Advancements in technology have brought us many exciting accessories and gadgets to make use of both on and off the water. Boat owners usually enjoy being able to bring the comforts of the home onto their vessels; which is why industries providing items such as boat coolers, boat beds, and boat showers are doing so well.
Another thing boat owners value both on land and on the water is their sources of entertainment. Marine amplifiers are new pieces of technology that provide audio capabilities to vessels that were not available in the past.
Today the industry is saturated with amplifiers of all shapes, sizes, and abilities. To help you make your selection we took the best five marine amps suitable for marine environment and put them into a roundup article with comparisons, pros & cons. If your looking for the best marine stereo be sure to check out our guide for that as well.
Here are our picks for the best marine amplifiers you can buy:
- Rockville Marine/Boat 2600 Watt 6 Channel Amplifier - Best marine amplifier
- Kenwood KAC-M3004 Compact 4 Channel Digital Amplifier - Best compact marine amplifier
- Kenwood KAC-M8005 Class D 5-Channel Marine Power Amplifier - Best class D marine amplifier
- Pyle Hydra Elite Series Boat Amplifier - Best budget marine amplifier
- Rockford Fosgate TM400X4ad Power Marine 400 Watts Class-ad 4-Channel Amplifier - Best class AD marine amplifier
1. Rockville Marine/Boat 2600 Watt 6 Channel Amplifier
BEST MARINE AMPLIFIER
Rockville has been a big name in the marine amp industry over the last few years. The brand constantly strives to provide impressively functioning units at prices that won't break the bank.
This unit does just that: You get a 2600 Watts ability for a relatively low amount. The system also features six channels so all of your speakers and subwoofers will be able to connect in one place. Fully capable of bridging, the amp can double its peak power within a matter of seconds.
To top things off Rockville included a microphone with the amplifier to allow users to relay messages throughout the boat when on board.
2. Kenwood KAC-M3004 Compact 4 Channel Digital Amplifier
BEST COMPACT MARINE AMPLIFIER
At peak output, this marine audio amplifier will function at 600 Watts power. This depends on how many of the output points are being used and for what purpose. Typically each point has the ability to emit between 50W and 75W.
The circuit board and a power supply of this unit has been layered with protective matter so that debris, salt water, and other moisture can’t cause them to decay.
This is a compact marine amp and would be best suited for boats of smaller sizes. The amp has two channels in the front and two in the rear; these can be bridged if necessary. The sound while using this amp is notably crisp and clear—you’ll have endless enjoyment when on the water. The system also stays relatively cool even in intense heat which is a great additional ability to have.
3. Kenwood KAC-M8005 Class D 5-Channel Marine Power Amplifier
BEST CLASS D MARINE AMPLIFIER
This model by Kenwood can be seen as the big brother to the aforementioned one. It comes with a total power output of 1600 Watts which is significantly higher than its predecessor’s.
This is a five channel unit and will be able to handle the audio requirements of slightly larger vessels if necessary. Subwoofers can also be added easily if so desired.
The distortion on this amp is well balanced, resulting in the same crystal clear quality sound we’ve come to expect from Kenwood. The system is designed to keep itself cool, which is a perk for boating use as the vessel itself tends to get quite hot. Overheating is a big problem with amps so investing in one that can prevent this is always preferable.
The great thing about this amp by Kenwood is that it’s just as functional off the water as it’s on the water. It has a multitude of uses and can be moved between locations & studios as needed.
4. Pyle Hydra Elite Series Boat Amplifier
BEST BUDGET MARINE AMPLIFIER
When you weigh up the price and wattage ability of this unit by Pyle it really is quite impressive. For a fraction of the cost of other less able units, you’re getting a system with 1000 Watts power capacity.
The exterior of this amplifier is designed to protect the system from any risk of short circuits. The body is durable and waterproof making it perfect for all boating excursions. The gold plated speaker makes it especially immune to salt water corrosion. The four channels are bridgeable and universal; they will connect with just about any sound system, attachment or speaker adapter.
There’s an LED light system in place to provide the necessary signals so you know what the unit is doing at all times. This will also serve as a warning should the amplifier begin to overheat at any point. All things considered, this is a great overall product that won’t hurt your wallet in the process.
5. Rockford Fosgate TM400X4ad Power Marine 400 Watts Class-ad 4-Channel Amplifier
BEST CLASS AD MARINE AMPLIFIER
This unit is a pricier yet high performing one from trusted brand Rockford. Despite only having a power ability of 400 Watts, the system can evenly distribute this power throughout all attachments so none fall short in performance.
The body of this marine audio amplifier is also designed to handle anything that comes its way. From saltwater to harsh debris, the system is virtually infallible. The electrics of this amplifier are designed to last; So much so that Rockford has provided a two years parts and labor warranty on your unit.
