We offer marine amplifiers ranging from 1 channel, mono subwoofer amps all the way up to 8 channel amplifiers and amps from the top brands in the industry including JL Audio, Kicker, Rockford Fosgate, Wet Sounds, and more. If you are looking to make your boat's stereo louder and/or sound better, we have a solution for you.
Do I need a Marine Amplifier?Need? No. Recommended? Yes. Sometimes people ask if they really need a marine grade amplifier. Unfortunately the honest answer is, "It depends." Does your boat ever sit outside, overnight? If the answer is yes, then you should get a marine rated amplifier. The moisture from dew or fog, the possibility of it raining, and especially if your boat goes in salt water. The salty air and especially salt fog wreaks havoc on non-marine electronics. If you keep your boat garaged every night, and if your amplifiers stay inside a dry area that is never exposed to rain, water, or the sun, you probably don't NEED a marine amplifier, but we would still recommend it. Usually they are around $50 more than their non-marine counterparts and for an extra $50-$200 it isn't worth having to mess with it were something to go wrong. Most marine amplifiers are not sealed and water proof because they need vents to get heat out, but the PCBs are coated, the metal and hardware are designed to withstand nature and all of it's elements.
How many channels do I need for my marine amplifier?The number of channels you need will depend on the number of speakers, the number of subwoofers, and the power handling of those speakers. Here is a brief run down of many popular configurations?
- 4 Speakers: A 4 channel amplifier is perfect. Keep it simple/
- 6 Speakers: It will depend on the power handling of the speakers. You can run a 4 channel marine amplifier and just run 4 off the speakers off of the front or rear channel at 2 ohms, as long as your amplifier is 2 ohm stable. You can also run a 6 channel amplifier for a more straightforward approach. It will depend on the power handling and size of the speakers.
- 8 Speakers: An 8 channel amplifier will give you a straightforward install. One speaker per channel. You could also run a 4 channel amplifier and run all 8 speakers at 2 ohms, connecting 4 speakers to the front 2 channels and 4 speakers to the rear 2 channels.
- 4 speakers + 1 or 2 Subowofers: A 5 channel marine amp will be perfect. Each speaker off of each of the 4 channels, subwoofer off of the 5th, subwoofer channel. Simple. You can also run 4 speakers and a subwoofer with a 6 channel marine amp, but you will need to bridge channels 5 and 6 and ensure that you wiring to a 4 ohm load with the subwoofer.
- 6 Speakers + 1 or 2 Subwoofers: You can still run a 5 channel amplifier with 6 speakers and 2 subwoofers. With these situations, you will want to wire 4 speakers to "front", and then 2 speakers to "rear" or vice versa, depending on the layout of your boat. You will then wire the subwoofers to the subwoofer channel and you should be good to go. Most marine amps can handle a 2 ohm load so wiring the 4 speakers to either front or rear will not be an issue. Make sure to maintain polarity, positive to postive, negative to negative.
- 4 Speakers + 2 Tower Speakers + 1 or 2 Subwoofers: This will depend on the type of tower speakers. If you are running 6.5" or 8" coaxial towers, you can use a 5 or 6 channel amp. If you are running tower speakers with horn tweeters, this usually requires 2 amplifiers. A 5 channel amplifier to power 4 speakers and the subwoofer and a 2 channel amp to power the tower speakers. The horn tweeters are usually in large, 8", 9", 10", or 11" sizes and they need a good amount of power to get the volume that you are paying for.. It is worth getting the separate marine amps in this situation.
- 4 Speakers + 4 Tower Speakers + 1 or 2 Subwoofers: Two amps. A 5 channel marine amp for the hull, coaxial speakers, and the subwoofer. A high powered 2 channel amplifier for the 4 tower speakers. Run the tower speakers at 2 ohm and you should be good to go.
- 6 Speakers + 2 or 4 Tower Speakrs + 1 or 2 Subwoofers: Two amps. A 5 channel marine amp for the hull, coaxial speakers, and the subwoofer. 4 of the speakers will have to be powered off of either "Front" and then the other two off of "Rear" or vice versa. A high powered 2 channel amplifier for the 4 tower speakers. Run the tower speakers at 2 ohm and you should be good to go.
