Boats and music go hand in hand, and if you’re a boat owner, chances are you’ve considered investing in a set of marine speakers to trick out your vessel. The best options provide sound that’s powerful enough to set the mood for any activity, whether you’re dropping anchor for a swim or racing powerboats.
Sound gets lost on the open water, but with a good marine radio and speakers you’ll have all the power you need to get the party going. Good marine speakers are waterproofed enough to resist splashes and even submersion, and they won’t corrode in salty environments or bleach beneath the blistering sun.
The speakers on this list are predominately coaxial speakers that come with multiple sound channels, referred to as “ways.” They do a good job with the whole sound spectrum, from midbass to trebles, and are usually sold in pairs. Most are installed into the terminals and sides of your boat, though some are mounted and adjustable. Many speakers come with LEDs built into their housing that can be tweaked to add color based on your mood. Here are our recommendations for the best marine speakers.
— Best Overall: Kenwood KFC-1653MRW
— Best Budget: BOSS Audio Systems MR60W
— Best 8-Inch: Rockford Fosgate M2-8HB
— Best Tower: Pair Rockville RWB90W
— Best 6.5: Kicker 6.5-Inch Silver LED Marine Speakers
How We Picked the Best Marine Speakers
We rounded up the best of the best in marine speakers while still making sure they were accessible to a wide range of boat owners. We researched numerous speakers from multiple manufacturers, diving into the specs and comparing them with the competition. We used our experience with audio gear, looking for a few criteria along the way:
Sound quality is an all-important factor in a speaker. Sound quality includes a lot of subfactors that come together to make a speaker sound great. The first metric to look at is a speaker’s frequency response, which is measured in hertz (Hz) and describes how much of the sonic spectrum a speaker delivers on. The innate EQ (equalization) is also important. Many speakers have the tendency to boost particular parts of the spectrum, giving the highs a shimmery quality or the bass a deep, bumping thickness. We looked for speakers that have wide frequency responses, good sensitivity, and balanced EQs.
Wattage and sensitivity go hand-in-hand with quality, as they are important in how loud a speaker will be. Wattage is usually described with two numbers: RMS wattage and peak wattage. RMS wattage describes the average operating wattage of a speaker. Peak wattage, on the other hand, describes the peak power draw that the speaker can operate at before breaking up. Sensitivity describes how well a speaker converts energy into sound — this is especially important if you’ll be running your speaker off of a stock head unit without an amplifier. Ohms also factor into how compatible a speaker is with your system, and describe a speaker’s electrical resistance. Make sure when you select a speaker that its ohms are compatible with your system.
Weather and salt resistance are crucial when you’re on the water, whether you’re fishing in the Gulf of Mexico or diving from your boat on Lake Michigan. Resistance to elements is usually measured with an ingress protection rating, or IP. Ingress protection ratings include two variables, known as IPXX. The first variable stands for resistance to dust and particles; the latter describes water resistance. We think that speakers that have resistance to both are best for boats, but we prioritized water resistance. Many marine speakers aren’t given a true ingress protection rating yet still come with solid waterproofing. In such cases, it’s a good idea to read about the company's waterproofing practices and follow up with trusted reviews.
Best Marine Speakers: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: Kenwood KFC-1653MRW
Why It Made The Cut: These 6.5 speakers offer clear sound and excellent detail, especially in the higher end, and pump out volume you can feel.
— Drivers: Two-way
— Frequency Response: 60 Hz to 20,000 Hz
— Wattage: 50 watts RMS, 150 watts peak
— Sensitivity: 86 decibels (dB)
— Full sound
— Great treatment of trebles and mids
— Work well without an amplifier
— Undisclosed ingress protection rating
— Not the best bass response
With sound quality that will inject some shimmer into your boat’s wake, the Kenwood KFC-1653MRW is a reliable and powerful speaker with excellent mid and treble response. It has a frequency response of 60 Hz to 20,000 Hz, which leaves a little to be desired in the bass range, but also provides excellent clarity and energy to voices, guitars, radio, and podcasrs. It has a sensitivity of 86 decibels, which makes good work of the RMS wattage of 50 decibels. The speaker will peak at 150 watts.
Because of its middling bass response, the KFC-1653MRW is a 6.5-inch speaker that’s best paired with a good subwoofer. However, it delivers well on the 6.5-inch category’s promise of full, detailed trebles and middles. With no disclosed ingress protection, Kenwood says this speaker is “marine quality,” noting that the woofers' cones are “water resistant.” While that water resistance isn’t rated with the specificity we like to see (in a proper ingress protection rating), the KFC is water resistant enough in practice to be a beloved speaker for thousands of boat owners. If you’re looking for a great 6.5-inch speaker to bring the melodic range of your music to life, then this is a solid option.
Best Budget: BOSS Audio Systems MR60W
Why It Made The Cut: These budget-priced boat speakers have decent frequency response, good sensitivity, and marine-grade coatings.
