Best Marine Audio Gear of 2019
Last updated on July 30, 2019
Our picks for this year’s best-of-the-best audio equipment for boats.
Rule #1 about buying audio equipment for your boat: if it’s not specifically made for life on the water, do not take it to sea. True marine audio gear is water-resistant, fog-proof, salt-proof and UV ray resistant. Marine receivers or head units come with coated circuit boards that don’t rust, rubber caps to cover all open inputs, and gasket sealed covers for all controls, knobs, and end caps. Marine speakers and subwoofers are built with plastic cones and rubber surrounds and come with weather-resistant mounting hardware. Anything less than true, marine-grade audio gear, and you’ll be tossing it before the season’s over. Rule #2: unless you own your own cruise ship, smart and efficient use of cabin space is critical, so look for an audio system you know will fit… while giving you the best possible bang for the buck.
Below are our picks for the best of the best by category, as chosen by experts - one of whom is both a life-long sailor and a recent inductee into the Consumer Technology Hall of Fame: our own founder, Bob Cole. So… you ready? Let’s shove off…
Questions along the way? Don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and talk to one of our audio technicians at 1.866.961.7781 or email us here. We love this stuff and want to help.
Here is the Best Marine Audio Gear of 2019:1) The Best Marine Stereo Bluetooth Receiver: Sony DSX-M55BT Marine Media Receiver
2) The Best 6.5-Inch Marine Speakers.: Infinity Kappa 6120m 6-1/2" 2-Way Marine Speakers - Pair
3) The Best Marine 4 Channel Amp: Kicker 45KMA3004 4-Channel 75 x 4 Marine Amplifier
4) The Best Marine Amplifier to Power Your Subwoofer: Kicker 45KMA6001 Monoblock 600-watt Marine Amplifier
5) The Best 4-inch Marine Coaxial Speakers: Kicker 45KM42 4" 2-Ohm Marine Coaxial Speakers - Pair
6) The Best 12-inch Marine Subwoofer: Kicker 45KM122 12" 2-Ohm Marine Subwoofer
7) The Best 10-inch Marine Subwoofer: Kicker 45KMF102 10" 2-Ohm Free-Air Marine Subwoofer
8) The Best Boat Sound Systems: Sony DXS-M5511BT Receiver and Speaker Combo
9) The Best Bluetooth Audio Controller For Boats: Infinity INF-BC4 Marine-Grade Pre-Amp Bluetooth Controller
#1) The Best Marine Stereo Bluetooth Receiver: Sony DSX-M55BT Marine Media Receiver
BRAND & MODEL: Sony DSX-M55BT Marine Media Receiver
REG PRICE: $98
Why it won
Let’s kick things off with this little over-achiever from Sony – a water-resistant, marine digital media receiver with a USB input and an auxiliary input that can simultaneously connect up to two compatible devices. Stream from your phone, iPad, iPod, or laptop with NFC technology (Near Field). To pair, just bump the NFC logo with your device, and you’re good to go. Then, bump again to disconnect. (Anything easy is a good thing at sea.)
This friendly little receiver is SiriusXMTM satellite radio-ready, works with Pandora (iOS and Android) and gives you hands-free control of your iOS device via Siri voice control. It comes with a EQ5 equalizer and it’s expandable thanks to its RCA preamp outputs for external rear and subwoofer speakers. You can also control everything with the wireless remote, which is included. All that, at a hard-to-believe price plus World Wide Stereo’s Free Shipping and Happiness Guarantee.
#2) The Best 6.5-Inch Marine Speakers.:Infinity Kappa 6120m 6-1/2" 2-Way Marine Speakers - Pair
BRAND & MODEL: Infinity Kappa 6120m 6-1/2" 2-Way Marine Speakers - Pair
REG PRICE: $299.95
Why it won
Infinity’s Kappa Marine (6120) speakers are purpose-built for the water and come in the three most popular sizes for today’s modern boats. The 61/2-inch coaxial, the 8-inch three-way convertible speaker system, and the 10-inch woofer all have Plus One™ polypropylene woofer and midrange cones, mylar tweeter domes (save for the subwoofer), polymer baskets, sealed magnets, and rubber woofer surrounds. They also light up and can display seven colors out of the box or more when connected to an external lighting controller.
We like the 6120s for their signature Infinity sound – rich, full-bodied and powerful enough to cut through all sorts of engine, wave, and weather noise. (The Kappas may just be the loudest 61/2-inch boat speakers we’ve ever heard.) They’re also built to take a beating; Infinity’s own testing includes freezing, baking, shaking, and blasting with ultraviolet light while spraying with salt water for days at a time – all with the speakers on and playing at full blast.
