This article was written by Connor, one of our founding editors. Connor is a full-time travel and lifestyle photographer with extensive experience in the outdoors industry.
If your boat hasn’t already come with marine speakers installed, then getting a set of speakers can transform your boating experience, whether you’re taking people out on the wake or are just relaxing. The boat speaker installation and placement process, however, can be confusing for many, especially if it is your first time doing so.
Most marine-grade speakers hold up impressively well in a damp and sunny environment and are durable over long periods of time. Additionally, placement of your speakers can improve the lifespan of your speakers, as well as improve the overall listening experience by directing your sound the right way.
When it comes to installing your marine speakers, there are certain considerations to take into account, both for the protection of your speaker system and sound output. It’s not just a simple case of hanging them on your wakeboard tower! In this article, we aim to detail the main areas of which you’ll need to be aware.
The stereo head unit is normally kept in one of two places; the cabin of the boat or the dashboard area. Where you place it will likely depend on the space you have available. Smaller boats will often not have any cabin space, so it makes your decision easier.
When you’re mounting your stereo unit, take note of the manufacturer warnings. These days, most of your music will be played from your phone or iPod. However, if you’re playing from a CD, it’s probable that you can’t mount the head unit vertically since there is no shock protection for a CD when it is standing up on its end.
Next, consider where your head unit will best avoid exposure to water. Although it might be impossible to completely avoid it, you should mount the unit somewhere which provides good shelter from spray and splash.
Since stereo head units are often pretty bulky and, as a result, heavy, you need to ensure that it is well supported. If you’re mounting it in a fiberglass panel, you may want to consider reinforcing the fiberglass as it will take a beating over time. This also applies if you are mounting it next to particularly thin or weak wood.
A common mistake many make when installing the head unit is thinking that once it is installed, that’s it there to stay. However, you should take into account that you’ll probably need to get into the back of it from time to time.
There are two main mounting styles for marine speakers; boxed or flush and your choice will likely be predicated on how much space you have. Let’s take a look…
The speaker, typically a round or oval shape, will be mounted into the paneling of the boat, or another flat surface. You need to make sure that there is adequate depth, both for the speaker to fit and so that there is room for air movement behind the speaker.
A flush mount is attractive, clutter-free, and takes up no extra room in the main boat area. The only significant downside is that it requires you to cut a hole in your boat.
The speaker will come already mounted to a box which is then installed on your boat. This helps to provide really nice sound quality and means you don’t need to cut into your boat. The obvious drawback is that it can look uglier and take up more space.
Where you put your speakers will directly impact your listening experience. The best sound a speaker delivers is along its central axis i.e. directly in front of the speaker. This should be at the front of your mind during the decision-making process. Now, that’s not to say that you can’t hear the sound out with its central axis but it is where they will perform optimally.
Speakers actually do a good job of delivering high-quality sound at an angle, however, the further away you are from the center point, the less clear the sound will be. This means that you should aim to place the speakers pointing as close to where people will be sitting.
With two ears, we’re very used to taking in audio information from both sides, and only hearing it from one can sound odd. Ideally, each pair of speakers should be opposite each other, at the sides of the boat (rather than the front and back), in order to deliver sound from both sides.
Although having a speaker lower down will give sound more surfaces to bounce off, the speakers are more vulnerable to being kicked, splashed, or having another object bash them. Place them somewhere you believe will be away from a potential battering.
Another consideration is to be wary of placing speakers near items that can be affected by the speaker magnet. These days, lots of speakers are built so that this no longer affects things like compasses. Nevertheless, it worth keeping this in mind and consulting your user manual.