10 Best Marine Speakers - Audiostance

The 10 Best Marine Speakers

Looking to replace or upgrade the speakers on your boat? Or, maybe you live on the sea-front and need a pair of marine grade speakers? In this article, we look at the 10 best marine speakers. We don’t only recommend the best marine speakers but also how to power them effectively with suggestions on marine receivers and amplifiers. If you’re a boating enthusiast who loves to make a noise, this is definitely the article for you.

We have provided a lot of valuable insight into marine speakers and electronics, so, if you’re new to the marine speaker world, you’ll hopefully learn something through reading this article. Be sure to check out our buyer’s guide and FAQ section at the end of the list of marine speakers. We have also included a comprehensive guide to installing speakers on your boat including a list of the tools you’ll need.

Our Pick!

Polk Audio DB651

Polk Audio DB651

The Polk Audio DB651 speakers feature woofers made from a polymer/mica composite and durable rubber surrounds which won’t fall apart under stress from moisture and heat, or time.

Quick Pick – Our Awards!

What is a Marine Speaker?

When it comes to installing speakers on a boat or on a sea-facing property, you can’t install just any speaker. Well technically you can, but the speaker will likely perish within a year due to the unforgiving salt air. Unlike freshwater, saltwater and sea air is highly corrosive. The salt eats away at any metal or electronics rendering them irreparable and useless. Considering sound systems cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, you want to ensure the speakers, receiver, amplifier, etc will last for many years to come.

Marine grade speakers are designed and manufactured to be resistant to salt water and salt air’s corrosive nature. Marine speakers are not only waterproof but built using anti-corrosive parts and materials.

Saltwater and salt air is ultimately very unforgiving. Even with marine speaker’s anti-corrosive properties, they can still fail as a result of the salt air or water. This is why any speaker or electronics installed on a boat or near the ocean require constant cleaning and maintenance to ensure they don’t perish or rust away.

Coaxial vs Dual-Cone Marine Speakers

If you’ve done any research on car or marine speakers you would have come across coaxial and dual-cone speaker types.

Coaxial Marine Speakers

Coaxial speakers are the most common form of loudspeaker used in car and marine installations available in both 2-way and 3-way setups. The design is such that the tweeter is mounted in the center of the woofer partially obscuring it. Both the woofer and tweeter are separate drivers with either an internal or external crossover sending a separate audio signal to each.

By mounting the tweeter in the center of the woofer, the speaker’s footprint is greatly reduced, hence the popularity for car and marine installations where space is often limited.

Dual Cone Marine Speakers

A dual cone marine speaker is essentially a full-range loudspeaker with both the woofer and tweeter attached as a single driver. The biggest advantage of a dual cone speaker is the cost as there are fewer parts. The disadvantage, however, is that without the audio separation the dual cone speaker doesn’t perform as well as a coaxial marine speaker.

1. Polk Audio DXi651 6.5” 2-Way Marine Speakers (Pair)

Polk Audio DB651

Polk Audio design and manufacture a wide range of consumer audio products including an affordable range of marine speakers. The DXi range includes several speaker sizes from 4” to 6” and the ever-popular 6” x 9”. For this article, we chose one of the most popular DXi speakers, the Polk Audio DXi651.

The DXi651 is a circular speaker with a 6½” low-frequency driver and a ¾” tweeter. The DXi651 is sold as a pair with each speaker producing 60W RMS and a 180W Peak. This is more than enough power for the back deck of most leisure boats. Even for a bit of a party while out on the water. The DXi651 do lack a little bass, however, this is only if you’re looking for a loud party marine speaker. For general background music and the odd party, the DXi651 will work just fine.

To power the Polk Audio DXi651 you want an amplifier with a minimum of 60W and a max of around 100W to 125W. We recommend pairing these marine speakers with the Soundstream Stealth Series SM4.1000D 1000W 4 Channel Marine Grade Class D Amplifier. At 4 ohms you’ll get 90W RMS per channel which is more than enough to drive the DXi651. If you do decide to go higher, be careful not to drive the speakers to distortion or you run the risk of blowing the speakers.