— Drivers: Two-way
— Frequency Response: 80 Hz to 20 kHz
— Wattage: 100 watts RMS, 200 watts peak
— Sensitivity: 90 decibels
— Good response without an amplifier
— Emphasizes mid frequency in a way that carries over the water
— Good weather resistance and longevity
— Actually slightly larger than 6.5 and may require cutting
— Not a lot of bass
If budget is on your mind, then the BOSS Audio Systems MR60W is an excellent option. This pair of two-way coaxials delivers a very rich sound with an EQ that’s right for the water. With a frequency response of 80 Hz to 20 kHz, there isn’t a lot of bass here, but the MR60W makes up for that somewhat by boosting the low mids. This means added body for your music that holds up well on the open water. These speakers come with a 90-decibel sensitivity that makes the most of the 100-watt RMS power. That translates to decently loud sound, even when powered by a stock head unit.
One issue that’s crucial to be aware of before you buy the BOSS MR60W is that the face of the 6.5-inch speaker is actually just over 7.5 inches, though the screw holes are still 6.5 inches. Because of this, these speakers may require some work to install depending on your enclosure. Also, like many 6.5-inch speakers (or, ahem … 7.5-inch speakers), they don’t offer good bass response. If you listen to a lot of hip-hop or electronic music, you’ll want to supplement these with a subwoofer; still, given the low price, you’ll be able to afford to.
Best 8-Inch: Rockford Fosgate M2-8HB
Why It Made The Cut: Killer sensitivity, solid frequency response, and a screaming 1,200 peak wattage make these two-way speakers a premium pick.
— Drivers: Two-way
— Frequency Response: 35 Hz to 25,000 Hz
— Wattage: 300 watts RMS, 1,200 watts peak
— Sensitivity: 94 decibels
— Horn tweeter offers impressively loud high end
— Capable of getting extremely loud
— Good coverage of most of the sonic spectrum
— Will still require a subwoofer for premium bass
Party on the water? The Rockford Fosgate M2-8HB is a premium marine speaker with enough power to shock. This 8-inch speaker with horn tweeters offers more power and better response than you can get from a 6.5-inch speaker, delivering a frequency response of 35 Hz to 25,000 Hz. They pump out 300 RMS wattage and can shred up to a ridiculous 1,200 watts peak. With a 94-decibel sensitivity, they’ll also do a good job without dedicated amplification, though if you’re paying for this much power, you should probably go ahead and invest in a good amplifier.
These Rockfords sing premium, and they look it, too, with LED detailing that will amplify the mood. While they do have impressive sonic range and excellent, loud sound, and their frequency response goes well beyond what most 6.5-inch marine speakers offer, they still don’t hit deep bass. If you’re sinking money into these and a possible amplifier to push them, you may want to supplement them with a good subwoofer like the JL Audio M6-81B-S, which will lend your favorite track the rattle you might still be missing. Otherwise these Rockfords are an exceptional set of speakers. They even come with an IP67 rating, one of the highest levels of water protection, and special salt corrosion–resistant priming.
Best Tower: Pair Rockville RWB90W
Why It Made The Cut: These 200-watt RMS speakers deal out some high-power decibels, with a response of 60 Hz to 20,000 Hz and a 300-watt peak.
— Drivers: Two-way
— Frequency Response: 60 Hz to 20,000 Hz
— Wattage: 200 watts RMS, 300 watts peak
— Sensitivity: Undisclosed
— Can be custom positioned
— Easy installation
— Loud 200 RMS wattage
— Cannot swivel once screwed in
Prefer to mount your speakers overhead? The Rockville RWB90W are overhead powerhouses, pumping out loud 200-watt-RMS sound and peaking at 300 watts. With a frequency response of 60 Hz to 20,000 Hz, these aren’t the bassiest speakers ever, but they still have a good bit of punch in the mid to low end of the spectrum, especially considering the price. Supplement them with a good bass subwoofer, and you’ll make some waves at the marina.
The RWB90W is very easy to install, but the swivel function that’s advertised is less exciting than one would hope, allowing you to position the speakers as you like on an overhead bar but locking into place with a screw. If you want speakers that allow you to make fine daily adjustments to their positioning, then you will be disappointed here. Still, any capacity for custom positioning is a nice feature.
Why It Made The Cut: This excellent-sounding four-pack of 6.5-inch speakers from Kicker keeps it uniform — with the sound and the ambience.
— Drivers: Two-way
— Frequency Response: 35 Hz to 21,000 Hz
— Wattage: 65 watts RMS, 195 watts peak
— Sensitivity: 90 decibels
— Great sound
— Better bass than many other 6.5s
— Good longevity
— Oddly sized for 6.5s and don’t install well on sunken speaker slots
— Requires an unincluded part to rig LEDs
Go ahead and do the whole boat at once with this 6.5-inch-speaker four-pack. The Kicker 6.5-Inch Silver LED Marine Speakers promise solid surround sound for your boat that also locks in the mood with built-in LEDs. These speakers both sound and look great, and they offer a wider than average frequency response for a 6.5-inch marine speaker, dishing up 35 Hz to 21,000 Hz. They also perform a bit better with bass than most of the other 6.5s on this list, even if they could still benefit from the accompaniment of a subwoofer. Their 90-decibel sensitivity does well with custom amplifiers and stock head units alike, and while these aren’t the loudest speakers ever, running at 65-watt-RMS power and peaking at 195 watts, the combined effect of all four is powerful.
