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A good marine stereo can revolutionize your time out on the water, whether you’re looking to create a party atmosphere with the latest hits; or unwind with a few chilled out tunes. In the past, most marine stereos were of the standard DIN variety. Now, however, you’re spoiled for choice with high-tech innovations, including circular stereos exclusively for digital media devices and integrated black box entertainment systems. Some have Bluetooth, some have internal docks, others have superior weatherproofing. In this article, we look at the best options out there.
Best Overall: Kenwood DIN Marine Stereo Receiver
The Kenwood DIN Marine Stereo Receiver is the ideal purchase for those in search of a quality mid-range all-rounder. It stands out from the competition for its impressive range of media options. It’s SiriusXM radio-ready, features an AM/ FM tuner and is also compatible with Pandora radio. Use the Bluetooth function to connect directly to your smartphone or make the most of the auxiliary cable input instead. The USB port allows you to load an extensive MP3 playlist but you can also keep it old school by utilizing the CD player if you prefer.
However you choose to play your music, you’ll be able to see instantly what you’re listening to, thanks to the receiver’s ID-3 tag display. Reviewers state that this display is relatively easy to read even in bright sunlight. The receiver comes with four 5” waterproof speakers, each with 50-watt maximum power. A water-resistant radio cover protects your head unit from the elements and includes a tinted window that deflects damaging UV rays. The stereo is available with black, white or chrome speakers.
Best Budget: Pyle Bluetooth Marine Stereo Receiver
At the other end of the price spectrum, you’ll find the Pyle Bluetooth Marine Stereo Receiver. A no-frills option for those on a budget, the stereo receives good reviews for sound quality and ease of installation. It’s a standard in-dash DIN stereo, with AM/FM radio and Bluetooth audio streaming. A built-in microphone allows for hands-free call answering as well, which comes in handy when you’re too busy having fun out on the water to pick up your phone.
The stereo is compatible with most MP3 players, smartphones and tablets, thanks to its auxiliary cable input. It also features ports for USBs and Micro SD cards. The LCD screen boasts an ID-3 tag readout so that you can instantly identify your music by artist and song title. The illuminated button controls include Repeat and Random functions, while the stereo has a maximum power output of 4 x 75 watts.
Best for Digital Media: BOSS Audio Digital Media Marine Stereo
The scaled-down circular design of the BOSS Audio Digital Media Marine Stereo offers a different aesthetic for digital media users. The stereo has a maximum power output of 4 x 60 watts, and control buttons that allow you to adjust the balance, fader, bass and treble settings. Use the Bluetooth function to play music from your smartphone or to stream apps like Spotify and Pandora.
The stereo’s USB and auxiliary cable ports are compatible with most smartphones and MP3 players. The AM/FM radio includes switchable US/Europe tuner frequencies and there are outputs for connecting a subwoofer should you want to increase the volume. Conformal coating protects the faceplate and back-lit LCD screen from dust, corrosion and UV rays. The stereo also has an IPX6 rating, meaning that it can withstand exposure to jets of water.
Best for CDs: Pyle Bluetooth Marine Stereo Receiver with CD Player
Advances in technology over the past decade mean that relatively few marine stereos now come with a CD player. However, if you’re not yet ready to dispense with your jewel cases, you’ll find what you’re looking for in the Pyle Bluetooth Marine Stereo Receiver with CD Player. The DIN-style receiver comes with two waterproof speakers, a wireless remote control and a protective cover.
Best of all, it features a front-loading CD player in addition to an AM/FM radio and Bluetooth functionality. Like the standard Pyle receiver mentioned earlier, this model also includes a microphone for hands-free calling. If you do decide to modernize your audio technology in the future, you’ll be able to make use of the stereo’s USB port, SD card reader and auxiliary cable port as well.
Best with Internal Dock: Aquatic AV Bluetooth Waterproof Marine Stereo
The Aquatic AV Bluetooth Waterproof Marine Stereo offers the perfect solution for anyone who’s ever experienced the pain of dropping an expensive smartphone or MP3 player overboard. The stereo’s removable faceplate conceals an inner storage compartment with a built-in auxiliary cable so that you can safely stash your device out of harm’s way.
Conformal coating on the faceplate protects your device from the elements, giving the stereo an IP55 rating against water spray from all directions. The internal dock fits most devices, including Samsung Galaxies and some iPhone models, and also allows for USB charging. Alternatively, you can stream music via the stereo’s Bluetooth function, or listen to up to 30 pre-set stations on the AM/FM radio. The stereo offers a maximum power output of 4 x 45 watts.
Best Black Box: Fusion Marine Box with Wired Remote
The innovative Fusion Marine Box is the ideal option for boats with limited helm space. The sleek black box contains your receiver, amplifier and all connections, and can be easily mounted out of the way. Then, mount the included wired remote control where you can see it, and use the large LCD display to manage your entertainment system. The high price-tag is justified not only by the box’s convenience but by the ingenuity of its playback options.
It syncs with your boat’s existing NMEA 2000 electronic communication network to deliver AM/FM radio and Bluetooth audio streaming. It also features USB and auxiliary cable ports and supports all Apple and MTP Android/Windows media devices. Best of all, the box’s Multi-Zone™ technology allows you to listen to different programming in up to three areas of the boat - so that you can enjoy one playlist at the helm while your friends or family listen to another below deck.
Best Alternative: Leeron Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker
If you plan on exclusively streaming music from your smartphone, consider purchasing the Leeron Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker instead. Two major plus sides include the speaker’s low price and its portability (you won’t have to install it, and you can take it with you when you’re back on dry land). Best of all, it’s IPX7 rated, which means that it is fully waterproof for up to 30 minutes of immersion in one meter of water. It has an auxiliary cable port, and a rechargeable battery with a playback time of up to 18 hours. Use the included carabiner to hang the speaker wherever you like. Cons include the lack of an AM/FM radio, and its inability to accept USBs or CDs.