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Kicker Marine Speakers vs JL Audio


Introduction

Both Kicker and JL are leaders in both the marine and 12-volt audio markets. Both companies are well established and have built a reputation based on their history of building quality products. While both companies are probably most famous for their amplifiers and subwoofers, they both make great speakers for the marine market that will withstand whatever mother nature can throw at them. We will break down and compare Kicker and JL Marine speakers in both 6.5" and 8" sizes. Kicker makes a 4" and JL does not. JL makes an 8.8" and Kicker does not.



6.5" Speakers
6.5" speakers are the most popular speaker size for modern boats and powersports vehicles. Both Kicker and JL have two speaker lines, but they don't necessarily line up that well if you want to compare them side by side. Since this is a comparison, we will explain the differences while also showing price points so that you get a better understanding of the speakers and their value.
Kicker

Kicker has the KM65 line of speakers and KM604. The KM604 is offered as a price point product that is designed to give you a product that has the Kicker name and delivers Kicker performance but at a certain price point. the KM604 speakers are marine grade, but they have a PEI dome tweeter. The KM65 speakers have a titanium dome tweeter which is designed to deliver bright, crystal clear highs without sounding harsh or shrill like an aluminum dome tweeter can.

JL Audio

JL Audio has 6.5" marine speakers in the M3 and M6 lines. These are higher quality speakers that have specially treated, silk-dome tweeter for a warm, rich, smooth, and balanced sound profile. The JL Audio M3 speakers align closely with the Kicker KM65 in terms of price point, power handling, and sound quality. The JL Audio M6, 6.5" speakers are a premium product and Kicker does not currently offer a marine grade speaker with a similar price point or sonic profile. We will, however, use the M6 speakers as a comparison point. While the M6 is not in the same ballpark in terms of price, the value of Kicker is there and we will explain some situations where we feel that the Kicker KM65 might be a better product than the M6. Whether this is true will depend on the customer and the application.

Power Handling
First, we are going to compare the power handing of all three speakers. The power handling is important because it helps give you an idea of how loud and how clear the speakers will play. The more power you can give your speakers, the louder they will get, the cleaner they will sound, and the better they will sound when turned up and playing loud. You can see in the chart below, the power handling among these speakers is not drastically different. As long as you have an amplifier that is putting out 40+ watts of RMS power, you have plenty of power for all three speaker options.
Kicker KM604
• 50W RMS
JL Audio M3-650x
• 60W RMS
Kicker KM65
• 65W RMS
JL Audio M6-650x
• 75W RMS




Grille Options

The Kicker KM604 speakers come in both charcoal or white grilles. The grille is integrated into the speaker itself and not detachable. The Kicker KM65 speakers come with both charcoal AND white speaker grilles. Most marine speakers make you choose your grille color when you are buying the speakers. With the Kicker KM65 speakers, you can select which grille color will look best once you already have the speakers. Since the Kicker KM65 speakers come with both grilles, you can also change it up if you originally decide to go with one color and then later change your mind. Both the white and charcoal grilles that are included are open style grilles. Kicker does not currently offer a classic or closed style grille.

The JL Audio M3 and M6 both come in a classic white, closed-style grille and open-style sport grilles in both white and gunmetal. The sport grilles for the M3 and M6 do look a little bit different, but both are twin, 6 spoke designs.