Great sounding, great looking, and 100% seaworthy. What more can you ask?
#3) The Best Marine 4 Channel Amp: Kicker 45KMA3004 4-Channel 75 x 4 Marine Amplifier
BRAND & MODEL: Kicker 45KMA3004 4-Channel 75 x 4 Marine Amplifier
REG PRICE: $224.76
Why it won
Kicker’s 45KMA3004 4-channel amp is extremely compact – 25/16 H x 71/8 W x 127/16 L to be exact – and it can do a lot. Use it to power two pairs of speakers, or a pair of speakers and a subwoofer, or even a high-performance set of 4-ohm speakers. And, if you’re just looking to power a couple of big, power-hungry speakers, you can feed the pair 150 watts by bridging the amp and putting it in 2-channel mode. (The 45KMA3004 also features Kicker’s KickEQ™ bass boost technology to help boost bass response, which is always tricky on a boat.)
Inside, Kicker’s conformal-coated circuit board keeps moisture out, though we still recommend stowing the amp in the driest spot possible on your boat – ideally in a cabinet that offers some sort of ventilation. Mounting hardware comes included. And, if you’re building a custom system from scratch, we recommend adding a pair of Infinity Kappa 6120M speakers.
#4) The Best Marine Amplifier to Power Your Subwoofer: Kicker 45KMA6001 Monoblock 600-watt Marine Amplifier
BRAND & MODEL: Kicker 45KMA6001 Monoblock 600-watt Marine Amplifier
REG PRICE: $269.76
Why it won
There’s a funny boat scene in HBO’s The Sopranos, where Tony Soprano drops anchor 20 / 30 yards away from an expensive beachfront house that he wants to buy. The current owner doesn’t want to sell, so Tony parks his yacht and starts playing Dean Martin at deafening levels, for hours at a time, to drive the homeowner out. It’s a classic Soprano’s scene, but more to the point: the music coming from the boat is loud and sounds absolutely amazing. And, if we had to guess what amp Tony bought, we’d say it was Kicker’s 45KMA6001.
The 45KMA6001 is small, built for life on the water, and VERY powerful – 600 watts at 2 ohms powerful – enough to drive even the biggest subwoofer. Highlights include: input level control, bass boost, an on-board, low-pass crossover, and a wired remote bass knob which lets you dial-in optimal bass where you want it. And just like its smaller, less expensive brother, the Kicker 45KMA3004, the circuitry is all conformal coated to stay dry always.
Bottom line, as Tony liked to say (minus the colorful superlatives): “go big, or go home.” And, when it comes to great-sounding music on the water, we couldn’t agree more.
#5) The Best 4-inch Marine Coaxial Speakers: Kicker 45KM42 4" 2-Ohm Marine Coaxial Speakers - Pair
BRAND & MODEL: Kicker 45KM42 4" 2-Ohm Marine Coaxial Speakers - Pair
REG PRICE: $79.76
Why it won
A coaxial speaker is a speaker where the high-frequency reproducer, the tweeter, is mounted at the center of – and on the same axis as – the low frequency reproducer, the woofer. That way, you get the full frequency spectrum of sound from any one speaker location. So, if you’re just looking to replace your boat’s stock speakers (which 99 times out of 100 are cheap / inferior / etc.) a couple of Kicker coaxial 45KM42s are just the ticket. The result: significantly better sound – clear, clean highs with solid bass tones – for very little money.
Kicker’s 45KM42 are built with walter, salt, fog, and the sun in mind: the woofers are UV-treated polypropylene with Santoprene™ surrounds and the titanium dome tweeters do extremely well in harsh conditions. Even the stainless steel mounting hardware is weather resistant. An added bonus: speaker grilles are available in white or charcoal gray.
All in all, good stuff that would easily sell for twice as much… but shhhh…
#6) The Best 12-inch Marine Subwoofer:Kicker 45KM122 12" 2-Ohm Marine Subwoofer
BRAND & MODEL: Kicker 45KM122 12" 2-Ohm Marine Subwoofer
REG PRICE: $179.95
Why it won
Make your own waves with this 12-inch Marine Sub from Kicker, specifically made (not modified) just for boats. The 45KM122 does require a sealed or vented (ported) enclosure to perform, so you will need to find a suitable home for it onboard. As for power, unless you’re using more than one sub, go for a single-channel (or monoblock) amplifier that’s stable at 2 ohms. Ideally, the power output of the amp at 2 ohms would be around 200 watts.
