You’re choosing a boat stereo, and you’d like to get some tips that help figure out which model is best for you? Excellent – then you’ve come to the right place. While marine stereos aren’t safety items or even a necessity, they sure are nice to have onboard. And anything that makes your boating better gets a big thumbs-up from me. So take these five factors into account, head for the marine electronics store, and get ready to rock out as you rock and roll on the waves.
1. Waterproofing – Most boat stereos are really automotive stereos in disguise. They aren’t waterproofed, and they tend to have very short life spans – especially on small, open boats. Avoid these like the plague and instead, find a model that has a published IPX (international) or JIS (Japanese Industrial Standard) waterproof rating. IPX/JIS7, which is submersible to 10 feet for up to 30 minutes, is ideal for a small boat stereo.
2. Menu-driven – Play with the buttons, and make sure the unit’s menu system is intuitive. You won’t have time to mess with an owner’s manual and look up instructions, while you’re cruising.
3. Format Choice - Do you use an iPod, CD’s, or (if you’re a caveman) cassette tapes? Choose the format that best suits you, but remember that CD’s will skip when you hit waves, and radio reception is iffy on the water unless you’re in a densely populated area. Satellite radio is an exception, and it’s a good choice for boaters who don’t want their tunes “canned”.
5. Size Matters – Measure your console and make sure there’s room to flush-mount the unit, before you buy it. Binacle or surface mounting options are a poor choice, since they leave the unit more exposed to the weather.
BONUS TIP: Fully enclosed box speakers usually sound much better than surface-mounted speakers on a boat, because the spaces behind gunwales and consoles is not designed with acoustics in mind. To get the most out of your boat stereo, also consider adding a sub-woofer to the speaker system.