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Best marine stereo 2018 – [Buyer’s Guide]Last Updated May 1, 2020
Best marine stereo of 2018
Here are my top picks with detailed reviews, comparison charts and buying guides to help you purchase the perfect item for your needs. Come with me. I have a variety of material used in the construction of marine stereo including metal, plastic, and glass. After carefully examining the reviews and ratings of the people who have used them earlier this listicle has been made.
Test Results and Ratings
Why did this marine stereo win the first place?
I really enjoy the design. It is compact, comfortable and reliable. And it looks amazing! I don’t know anything about other models from this brand, but I am fully satisfied with this product. The material is stylish, but it smells for the first couple of days. I am very happy with the purchase. It is definitely worth its money. The product is top-notch!
№2 – Kenwood in-Dash Marine Boat Audio Bluetooth USB Receiver Bundle Combo with 4x Enrock 6.5″ White Dual-Cone Stereo Speakers
Why did this marine stereo come in second place?
I recommend you to consider buying this model, it definitely worth its money. Managers explained me all the details about the product range, price, and delivery. The material is pretty strong and easy to wash if needed. This is a pretty decent product that perfectly fitted the interior of our office.
Why did this marine stereo take third place?
We are very pleased with the purchase — the product is great! This price is appropriate since the product is very well built. It is inconvenient to use due to the size. I am going to get something different next time. It doesn’t squeaks nor bents. Looks great in my apartment.
marine stereo Buyer’s Guide
Fed up with the terrible warbling noise your flat-screen TV makes? You’ve come to the right place.
Upgrading your TV sound can be as easy as plugging in a sound bar, but first you’ll need to buy the right one. In this guide we’ll look at the different types of home audio systems available, from sound bars to stereo speakers to full-blown, amped-up, surround-sound speaker packages. Here’s what you should be looking for to best suit your needs.
Step up to a surround-sound system
If you’re looking for something that sounds better than a sound bar, the best option is to put together your own system with an AV receiver and surround-sound speakers.
How They Work
Marine VHF radios rely on radio waves to send and receive transmissions. They rely on line of sight in order to function. Anything that blocks line of sight (land masses, earth curvature, etc.) will disrupt the signals. Thankfully there are few such obstacles on the open water.
The most powerful marine radios are those with long antennas and high wattage. If multiple boats simultaneously transmit on one frequency, the strongest signal is the one which will come through.
Fixed-Mount and Handheld
There are two basic types of VHF marine radio: fixed-mount and handheld. You can maximize your range with a fixed-mount system, which also draws from the boat’s electricity (so you don’t need batteries). Then again, if the electrical system goes down in an emergency, you will need a handheld. Buy one of each if you can.
VHF Radio vs. Mobile
Why buy a VHF radio at all? Why not simply use your cell phone? There are a number of good reasons. For one, mobile networks offer spotty coverage on the open water (nonexistent in many locations). Cell phones lack the weather alert and DSC features of marine radios and are not waterproof.
A fixed-mount VHF marine radio is one which is permanently mounted to your boat and wired into the boat’s electrical system, generally the helm. Benefits include a higher power output and range than handheld radios, dedicated power, and ease-of-use in choppy sea conditions. Many options are available for antennas (straight mount, swivel mount, ratchet mount, rail mount, etc.). You can even set up dual stations and navigate using GPS.
Power and Range
A fixed-mount radio can transmit on anything from one to 2watts of power. Transmitting on one watt allows you to talk to nearby boats without disrupting other transmissions. Transmitting on 2watts will maximize your range (anywhere from five to 30 miles, depending on clear line of sight).
One popular feature for fixed-mount systems is dual station. This allows you to install a microphone in another room inside your boat and operate dual stations from the helm radio. You can then use the system as an intercom.
This is a feature you will find in higher-end fixed-mount marine radios, but generally not in the less expensive models. It allows you to broadcast to other vessels in the area, line handlers, and so on. To use it, you will need to purchase additional hardware in the form of an external waterproof speaker. You also may find it comes equipped with a feature called Listen-Back. With this, you can convert speakers into microphones to amplify noises. This makes it easy to hear the foredeck hand or fog signals in the distance. Not all hailer functions include Listen-Back, so if you need it, look for it specifically in the product specifications of the model you are considering.