Kicker KM604
• White (Open)
• Charcoal (Open)
JL Audio M3-650x
• White Classic (Closed)
• White Sport (Open)
• Gunmetal Sport (Open)
Kicker KM65
• White AND Charocal Open Style Grilles Included
JL Audio M6-650x
• White Classic (Closed)
• White Sport (Open)
• Gunmetal Sport (Open)







Efficiency Ratings
The speaker's efficiency rating gives you a standard baseline to tell you how loud that speaker will play. The higher the SPL, or efficiency rating, the louder that the speaker will play, given the same amount of actual power. This value is measured in dB at 1W/1m. This is somewhat subjective because you can always turn the volume up or down, but it is a good baseline to tell you how efficient the speakers are and how "loud" they play assuming the other variables are held constant. It is important to keep in mind that every 3dB the volume doubles. Does .5dB matter? Probably not. If it is 3dB louder, will you notice a difference? Yes, assuming everything else stays the same.
JL Audio M3-650x
• 90 dB @ 1W/1m
JL Audio M3-650x
• 89.5 dB @ 1W/1m
Kicker KM65
• 90 dB @ 1W/1m
JL Audio M6-650x
• 89.5 dB @ 1W/1m




Tweeter Size & Material

Tweeters are very important when it comes to the sound profile of your speakers. There are three different types of tweeters for marine speakers, soft-dome (silk), hard dome, and horns. Neither JL Audio nor Kicker make a horn tweeter on a coaxial speaker so we can ignore that for this comparison.

The Kicker KM65 speakers come with a .75" titanium dome tweeter. Metal alloy tweeters are popular for marine applications because they withstand the marine environment and they also play very bright. The .75" titanium dome tweeter that comes on the KM65 speakers is pretty standard for a 6.5" speaker, but the titanium material plays brighter and louder than most other tweeters, but it doesn't have the harshness and shrill sound that you sometimes get with aluminum dome tweeters. The tweeter that comes in the KM604 speakers is a PEI dome tweeter. PEI is a hard plastic material that is used in many car speakers. It is not as durable as the titanium tweeter that comes in the KM65, but also keep in mind, the KM604 is designed to be an economy, price point product.

The JL Audio M3-650x and M6-650x both come with specially treated, silk dome tweeters. Silk dome tweeters are very popular for their rich, warm, and balanced sound profile. Many people think silk dome tweeters just sound better. JL Audio has found a way to use silk in their marine speakers and use special treatments to ensure that it stands up to the elements including both salt fog and UV exposure. The silk dome tweeters are popular because they just sound better.

Now, if you are thinking, "Well I will just go with JL because they have silk dome tweeters," there are other things to consider. The titanium dome tweeter that comes in the KM65 speakers is going to play much brighter and much louder than the silk dome tweeter in the JL M3 and M6. In an outdoor, marine environment, there is a ton of ambient noise from the wind, water, and engine. That noise is going to cancel out fidelity. Also, in a boat, the speakers are often located down low and not pointed toward your face and your ears. In these types of environments, the loud and bright speakers cut through all of that noise. Also, what do you want from your boat's speakers? Do you want it to just be loud? Or, are you willing to sacrifice sheer volume for sound quality? A lot will depend on the type of boat you have and how you use it. How loud is "loud enough?" These are questions we can't answer for you, but these are important things to think about when selecting the right 6.5" speakers?

Kicker KM604
• .50" PEI Dome Tweeter
JL Audio M3-650x
• .75" Silk Dome Tweeter
Kicker KM65
• .75" Titanium Tweeter
JL Audio M6-650x
• .80" Silk Dome Tweeter




Power Source
Your speakers must match up well with your power source. If you are powering your speakers directly off of your radio, we recommend the KM604. You can power the M3-650 and the KM65 directly off of the radio, but we recommend saving your pennies if that is your situation. You are not likely to hear a significant difference to justify the extra spend on the speakers. If your amplifier is putting out over 40 watts per channel, you should have enough power for the KM65, the M3, or the M6. Music is dynamic, and so is the power output of your amplifier as the speaker cone moves. Can you hear the difference in 25 watts, outside, on your boat? Probably not. Can you hear the difference in 50 watts? Yes. If you have an amplifier that is putting out less than 50 watts RMS, I would probably stay away from the JL Audio M6. If you have a high power amplifier, remember that you can always turn the gain down. But if you don't have enough power and your gain is maxed out, you can't turn it up any higher.
Kicker KM65
• Can be powered directly off of your head unit
• Amplifier will always sound better
JL Audio M3-650x
• Can be powered directly off of your head unit
• Amplifier Recommended
Kicker KM65
• Amplifier Recommended
JL Audio M6-650x
• Amplifier Required




