Best Marine Speakers
This article will break down what we believe as the best marine speakers for your boat. We break it down by size, price point, and what the speakers are supposed to do. There are a ton of options here and our recommendations are spread all across the board.
Stay Loyal - If you have a brand that you like, don't over complicate it. Go with those speakers. If you don't, you will second guess yourself as soon as you hear another boat with the brand that you are/were loyal to. If you have had JL Audio and you like JL, you should buy JL speakers. If you are a Kicker guy, get the Kickers. If your boat has a ton of Garmin electronics we recommend Fusion because they are a Garmin brand. Every speakers we sell will sound great when powered properly.
KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid.
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These speakers have a 3/4" silk dome tweeter for rich, smooth, balanced output and can handle 75 watts of RMS power. There are three grille options, classic white, sport white, and sport gunmetal. The sport white and sport gunmetal are available with or without RGB LEDs and if you do go with the LED lights. I actually like the M3 better than the M6 in the 6.5" speaker. The real world performance difference is not that much to justify paying up for the M6. Do the M6 sound better? Yes, absolutely. Do they sound that much better? No.
We recommend powering the M3, 6.5" speakers with the JL Audio M-Series amplifiers. Click here to shop JL Audio M-Series Amps.
The Rockford Fosgate M1 speakers come in either black or white, open style grilles and feature Rockford's Color Optix RGB LEDs. You can easily connect and control the LED lights on these speakers by adding the PMX-RGB for simple, plug and play lighting installation and you can control the colors and modes from your cell phone.
We recommend powering these speakers with a Rockford Fosgate Power Mini Marine or Punch Marine amplifier. Click here to shop Rockford Fosgate marine grade amplifiers.
The Kicker KM65 speakers can handle 65 watts of RMS power and have a 3/4" titanium dome tweeter. The tweeter size and material is the same as the Wet Sounds REVO 6 speakers, but the Kicker KM65 and KM65L are significantly cheaper. When it comes to efficiency, these speakers are just as efficient as the next speakers on the market. The titanium dome tweeter will play bright, play loud, and withstand the elements while not sounding harsh like aluminum does. The Kicker speakers come with both white and charcoal grilles so that you can select which color looks best when installing the speakers instead of when buying the speakers. If you are looking for marine grade performance without breaking the bank, the Kicker KM65L deliver with premium priced features at a mid-level price point.
The 6.5" M6 speakers separate themselves from the pack with their .8" silk-dome tweeter. Every component of the speaker was optimized to not only sound remarkable, but it also had to stand up to the rigirous marine environment.
The JL Audio M6 does outperform it's less expensive M3 counterpart. In my opinion, the M3 offers better overall value for what you pay, but if you absolutely need the best of the best and you are willing to pay for it, the JL Audio M6 is the best sounding 6.5" speaker in the world.
First, Rockford redesigned the tweeter when they upgraded from PM2 to M2. The new PXNX tweeter material is a hybrid material that is a cross between and hard dome and a soft dome tweeter. You essentially get the sound quality of a a soft-dome tweeter but the volume and brightness of a hard dome, essentially the best of both worlds. Rockford isn't interested in telling he world what PXNX is, but know that it is good. The second thing that I really like with these speakers is the Color Optix RGB LEDs. The PMX-RGB controller allows you to change the mode and color from an app on your phone. Also, the RGB LED connection are designed to be plug-and-play. Instead of purchasing a large spool of RGB speaker wire, you just buy the Color Optix cables and plug them into each speaker. No cutting, soldering, crimping, splicing, or wiring involved. Finally, I think the stainless steel mesh that has been a staple of Rockford marine speakers is the best looking speaker grille out there for marine speakers. Sure it is a little closed, but it looks different and better than everything else. There are enough open, spoke-style grilles out there.
We recommend powering the M2-65 and M2-65B speakers with a Rockford Power Mini Marine of Punch Marine amplifier.
The Wet Sounds REVO 6 speakers can handle 100 watts of RMS power. That is 15 more watts than the Rockford Fosgate M2 and the 1" titanium dome tweeter is going to deliver crisp, bright, clear highs without sound brash or harsh. In terms of sensitivity, the Wet Sounds are rated at 90 dB at 1W/1M which is as high as we see for 6.5" speakers.
Wet Sounds only does marine grade audio and they do it well. In a noisy, marine environment with noise from the engine, water, and wind, you want something that is going to be loud, something you can hear when going 30 mph on a hot summer day while listening to your favorite song.
The M3 speakers come in three different grille options, classic white, sport white, and sport gunmetal. Both the sport white and sport gunmetal grilles are available with RGB LEDs. When it comes to marine grade coaxial speakers, the JL speakers just sound better.
Apart from the cosmetics, the Kicker KM84L speakers come with a 1" titanium dome tweeter. Titanium gives you the volume and bright sound profile of a metal dome tweeter but without harshness that you can sometimes find with an aluminum dome tweeter. The Kicker KM84L 8" speakers have the same size tweeter and the same tweeter material as the Wet Sounds REVO 8. When comparing the RMS power handling, these Kicker speakers can handle just as much power as the Wet Sound speakers do. I think the Wet Sounds still play louder than the Kicker speakers do, but they are also double the price. If you want close to Wet Sounds performance but you are willing to sacrifice a little to pay significantly less, the Kicker KM84L is the best value available in an 8" speaker.