These speakers include nice LED trim, which adds visual mood to your soundscape. However, it should be noted that installing these LED speakers is not the easiest. They have a larger than average face for a 6.5, which means they don’t fit well in sunken speaker slots, though they shouldn’t be an issue installed on a flat surface. The LED also takes some rigging. Sadly, the set doesn’t ship with the required component for the RGB controls, making the customizable LED functionality difficult to install correctly. Good boat mechanics likely won’t have an issue, but this set might be difficult to rig yourself, if you want access to the RGB function. If done right, however, the result is beautiful, bathing your boat in mood lighting.
Things To Consider Before Buying Marine Speakers
Before you select marine speakers for your boat, there are a few elements to consider.
Depending on your handiness, the actual installation of your marine speakers might be a piece of cake, or nearly Sisyphean. That’s why it’s important to judge your skill level, the difficulty of the installation, and the compatibility of the components before you commit. Before you buy your speakers it’s a good idea to make sure that they’ll fit the slots on your boat. Not every 6.5 speaker is the same size, even though their name would suggest otherwise. Take a look at the actual sizing in the speaker’s spec sheet. It’s also a good idea to make sure that the speaker’s impedance, or opposition to an electrical current, is compatible with your head unit or amplifier, and that the wattage will work well together without blowing. If it’s too much for your DIY skills, search out someone at your marina with more experience; however, for most basic speakers hooked up to a stock head unit, you shouldn’t need an expert installer.
Most marine-grade coaxial speakers for boats don’t do a wonderful job with low-frequency bass; that’s why it might be a good idea to install a separate subwoofer. If you want deep, thumping bass that will make your boat vibrate, you’ll need a subwoofer like the JL Audio M6-81B-S.
While many of the speakers on this list will produce decent sound hooked up to your boat’s stock head unit without a dedicated amp, most will do a better job with one. If you want truly screaming sound, consider installing an amp. However, installing a dedicated amplifier is no small feat, so before you do it yourself, make sure you’re prepared with the right skills and know-how for the job.
Stereo or Boom Box
While many of the speakers on this list are decently affordable, installation could end up costing you more. Before you commit to tricking your boat out with a set of marine speakers, consider whether a great waterproof Bluetooth speaker like the JBL Boombox 2 could do the job just as well. For more waterproof Bluetooth speakers, check out this list.
Q: Do marine speakers sound better?
Marine speakers are similar to their cousins in cars, usually distinguished only by impressive waterproofing. They’re often made by the same companies, too. As with all speakers, some are better than others. It’s worth doing the research to find the speakers that will sound the best for your boat.
Q: Can you use car speakers in a boat?
Yes, so long as the wiring, power, and impedance are compatible with your boat’s system. Some marine speakers on this list are also advertised for Jeeps and other cars that are meant for off-road and all-weather conditions. However, marine speakers are often much better waterproofed, which is important for rough seas or when wet swimmers are hanging around on the deck.
Q: Can marine speakers get wet?
Marine speakers are made to get wet and have waterproofing built right in. Not all are perfectly waterproofed, but all are water resistant and resistant to corrosion from salt winds and exposure.
Q: Are marine speakers submersible?
Some marine speakers are submersible, but this depends greatly on how the speaker is made. Look for the speaker’s ingress protection rating (if it has one) for more info on whether the speaker is submersible.
Q: Will a marine stereo work in a car?
Some marine speakers are built and advertised for both cars and boats. Most will work in a car; simply check to make sure that the wattage and impedance is compatible before you install.
Q: Do marine tower speakers have bass?
Some marine speakers have great bass, but this depends on the model you choose. Most marine speakers can still benefit from a good subwoofer like the JL Audio M6-81B-S, however. Look at the speaker’s frequency when you’re assessing whether it has bass. Speakers with lower numbers such as 10 Hz will do a good job with bass.
If you’re thinking about tricking out your boat, there’s no better place to start than with some great marine speakers. Marine speakers take the audio up a notch, delivering full-bodied, clear sound on your boat. If you’re looking for screaming sound that’s louder than anything on the water, take a look at the premium 8-inch Rockford Fosgate M2-8HB. If you’ve got budget on your mind but still want an upgrade from your boat’s stock sound, the BOSS Audio Systems MR60W is a good pick. The Kenwood KFC-1653MRW is our pick for the overall best system on the market, however, pumping out crystal clear treble and good body, with a reliable build that will survive the splashes.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.