LED Lighting

The Kicker KM604 speakers have the option to buy the model with blue LEDs. With the KM604, you do not have the option to change colors. You get whatever color you want, as long as it's blue! The KM65 is also available with the option to have RGB LEDs integrated into the grille. Like most marine speakers, the LEDs are located behind the tweeter grille and shine backward onto the speaker to illuminate it.

The JL Audio M3 and M6 speakers are available with or without RGB LEDs. If you want them, buy the model that comes with the LEDs. They are slightly more expensive, but that's because they have LEDs. The LED models for the M3 speakers are available in the white sport and gunmetal sport grilles. All three grille styles of the M6 speakers are available with LEDs.

Now, the real difference in RGB LEDs is seen on the JL M6 speakers. The M6 speakers feature JL's patented, Transflective RGB technology. On these speakers, instead of putting the LEDs in the grille, behind the tweeter, the LEDs are located on the speaker basket itself. The cone is made from special, translucent material and the LEDs light up the cone from the backside. Putting the LEDs on the speaker basket instead of behind the tweeter allows the M6 speakers to have more LEDs. Also, because the cone is translucent, it lights up smoother with less halo effect and you don't see the "hot spots" that you oftentimes see when the LEDs are behind the tweeter. As a result, the M6 speakers are hands-down, the best looking LED speakers in the world. They light up brighter and the output is smoother than any other LED marine speakers.

Kicker KM604
• Optional Blue LEDs on White Speakers
JL Audio M3-650x
• Optional with Sport While or Sport Gunmetal Grilles
Kicker KM65
• RGB LEDs Optional
JL Audio M6-650x
• Optional for All Grille Styles
• The Best Looking RGB LED Speakers in the World






Our Recommendations

If you are on a strict budget, the KM604 speakers give you Kicker quality sound at a cheap price point. However, you are getting what you are paying for. When it comes to 6.5" marine speakers, the Kicker KM65 might be the best value in the world. The titanium tweeter is the same material that comes in the Wet Sounds REVO speakers, but the Kicker speakers are $150 cheaper. If you want bright, loud, clear sound, I would go with Kicker. If you like nice things and you want great sound quality at a great price, go with the JL Audio M3. The JL Audio M6 is in a league of its own when compared to Kicker's 6.5" marine speaker offering. If you have the money for $400 speakers, and you want the best, stop reading and buy the M6 speakers. If you are having trouble deciding between Kicker and the JL M3, you get what you pay for. The Kicker speakers are the better value, but the JL speakers do sound better.



Comparison
Kicker KM604
Tweeter Size
.50"
Tweeter Material
PEI
Deck Power Compatible
Yes
Grille Options
White
 
