little fresh water over the speakers to rinse off any salt, especially if you’re on salt water. If your boat is moored on a marine jetty or in a port, then do this a couple of times a week to prevent any salt buildup.
  2. Once every couple of months, check the entire cable run length. With constant pounding on the water, things tend to move around, and screws can even loosen.
    Also, check all terminal connections and screws for any signs of rust or corrosion. Clean and repair where necessary.
Audiostance Author - Matt Hallowes
Written by
Matt Hallowes

Matt is a sound engineer and confessed vinyl junkie! His work as a sound engineer includes live production and venue installations, giving him deep insight into the audio industry, with personal experience with dozens of products. While traveling the world, Matt shares his knowledge and expertise with us!

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