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Which marine stereo is best?

There are few things better than a day on the open waves, listening to your favorite tunes. But stereo systems made for use on land aren’t designed to withstand the wear and tear of regular use on a boat. To ensure that the tunes don’t stop once you’ve set sail, consider investing in a proper marine stereo system that’s built to withstand corrosion and UV exposure. With your vessel equipped with a Pioneer CD Receiver with Enhanced Audio Functions, you can cruise the water and blast your party playlist to your heart’s content. 

What to know before you buy a best marine stereo

Waterproof versus water-resistant

The terms “waterproof” and “water-resistant” indicate a difference in the level of protection provided. Speakers described as water-resistant are just fine for the occasional trip around your favorite lake or calm seashore, but may soon fall into disrepair after repeated encounters with serious waves or weather. 

On the other hand, fully waterproof marine stereo systems receive an IPX or Ingress protection rating that indicates how much the unit can be exposed to inclement weather. A higher IPX rating means that your marine stereo is increasingly protected from the elements, which is typically achieved through design features such as a water-resistant face all the way up to a fully sealed chassis.

Your marine stereo should hold up to corrosion and UV exposure

Unlike marine stereos, conventional stereo systems found in cars and other vehicles do not require protection from exposure to sunlight and corrosive elements. Given that both brackish and full salt water can cause significant damage via oxidation and corrosion in ship components of all kinds, you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a marine stereo that ends up rusting in place. Furthermore, any marine stereo you purchase should be able to resist discoloration, cracks, fading and other forms of damage from UV exposure. 

What to look for in a quality marine stereo

Consider what medium is best for your musical appreciation

While CDs remain one of the most durable forms of preserving digital materials, having your music on your phone or tablet makes things much more convenient. In fact, given that the rocking of the surf tends to cause CDs to jump and skip, it is increasingly difficult to purchase a marine stereo that has a CD player. Most marine stereos today enable you to plug in a phone or USB drive to access your music.

Modern technology and services

Being able to enjoy the current chart-topping single while engaged in nautical activities is already pretty great, but why not throw in the convenience of modern technology? For example, many modern marine stereos offer the ability to send and receive phone calls hands-free via Bluetooth, as well as access to streaming services such as Spotify or satellite radio services such as SiriusXM.

A variety of connection options 

Many current models of marine stereo are not only compatible with smartphones, tablets and USB drives, but they also come equipped with 3.5 mm input jacks, RCA output jacks and even SD card slots, ensuring compatibility with a variety of audio sources.

How much you can expect to spend on a marine stereo

A quality marine radio can cost anywhere from $54 to $195, and sometimes more.

Best marine stereo FAQ

Do I actually need to buy a fully waterproof marine stereo?

A. In the long run, investing in a fully waterproof system may spare you the time and expense of repeatedly replacing units that aren’t built to withstand marine conditions.

What is the best place on my boat to install a marine stereo?

A. It depends on the size and shape of the boat, but marine stereos are typically installed under the bow, seats and dashboards. Some systems may require a full installation and custom setup by a trained professional.

What’s the best marine stereo to buy?

Top marine stereo

Pioneer CD Receiver with Enhanced Audio Functions

Pioneer CD Receiver with Enhanced Audio Functions

What you need to know: This robust marine stereo is excellent for boats of all kinds.

What you’ll love: This unit comes equipped with Bluetooth for hands-free calling and wireless audio streaming as well as compatibility with Spotify, Pandora and SiriusXM. It offers incredible sound quality and includes a remote control.

What you should consider: Users have reported issues with keeping a steady Bluetooth connection as well as a difficult installation.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top marine stereo for the money

Pyle Bluetooth Marine Stereo Receiver & Speaker Kit

Pyle Bluetooth Marine Stereo Receiver & Speaker Kit

What you need to know: This affordable marine stereo is great for boating on a budget.

What you’ll love: This unit features USB flash and SD memory card readers, an aux input, integrated front-panel microphone, a built-in Bluetooth receiver for wireless music streaming and two 5.25-inch speakers with marine-grade waterproof construction. 

What you should consider: Users have reported the unit shorting out during installation as well as weak radio reception.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

JBL Marine Digital Media Receiver

JBL Marine Digital Media Receiver

What you need to know: This marine radio is perfect for those who need fully waterproof equipment.

What you’ll love: This unit comes with a marine digital media receiver, Bluetooth capability for music streaming, USB and aux inputs and a marine-rated watertight face.

What you should consider: Users have reported poor audio quality as well as electrical failures within months of initial installation.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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Daniel Martin writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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