The DXi651 is really easy to install. If you follow the user manual, you shouldn’t have any issues. Make sure to use 16-gauge marine-grade speaker wire for installation. All the necessary brackets are included with the speakers so you have everything ready to go.

What’s in the box?

  • 2 x Polk Audio DXi651
  • 2 x Speaker grilles
  • 1″ Self-tapping screws
  • ⅜” Self-tapping screws
  • Speed clips
  • 2 x Spacer/Adapter brackets
  • 2 x Foam rubber gaskets

Polk Audio DXi651 6.5” 2-Way Marine Speakers Conclusion

If you’re looking for an affordable pair of marine speakers, then the Polk Audio DXi651 is a great option to consider. While the DXi651 do lack a little bass, the speakers produce crystal clear audio and are surprisingly loud. The DXi651 is quick and easy to install with everything you need (excluding speaker wire) included in the box.

2. BOSS Audio MR690 Weatherproof Marine Speakers

BOSS Audio MR690 Weatherproof Marine Speakers

BOSS Audio design and manufacture an extensive range of budget car and marine audio products. The major benefit of choosing BOSS Audio is you can get everything you need from a single manufacturer at an affordable price.

The BOSS Audio MR690 is a pair of weatherproof marine speakers which can be combined with other BOSS Audio products to build a full marine sound system for your boat.

Each MR690 features a 6” x 9” low-frequency driver with a 1” tweeter capable of producing 175W peak per speaker. Even though these are “cheap” marine speakers, the MR690 sound really good. I wouldn’t recommend the MR690 if you’re looking for loud “party speakers” for the boat. The MR690 has a nice bottom-end sound but I certainly wouldn’t call these bass speakers. Mid-range and high frequencies are clear with no issues there. For general use and background music, the MR690 will perform just fine.

To power your MR690 you will need an amplifier with a max of 175W per channel at 8 ohms. We recommend pairing the MR690 with the BOSS Audio MR800 Marine Grade Amplifier. The MR800 will push a little more power than needed so don’t turn your gain to full on the amplifier.

You might want to also consider adding the BOSS Audio MGR350B Marine Gauge Receiver too. The MGR350B can be mounted on your dash and features Bluetooth, AM/FM radio, and a USB port.

The MR690 are really easy to install and come with step-by-step instructions for you to follow. It is recommended you use 16-gauge or 14-gauge marine-grade speaker wire when installing these speakers.

What’s in the box?

  • 2 x BOSS Audio MR690
  • Speaker grilles
  • Magnet covers

BOSS Audio MR690 Weatherproof Marine Speakers Conclusion

If you’re looking for an affordable marine speaker then the BOSS Audio MR690 is definitely one to consider. With BOSS Audio manufacturing everything from speakers to amps and accessories, you can get all the audio you need from one supplier. The MR range comes in several different sizes so, if you need speakers for different parts of the boat, you’ll be sure to find the right size within the BOSS Audio MR series.

3. Pyle PLMR60 Dual 6.5” Waterproof Marine Speakers

Pyle PLMR60 Dual 6.5'' Waterproof Marine Speakers

If you’re on a really tight budget and need a pair of marine speakers cheap then, you know you can always count on Pyle to deliver. The Pyle PLMR60 is a pair of waterproof marine speakers for a little over $20! That’s an incredible price but are they incredible speakers?

The PLMR60 features two 6½” speakers with a 1” tweeter capable of producing up to 150W each. Installed as a pair and you have 300W of power on the back deck of your boat. As is always the case with Pyle, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at just how good these $20 odd marine speakers sound. I wouldn’t put the PLMR60 in a bass speaker category but the low-end response is decent for the price. The mid-range and high-frequencies deliver a decent clarity which most consumers will be more than happy with.

The PLMR60 has a power handling of 75W RMS to 150W Peak per speaker. You shouldn’t have an issue driving these speakers off a standard marine receiver. We found the Pyle PLMRB29 In-Dash AM/FM Receiver with MP3 playback and USB/SD/AUX Inputs is perfectly suited to drive the PLMR60. Alternatively, if you prefer to use an amplifier, the Pyle Hydra Marine 800W Amplifier is a great option to pair with your PLMR60 marine speakers and will work with any controller or receiver.