When developing the M6, JL Audio did not just re-purpose an automotive speaker and make it marine grade. The JL engineers set out to develop and build the best sounding speakers they could while making sure that they withstood the elements. To quote a JL representative, "The M6 speakers are the best sounding speakers JL has ever made. I like them even better than the C7's". The C7 speakers are for automotive applications, but they are 3-way speakers that cost $2200+ per pair. You can get that type of sound quality and definition in your boat for significantly less money.
We recommend powering the REVO CX-10 with the Wet Sounds Sinister Series amplifier.
While there are no set standards as to what makes a speaker marine grade, there are some common themes among speakers that typically classify them as marine speakers. Marine speakers differ from car speakers due to the environment in which they are installed. Most cars, with the exception of some Jeeps and convertibles are sealed environments. If it is raining, you are not going to get wet or wetter inside the car. Also, when the car is parked, the cars design prevents the interior from getting wet and exposed to moisture in the air. With many boats the opposite is true. Sure there are cabins that stay dry and are not exposed to the elements, but most boats get wet when it rains. In addition, depending on where the boat is docked or parked, it can be exposed to air with higher salt levels. Marine speakers are designed to withstand moisture, salt-fog, and UV light. These three things wreak havoc on most standard car speakers. To design a marine grade speaker, the tweeter is usually "bridge mounted' so that there is no opening in the cone where moisture could get in and effect the motor of the speaker. Many car speakers have paper cones because they are lightweight and can produce sound without a ton of power. With marine speakers, the cone needs to be made of a material that will withstand the moisture. The hardware of marine speakers must be stainless steel so that it does not rust and corrode when exposed to water and salt fog.
Not necessarily. You want to get speakers that are going to match up well with your amplifier. We will use round numbers here, but if your amplifier puts out 100 watts RMS, a pair of speakers that handle 100 or 125 watts RMS will sound much better than a pair of speakers that handle 200 watts RMS. If there's a Honda Civic and a Cadillac in my driveway. Assuming I am by myself, which one is going to be easier to get in the garage? The same principle applies to speakers and their power handling.
The best way to measure the optimal speaker size for your boat is to remove your existing speaker. Next, measure the hole that is in the hull or mounting location. The mounting hole diameter will usually determine how large of a speaker you can use. Next, measure the depth behind the speaker. You want to make sure that you do not purchase new speakers that are too deep for the mounting cavity. Finally, you will mount to measure the outer diameter of the speaker grille and check if there are limitations for the replacement speaker. If your speaker is located in a tight space, you want to make sure that the new speakers do not have an over-size or overly bulky speaker grille that would prevent you from installing them properly.
The short answer is "Yes". The larger speakers have more cone area and usually have larger tweeters. The larger the cone area, the larger the basket, the larger basket means they can handle more power. More power = more volume and improved clarity. TL;DR. Bigger is better. If you can fit 8" speakers and you have enough power for 8" speakers, go with the 8". If you are looking at the 8.8" or 10" and you have enough power, go with them. They will just sound better
Many marine speakers now come with LEDs integrated into the speaker. There are two ways this is usually done. Most speakers have a ring of LEDs on the backside of the grille, located behind the tweeter. The LEDs shine backwards, onto the speaker cone, and illuminate it. JL Audio has come out with their Transflective RGB LEDs on their M6 speakers and the LEDs are located behind the speaker cone, by the speaker's magnet. Using a translucent cone, the LED's light up the cone from behind for brighter and smoother illumination without the hot spots that you often see when the LEDs are on the backside of the tweeter. If your speakers have 1 or 2 color LEDs, it is a straightforward, positive and negative connection, independent of the speaker wire. The LEDs use their own wiring that is not used to carry the audio signal. If you have RGB LEDs, you can wire them to a fixed, static color by only connecting certain colors, or you can purchase an RGB LEDs controller separately and switch between colors, modes, and the speed at which the lights flash and/or fade between colors.
Marine speakers should use marine grade speaker wire. What makes it different? Primarily tin plating. Instead of bare copper wire strands, the strands of wire are tin plated to resist corrosion. If you are using RGB LEDs, you maybe purchase 6 conductor, RGB speaker wire which has two, usually larger wires for the speakers and 4 smaller wires to power the LEDs. The 6 conductor speaker wire helps keep your wiring nice and tidy and eliminates the need to make long wire runs with two cables, isntead you only need one.
- If you consider yourself an audiophile, you probably want sound quality. If you see "Audiophile" and you don't know what that word means, go with volume.
- Sound quality is Michael Buble in a Jazz Lounge. LOUD is slammin' beers at a Motley Crue concert.
- If you mainly listen to hip-hop or electronic music, you will like LOUD.
- If you are the type of person that has ever come home drunk and just blasted your stereo at 2am, much to your neighbors delight. You are probably a LOUD person. If you are the neighbor that called the cops, you probably want sound quality.
What type of boat do you have and how do you use it?
Do you have a wakeboard boat that will have significant engine, wind, and water noise, or do you have a pontoon boat that you use for sunset cruises while drinking wine?
How fast are you usually going?
Do you party and just float down the river? Are you in a power boat making 50+ mph passes? Are you fishing and just cruising?
How loud is "Loud Enough"
If you have an amplifier that doesn't suck, all of the speakers will play plenty loud for you and the people in your boat. If you want everyone else to hear your music, go with a volume speaker over a fidelity speaker.
What type of music do you listen to?
If you listen to classic rock, jazz, and music that has high production value, you will want speakers that are accurate and sound good. If you listen to hip-hop, electronic, or metal, often times the production value isn't there and you might as well pay for something that's going to play loud.
How do I connect my speakers to my amplifier?
We have a separate article which explains many different scenarios and how to wire your speakers to your amplifier?