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Building out a boat’s audio system is similar to designing a car’s audio system; multiple speakers and subwoofers, amplifiers, and a head-unit are all core components. Though the design is analogous, the components are of completely different constructs: the best marine audio units need to be weather-resistant, corrosion-resistant, and be able to handle water from any direction (and not just light splashing either).
Head-units are the central control point for any marine audio system. The capabilities of these systems mirror those found in car audio with some features taken from home audio systems. The aspects taken from home audio systems add convenience to marine systems. One of my favorite features taken from the world of home audio is the remote convenience. Some units use a physical remote while others use smartphone-based apps. This allows users to control the music from anywhere on the boat, great for letting the captain focus on steering the boat rather than playing DJ.
For our list, we examined three non-mechanical units. A non-mechanical unit lacks a CD player, and therefore is non-mechanical as it has no moving parts. If a CD player is important, make sure that there is a water-resistant cover or some sort of protection near the CD input. Otherwise, you run the risk of saltwater and the elements wreaking havoc on the unit.
Generally speaking, non-mechanical units are easier to maintain and provide access to Bluetooth, AM/FM, and Satellite radio. And really, who needs to lug around CDs on a boat? With our list of wireless, capable head-units, the music is sure to keep the boat rocking — even on calm waters.
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1. BOSS Audio MGR350B
The Boss Audio MGR350B is a gauge-style head unit, meaning it takes up a minimum amount of space on the console, sliding nicely into a gauge cluster. The MGR350B is supremely weatherproof, with a UV coating, and an IPX6 rating, making it splash-resistant. Neither mud nor sun nor salt will get in the way, ensuring the music continues in nearly any environment.
With Bluetooth capabilities, the MGR350B makes it easy for anyone on-board to DJ the perfect sunset cruise set.
PROS: Smaller dash footprint makes this a highly-capable option for smaller consoles.
CONS: Some have remarked the controls can be a bit finicky when wet.
2. BOSS Audio MR1308UAB
Boss Audio’s MR1308UAB is a more traditional single-din head unit, something akin to those found in car audio systems. The MR1308UAB comes with a remote control, granting the ability to fully control the system whether you’re at the bow or stern, starboard or port. Multiple points of wired and wireless connection mean that your available listening library is grand. Simple to use and built to withstand the ocean elements, the MR1308UAB is engineered to ride the sonic waves.
PROS: Removable faceplate is a simple theft deterrent; the remote control makes for wander-about control.
CONS: Some have remarked the total power is best suited for smaller crafts and smaller systems.
3. PYLE Marine PLMRB29B
In typical PYLE fashion, the PLMRB29B is the most powerful head unit on our list, with 300 watts of power. Bluetooth, hands-free calling, and USB connectivity make this unit a multitasker great for putting around the marina, or heading out for the day on a fishing trip. Keep the music bumping or stay connected with a party back on shore, through the PLMRB29B’s multiple connectivity features (think everything from a flash drive to an SD card reader).
The sleek display is easy to use and slots in nicely to higher-end boats. This system also comes with a remote control.
PROS: Hands free calling (thanks to a built-in mic) is a nice addition to a head-unit.
CONS: Some have remarked the screen visibility can be tricky, but nothing an anti-glare screen can’t fix.