LED Options
White w/ Blue LEDs
 
RMS Power Handling
50 Watts
Peak Power Handling
150 Watts
Efficiency @ 1W/1m
90 dB
Frequency Response
35 Hz - 21KHz +/- 3 dB
Mounting Depth
2.5"
Mounting Hole Diamter
5.1875"
Outer Grille Diameter
Not Stated
JL Audio M3-650x
Tweeter Size
.75"
Tweeter Material
Silk Dome
Deck Power Compatible
Yes, Amp Recommended
Grille Options
White Classic, White Sport, Gunmetal Sport
LED Options
White Sport & Gunmetal Sport available with RGB LEDs
RMS Power Handling
60 Watts
Peak Power Handling
120 Watts
Efficiency @ 1W/1m
89.5 dB
Frequency Response
55 Hz - 25KHz +/- 3 dB
Mounting Depth
2.74"
Mounting Hole Diameter
5.00-5.25"
Outer Grille Diameter
6.90"
Kicker KM65
Tweeter Size
.75"
Tweeter Material
Titanium
Deck Power Compatible
Yes, Amp Recommended
Grille Options
Both White & Charcoal Are Included
LED Options
Yes - KM654L Model Includes RGB LEDs
RMS Power Handling
65 Watts
Peak Power Handling
195 Watts
Efficiency @ 1W/1m
90 dB
Frequency Response
35 Hz - 21KHz +/- 3 dB
Mounting Depth
2.375"
Mounting Hole Diamter
5.625"
Outer Grille Diameter
Not Stated
JL Audio M6-650x
Tweeter Size
.8"
Tweeter Material
Silk Dome
Deck Power Compatible
No
Grille Options
White Classic, White Sport, Gunmetal Sport
LED Options
All Grille Options available with RGB LEDs
RMS Power Handling
75 Watts
Peak Power Handling
150 Watts
Efficiency @ 1W/1m
89.5 dB
Frequency Response
55 Hz - 25KHz +/- 3 dB
Mounting Depth
3.00"
Mounting Hole Diameter
5.00-5.25"
Outer Grille Diameter
6.90"
8" Speakers
8" speakers have more surface area and usually handle more power than 6.5" speakers. The larger cone area and higher power handling mean that the 8" speakers play louder and give you more mid-bass response than a 6.5". In general, if you are considering adding or upgrading your speakers and you have space and the power for 8" speakers instead of 6.5", go with the 8" model. The 8" just sound better.
Kicker

Kicker Kicker only offers one 8" marine-grade speaker. The KM8 is the bigger version of the KM65 and comes standard with RGB LEDs built-in and it also includes both white and charcoal grilles. The 8" speakers handle more power and have a larger tweeter than the 6.5". We will explain it below, but the Kicker 8" speakers are the best value in all marine speakers in our opinion.

JL Audio

JL Audio does not make a true 8" speaker, but instead, they make a 7.7". Like the 6.5", the 7.7" marine speakers are offered in two different lines, M3 and M6. Both the M3 and M6 7.7" JL Audio marine speakers have silk-dome tweeter for a warm, rich, smooth, and balanced sound profile. The 7.7" JL Audio M3 speakers align closely with the Kicker KM8 in terms of performance, but the tweeters and price points are quite different. The JL Audio M6, 7.7" speakers are a premium product and Kicker does not currently offer a marine grade speaker with a similar price point or sonic profile. We will, however, use the M6 speakers as a comparison point. While the M6 is not in the same ballpark in terms of price, the value of Kicker is there and we will explain some situations where we feel that the Kicker KM65 might be a better product than the M6. Whether this is true will depend on the customer and the application.

Power Handling
First, we are going to compare the power handing of all three speakers. The power handling is important because it helps give you an idea of how loud and how clear the speakers will play. The more power you can give your speakers, the louder they will get, the cleaner they will sound, and the better they will sound when turned up and playing loud. You can see in the chart below, the power handling among these speakers is not totally consistent. Kicker rates the KM8 at 150 watts RMS while the JL Audio M3 and M6 are at 70 watts and 100 watts, respectively. The Kicker can handle up to 150 watts RMS, but there aren't a ton of amplifiers that are putting out that type of RMS power. In our experience, we treat the rating of the KM8 more like 100 watts RMS as the KM8 speakers still sound great with as little as 50 watts of RMS power.
JL Audio M3-770x
• 70W RMS
Kicker KM8
• 150W RMS
JL Audio M6-770x
• 100W RMS




Grille Options

The Kicker KM8 speakers come with both charcoal AND white speaker grilles. Most marine speakers make you choose your grille color when you are buying the speakers. With the Kicker KM8 speakers, you can select which grille color will look best once you already have the speakers. Since the Kicker KM8 speakers come with both color grilles, you can also change it up if you originally decide to go with one color and then later change your mind. Both the white and charcoal grilles that are included are open style grilles. Kicker does not currently offer a classic or closed style grille.

