Things to think about when Buying Marine Speakers:
- What size speaker fits your boat?
- Do you want LED Lights?
- What are you trying to accomplish
- Do you have a wake tower?
How Do I know what size marine speakers I currently have?
If you have an owner's manual, consult the owner's manual for the speaker size. It should tell you. If the owner's manual does not give you the speaker size, you can measure the outside diameter of the speaker grille. This should rule out most sizes. If you are still unsure, you should remove the current speaker and measure the mounting hole cutout. After you now the existing mounting hole cutout, you want to measure the mounting depth of your current speaker and the maximum mounting depth that your boat or vehicle will allow. You can use these dimensions to help choose the right replacement speaker because you will know what marine speakers fit.
How Do I know if I can fit bigger marine speakers?
If you are looking to to install bigger speakers than what you currently have, you need to to measure the disance from the center of your current mounting hole to the nearest edge. That edge may be the floor of the hull, it may be the bottom of a seat above, it may be an angle to the left or right where the hull bends and is no longer a flat surface. If you double that measurement, you know the largest possible outer frame diameter that you can fit. Next, you also want to measure the mounting depth behind your current speaker cutout to make sure you have enough depth to allow a larger speaker to fit. The larger speakers have larger cones and larger baskets. Usually, the larger the speaker, the more mounting depth clearance is required.
If You Install Bigger Speakers, Do You Still Need a Subwoofer?
Installing larger marine speakers will improve the overall sound quality of your boat's stereo system, the larger speakers do not usually provide the same amount of bass response as marine subwoofers. If you are not a fan of bass, upgrading to 8" or larger speakers might give you enough mid bass to make you happy, but it is not going to give you the impact that a subwoofer does. With a marine subwoofer, you are usually powering it with 200+ watts of RMS power. Most 8" marine speakers don't handle 200 watts of RMS power and the frequency of that power is usually ranging from 80 Hz to 18kHz with what the human ear can actually hear. With a subwoofer, the 200+ watts of RMS power is focused below 80 Hz, right in the sweet spot for the subwoofer. While upgrading to larger speakers will help with mid-bass response and they will improve the overall bass output of your speakers, the larger speakers can't match the bass output of a subwoofer.
How Do the LEDs work in Marine Speakers
Many marine speakers come with LEDs integrated into the speaker grille or in the JL Audio M6 speakers, they are located on the speaker basket itself, behind a translucent speaker cone. In most LED marine speakers, the LEDs are located behind the tweeter. Since marine speakers do not usually have tweeters mounted on a pole through the middle of the speaker and instead of "bridge" mounted, LEDs are possible. The LEDs shine back on to the speaker cone to illuminate it. This keeps the LEDs hidden while given the speakers a nice, colorful glow effect. The JL Audio M6 marine speakers use a translucent speaker cone and they light up the cone using LEDs located by the speaker magnet. The LEDs are shining forward and the cone evenly disperses and diffuses the light. Because they have a larger surface and the cone acts as a diffuser, the M6 speakers have more LEDs for a brighter and more evenly distributed glow without any "halo" effect or visible hotspots.
How do You Wire the LEDs in Marine Speakers
The LEDs in marine speakers work indepently of the speaker wire. Simply wiring the speaker for audio will not power the LEDs. The LEDs on marine speakers work off of your 12 volt power system.
If the speakers have single color LEDs, they just need a power wire and a ground wire. You can use speaker wire as the wire to do this, or you can use regular, 20 AWG primary wire. You can use the REM wire on the amplifier as the 12v power source from your head unit to power the LEDs if you want the LEDs to light up when you turn your stereo on. However, this means that the LEDs will always be on when the stere is on. If you want the ability to turn the LEDs on and off regardless of whether the stereo is on or not, you then need to wire them to a switch.
If you have RGB LEDs, you can wire your speakers to the color of your choosing by grounding certain color wires. For example, if you have 12V power to the LEDs and you ground the red wire, the speakers will light up red. If you ground the blue wire, they will light up blue. If you ground the green wire, they will light up green. If you ground red, blue, and green, they will light up white. You can also mix and match wires to light up other colors, like red and blue to make purple, but you get the point. If you want the ability to easily and quickly change the color of your speakers or if you want your speakers to constantly change colors by fading or flashing, you can add an RGB LED controller. With an RGB LED controller, you can set the LEDs to virtually any color you want and you can select between a bunch of different modes for a full on disco party if you want. Many RGB LED controllers have Bluetooth built in and can be controlled via an app on your phone. The easiest way to wire RGB LEDs is with RGB speaker wire. Instead of standard, positive and negative speaker wire, this speaker wire is jacketed cable with 2 larger conductors for your speaker wire and 4 smaller wires for the RGB LEDs, a black wire for power, and then red, blue, and green wires to connect and ground.
Do You Need an Amplifier for Your Marine Speakers?
