Best Marine Radio
The following features are important to consider when determining the best marine radio for your boat?
- Is there an existing radio there, and if so, what does the cut out look like?
- Do you have a Wi-Fi Network on Board?
- Do You Have an NMEA 2000 Network?
- How Many Zones do you need to control?
- How "Waterproof" Does Your Radio Need to Be?
If it feels like every option is Fusion, it isn't because we are biased. In general, they just make the best marine radio products.
If you have a Wi-Fi netowrk on board, the Fusion Apollo series radios are the best. These radios can connect to Wi-Fi, play music from your phone wirelessly with Apple AirPlay2, and use Fusion's PartyBus technology to wirelessly connect multiple radios and remoes together. With the PartyBus technology, you can group multiple Apollo series marine radios together to group, sync, and control multiple units together. If you think about the audio aspect of home automation, the Fusion Apollo offers that, but on your boat.
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The Fusion MS-RA670 offers everything that the top of the line RA770 offers, but the 670 does not use a touchscreen, and it does not broadcast Wi-Fi for the PartyBus network as the 770 does. However, if you have an NMEA 2000 network and you want all of the functionality of a high-end radio. The MS-RA670 has 4 zones of output and a built-in DSP. The built-in DSP analyzes the audio signal to eliminate clipping, equalizes volume, and allows you to set different speaker and environment profiles. This allows you to quickly and easily optimize your stereo system for the best possible sound quality. If you add a SiriusXM tuner, the RA670 has advanced features like instant replay, album art, and tune start. All of this works while also displaying the audio information across all MFDs on your NMEA 200 network.
The FusionLink is also one of the features that sets the MS-RA670 apart. If you have an iPhone or Android device, you can download the FusionLink app to connect and control your marine radio from your phone.
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The Fusion MS-RA210 is our pick for the best square style marine radio. Although it is more rectangular than square, it does not fit a standard DIN opening out of the box. Because of this, it falls into the square-style, custom-fit marine radio section rather than the DIN size section. The Fusion MS-RA210 offers many of the same features as the higher-end, more expensive Apollo series units, but the RA210 doesn't have the Wi-Fi and PartyBus capability. The MS-RA210 has virtually every function, source, and feature you would want from a marine radio. What sets the 210 apart is the FusionLink control that allows you to control the radio from your phone, the built-in DSP, multi-zone functionality with subwoofer outputs for both zones, clean aesthetics, and flexible mounting options. With the MS-RA210, you can mount it against the mounting surface, you can mount it flat so that the only protrusion is the volume know, or you can mount it in an existing DIN size opening using the retrofit kit. In addition to the functionality and features, this unit also has an IPX7 rating. This means that the unit is virtually waterproof. The IPX7 rating means it has been tested to operate for 30 minutes in up to 1 meter of water. For the price point, the features, looks, and IPX7, the Fusion MS-RA210 is an amazing radio for your boat.
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The Rockford Fosgate PMX-1 is our choice for the best value among the square style marine radios. The PMX-1 offers the same functionalities as the PMX-2, but it doesn't have a full color, 2.7" TFT display. Instead, the PMX-1 has a wet-bonded 2.3" dotmatrix display. If you do not care about aesthetics, album art, or a bright colorful display, you can save some significant money with the PMX-1 vs. the PMX-2. The PMX-2 was the first square style digital media receiver for the marine environment. You get the proven reliability and performance for less money.
The Rockford Fosgate PMX-2 was one of the first super-compact, square style marine radios that were designed to fit a standard, hole cut-out. The PMX-2 has AM/FM/WB, a built-in amplifier that puts out 50 watts per channel max to 4 speakers, Bluetooth, USB, and auxiliary input. The PMX-2 has front RCA pre-outs and a rear/subwoofer, selectable RCA pre-out. With this, you set the rear RCA channels to either full-range or subwoofer. If you set them to subwoofer, there are two buttons on the front of the radio that allow you to quickly and easily adjust the subwoofer level of your system. You essentially get a bass knob built-in. With the success of the PMX-2, Rockford kept getting requests for SiriusXM and backup camera capability. The PMX-3 is the same as the PMX-2, but it is SiriusXM ready, and it includes a video input and trigger wire for a backup camera. These two marine radios are just solid. If you notice, virtually every car audio company has now come out with a square style, marine head unit, and most of them look and function exactly like the PMX-2. This is the original and still the winner as far as we are concerned. Others are similar and might have this or that, but when it comes to core functionality, PMX-2 or PMX-3 is the ticket.
How zones are classified among marine radios is not consistent. Some might call front and rear RCA-pre-outs, "2 Zone", others might call front + subwoofer pre-outs, "2 Zones." We are separating this because of the confusion that might exist regarding subwoofer control.
The Fusion MS-RA210 is the best square style marine radio if you want 2 zones + subwoofer control. With the MS-RA210, each zone has a subwoofer pre-out. With a loose interpretation of zones, you could consider this 4 zone output, but we are going to stick with 2 + subwoofer because it better describes the situation. With the Rockford Fosgate PMX-2 and PMX-3, it has 2 zone output, but that second zone is either full range or subwoofer. It can't be both. With the Fusion MS-RA210, you get front and rear zone control with a subwoofer control for each one. The difference is with the Fusion MS-RA210, you can control the subwoofer in two locations, assuming you have multiple subwoofers. If you only have 1 subwoofer, connect it to the appropriate zone, and you can control the subwoofer level in that zone to manage your overall subwoofer level. Here is a real-world example. If you have a wakeboard boat and you have 6 speakers in the hull, a 10" subwoofer, and 4 tower speakers. With the MS-RA210, you could connect your hull speakers to Zone 1, and you could connect your subwoofer amp to the subwoofer level for Zone 1. Next, you could connect the amp that is powering your tower speakers to Zone 2. Now you can control your hull speakers and your tower speakers independently while also controlling your subwoofer level. With the Rockford Fosgate PMX-2 or PMX-3, you can't do that.