This is the portable version of a VHF marine radio. It isn’t mounted; you carry it around with you. Many handheld units these days offer most of the same advanced features as fixed-mount units. You can get extremely basic models at the lower end and very sophisticated ones at the higher end.
Features can include DSC capability, built-in GPS, a distress button, waterproofing, noise canceling, and much more. Range is lower than what you will get from a fixed-mount radio, but handheld models offer a couple of very important benefits. They offer a backup if your ship’s electrical system crashes in an emergency (or your ship sinks altogether). On top of that, they are portable. You can take them anywhere on your vessel or off of it.
The larger your handheld radio, the bigger the battery it can hold and the longer its battery life is going to be. Buoyant, lightweight models also generally hold smaller batteries than those which are allowed to sink. At the lower end of the range, you might get seven hours of charge. At the higher end, you can expect around 20 hours. You will need to weigh the importance of battery life in conjunction with other important features such as buoyancy. Figure out what you need most and make your purchase decision accordingly.
As just discussed, some radios these days are made to float. While the tradeoff is a shorter battery life, there are plenty of benefits to a floating radio. For one thing, you are less likely to lose it and have to waste money on a replacement. For another (and more importantly), you might need to use your radio to get rescued in the water. If it sinks, obviously it is useless to you. A buoyant radio could save your life.
Handheld marine radios usually have either a dot matrix or LCD display. A seven-segment LCD display looks like your clock radio; it is blocky and hard to read. A dot matrix display can generate any image, and looks more like the screen on your smartphone or television. While dot matrix may not be a vital feature, it certainly makes for a more pleasant user experience.
What are some important features to look for on a VHF marine radio? The features listed below may cost you extra, but they can provide you with greater value in your purchase.
GPS is an incredibly useful feature. As mentioned above, you can use it in conjunction with your DSC to transmit your exact location in distress. This allows rescue parties to make their way to you directly.
GPS is also useful for general navigational purposes. You can view your latitude and longitude, and even set up custom waypoints as you travel. That way you can find your way to and from specific locations. This is excellent for fishing, diving, and numerous other purposes.
AIS stands for “Automatic Identification System.” It is a tracking system you can use to locate and identify other vessels. Using an AIS-equipped transponder or receiver, you can see real-time data on nearby ships including their type, dimensions, cargo, position, speed, destinations, and more. A transponder will broadcast information on your vessel; a receiver will not. Benefits include the ability to transmit your position, detect movements from unauthorized vessels, manage a port, conduct coastal surveillance, and more.
Early warning in case of inclement weather conditions at sea can quite literally save your life. For that reason, you are going to want a marine radio equipped with weather alerts. These should include alerts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as well as Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) alerts. SAME alerts are specific to your region; NOAA alerts are national.
2watt mountable marine radio doesn’t have built in GPS. However, it is very reasonably priced, powerful and very easy to use. Also, it’s one of the only marine radios on the market that comes with an external speaker jack.
Comes with mounting bracket. There’s no chance this radio will go overboard. It attaches to the frame of your boat.
Long range communication. 2watts of power allows you to send messages to boats 20 nautical miles or more away.
Noise free transmissions. The built in noise reducer erases static and wind.
Uncomplicated interface. The MR F45-D doesn’t have quite as many features as some nautical radios. But it has all the basics and it’s super easy to use.
External speaker jack. If you need a volume boost, you can hook up an extra speaker.
GX1700W costs twice as much as an ordinary mounted marine radio. But, it has twice as many features. With this unit you get built in GPS and DSC. Plus, water doesn’t phase it. This radio is JIScertified waterproof.
Built-in GPS. No need to buy a separate GPS device. The GX1700W comes with built-in GPS functionality.
Advanced DSC calling. With this radio, you can place DSC calls while you monitor other communication frequencies.
Send and receive position info. Receive, send and navigate GPS waypoints via DSC.
Easy to install. Some bulky marine radios are a pain to setup and wire together. But it’s super easy to set up the GX1700W because it’s slim and compact.
Compatible with RAM3+ remote microphone technology. With a RAM3+ microphone, you’re not stuck in front of the radio anymore. You can walk around your boat and communicate from wherever you want.
Won’t break if submerged underwater. The GX1700W can withstand being submerged in water for up to 30 minutes. It’s JIScertified.
Water damage guarantee. Standard Horizon is so confident in this radio that it has backed it up with a year warranty that covers all water related breakages.