The 45KM122 was made to work well and deliver solid, boat thumping bass in harsh conditions… though we recommend turning if off, as a courtesy, if you’re anywhere near fishing boats. You can choose either a white or charcoal gray grille – both come with LED lighting that lets you change colors if you opt for the Kicker remote. And, like all Kicker Marine products, the 45KM122 is water resistant, built to take punishment, and very competitively priced – especially at World Wide Stereo. P.S. Also available in a 4-ohm model as well as a 10-inch version. (See below.)
#7) The Best 10-inch Marine Subwoofer:Kicker 45KMF102 10" 2-Ohm Free-Air Marine Subwoofer
BRAND & MODEL: Kicker 45KMF102 10" 2-Ohm Free-Air Marine Subwoofer
REG PRICE: $149.95
Why it won
Kicker’s 10-inch, 45KMF102 Marine subwoofer is “free-air” sub, which means it doesn’t require a sealed enclosure to work. You can mount in a bulkhead, or a cabinet, or any out-of-the-way place, which is great if space is a premium on your boat. In every other respect, the Kicker 45KMF102 is the same as the Kicker 45KM122, our “Best 12-Inch Marine Subwoofer” above, save for the price: the 10-Inch version obviously costs less.
#8) The Best Boat Sound Systems: Sony DXS-M5511BT Receiver and Speaker Combo
BRAND & MODEL: Sony DXS-M5511BT Receiver and Speaker Combo
REG PRICE: $138
Why it won
Sony’s DSX-M55BT marine-grade digital media receiver offers a boatload (sorry!) of features and capabilities, but its principal job is streaming your favorite music from your favorite devices via a USB connection – or wirelessly via a Bluetooth connection. Pairing is easy thanks to one-touch NFC connectivity, and the receiver also comes with a hands-free mic built-in, so you can ask Siri to play your songs while you’re busy doing important Captain stuff. Also included: a pair of Sony’s XS-MP1611, 61/2 -inch marine-grade coaxial speakers with removable grilles.
The media receiver provides 17 watts x 4 (55 watts x 4 peak output) to power the speaker system, with up to 65 watts of continuous power handling. There are front USB and Auxiliary inputs (one each), a radio, a built-in equalizer with 8 presets – and 2 sets of pre-outs (2-volt rear and subwoofer) for system expansion via an amplifier. Or, if you’re ambitious: amplifiers. Bottom line: this is Sony-level quality made specifically for boats, and that comes through loud and clear on the water. The system sounds great.
#9) The Best Bluetooth Audio Controller For Boats: Infinity INF-BC4 Marine-Grade Pre-Amp Bluetooth Controller
BRAND & MODEL: Infinity INF-BC4 Marine-Grade Pre-Amp Bluetooth Controller
REG PRICE: $89.47
Why it won
Put this one firmly in the “what will they think of next?” column. It’s a small pre-amp, Bluetooth controller with large, easy to read buttons that lets you pair and control basic functions (play, pause, stop, rewind, volume, etc) on just about any Bluetooth device. It’s weather resistant and made for boats, it fits in your dash via a 13/8 -inch hole (for an OEM look), and it’s made by Infinity – a very serious / very well-respected audio company.
Obviously, you’ll need an amp and speakers to hear your music, but as far as controlling everything, this little guy takes over. Walk onboard with your iPhone, iPad, or Android device – or whatever Bluetooth device you keep your music on, pair it to the INFBC4 in seconds, and you’re done. Stroll the deck or walk stern to bow and enjoy beautiful music on the open water, with total control at your fingertips.
One more thing...
Once you pick out your marine audio gear, a last word of advice: buy from a trusted dealer, and the more experience / the longer the track record, the better. A good dealer will take care of you in the event anything happens. (See our “Happiness Guarantee,” right here.) Until then, check out our recent “Take It Outside Event” recap at our “Fun Reads” blog, and discover how easy (and affordable) it can be to bring your movies, music, and Wi-Fi outside this summer.
Speaking of trusted dealers…
World Wide Stereo is home to some 90+ industry-leading audio/video professionals who love what they do, and talking about it, too. We opened our doors in 1979, gained a small yet diehard following, won a slew of national awards for everything from killer car audio installations to customer service, grew the business online… and today we enjoy a faithful following of like-minded TV-watching, music-listening, gear-loving defenders of fun for the whole family. Our only rule: no one leaves unhappy. And P.S.: we’re brutally honest when it comes to this stuff. Want to know if something is as good as advertised - even if you're shopping somewhere else? Call us or stop by one of our showrooms — we’ll give it to you straight.
Until next time: turn the music up, have fun, and be safe – make sure everyone has a life jacket – including the dog!