Waterproof Marine Speaker Installation Guide
Many boats come with a prei-nstalled stereo, but there are still quite a number of boats that lack a factory-installed stereo system. However, this does not mean that you cannot enjoy your favorite music while boating. Installing a basic stereo is relatively simple but there are certain steps that you need to follow so as to optimize the sound quality and also ensure that the speakers will serve you for a long period of time.
There are many marine stereos available on the market but always ensure that you select a model that is fully waterproof. This means that they can be fully submerged to certain depths and for specified amount time depending on manufacturer’s specifications.
Other important considerations include;
- UV-resistant — a good marine stereo should be designed to withstand UV rays especially on the key areas such as speaker cones, receiver faceplates, and grilles.
- Anti-corrosion — the materials used should be able to withstand other harsh elements such as rust and corrosive effects of salt water. This is provided in features such as plated connections and coated circuit boards. From your receiver to your satellite radio, everything should be made to last on the water.
Components of Marine Audio
- Speakers: a good marine speaker comes with plastic cones and rubber surrounds for protection from harsh weather conditions. Be sure to look for speakers with enough power to pump out tunes over ocean waves and engine noise. In addition to this, if you plan to mount the speaker near your compass, ensure that they are magnetically shielded.
- Receivers: as for the receivers, you may want to buy ones with coated circuit board, line level outputs, waterproof faceplate, and satellite radio controls.
- Amplifiers: a good marine amp will provide plenty of power and it should be plated. It should also feature coated circuit boards and non-corrosive connectors.
- Subwoofers: bass lovers can also enjoy their boating expedition by investing in sturdy and powerful marine subwoofer. A powered enclosed sub will come in handy if you do not intend to use an external amplifier. Just like speakers, look for a sub that is full protected from weather conditions.
- Speaker cables and wires: wiring is an essential part of an audio system. All wires used in any marine audio system should be marine-rated. They should all be thinned, as bare wires corrode quickly in water conditions.
- Satellite radio: satellite radio has become popular among boaters. Many marine receivers come with a satellite radio; all you have to do is to plug and play it. The good thing about these satellite radio tuners is that they can be used at home and in your car as well. In addition to this, most receivers come with a satellite radio which implies that you can install it out of sight, add an external tuner, and run a wire into the radio. You can also mount it inside a watertight compartment and you don’t have to worry about hampering the tunes in any way.
- Power Inverter: although this is not technically an audio component, a power inverter is great tool to have on board, particularly with a smaller boat. You can use it to charge your laptop/PC (for music files), your phone battery, and other small electronics. Make sure that the inverter has circuit interrupter to protect you from accidental shocks.
Additional Tools and Supplies Needed
- Crimp-on female spade terminal
- Crimping tools
- Wire strippers
- Hole saw
- Screwdriver set
- Spool of cords
- Electricians snake for running through the wires and cables wires
- Wire looms and zip ties
Installation of Marine Speakers
Below is a video on how to install marine speakers on a boat. Each model will differ slightly depending on the speaker ans the model of yhr boat so this should be used as a general guide.
Select the speakers and select a location where to mount them
There is no perfect place to mount audio equipment on a boat unlike in most cars and trucks. The installation will depend on type of boat. Different types of boats have different space and power limitations and as such, each installation poses a unique set of challenges. What sounds great in a motorboat may not even fit in a sailboat; what’s great for airboat may not be perfect for a scow.
Today’s marine speakers have been improved and they tend to be deeper than before. They reflect larger magnets and more sturdy construction.
When it comes to the installation of the speakers, the first step is to decide on the number of speakers you want and decide on where to mount them. The speakers do not have to be of the same size. In order to achieve the best sound quality, each pair should be mounted opposite of each other with as much as possible distance between them. Both pairs should face the center line. Most boats can accommodate between one to three pairs of speakers. For the best audio experience, try as much as possible to point the speakers towards the ears of the listener.
Actual Installation of Each Speaker
Attach the template on the mounting surface and use the hole saw to cut the main installation hole. Drill the other mounting holes and level the edges to keep the gel coat from cracking. Fit the foam gasket at the back of each speaker and make sure that they are in line with the mounting holes. Attach the speaker’s wires to the spade fittings and ensure that the polarity is correct. Slide each speaker into the mounting holes and secure them with the mounting screws.
Select a good location for mounting the receiver
Just like with the speakers, mounting the stereo receiver will depend on the type of boat the installation is being conducted. But, you will need to find a dry spot for mounting the receiver. You can install a universal cover if you want to use unprotected component or if you want an extra protection measure on your boat. This universal cover will protect your receiver from external factors. You can flip it up to get access to the controls or you can use a waterproof, wired remote control.
Some stereos are flush mounted while others are brackets mounted. The former requires that you cut an appropriate hole on the mounting area in order for you to fit the receiver. Most models come with a measuring template for measuring the exact size of hole that is required. A hole saw is used to cut out the correct size after tracing with the template.
Locknuts and screws are used to secure the unit into position. Some models come with a support bracket which is used to provide extra support to the unit, especially in rough seas. If you will be doing the installation in a not so flat surface, it may be necessary that you caulk the area to ensure a watertight seal.
Amplifiers and Subwoofers
Amps and subs can go anywhere from the compartment under the seats, on the wakeboard or even under the bow. For the tweeters and midrange speakers, you can fit them into the dash panel or side panels depending on your boat and your musical tastes.
Enclosed or free-air rated subwoofers are perfect when you have to do the installation in challenging locations on the boat.
Connect the stereo to a power source
The final step is connecting the stereo to a source of power. Grounding the electrical components in a boat can be challenging though some have specific guidelines and dedicated grounding plates as provided by manufacturer.
The unit will have wires protruding to the back. The wires are normally color-coded where the red wire needs to be connected to the positive terminal, directly or indirectly. The black wire, on the other hand, is the ground wire and it should be connected to the negative terminal while the yellow wire is connected directly to the battery. The blue wire can be used to connect the unit to the external amp. You will also need wires to connect the speakers. Each speaker will have two wires, red wire (hot wire) and black wire (ground wire); the connections at the back of each speaker will guide you on which one is for each wire.
Bonus Tip; Areas to Avoid
Avoid mounting your stereo in places where they can be easily kicked and damaged. In addition, keep them away from upholstered and curved surfaces. Mount each speaker on a safe distance from sensitive equipment such as a compass to avoid interfering with functionality of the equipment. In this case, the speaker’s magnet can interfere with the compass and as such avoid using your speakers near such equipment or make sure that your speakers are magnetically shielded. Ensure that the speaker wiring is protected from snagging if the back of the speaker is located in the storage area.
It is necessary that you prevent the speakers from vibrating loose by bolting them with backing washers and nylon-locking nuts. If you will be installing marine speakers in a thin aluminum or not so flat place, caulking the speakers once they have been installed will be necessary.
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