The Anker SoundCore makes the best cheap Bluetooth speaker even better, offering big sound and a 24-hour battery within a wonderfully compact design. It’s also water resistant now, making it an even better companion for a quick trip to the pool or beach.
Yes; Google Assistant
The JBL Link 20 is one of the few third-party Bluetooth speakers that taps into Google Assistant, allowing you to do things like check the weather or control your smart home wherever you are. It’s also simply a great premium speaker, with balanced audio, a rugged, waterproof design, and hours of battery life.
How We Test Bluetooth Speakers
To evaluate each Bluetooth speaker, we listen to a wide range of music and test the device’s durability, if applicable. We also test speakerphone capabilities (if available) and play tunes continuously to see how long the speakers’ batteries last. We also consider the quality of the design and ease of use and setup.
Other features we consider include whether a given Bluetooth speaker supports Siri and/or Google Assistant voice prompts, as well whether as it has any rugged features such as dust- and waterproofing.
If you have a double-DIN slot, you can still use a single-DIN radio, but a single-DIN slot cannot accept a double-DIN upgrade.
One of the first questions you’ll likely encounter when you consider upgrading your car audio system is whether you even can. If your car is older than, say, years (the approximate point when manufacturers began adding command screens that controlled multiple systems, not just audio) or contains a fairly straightforward audio setup, you’re probably okay—the only question is whether your car has a single-DIN or double-DIN design. Those terms refer to the measurements of the “hole” your car stereo sits in. A single-DIN slot measures 2⅛ inches high by 7⅛ inches wide. A double-DIN mount is twice as tall; most cars with LCD screens are double-DIN. If you have a double-DIN slot, you can still use a single-DIN radio (an adapter kit that you purchase for your specific vehicle simply creates open storage in the unused space), but a single-DIN slot cannot accept a double-DIN upgrade.
Another factor that will determine your ability to upgrade is whether other vehicle functions are integrated into your car’s audio system. For example, LCD screens that also include climate controls and the settings for other systems can’t be incorporated into a replacement stereo. But even if that isn’t the case in your vehicle, your car may have a complex, nonstandard dash setup that precludes such upgrades.
Some cars—the Ford Taurus of the late 1990s comes to mind—have oddly shaped panels around the stereo systems, or they use contoured surfaces that dispense with the “box cutout” configuration that persisted for decades. Carmakers do this kind of thing for design and functionality reasons, to increase button sizes and smooth out the dash appearance. In both cases, however, you might find adapters that will allow you to replace the unit even if the factory setup has funky dashwork going on.
The process can be frustrating, but you can usually get a sense of what your car can or cannot accept by going to a good car-audio site such as Crutchfield and seeing what the online selection tool says about your vehicle’s upgradability. In addition, the better sellers usually offer installation instructions custom-made for your specific vehicle when you order the receiver, and will include any necessary parts and adapters to make the piece fit.
If you find that your car can’t deal with an upgrade, you have other options, such as Bluetooth kits that will allow you to stream music and place calls through a device that either plugs into your stereo’s aux-in jack or transmits to the stereo via an FM tuner. (For more details on the various pros and cons of these setups, check out our full guide to the best Bluetooth kits.) The trouble with kits, however, is the addition of still more cables and electronics to your car—stuff that can easily snag and tangle as you and your passenger come and go. Also, FM-tuner quality tends to be abysmal. A kit is cheaper, but if you can afford to upgrade the whole stereo, you’ll be rewarded with superior sound quality and ease of use.
If you already have a Bluetooth-capable stereo, you might still consider upgrading. Some older Bluetooth stereos, or those in less-expensive cars, might only accept phone calls and not support music. And the latest systems may have some inviting features—dedicated music apps, voice control, an adjustable display, or dual-phone capability—that didn’t come with your original car-audio system. Beyond that, you’ll also get a more modern, streamlined interface without the functional clutter of previous-generation head units.
Features to consider
As you shop for a replacement car stereo, you’ll have to decide which features are most important to you. And one of the first questions you’ll have to ask is whether you really need a CD player. In our survey of more than 400 Wirecutter readers, the vast majority of respondents—more than 80 percent—said they didn’t. That’s why digital media receivers, which come without a CD player, are the latest trend in replacement car stereos. The absence of a CD player often means a lower price, more user-friendly controls, a smaller chassis (which makes the unit easier to install), and fewer mechanical parts (which means fewer components that can break later on). Even so, car-stereo manufacturers say that a lot of buyers still want the option of playing a CD, so you have a lot of CD-capable receivers from which to choose.