Pyle has made the PLMR60 easy to install with plug-and-play wiring from each speaker, ready to connect to an existing or new installation. The speakers come with grilles, mounting hardware, and full instructions to get you up and running in no time. If you have an existing system with the holes and wiring already in place, you can install your new PLMR60 marine speakers in a matter of minutes. Use a 16-gauge or 14-gauge marine-grade speaker wire when installing the PLMR60.

What’s in the box?

  • 2 x Pyle PLMR60
  • Speaker grilles
  • Mounting hardware

Pyle PLMR60 Dual 6.5” Waterproof Marine Speakers Conclusion

If you’re on a tight budget, then you won’t find any better in the $20 price range than the Pyle PLMR60. Even though these speakers are cheap, they sound decent and are surprisingly loud too. The PLMR60 can be run off most receivers or even one of Pyle’s micro-amplifiers. Pyle is another brand with a wide range of marine audio products which means you can build your whole marine sound system using one affordable brand.

4. Kenwood KFC-1653MRW 6.5″ 2-Way Marine Speakers Pair

Kenwood KFC1653MRW 6.5 2Way Marine Speakers Pair

If you’re after a more premium sound, then Kenwood is always a good option. I would consider Kenwood to be a good middle of the range marine speaker in terms of both price and quality. The Kenwood KFC-1653MRW is a great pair of marine speakers with good sound and quality parts.

The KFC-1653MRW is sold as a pair with a single 6½” low-frequency driver and a 1” tweeter in each speaker. These speakers produce a surprising amount of bass and volume. Mids and highs are crisp and clean with good clarity for both music and listening to talk radio or podcasts. With a decent amount of bass and volume, you can use the KFC-1653MRW as background music or even as party speakers.

Each KFC-1653MRW speaker has a power handling of 50W to 150W at 4 ohms. This means you can use most dash-mount receivers to drive the KFC-1653MRW marine speakers. The Kenwood KMR-M325BT is the perfect match for the KFC-1653MRW complete with Bluetooth, AM/FM radio, USB and CD. If, however, you want to turn these bad boys up a little, you might want to consider going through an amplifier.

The Kenwood KAC-M3004 Compact 4 Channel Digital Amplifier is an excellent choice to pair with your KFC-1653MRW speakers. With two channels bridged at 4 ohms, you’ll get 150W per channel which will drive your KFC-1653MRW at their peak rating.

The KFC-1653MRW marine speakers are really easy to install. The speakers come ready to plug-and-play so, if you are replacing an existing installation, then it shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes to hook up the KFC-1653MRW. Go with a 14-gauge marine-grade speaker wire for installing with a receiver or 12-gauge if installing with an amplifier.

What’s in the box?

  • 2 x Kenwood KFC-1653MRW
  • Speaker grilles
  • Mounting sets

Kenwood KFC-1653MRW 6.5″ 2-Way Marine Speakers Conclusion

If you’re looking for a good sounding marine speaker, middle of the range, not a cheap brand but not too expensive either, then the Kenwood KFC-1653MRW is definitely the way to go. These speakers are really popular with hundreds of positive reviews online. The KFC-1653MRW is definitely a step up in quality from the cheaper brands at only slightly more money.

If you’re after some real power, then you might want to consider going with the KFC-2053MRW which is the 8” version of the KFC-1653MRW. The KFC-2053MRW has a much better bass response and, if paired with the right amplifier, is significantly louder.

5. NOAM NUTV4 Marine Bluetooth Speakers Stereo System

NOAM NUTV4 Marine Bluetooth Speakers Stereo System

If you’re looking for waketower mountable speakers then you might want to consider this complete system from NOAM. The NOAM NUTV4 is an all-in-one system with everything you need to get your waketower rigged up with some serious sound. Included in this package are 2 x waketower speakers, an amplifier and remote with Bluetooth.