- 8 Speakers + 1 or 2 Subwoofers: You can run a 5 channel marine amp and run the speakers at 2 ohms, then just run your subwoofers off of the sub channels. The other option would be to run an 8 channel amplifier and a separate mono or 2 channel amplifier to power your subwoofer.
Which Marine Amplifier Brand?Pick your poison. We carry amplifiers from the top brands in the industry including JL Audio, Kicker, Rockford Fosgate, Wet Sounds and more. Brand preference when it comes to your marine amp will depend on your own personal preference, the power handling of the speakers you are installing, and the number of speakers and subwoofers you have. If you are loyal to a particular brand because you have had good luck or you really like that brand, you should probably go with it. Sometimes it makes sense to go with the same brand marine amp to match your speakers. This is often the case with Wet Sounds. Their REV 10 speakers match up perfectly with the SYN-DX2 HP amplifier. Now that you have 1 Wet Sounds amp, it probably makes sense to have all Wet Sounds amplifiers. Rockford Fosgate offers some marine amps in super small packages, but with full size output. These amps not only sound great, but they offer tons of flexibility when it comes to the installation. Wet Sounds and JL offer small marine amps as well. There really are no bad options when it comes out our selection of marine amplifiers, you just want to make sure that you are giving your speakers enough power to get the sound quality you expect from your investment.
Do I need a Marine amplifier wiring kit?Marine amp wiring kits are different than standard car audio amp wiring kits. Marine amp wiring must be tinned to withstand the elements. You want to make sure that the wiring kit you are using is 100% OFC (Oxygen Free Copper). If it doesn't say it is 100% OFC, it probably means it isn't and you don't want it. Copper coated aluminum does not transfer power as efficiently and can overheat, and catch fire and boats and fires do not mix well. The other thing that differs between boats and cars is the ability to get a good ground. Your boat most likely is not made of metal and the negative side of the battery can't ground to the chassis or frame. Instead, for marine amps, the negative wire usually has to be run all the way back to the negative side of the battery. Most car amp kits only come with 3-4 feet of ground wire. With marine amp wiring kits, the ground wire is the same length as the power wire so that you can ensure a good ground for your amp(s). While some car amp wiring kits include a 2 channel RCA, most marine amp wiring kits do not. There are too many options for amp mounting and stereo mounting that it would be too difficult and a waste of time to either include or assume the length that is ideal for each customer. Instead, we offer them separately and you select the length that best fits your needs.
Which Amps Are Your Favorites?We wrote an entire article on the best marine amplifiers and we break them down by brand and by the number of channels. If you don't want to read that, here is a condensed version:
- Best Value: Rockford Fosgate Power Mini hands down. These amps are super small, they have a constant power circuit, and the raw power output is just unmatched
- Best for Sound Quality: Let's say we are just floating or on a little sunset cruise. I would probably go with the JL Audio M series amps. The signal processing and sound quality is just unmatched.
- Best for Large Horn Tower Speakers: If I need to power some big, horn loaded tower speakers (9"-11") I like two options. The Wet Sounds SYN-DX2.3 HP or the Kicker KXA1200.2. Both amplifiers put out similar power and they just crank.
- Best Amplifier for Subwoofer(s): JL Audio M600/1 or Rockford TM750x1bd. The JL amp is what you expect from JL. The Rockford ends up putting out 900+ watts of actual power and it's the best value there is in terms of cost per watt.
Why are Most Marine Amplifiers Class D Amps?
Most marine amplifiers are class D amps because they are the most efficient and less taxing on your boat's electrical charging system. If you are docked and using your boat's stereo system, you don't want your stereo system to completely drain your batteries. Sure, there are isolators and other hardware than can prevent this from happening, but a dead battery is a good way to put a damper on a good day. Class D amplifiers also consume less current than Class AB amplifiers and as a result they run cooler. The cooler operating temperatures help to prevent the amplifier from shutting down and going into protect mode if you are playing your music loud, for long periods of time, on a hot day.
What are the Advantages of the Mini Marine Amplifiers?
The mini marine amplifiers give you maximum output per square inch of space. If you have a limited amount of space to mount your marine amplifiers, the mini amplifiers allow you to give your speakers more power in the same amount of space. If you can fit a single 800 watt, 8 channel amplifier in the space, or you can fit 4, 400 watt mini amplifiers in the same space, you now have 1600 watts of power in the same space instead of 800 watts of power.