One advantage of not having a CD player is that the receiver can be much smaller—about half the size of a normal stereo—which makes installation easier. Such a device also fits in older cars made before CD players became popular.
A feature we think is worth considering is Siri Eyes Free, which, when paired with an iPhone, boosts your safety and convenience on the road by offering voice control of your receiver. A lot of models include SiriusXM satellite radio and/or HD Radio capability, though we think those services are less important if you typically stream your music. Speaking of streaming, you’ll want to check for Pandora and Spotify support, which lets you control those apps directly from the receiver. And of course, you’ll want easy pairing of your smartphone, which is something most manufacturers are starting to master, plus a USB-input option to charge your phone or ease the integration of a guest’s device. Unfortunately, the popular Apple CarPlay and Android Auto systems, which provide much of the functionality of a compatible iPhone or Android phone with a more driver-friendly interface, aren’t available in single-DIN stereos because they need a larger display.
Some models come with a handheld remote. That may sound silly—a handheld remote for a device that’s inches from you—but on a long drive it’s more comfortable to flip tracks with your hand in your lap than to be constantly reaching for the head unit. (You can also hand over control to rear-seat passengers, if you dare.) Smartphone apps that control the receiver as a handheld remote does are increasingly available, too—though the results vary widely. Some are barely functional while others, like the Pioneer ARC app, are nearly seamless facsimiles of conventional smartphone music controls.
Relatively minor but handy features you’ll encounter include tunable colors, which let you coordinate your stereo with the lighting in your car’s interior, and multi-line LCD screens that provide more data.
How we tested
Instead of installing each of the units on our short list into an actual car, I bench-tested them head to head at my residence. Bench-testing them allowed us to experiment longer and more thoroughly with each product. After hooking each receiver up to a 12-volt power source and a set of moderate-quality speakers, I put it through its paces. We focused on Bluetooth functionality, not audio quality, since so much of that is dependent on the number and quality of speakers in your vehicle. While many readers in our survey indicated that they’d consider upgrading to better speakers at the same time they upgraded the head unit, that wouldn’t have affected our results, as great speakers will indeed sound better across the board. If you’re an audiophile, you can find plenty of options for expandable systems, which we’ll describe briefly later on.
Our bench-test setup, consisting of two speakers and a 1V power source.
I tried the test receivers with both iOS devices and Android phones, simulated hundreds of vehicle entries and exits to gauge Bluetooth reacquisition behaviors and speeds, placed and received calls to see how well the Bluetooth hands-free communication worked, and, of course, streamed music via Bluetooth and USB cables. I learned what sort of control each receiver permitted over music selection from the head unit itself versus the connected device, and I also hooked up multiple phones to see how easy it was to switch between devices.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
We don’t have much to complain about with the Pioneer MVH-X390BT. The primary LCD screen is only one line, which limits you to one category of information (track name, station, artist, and so on), but it scrolls smoothly and legibly for longer titles.
You can’t tune the display color to match the rest of your dash (it’s white), and the buttons are backlit in blue. This color scheme may make the unit less of a natural fit with your car’s dashboard, but it doesn’t affect overall functionality. While other units, such as the Sony MEX-N5000BT, automatically dim when your headlights come on, the MVH-X390BT’s display can be dimmed only manually, or programmed to dim at specific times of day. And the handheld remote control has no button to activate Siri Eyes Free; you have to reach for the multifunction knob on the head unit.
Hardcore car-audio geeks won’t be into this unit due to its limited options for expandability (in terms of extra speakers and subwoofers). But that is an exceptionally minor complaint, since most buyers won’t be interested in expanding beyond their car’s existing core capabilities.
Typically a little higher in price, this model is basically the same unit as our top pick, with SiriusXM compatibility and a few extra features.
If our top pick isn’t available, or if you want to be able to play satellite radio, the Pioneer MVH-S501BS is another great choice. This is a newer version of the MVH-X580BS and MVH-X560BT, which were our previous alternative picks, and typically it costs a bit more than our main pick. It has a similar interface and all the features of our top pick, along with SiriusXM compatibility, tunable display colors to match your interior, and a second line of display text, so you can see both the track title and the artist name simultaneously. Because we think those features are more minor ones (more than 80 percent of the readers who responded to our survey said they didn’t want satellite radio, for example), we’d rather get the MVH-X390BT and save some money.
