The 10 Best Marine Amplifiers
The Motion Of The Ocean
But when dealing with vehicles that spend many consecutive hours in the wet, salty sea, amplified audio takes more consideration than just plugging in some speakers.
There are few experiences as memorable as spending time on the water. From small lakes to the open ocean, time afloat can be truly moving, whether it's a relaxing day-trip with friends or a long and arduous fishing trek. And what better way is there to party with the crew, or pass the time before a multi-hour trawling session, than with some uplifting tunes?
Just like any mode of transportation, people go to great lengths to up the entertainment value of their water-bound vehicles, which is quite understandable. After all, for the vast majority of sailors and boating enthusiasts, the water is specifically a place for enjoyment, or for hard work. Humans, as a species, are quite dedicated to living on solid ground, so when we set sail, it's usually with a purpose. Whether that purpose is work or play, it pays to plan ahead, and to craft our floating craft exactly to our needs and our liking. One way to customize your vessel for an even more enjoyable time is to install quality sound system; few have ever regretted the decision to augment their yacht with powerful audio gear. And even if it's a long day's work you're sailing towards, the courage and inspiration (or maybe just distraction) of good music can help to take your mind off the looming task. But when dealing with vehicles that spend many consecutive hours in the wet, salty sea, amplified audio takes more consideration than just plugging in some speakers.
The Sound Of Water
Naturally, sound works exactly the same on the water as it does on land. A source of vibrations sends waves through the atmosphere, our ears pick them up, and our brain tells us what they sound like. While marine audio operates a lot like car audio does, it is a separate field. With such constant high humidity, the generally unrelenting sunshine, and the often high temperatures all commonly encountered at sea, selecting audio equipment for the boat in your life is a different quest than making your sedan bump.
On many of the sailing-oriented choices, the internal components themselves are treated with anti-moisture coatings.
One major difference is the isolation; it's easy to roll the car windows up, but boats can be susceptible to notably higher noise levels than cars. A good marine audio outfit will be able to compensate for those lost and distorted decibels not only without overheating, but while lasting longer than just one season. As any seasoned sailor will attest, the open water is among the harshest environments on the planet at times. In that light, the constant sting of salt, threat of surges, and possibility of storms all call for some seriously bumping speakers. How else will you drown out the sheeting rain and pounding waves?
Of course, you're dedicated to providing yourself and your passengers with the highest quality entertainment, that much is obvious. Some people swear by standard car audio setups, coupled with slight modifications to accommodate for aquatic travel. Many of these people claim that there's no difference between automotive and marine stereo equipment. However, you'll rarely see long-term reviews of automotive audio components installed in boats, because quite frankly, they don't always stand up to the elements. Car interiors are generally lower in humidity than the surrounding environment, while the slightest leak in the wrong spot on a marine amplifier can easily spell a disabling short.
There's a reason why manufacturers make concerted efforts to market marine equipment. On many of the sailing-oriented choices, the internal components themselves are treated with anti-moisture coatings. A lot of amplifiers intended for use at sea include elastic polymer bushings to isolate the unit from the speakers' vibrations. A few of the highest-quality options use high-pH inclusions to create caulk-like sealants with exceptional resistance to corrosion from salt. If you find a unit sporting this type of high-alkalinity treatment, you can be certain you've found a good brand.
What to Look FoT
In addition to the common features mentioned above, there are a few more aspects you'll want to consider when deciding on a sea-worthy amplifier. It's considerably more difficult to run power cables through a boat than through automobiles, so the amplifier is usually mounted quite near the main battery. This placement can be challenged by minimal airflow and, more dangerously, fuel fumes. As such, most quality brands make certain to seal off any potentially spark-producing components especially tightly, thoroughly preventing combustible gases from entering the unit. In other words, if you don't want to blow up your boat, you should probably choose a specialized marine amp.
But the truth is, even if you're sticking with your craft's stock speakers, a new amplifier will help them sound even better than they already do.
With regards to environmental noise, you may want to overshoot your intended power requirements a bit to keep from losing the most interesting parts of your favorite songs to the wind. And, of course, be sure to keep in mind how much current your setup draws, as well as any upgraded cones you plan to add in the near future. It's awfully frustrating to replace an underpowered or fried amplifier just after upgrading it.
Everyone knows that in many cases, the beats make the song; just like in your station wagon back on the road, don't neglect the bass! A separate sub and amplifier is far more likely to satisfy your inner bass-head than a 5-channel, all-in-one unit is, so don't hesitate to set up a second bracket near the battery and invest in a quality subwoofer.
But the truth is, even if you're sticking with your craft's stock speakers, a new amplifier will help them sound even better than they already do. The right choice will ensure that you can listen to high-fidelity tunes at loud volumes, no matter where on the deep blue sea you're sailing.