The speakers included in this package are 2 x NOAM N4 Marin speakers which each feature a 4” low-frequency driver with 1” tweeter. Each speaker produces 100W RMS with a 200W Peak. Some serious power and a good amount of throw so you can hear these speakers clearly even from a distance. Obviously, with 4” drivers the N4 Marin doesn’t produce a big bass sound but they do have a nice punch to the low-end. Mid-range is clean and clear with a nice crisp treble sound.

To power your marine speakers a NOAM NBTA4-A 4-channel marine amplifier is supplied with the system. Each channel pushes 100W at 4 ohms which is a perfect match for the N4 Marin speakers. The NBTA4-A can drive another two 100W speakers on the other channels so, you have enough power to add another two marine speakers if you would like.

Also included, is the NBTA4-R Bluetooth remote control. The NBTA4-R control includes buttons for play/pause, track skip next, track skip previous, volume up, volume down and a power/Bluetooth pairing button. Having the controller mounted on the dash means you can put your mobile or Bluetooth device away where it won’t get wet while still playing audio.

Installing the NOAM NUTV4 marine sound system is really easy. Each part is designed to work in harmony with the other so, if you follow the installation instructions, you won’t have any issues installing the NOAM NUTV4 on your boat. NOAM supply you with multiple rubber pads to fit a variety of mounting bar diameters. Also included are two 11.5-foot lengths of wire for the speakers.

What’s in the box?

  • 2 x NOAM N4 Marin speakers
  • NOAM NBTA4-A 4-channel marine amplifier
  • NBTA4-R Bluetooth remote control
  • 11.5’ Speaker wires
  • Speaker mounting kits

NOAM NUTV4 Marine Bluetooth Speakers Stereo System Conclusion

If you’re looking for an all-in-one waketower marine stereo system, then the NOAM NUTV4 is an excellent choice to consider. The speakers are really loud with great sound quality. At under $200, the NOAM NUTV4 marine sound system package offers great value with all the parts you need to get your waketower blasting your favorite music.

For bigger installs, you can go with the NOAM NUTV4 Quad Marine Speaker package. The system is essentially the same but includes two extra NOAM N4 Marin speakers. Only two channels on the NOAM NBTA4-A 4-channel marine amplifier are being used so you still have two spare channels to drive all four speakers from the same amplifier.

6.  Polk Audio DB691 6” x 9” 3-Way Marine Speakers

Polk Audio DB691 6” x 9” 3-Way Marine Speakers

Another speaker from the Polk Audio DB series and this time a little bigger and more powerful. The Polk Audio DB691 is a marine certified 3-way speaker sold as a pair. The DB691 is for those who might be looking for more power over the DXi651 which is also featured in this article.

The DB691 is a 3-way marine speaker with a 6” x 9” low-frequency driver, a 1” tweeter and a ¾” super tweeter (as named by Polk in the DB series catalog). The bass response is pretty standard and on par with most 6” x 9” drivers. Sufficient for most applications but bass lovers will always find it necessary to add a subwoofer. Having said that, the bass response is fine for a boat install. The two tweeters ensure the mid-range and high-frequency response is clean and clear. The highs are crisp offering good intelligibility for both music and spoken voice.

While you can power the DB691 using a standard dash receiver, it’s not recommended. If you want to get the most out of these speakers, I would definitely install an amplifier. This will ensure the speakers are driven efficiently and prevent against long term damage from an underpowered amp source. We recommend using the Rockville RXM-F3 4-channel Marine Amplifier to drive the DB691. The RXM-F3 delivers four channels of 125W at 4 ohms which is perfect for the DB691. You have an additional two channels to drive a subwoofer or two more marine speakers.

The DB691 comes with everything you need to install the speakers on your boat. If you choose to go with the Rockville RXM-F3 amplifier, then this comes with all the cabling and accessories too. So no need to purchase those extras. For the DB691 I would go with a 16-gauge or 14-gauge marine-grade speaker wire.

What’s in the box?