If Space Isn't an Issue, Is a Full Size Marine Amplifier better than a Mini Marine Amplifier?
Generally speaking, a full-size marine amplifier is better than a mini marine amplifier. There are some exceptions to this like the Rockford Fosgate Power Mini marine amps, but the full size amplifiers manage heat much better than the mini ones. Usually, when you are using your boat, it is a nice, warm day, usually in the summer. If you are playing your stereo system with the volume up, the sun's out, and it is 90 degrees outside, that amplifier is generating a good amount of heat. If it is behind a door, in a dry place, it might not get great air flow and the outside ambient temperature is already hot. As that amplifier gets warmer, you also get more distortion. You also run the risk of the amplifier overheating and shutting down. With the full size marine amplifiers, there is more surface are and more mass to dissipate that heat. Less heat equals less distortion and a lower chance that the amplifier will shut down and go into protect mode.
When we spoke of the exception with the Rockford Power Mini marine amplifiers, the exception is due to the raw output that you get from those amplifiers. The TM400x4ad gives you 100 watts of constant power. To find another amplifier with that type of output, you are spending significantly more money. In our opinion, the value you get out of that amplifier outweights the heat issues you face with a mini amp.
Are Marine Amplifiers Waterproof?
Not all marine amplifiers are waterproof. "Marine Grade," does not mean the same thing to all people. Most marine amplifiers have a conformal coated board, use stainless steel hardware, and have anti-corrision, nickel plated terminals. However, some amplifiers need air flow to help manage heat. Other amplifiers have active cooling with fans on-board. If there is a fan in the amplifier, it is not water proof as water can enter through the fan and although the board is has conformal coating, things could still short out. Many of the power connections on amplifiers are not fully sealed. Many of them have gaskets and other seals to help seal them against water intrusion but they are not 100% water proof. The key to understandign how "water proof" a marine amplifier might be is to look at the IP rating. If it says it is IP67, that means that the amp can be submerged in water up to 1 meter deep for up to 30 minutes. If it goes deeper than 1 meter (3 feet), that amp is not rated to keep water out. If it is submerged in 6 inches of water for 40 minutes, that amplifier is not rated to keep water out. Most marine amplifiers can handle getting wet. We do not recommend installing them in a location where they might get soaked or sit in standing water.
Is it Better to Run Marine Amplifiers at 4 Ohms or 2 Ohms?In most situations, we recommend running your marine amplifier at a 4 ohm load. Most marine amps are 2 ohm stable, but when you cut reduce the impedance, you double the power. Since the voltage doesn't change, that means that the amplifier draws twice as much current and also generates significantly more heat. More heat means more distortion and it also increases the chance that your amplifier will cut out and go into protect mode.
What is a Monoblock Marine Amplifier?A monoblock marine amplifier is an amp that is usually used to power subwoofers. Most audio is recorded in stereo so that you get a separation between the left and right channels. With bass, there is no separation. Because there is not separation, there is no need for left and a right and instead bass plays in mono. The signal processing that is built into monoblock amplifiers is much different than the signal processing in most full range amplifiers. Most monoblock marine amplifiers do not play above 500 Hz because the sub bass frequencies don't go that high. Most monoblock marine amplifiers only have a low pass filter and the better ones will even have a subsonic filter that allows you to focus the output at a specific frequency.
How do I Set the Gain on My Marine Amplifier?
It is important to properly set the gain on your marine amplifier to protect your speakers and a properly set gain will reduce clipping, reduce distortion, and help your amplifier run cooler. You first want to determine if your amplifier has a built-in clipping indicator. The Rockford Fosgate Power Mini and Punch amplifiers have LED clipping indicators and so do the Kicker KXMA amplifiers. With these amplifiers, there are detailed instructions included with the amplifier to help you set your gain.If you do not have an LED clipping indicator, follow these steps:
- Turn the gain on your amplifier ALL THE WAY DOWN
- Turn the volume knob on your radio to 3/4 of the max. If your radio goes to 100, turn the volume knob to 75. If it goes to 40, turn it to 30.
- Slowly turn the gain up until you hear distortion OR it is so loud that it hurts your ears and you would never listen to it that loud.
- Turn the gain back ever so slightly so that the distortion goes away, or until it stops hurting your ears
- Don't turn your head unit past 75%.