You don't need an amplifier for marine speakers, but we do recommend one. Regardless of how you use your boat, adding an amplifier will dramtically imporve the sound quality of your marine speakers. While many head units say that they are putting 25 watts or 50 watts per channel, that is the peak output, not the RMS output. 35 watts from a marine amplifier will blow away 50 watts from your head unit. Because you are outside and there is usually wind, water, and engine noise, you want to make sure that your speakers will be able to cut through that noise without distorting. When you add an amplifier, you increase the maximum volume at which your speakers can play and you also improve the clarity at all listening levels. So while you technically don't need an amplifier, the additional cost of the amplifier is worth the investment because it will make your time on your boat much more enjoyable. If you consider the amount of money you have invested in your boat and it's maintenance, an extra $200-300 for an amplifier is a rounding error and usually about or less than the cost it takes to fill your boat up with gas.
Speaker Brand BreakdownWe carry a wide variety of marine speaker brands and each one is a little bit different in terms of sound profile, power handling, and price. We will try to break it down so you can get a better understand of where each brand lies within the market.
- Boss Marine Speakers - Affordable, value priced product. Are Boss speakers amazing? No. Are they a really good value when compare them based on price? Yes. Will you notice of hear the difference? It all depends. Boss is really the only economy brand that we offer because we feel they make a good product that fits a need for entry level speakers
- JL Audio Marine Speakers - The best sound quality among marine speakers. The M6 speakers sound absolutely amazing. The M3 offer JL sound quality at an affordable price point. The JL speakers that come with LEDs are also the best looking LED speakers in the world and it's not close
- Memphis Marine Speakers - Memphis marine speakers are perfect if you want something that is going to get loud, but you are on a budget. They are mid-tier speakers that are better than teh $100 per pair speakers and you get what you pay for, but they are LOUD
- Rockford Fosgate Marine Speakers - There are 3 levels of Rockford Fosgate marine speakers. The RM0 is a higher-end entry level speaker that is designed to be used without an amplifer. The RM1 speakers give you that signature Rockford loud, bright, clear sound profile, but at an affordable price point. The Rockford Punch speakers are probably the best value for high-end speakers designed to get LOUD. The Rockford horn speakers are melt your face-off, make your ears bleed, holy $#!^ these speakers are aggressive loud.
- Stinger Marine Speakers - Super versatile speakers that play loud and sound good. If you are looking for something around $100 per pair, go with the Stinger. They sound good both with and without and amplifier. The best option for value priced LED speakers
- Wet Sounds Marine Speakers - Similar sound profile to Rockford Fosgate. Wet Sounds speakers are designed to get LOUD. They are not going to be as bright as Rockford speakers are, but Wet Sounds also only does marine audio. They know what works, what sounds good, and what it takes to build a high quality, high end speaker that is going to last. The Wet Sounds speakers are perfect if you want LEDs and youw want LOUD. The Wet Sounds RECON speakers are their entry-level offering that have lower power handling and they can be wired directly to a head unit.
Marine tower speakers are speakers that come in enclosers that are designed to mount to the wakeboard tower or tow tower of a boat. They are most popular on wakeboard boats because they all have a tower. The purpose of the tower speakers is to mount speakers as high as possible to broadcast to the people are person you are towing behind your boat. Tower speakers come with various mounting options including fixed clamps, swivel clamps, surface mount, and OEM, direct fit adapters. There are two main types of tower speakers, coaxial speakers and horn loaded speakers. Coaxial tower speakers use the same speakers that are found in the hull, just in an enclosure. Horn loaded tower speakers use a special type of tweeter for maximum volume and distance. Horn tweeters are insanely loud. Most companies, except for Rockford Fosgate, do not make horn loaded speakers for the hull because they feel that they might be too loud.
How much power can my marine speakers handle?
The RMS rating on the speakers will tell you how much power your marine speakers can handle. This number tells you on average, how much power the amplifier can send to the speaker without blowing the speaker up. If your speakers have an RMS rating of 50 watts, you want to make sure you aren't using an amplifier that puts out 100 watts of RMS power with the gain turned all the way up. If so, the speakers are likely getting more power than they can handle, that power generates heat and the speakers overheat, the voice coil disforms, and you that dreaded scratching sound of a blown speaker.
If your speakers can handle 100 watts RMS, do I need a 100 watt RMS per channel amplifier?
No. There is a common belief in both marine and car audio that you have to always maximize everything. If you have speakers that can handle 100 watts RMS, you can put 60 watts RMS to them and they are still going to sound great. In addition, music is dynamic and the speaker cone is always moving. The movement of the speaker cone changes the resistance load and therefore changes the power output. Now at the same time, if that speaker can handle 100 watts and you put 60 watts to them, but your friend puts a 100 watt RMS amplifier to them, his speakers will be able to play louder and cleaner that yours will, if you are both next to each other trying to compare. In a real world environment, you would probably never tell the difference unless you are trying to play your music as loud as possible, all the time.
Think of it like a car or truck. If my car has 450 horspower and your car has 600 horsepower. If we are both going to the store to get groceries, neither of us are likely using even close to the amount of horsepower that either vehicle has. We are going down city streets at 45-50 mph. We aren't racing. Having 450 horsepower or 600 horspower doesn't matter.
Now, the difference between a head unit power and an amplifier is the difference between a 1100cc stock engine (radio) in a VW Beetle and a 450 hp V8 (amplifier).