If you want to expand your system
We think most people would prefer the simpler interface and superior Bluetooth capabilities of our top pick. Also, Kenwood’s handheld remote isn’t ideal: The buttons are too small and too close to one another for most people to use easily while driving, and for some reason it has a numeric keypad, which takes up a lot of space and is only occasionally useful.
The Sony MEX-N5100BT has a built-in CD player and supports near-field communication (NFC), which lets you pair a compatible phone with your receiver just by holding it up to the head unit and selecting the pair function in the menu. It has an app remote that lets you not only control the music but also adjust the audio settings; I’m not a fan of app remotes, however, and I find them of limited utility. This Sony unit currently costs about the same as our top pick, the Pioneer MVH-X390BT, but we preferred our Pioneer pick overall because of its lack of a CD player, its inclusion of Siri Eyes Free support, and its thoughtful elimination of unused sources from the menu.
If you do want a CD player—or at least don’t mind having one—you open up the door even further for more options. We considered many units from the key manufacturers but found most of them to be overloaded and generally too complex for people who want simple and streamlined operation.
The affordable Alpine CDE-143BT has good Bluetooth support but lacks Siri Eyes Free.
The Alpine CDE-SXM145BT adds SiriusXM radio but is too pricey.
The JVC KD-X240BT is an exceptionally affordable unit that’s extremely spartan and lacks the usability features and advanced smartphone connectivity of the Pioneers.
VHF handheld radio
The last time PBO tested handheld VHF radios was back in January 201Since then there have been changes to product ranges, updates to existing models, and some are no longer around.
There’s no doubt in my mind, reinforced by lots of practical experience, that a handheld VHF radio is an essential communication and safety item on any craft heading out on the water.
Fixed radios have their role, and when installed by the navigation table offer a convenient communication location. However, there are many occasions when the opportunity to communicate on deck offers great advantages, not least the ability to both monitor the boat’s position and in safety situations monitor the scene while communicating.
Handhelds can be used by a tender shore party to communicate with the mother ship, and of course they’re vital in any abandon-ship situation.
All those tested come with detachable belt clips, which not everyone will want. The swivel type can be detached by rotating through 180° – which could lead to accidental loss. Hand lanyards (or straps) are also provided, and these are best attached to the radio body, not the belt clip, so they can be used when the clip is detached.
All radios can select high- or low-transmission power, and some have three levels. All have a lock function to prevent accidental change to settings, but will still allow the transmit function.
All have a battery level indicator: those with push-button volume and squelch will have a linear level indicator for these on the display screen.
How we tested them
We took the radios out on the Solent aboard my Beneteau First 305, and I picked up a mooring off Calshot in Southampton Water. Alan Watson then motored his Nelson powerboat Trinity Star eastwards into the Solent, acting as the communication boat.
We tried each radio at different distances on low power (1W) until reception began to break down. We then turned the radios to their full transmitting power. At their limit we used the radios while standing up in the cockpit.
The test team reviewed the sets for ease of use, focusing on channel change, squelch and volume control.
Design and Features
If you are looking for snazzy speakers that decorate and liven up your Sweet Sally then Infinity Reference 612m marine speakers are a great buy. The spidery grille and the blue highlights of the cone shining through make for an attractive addition to the mounting surfaces. The cherry on the cake is the loud and raucous audio. They are completely saltwater-proof and have the audacious audio that can be heard clearly over engine and sea noises. We thought of the infinite possibilities with these speakers and landed them straight in our best marine speakers list.
First of all thanks for reading my article to the end! I hope you find my reviews listed here useful and that it allows you to make a proper comparison of what is best to fit your needs and budget. Don’t be afraid to try more than one product if your first pick doesn’t do the trick.
Most important, have fun and choose your marine stereo wisely! Good luck!
So, TOP3 of marine stereo
- №1 — Kenwood Marine CD/MP3/USB/AUX Bluetooth Receiver
- №2 — Kenwood in-Dash Marine Boat Audio Bluetooth USB Receiver Bundle Combo with 4x Enrock 6.5″ White Dual-Cone Stereo Speakers
- №3 — Pyle PATVR10 Pyle Marine Bluetooth Radio Receiver