Welcome to our new informational site, where we teach you how to choose the best sound system for your boat, hot tub or other outdoor application. We try to help you make an informed decision about what you need and how to narrow down your selection. We are sure that once you are armed with this information you will save time and money outfitting your boat with excellent audio gear.
It isn't hard to find car audio gear that has been re purposed for a boat. Automotive stereos can be inexpensive, there is a wide variety available, and the fact is that car stereo equipment will function just fine in a boat. So why bother with marine rated gear?
The main consideration is durability. While a stereo in a car is usually tucked safely away in an enclosed space where it likely won't be touched by the elements, on a boat, equipment can be exposed to rain, splashing, humidity and salt air. Even if it is installed in a dash or console, a phantom drip can quickly destroy exposed circuitry. On average, you can expect a car stereo installed in a boat to last about 1 year. Of course, yours may last longer, or it may not last that long at all. On the other hand, you can expect a marine stereo to typically last about 5 years. When you take that into consideration, marine audio equipment is definitely a better value
There are several factors that give boat stereo gear it's advantage in durability. Corrosion is a primary concern, since the copper circuits are particularly vulnerable to salt air and humidity. Even if a circuit never gets wet, it can still be decimated in just a short while by corrosion. To prevent this, the circuit boards are coated with a special transparent liquid plastic. When dry it forms a barrier, sealing the copper from exposure to the air. Then the circuit is exposed to ultraviolet light (sometimes called a black light). The plastic will react under a UV light similar to glow in the dark paint. That will show any flaws in the coating that can be corrected before the board is installed into the unit. This coating process alone will add years of life to a marine stereo or amplifier.
There are varying degrees of waterproofing available in boat audio equipment. Some units are completely sealed with rubber gaskets and other methods. These can be splashed or sprayed with no harm done. Others are only partially waterproof. The one you choose will depend on your budget and the amount of exposure you think the unit will get in your boat.
Did you know that most speakers are built with paper cones? It sounds flimsy, but it is typically a specialized, thin cardboard material that is painstakingly engineered for great sound reproduction. You can find paper cones in even the most expensive speakers available.
But what happens to a paper cone when it is exposed to water? Nothing good, as you might imagine. Depending on the amount of water, it will simply disintegrate over time. As it does so, the sound will become warped and distorted. Car audio speakers are almost all built with paper cones so trying to use one on a boat is simply out of the question.
Marine speakers have cones that are made of thin plastic material in place of paper. Mylar is a popular material used among others. These cones are engineered for accurate sound reproduction just like the cardboard ones, but unlike the cardboard, they are completely waterproof so rain and splashing won't bother them at all, even with prolonged exposure. The quality of the sound is excellent and very comparable to car speakers as well. They are a bit more expensive, in general, but definitely worth the investment.
We have discussed marine speakers and some stereos as being waterproof, but it is important to clarify what we mean. This gear can handle rain and splashing and even an occasional hosing down, but it is not designed for use underwater. Building a speaker to handle the pressure of depth is completely different from designing one to be splashed. This can be an issue for hot tub owners who like to keep the water level in the spa fairly high. When a few people get in the water it can raise the level to partially or completely cover the speakers. This will reduce the life of the speakers tremendously. Not to mention that the speakers will sound terrible while submerged!