The 7.7" JL Audio M3 and M6 both come in a classic white, closed-style grille and open-style sport grilles in both white and gunmetal. The sport grilles for the M3 and M6 do look a little bit different, but both are twin, 6 spoke designs.

JL Audio M3-650x
• White Classic (Closed)
• White Sport (Open)
• Gunmetal Sport (Open)
Kicker KM8
• White AND Charocal Open Style Grilles Included
JL Audio M6-650x
• White Classic (Closed)
• White Sport (Open)
• Gunmetal Sport (Open)







Efficiency Ratings
The speaker's efficiency rating gives you a standard baseline to tell you how loud that speaker will play. The higher the SPL, or efficiency rating, the louder that the speaker will play, given the same amount of actual power. This value is measured in dB at 1W/1m. This is somewhat subjective because you can always turn the volume up or down, but it is a good baseline to tell you how efficient the speakers are and how "loud" they play assuming the other variables are held constant. It is important to keep in mind that every 3dB the volume doubles. Does .5dB matter? Probably not. If it is 3dB louder, will you notice a difference? Yes, assuming everything else stays the same.
JL Audio M3-770x
• 90.5 dB @ 1W/1m
Kicker KM84L
• 92 dB @ 1W/1m
JL Audio M6-770x
• 90.5 dB @ 1W/1m




Tweeter Size & Material

Tweeters are very important when it comes to the sound profile of your speakers. There are three different types of tweeters for marine speakers, soft-dome (silk), hard dome, and horns. Neither JL Audio nor Kicker make a horn tweeter on a coaxial speaker so we can ignore that for this comparison.

The Kicker KM8 speakers come with a 1.00" titanium dome tweeter. Metal alloy tweeters are popular for marine applications because they withstand the marine environment and they also play very bright. The 1.00" titanium dome tweeter that comes on the KM8 speakers is pretty standard for an 8" speaker, but the titanium material plays brighter and louder than most other tweeters, but it doesn't have the harshness and shrill sound that you sometimes get with aluminum dome tweeters.

The JL Audio M3-770x and M6-770x both come with specially treated, silk dome tweeters. Silk dome tweeters are very popular for their rich, warm, and balanced sound profile. Many people think silk dome tweeters just sound better. JL Audio has found a way to use silk in their marine speakers and use special treatments to ensure that it stands up to the elements including both salt fog and UV exposure. The silk dome tweeters are popular because they just sound better.

Now, if you are thinking, "Well I will just go with JL because they have silk dome tweeters," there are other things to consider. The titanium dome tweeter that comes in the KM8 speakers is going to play much brighter and much louder than the silk dome tweeter in the JL M3 and M6. Also, the tweeter on the Kicker KM8 is bigger than the tweeter on the M3-770x. In an outdoor, marine environment, there is a ton of ambient noise from the wind, water, and engine. That noise is going to cancel out fidelity. Also, in a boat, the speakers are often located down low and not pointed toward your face and your ears. In these types of environments, the loud and bright speakers cut through all of that noise. Also, what do you want from your boat's speakers? Do you want it to just be loud? Or, are you willing to sacrifice sheer volume for sound quality? A lot will depend on the type of boat you have and how you use it. How loud is "loud enough?" These are questions we can't answer for you, but these are important things to think about when selecting the right 8" speakers?

JL Audio M3-770x
• .75" Silk Dome Tweeter
Kicker KM84L
• 1.00" Titanium Tweeter
JL Audio M6-770x
• 1.00" Silk Dome Tweeter




Power Source
With 8" marine speakers, we do not recommend powering them directly off of your head unit. You need an amplifier to give these speakers enough power to hear the difference over a 6.5".
JL Audio M3-770x
• Amplifier Required
Kicker KM84L
• Amplifier Required
JL Audio M6-770x
• Amplifier Required




LED Lighting

The KM8 speakers come standard with RGB LEDs. Like most marine speakers, the LEDs are located behind the tweeter grille and shine backward onto the speaker to illuminate it.