Although it is more rectangle than square, it does not fit a standard DIN opening out of the box so it then falls into the square-style, custom-fit marine radio section. The MS-RA210 has virtually every function, source, and feature you would want from a marine radio. What sets it apart is the FusionLink control that allows you to control the radio from your phone, the built-in DSP, multi-zone functionality with subwoofer outputs for both zones, clean aesthetics, and flexible mounting options. With the MS-RA210, you can mount it against the surface, you can mount it flat so that the only protrusion is the volume knob, or you can mount it in an existing DIN size opening using the retrofit kit. In addition to the functionality and features, this unit also has an IPX7 rating. This means that the unit is virtually waterproof. The IPX7 rating means it has been tested to operate for 30 minutes in up to 1 meter of water. For the price point, the features, looks, and IPX7, the Fusion MS-RA210 is an amazing radio for your boat.
There aren't any square style marine radios that have true, 3 zone output. These units typically have 2 zones, 2 zones w/ subwoofer, or 4 zone output. If you need more than 2 zones with subwoofer control, please continue to the next section and find the best marine radio with 4 zones.
If you need 4 zones of audio control, the Kicker KMC5 is the best choice among the square style marine radios. The KMC5 offers front, rear, subwoofer, and Zone2 RCA pre-outs. While one zone will be dedicated to the subwoofer, this does give you 4 independent volume levels to control. The Kicker KMC5 fits in a standard, 3" hole cutout and is NMEA 2000 certified. The KMC5 features AM/FM/WB, Bluetooth, SiriusXM ready, video input with a trigger wire, AUX, day and night modes, low battery alert, a customizable EQ, and a bright 3.5" full-color display.
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The Kenwood KMR-M325BT is the best value among DIN sized marine radios. It is a mech-less receiver so it does not have a CD player, but it has Bluetooth, AUX, USB, and 5 channel pre-amp outputs, or 3 zones, depending on how you look at it. Kenwood is one of, if not, the leader in 12 volt head units. This unit comes with a conformally coated board and it does enough for most boats. Are there better radios with better water protection, more zones, and fancy features? Yes, but when it comes to value, this unit is hard to beat.
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The Fusion MS-RA770 has more features and functionality than any other marine radio. It has Wi-Fi connectivity built-in, it is NMEA 2000 certified, it has a full touch screen interface with the exception of the volume knob, and it has all of the other features you'd expect. You can use the MS-RA770 as your home zone and connect to other Fusion Apollo series radios using Wi-Fi and the Fusion PartyBus functionality. This allows you to group and control different radios for a customized experience.
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The best DIN size radio for 2 zone control is the Fusion MS-RA70. This radio fits into a standard DIN size opening without needing any additional brackets or hardware. It has Bluetooth, AM/FM, USB, AUX, is IPX7 rated, and works with the FusionLink app. You can add additional remotes if you choose or simply control it from your iPhone or Android device with the app. In addition to having two-zone control, the Fusion MS-RA70 allows you to name each zone, and the is a subwoofer pre-out tied to zone 1. If you compare this unit to the Kenwood, there the main difference is the front display and the IPX7 rating. The Kenwood has a conformal coating on the PCB board, whereas the MS-RA70 will withstand up to 3 feet of water for 30 minutes. This Fusion unit also works with the app and allows you to add additional wired remotes if you want to be able to control your stereo system from the bow or swim step.
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The Fusion MS-RA670 is the best, 3 zone DIN size marine radio. The RA670 offers all of the same functionality as the MS-RA770, but the RA670 has 1 less zone, and it does not broadcast its own network signal for Fusion's Partybus technology. Each zone on the Fusion RA670 has its own subwoofer pre-out and you can use the Fusionlink app on your iPhone or Android device to control the radio. The Fusion MS-RA670 comes with AM/FM, Bluetooth, USB, AUX, SiriusXM ready, NMEA 2000 certification, and a built-in DSP, which allows you to customize the sound profile for your speakers and your environment while ensuring you don't get a clipped signal.
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IF you need 4 zones of control on your boat, the Fusion MS-RA770 is the best marine radio. Each zone has two-channel of stereo output and a subwoofer pre-out. This allows you to put a subwoofer in each zone, and you can control it independently. In addition to having 4 zones of output, the MS-RA770 is the most feature-packed of any of the marine radios we offer. It has AM/FM, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, dual AUX inputs, USB, PartyBus technology, FusionLink Control, ethernet, and it is NMEA 2000 compliant. This is the best marine radio on the planet.
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If you opt for a "black box" style marine radio, the Rockford Fosgate PMX-8BB is our favorite. It does not come standard with the NMEA 2000 connectivity, but you can add it with the PMX-CAN CANbus adapter. The Rockford Fosgate has virtually every function you could need with 4 zone control, 50W x 4 peak power output, Bluetooth, folder browsing via Bluetooth, USB, AUX, Pandora control, a dedicated DSP for each zone, selectable 12/24 dB crossover controls for each zone, low voltage alert, you can add up to 3 wired remotes, external steering wheel remote interface, an external trigger to activate a backup camera, and an IPX5 rating. The Rockford PMX-8BB will work with existing MFD's if you use the CANbus adapter, which allows you to skip the need for a display. If you still want or need a display, the Rockford Fosgate PMX-8DH plugs directly into the unit to give you a nice, 5" display with rotary volume control, AM/FM pre-sets, and front subwoofer control.