In spite of being originally intended as a car amplifier system, this unit quickly made its way onto the boat amp scene due to its impressive performance. The four channels have bridging ability and universal adaptors - you can even attach an iPod directly. Overall you’ll be paying a bit more, but for the longevity of the system, it’s ultimately worth it.
A Few Things to Consider Buying a Marine Amplifier
When looking to purchase one of these devices there are many specifications you will need to consider. Let’s look at the most important ones.
To put it simply, boats usually have pre-installed speaker systems that run through the entire vessel. The sound abilities of these systems are usually very limited and sometimes while out on the water the audio quality can be compromised. In order to mediate this, marine amplifiers are installed and work to project the boat’s audio to attached speakers with octaves and volume far greater than the regular speakers’ abilities. They’re essentially miniature, compact versions of regular amps used at music concerts or radio stations.
Amplification of audio on a boat can come in handy for both entertainment and safety reasons. Some boat users enjoy the music being played constantly while on the water and the amp helps the sound travel even when the noise of the moving boat & ocean attempt to overpower it.
Other boats need amplifiers to be in place so that they can distribute safety or informative details through marine speakers during any excursions. This ensures that everyone on or near the vessel is able to hear the audio being sent out.
Marine amplifiers work in wattage for their power. Obviously, the higher the number of watts the device is able to emit, the higher the volume and sound quality that will come from it. Amplifiers for small boats can range anywhere from 100 Watts right up to 3000 Watts. This is a specification that usually influences the price of an amp quite significantly — you pay more for more wattage ability.
The speaker system of your boat will be what determines how many watts you need to invest in. For a subwoofer, you’ll need far more amplification power than for a regular speaker system.
Amplifiers work via a selection of channels that allow you to connect to the various audio components within your boat. The number of speakers present will determine how many channels you need; and if you’re planning to add more speakers in the future then you’ll need even more, so always remember to plan ahead.
A family sized boat is usually functional with an amp with two-channel ability. To have full coverage you can also invest in a four or more channel amp from the start; that way you’ll be able to accommodate the audio of your boat in future. Buy now what you know will be sufficient for all your audio goals during the next few years.
Bridging refers to combining two amplifier channels into one. This is usually done to achieve even more audio power out of a single source. You’ll enjoy twice the voltage from a single output source and in turn, enjoy the effect of a double amplification system without switching channels.
The connection points in a marine amplifier are what tie all of the systems together. They range between output and RCA inputs & will link to the audio systems within the boat so amplification can take place. The volume is typically controlled by an external receiver via a remote control.
Most marine amplifiers are fitted with filters. These work to filter out noise and background influences that might disturb the flow of sound between the systems. Some amplifiers are more filtered than others. The difference in the quality of sound is most notable between amps that are void of filters and amps that feature many filters.
Construction & Grading
Being a water-based activity, all audio systems installed on a boat need to be well constructed with appropriate marine grading. Electronics and water are never a good mix, so waterproofed construction followed by approved marine grading ensure that the amps are safe for use in marine environment.
Many boat amplifiers are also coated in substances that make them immune to salt water decay. Salt water is much harsher on materials than regular water and sometimes simple waterproofing isn’t sufficient.
With your marine amplifier, you’ll want to have some sort of warranty period in place. The nature of use with these sound systems is always risky as both water and mechanics are involved. In the event of system failure early on in use, you’ll want to be covered by the manufacturer and ensure you get your money’s worth.
Typically for a small sized vessel, you’ll get away with spending just a few hundred dollars on a quality marine amplifier to get the job done. As boat size and audio requirements go up, marine amplifiers’ prices can make their way up into the thousands. As mentioned, this also has a lot to do with the powerful ability required by each amp in question
How do I install a boat amplifier?
Marine amplifier installation is pretty straightforward. Unlike with cars, both installation wires need to be run directly to the battery. This usually takes place within a boat’s second battery, as the first is usually out of reach. Once you connect the power you’ll be able to make full use of your amplifier and run the rest of the relevant speaker cables through to it as needed.
What is THD?
THD stands for total harmonic distortion. It’s a signal of measurement in the total amount of harmony or distortion occurring within an audio system.
Why is S/N ratio important?
The signal to noise ratio is an imperative part of setting up an audibly appealing boat sound system. Signal to noise needs to be in perfect proportion to one another otherwise disturbances will affect the output audio.
If your system will be affected by random noise then the end result won't always be the most pleasing to the ear. Keeping things in balance is important if you want an enjoyable audio experience.
A marine amplifier is an effective way to take the sound on your boat to the next level. When speaker systems just don’t cut it marine amps come to save the day.
This roundup of our five best marine amplifiers on the market right now are all dynamic, water ready devices worth fitting into your boat. Are you ready to turn it up?