  • 2 x Polk Audio DB691
  • Speaker grilles
  • Mounting kits

Polk Audio DB691 6” x 9” 3-Way Marine Speakers Conclusion

If you like the Polk Audio price point but the DXi651 is a little underpowered for your needs, then the DB691 is definitely a better option. The DB691 has a standard bass response for a 6” x 9” speaker which is more than enough for a boat. If you want to crack the DB691 for a bit of a party on the back deck, then it’s recommended you pair the speakers with an amplifier. A standard receiver just won’t give you the power you need to get the most out of the DB691. At under $100 for a pair of 6” x 9” speakers, the DB691 delivers good sound and value.

7. JBL MS6520 6″ 2-Way Marine Loudspeaker

JBL MS6520 6" 2-Way Marine Loudspeaker

If you’re looking for a more reliable, premium brand, then JBL is always an excellent choice. The JBL MS6520 is a 2-way marine loudspeaker sold as a pair. As you would expect from JBL, the MS6520 is made from quality parts with patented Plus One™ Woofer Cones which increases overall sensitivity and low-frequency output.

The MS6520 features a 6” low-frequency driver with a 1” tweeter capable of producing up to 180W Peak. The sound of the MS6520 can only be described as clean and smooth. The low-frequency response is tight and full with a nice punchy bass sound. The mid-range is clear with a nice clean, crisp treble response. Great for music and spoken voice from radio or podcasts. You can definitely hear the difference in audio quality between the JBL and other cheaper brands.

The MS6520 can be powered by most standard dash-mount marine receivers so you shouldn’t have an issue adding these to an existing installation. If you are on the market for a receiver, then the Fusion Entertainment MS-RA70 Marine Entertainment System is a good fit for the JBL MS6520 marine speakers. The MS-RA70 does cost slightly more than most receivers, but then you want a premium dash unit to go with your premium JBL speakers.

Even if you have a receiver, to get the most out of your speakers, I recommend you power the MS6520 using a JBL amplifier. The JBL MA6002 2-Channel Full-Range Marine Amplifier is a great match for the MS6520 with two channels delivering 60W RMS at 4 ohms. You can also include the Prospec Electronics JBL-PRV175 dash-mount controller with Bluetooth for a full JBL marine sound system.

JBL includes all the screws and accessories necessary to install the MS6520 speakers. Be sure to use a 16-gauge or 14-gauge marine-grade speaker wire when installing the MS6520.

What’s in the box?

  • 2 x JBL MS6520
  • Speaker grilles
  • Mounting kits
  • Speaker wire connections

JBL MS6520 6″ 2-Way Marine Loudspeaker Conclusion

If you’re familiar with the JBL sound, you’ll know their products are always top-notch. You pay a little more for JBL marine speakers but you get so much more than cheaper brands in terms of both build and audio quality. The MS6520 is a great sounding speaker delivering a smooth, clean sound across the frequency spectrum. At just under $80, the MS6520 is really well priced in relation to the cheaper marine speakers on the market. Even if you’re on a really tight budget, consider saving for a couple more months to invest in these awesome marine speakers.

If you’re looking for a little more power, then the JBL MS9520 6” x 9” marine speakers are part of the same range as the MS6520. The MS9520 deliver almost double the power as the MS6520 with improved bass response.

8. Kicker KB6000 6.5″ Full Range Marine Speakers

Kicker KB6000 6.5" Full Range Marine Speakers

If you have a larger boat and you’re looking to mount a pair of enclosed marine speakers, then you might be interested in the hugely popular Kicker marine speakers. The KB6000 6.5″ Full Range Marine Speakers are available in black or white and come complete with brackets and screws for mounting.

The KB6000 is an enclosed speaker featuring a 6½” low-frequency driver with a 2” tweeter in each speaker. The sound on the KB6000 is really good. Definitely better quality that you get from most flush mount speakers. The bass response is tight and punchy with a clean mid-range and crisp highs. As a pair, the KB6000 are surprisingly loud. These will more than fill the back deck of your boat and even let other boats around you know where the party is going down.