The JL Audio M3 and M6 speakers are available with or without RGB LEDs. If you want them, buy the model that comes with the LEDs. They are slightly more expensive, but that's because they have LEDs. The LED models for the M3 speakers are available in the white sport and gunmetal sport grilles. All three grille styles of the M6 speakers are available with LEDs.

Now, the real difference in RGB LEDs is seen on the JL M6 speakers. The M6 speakers feature JL's patented, Transflective RGB technology. On these speakers, instead of putting the LEDs in the grille, behind the tweeter, the LEDs are located on the speaker basket itself. The cone is made from special, translucent material and the LEDs light up the cone from the backside. Putting the LEDs on the speaker basket instead of behind the tweeter allows the M6 speakers to have more LEDs. Also, because the cone is translucent, it lights up smoother with less halo effect and you don't see the "hot spots" that you oftentimes see when the LEDs are behind the tweeter. As a result, the M6 speakers are hands-down, the best looking LED speakers in the world. They light up brighter and the output is smoother than any other LED marine speakers.

JL Audio M3-650x
• Optional with Sport While or Sport Gunmetal Grilles
Kicker KM84L
• RGB LEDs Standard
JL Audio M6-650x
• Optional for All Grille Styles
• The Best Looking RGB LED Speakers in the World







Our Recommendations

The 8" Kicker marine speakers are the best bang for your buck among any marine speakers in our opinion. You get an 8" speaker that can handle up to 150 watts RMS, with RGB LEDs and a 1" titanium tweeter for under $300 a pair. That type of value is simply not found with any other marine grade speakers. The 1" titanium tweeter is going to play loud, bright, and cut through the ambient noise. Now, at the same time, if you love JL Audio and you are all about sound quality over sheer volume, the M3 and M6 speakers do sound amazing. The M3's are a great value for a silk dome tweeter. The 7.7" M6 will blow you away with how nice they sound. But, you are paying a premium for both JL speakers compared with the Kicker KM8.



Comparison
JL Audio M3-770x
Tweeter Size
.75"
Tweeter Material
Silk Dome
Deck Power Compatible
Amplifier Required
Grille Options
White Classic, White Sport, Gunmetal Sport
LED Options
White Sport & Gunmetal Sport available with RGB LEDs
RMS Power Handling
70 Watts
Peak Power Handling
225 Watts
Efficiency @ 1W/1m
90.5 dB
Frequency Response
45 Hz - 25KHz +/- 3 dB
Mounting Depth
3.15"
Mounting Hole Diameter
6.25"
Outer Grille Diameter
7.70"
Kicker KM84L
Tweeter Size
1.00"
Tweeter Material
Titanium
Deck Power Compatible
Amplifier Required
Grille Options
Both White & Charcoal Are Included
LED Options
RGB LEDs come Standard
 
RMS Power Handling
150 Watts
Peak Power Handling
300 Watts
Efficiency @ 1W/1m
92 dB
Frequency Response
30 Hz - 21KHz +/- 3 dB
Mounting Depth
3.3125"
Mounting Hole Diamter
6.5625"
Outer Grille Diameter
Not Stated
JL Audio M6-770x
Tweeter Size
1.00"
Tweeter Material
Silk Dome
Deck Power Compatible
Amplifier Required
Grille Options
White Classic, White Sport, Gunmetal Sport
LED Options
All Grille Options available with RGB LEDs
 
RMS Power Handling
100 Watts
Peak Power Handling
200 Watts
Efficiency @ 1W/1m
91 dB
Frequency Response
45 Hz - 25KHz +/- 3 dB
Mounting Depth
3.32"
Mounting Hole Diameter
6.25"
Outer Grille Diameter
7.70"
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