The KB6000 will need an amplifier to power the speakers effectively and efficiently. While you can power the speakers from a standard 50W receiver, this isn’t advised. We recommend powering the KB6000 using the Kicker KXMA800.5 Amplifier. The KXMA800.5 has four channels to power your speakers and a fifth to power a subwoofer if you choose. Kicker also makes a range of media centers and controllers including the KMC10 All-in-One Media Center with Bluetooth.

Installing the KB6000 is much quicker and easier than flush-mount speakers. Not need to cut holes for mounting. Just drill your holes for the screws, fit the brackets, feed the speaker wire and you’re good to go. The KB6000 requires a 16-gauge or 14-gauge marine-grade speaker wire for installation. The Kicker KB6000 can be purchased as a pair or a four-speaker package for bigger installations.

What’s in the box?

  • 2 x Kicker KB6000
  • Speaker grilles
  • Mounting brackets + accessories

Kicker KB6000 6.5″ Full Range Marine Speakers Conclusion

If you have a larger boat with an enclosed wheelhouse you might want to consider mounting your marine speakers higher up. Having the speakers at head height provides better sound quality and clarity. The Kicker KB6000 is a great choice for an enclosed marine speaker. In addition, Kicker manufacture all the amplifiers, receivers, and accessories so you can get everything you need from one brand.

9. Sony XSMP1611 6.5-Inch Dual-Cone Marine Speakers

Sony XSMP1611 6.5-Inch Dual-Cone Marine Speakers

If you’re a fan of Sony products, then you’ll definitely want to check out the Sony XSMP1611 6.5-Inch Dual-Cone Marine Speakers. A previous version of the speaker did have a lot of issues with the cones blowing after being exposed to salt air. This issue seems to be fixed now and the latest version of the XSMP1611 hasn’t had any complaints.

The XSMP1611 features a 6½” low-frequency driver with a 1” tweeter in each speaker. The speakers sound really good. Great bass response, clean mid-range and crisp highs. For both music and radio (or podcasts), the XSMP1611 perform really well. The speakers are surprisingly loud too so you can crank these marine speakers up for the occasional boat party.

Most standard receivers will drive the XSMP1611 marine speakers but you should definitely consider one of the Sony marine receivers. We recommend pairing the XSMP1611 with the Sony MEX-M100BT Marine CD Receiver with Bluetooth and Sirius XM tuner. The MEX-M100BT delivers 100W of power at 4 ohms which is perfect for the XSMP1611 marine speakers. If you prefer to use an amplifier, the Rockville RXM-F3 4-channel Marine Amplifier is a good match for the XSMP1611 speakers.

The XSMP1611 is really easy to install and Sony includes everything you’ll need to get these marine speakers installed on your boat. Be sure to use a 16-gauge or 14-gauge marine-grade speaker wire for installation. The front grille is paintable which is great if you prefer your speakers to blend for a better aesthetic.

The XSMP1611 is also available in a coaxial version, the XSMP1621 which is slightly more powerful with improved power handling.

What’s in the box?

  • 2 x Sony XSMP1611
  • Speaker grilles
  • Mounting kits

Sony XSMP1611 6.5-Inch Dual-Cone Marine Speakers Conclusion

Fans of Sony will not be disappointed with the XSMP1611 6.5-Inch Dual-Cone Marine Speakers. The XSMP1611 performs well across the frequency spectrum with nice solid bass response, clean mids, and crisp treble. While the original version of the XSMP1611 did have some issues, Sony seems to have fixed this in with no complaints since. The XSMP1611 come in at under $50 which is a really good price for a premium 6½” marine speaker.

10. Polk Audio DB521 5.25 Marine Speakers

Polk Audio DB521 5.25 Marine Speakers

Another speaker from the popular Polk Audio DB series is the DB521 coaxial marine speakers. The DB521 are sold as a pair and are hugely popular online for their affordable price and good sound.

The DB521 features a 5¼” low-frequency driver with a single ¾” tweeter. The sound quality is good for a 5¼” marine speaker, however, the bass response isn’t as good as the bigger 6½” options we reviewed for this article. The mid-range is present with vocals and instruments sounding great. The treble is good but not as present as you get from a 1” tweeter. One thing the DB521 doesn’t lack is power. For their size, the DB521 is surprisingly loud and a pair should more than adequate for the back deck of most boats.

As the DB521 doesn’t require a lot of power, they can easily be driven by most standard marine receivers. We recommend pairing the DB521 with a Kenwood KMR-M325BT marine receiver. The KMR-M325BT is a Bluetooth receiver with four channels delivering 50W of power.

If however, you are looking for a little more power, then the Soundstream SM4.1000D 4-Channel Stealth Series Marine Amplifier is a good option to pair with the DB521.

Installing the DB521 is really easy and Polk Audio supplies you with everything you’ll need to mount these marine speakers on your boat. The grilles are chrome colored but can be painted to match your boat. Like the DXi651, you want to go with a 16-gauge marine-grade speaker wire for installation.

What’s in the box?

  • 2 x Polk Audio DB521
  • Speaker grilles
  • Mounting kits

Polk Audio DB521 5.25 Marine Speakers Conclusion

Although smaller than most of the speakers in this article, the Polk Audio DB521 certainly packs a punch. Maybe not as bass-heavy as the 6” or 6½” marine speakers but the DB521 sound just as good and are surprisingly loud too. You can pick the DB521 for a little over $60 on Amazon which at first I thought was a little expensive for Polk Audio but they are certainly worth the money for the sound and build quality.

How to Install Marine Speakers (Properly)

Installing marine speakers is simple enough, however, there are some steps and preparations you need to take to ensure the job is done properly. As mentioned in the What Are Marine Speakers section, saltwater and sea-air are unforgiving. You need to make sure your install 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 when you new marine speakers arrive you’re ready to go.

  • Marine-grade speaker wire – this will depend on which speaker you choose, the length of the cable run, and the impedance of the speaker. (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
  • Electricians 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 speakers on the bow and the stern. This will avoid having to turn the speakers up 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 equal distance apart facing each other. As most boats are almost symmetrical, 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.

Make sure when placing your speakers that they won’t be in the way or in a position where they could potentially get damaged. For example, if the marine speakers are low down, make sure they’re in a position where they can’t be kicked. Also, if you mount your speakers near the dash, make sure they’re not in a position where people might lean on them or potentially 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 rear of the speaker 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. Make sure where ever possible that cables are either inside the transom, hull or under the gunnels. You want to make sure 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 have to rethink your speaker position. This is where your cable looms, zip ties and heat shrink can come in handy.

If you are happy with the cable runs and positions. Then start running the cables from the amplifier position 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 of the mounting screws.
  3. Place the foam gasket to the back of the speaker and align 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 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 You Marine Speaker Install

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

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

Marine Speaker FAQ Section

In the FAQ section, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about marine speakers.

What is Power Handling?

Power handling is the lowest and highest power a speaker operates at. Usually, two numbers are indicated, RMS wattage and Peak wattage followed by the impedance – 2, 4, 6, 8, or 16 ohms. Marine speakers typically operate on 2 or 4 ohms.

When matching a speaker to an amplifier, it’s recommended to pair the speaker with an amplifier that’s between 1.6 to 4 times more than the RMS of the speaker. This will allow the amplifier to handle any peaks. However, if your amplifier does not have a limiter, then you want to match the RMS of the speaker with an equal RMS output from an amplifier.

Not only must you match the wattage but you also need to match the impedance. If an amplifier puts out 100W, you also need to make sure you match the impedance, this will be indicated as 100W @ 8 ohms for example. You need to make sure you have a 100W 8-ohm speakers to match this. If you mismatch impedance, you could damage the speaker, amplifier or both. Often this won’t happen straight away so people think everything is working fine. But as soon as you get a clip or peak, the speaker will usually blow.

RMS vs Peak Power Output?

When choosing your marine speakers you’ll come across two power ratings measured in watts. The lower of these being RMS also known as continuous power. RMS stands for root means squared and indicates the speaker can operate at this power level for long periods of time.

Peak power indicates the maximum power a speaker or amplifier can handle for short periods of time. If your speakers are constantly distorting, this means you have mismatched your power handling and the amplifier cannot keep up with the speaker. If your amplifier is too powerful, the amplifier will blow the speaker as soon as it clips. That’s why it’s important to read the manual and match your speakers RMS and Peak power accordingly.

How Do I Know What Cable Gauge to Use?

Knowing which speaker wire gauge to use can seem confusing at first but it’s actually pretty simple. There are two main factors, length of cable run and the speaker’s impedance. The first thing you can control is the length.

Firstly, for stereo systems, you must make sure your left and right cable runs are identical and as short as possible. So, while it’s fine to have a little slack at either end, avoid having an excessive amount of excess, especially a coil as this generates heat. The longer your cable run is, the more resistance the cable puts on the audio signal. Thus, for longer cable runs, you need to go up in cable gauge.

Secondly, you need to also consider the impedance of the speaker when choosing a gauge to match the length. Use the chart below as a reference for choosing your speaker wire gauge. For the purposes of this article, we’ll only go to 8 ohms. AWG stands for American Wire Gauge.

Wire Size2 ohm4 ohm6 ohm8 ohm
22 AWG3.2’ Max5.9’ Max8.8’ Max11.8 Max
20 AWG4.9’ Max9.8’ Max14.7’ Max19.6’ Max
18 AWG7.8’ Max15.7’ Max23.9’ Max31.8’ Max
16 AWG11.8’ Max23.9’ Max36’ Max48.5’ Max
14 AWG13.7’ Max39.3’ Max59.7’ Max80’ Max
12 AWG29.5’ Max59.7’ Max89.8’ Max119.7
10 AWG49.8’ Max99.7’ Max150’ Max196.8’ Max

Looking at the above chart, you can see why manufacturers recommend using a 16-gauge or 14-gauge speaker wire for most marine speaker installs.

Flush Mount vs Enclosed Speaker vs Waketower – Which to Choose?

When choosing speakers for your boat, you have three options, flush mount, enclosed speaker or wake-tower speaker. Choosing the right type all depends on where you plan to install your marine speakers.

Flush Mount Speaker

The most common marine speaker is the flush mount. The same type of speaker found in motor vehicles. These speakers do not have an enclosure and are mounted on the cockpit, under the seats or somewhere inside the boat. On a small boat, flush mount speakers make the most sense because they’re out of the way and take up no room.

Enclosed Speaker

As the name suggests, an enclosed speaker is a speaker enclosed in a box. These can be your bookshelf speakers, PA speakers, home entertainment speakers, and even soundbars. Enclosed speakers are not common on boats because of the amount of room they take up. For bigger boats like yachts and sports fishers, there is more space so you can mount the speakers on a wall or ceiling.

The benefit of mounting enclosed speakers is they often sound better than regular flush mount marine speakers. Enclosed speakers can also be mounted higher up and angled towards a specific are for improved sound quality.

Waketower Speakers

Waketower speakers are useful if you have a bar or tower to mount the speakers on. These speakers are typically somewhat directional with a narrow dispersion. This means they can throw sound for some distance. Waketower speakers are not known for their bass response but they can be very loud.

Can I Use Marine Speakers for My Home Near the Ocean?

If you’re installing in-wall or in-ceiling speakers outside of your home and, you live near the ocean, then it’s a good idea to use marine speakers. For example, the Kicker KB6000 marine speakers will be great for an outdoor patio or other sea-facing areas outside your home. Make sure you match the power handling and impedance correctly as most home receivers are 8 ohms where marine speakers for a boat are typically 4 ohms.

Our Pick!

Polk Audio DB651

Polk Audio DB651

The Polk Audio DB651 speakers feature woofers made from a polymer/mica composite and durable rubber surrounds which won’t fall apart under stress from moisture and heat, or time.

Spread the love
Written by

Matt is a sound engineer and self-confessed vinyl-junkie! His work as a sound engineer includes both live production and venue installations. While traveling the world, Matt shares his knowledge and expertise with us!

View all articles
Leave a reply