How to Install a Marine Stereo

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Last updated on May 8, 2021

How to Install a Marine Stereo

Some marine boats have stereos that allow you to listen to your favorite music while you’re out on the water. But sometimes the applications can break over time or perhaps your boat didn’t initially come with a stereo installed.

Even if your boat doesn’t have a stereo installed there are many quality stereos you can pick from to add to your boat. Check out our buying guide for the best marine stereos to see all of our top picks and select the best one for your boating needs.

Some people are experienced with marine installations but if you find it a challenge, we’ve written a short installation guide to help you set up your marine stereo the DIY way. 

Selecting a Marine Stereo for Your Boat 

As mentioned before it’s easy finding a premium marine stereo for your boat. If you’d like to replace or simply purchase a new marine stereo you can visit our Best Marine Stereo page. 

boat party with music

Replacing your Marine Stereo vs. Brand New Installation

Replacing your marine stereo with the same brand as your previous application will be easier to install. This is because it will have the same components and wiring harness so you can simply plug in your marine stereo without modifying your application.

If you’ve bought a new marine stereo brand it won’t come with the same components or wiring harness as your previous application. This may seem more challenging to install yourself as you’ll need to splice some of the wires in order to install your application. Fortunately, the wires are color-coded so you’ll know which wires connect to your boat’s battery, speakers and amplifier. 

If the colors on the old harness don’t match your new marine stereo, simply refer to your older application’s user manual. Look at the wiring diagram in your old and new user manuals to match the wires easily. 

Hiring a Professional or DIY Installation

If you’re not comfortable doing the marine stereo installation yourself you can always hire a professional to do it for you. The advantage of this is that it will be installed quickly and it’s guaranteed to be installed correctly.

The drawback of hiring a professional to do the marine stereo installation for you is the cost of the service. So why not learn a new skill and install the application yourself?

It may take more time and a bit of patience but you’ll be able to customize how you’d like your stereo to be installed. You’re able to make the decision of the following:

  • Where you want the speakers to be installed
  • The ideal location for your receiver
  • Setting up your controls to your preference

DIY Marine Stereo Installation Process

Tools you’ll need to install your marine stereo:

  • The marine stereo brand of your choice
  • Speakers
  • Amplifier
  • Marine cable for the amplifier
  • Power drill and bits
  • Jigsaw
  • Screwdriver
  • Wire split loom
installing boat speakers and wires

Step 1

Firstly you’ll need to locate where you’re going to install your marine stereo receiver. Boats have different mounting units for stereos. So your mount’s location will determine where you’ll need to install your marine receiver. 

Some receiver mounts have brackets and other applications are flush-mounted. If your boat has a flush-mount you will need to modify it to the appropriate size of your stereo. Simply measure the hole you need to cut and use a jigsaw to modify the size so you can fit the receiver into the pocket.

Step 2

Once you’ve cut the appropriate size pocket, you can fit your receiver into the hole. There will be a silicone seal around your receiver that will frame the unit so it can be fitted securely in place. On the corners of the unit mark your drill points. Drill your holes and secure the unit in place with screws.

Step 3

Now it’s time to consider where you’d like to install your speakers. Pick a location that’s dry and where the speakers will transmit the best sound. The best place to install speakers is in the front and sides of your boat.

If there are no mounting brackets for speakers you’ll need to flush-mount the applications. You’ll need to cut two round holes in the side of the console to connect your speakers. For flush-mounted applications, you’ll receive a template that provides the exact measurements you need to cut out.

Use your jigsaw to cut the holes out and install your speakers. Secure your speakers by drilling holes on each of the corners of the applications and secure them with screws & locknuts. 

Step 4:

Locate your boat’s power source (battery) so you can run your wiring that’s located at the back of your marine stereo to the battery. These wires are color-coded to make it easier for you to connect the correct wiring to your power source. 

The wires are coded into the following colors:

  • The red wire: This is known as the hot wire and will need to be connected to the ignition of your boat. This ensures that your stereo will be powered off when you turn off the ignition of your boat.
  • Black wire: It’s known as the ground wire and it connects to the negative terminal on your boat's battery. 
  • Yellow wire: This is known as the memory wire and it’s always connected directly to the positive terminal of the battery of your boat. 
  • Blue wire: The blue wire is used to connect an external amplifier. 

The remaining wires are to connect your marine speakers which typically come in four sets of two wires for each speaker. These are different solid color wires of purple, brown, white and green. But the connections at the back of the speaker will indicate which wire needs to be plugged into the applications.

Each speaker has two wires: black for the negative terminal on the boat’s battery and a red wire that connects to the battery’s positive terminal. 

Step 5

Some marine stereos don’t come with an additional amplifier. But you can purchase an amplifier for your setup. Locate where you’d like to place your amplifier and mount it onto your boat. The best place is on top of your dashboard. Use the blue wire to connect the amplifier to your receiver.

Step 6

To neaten up your wiring, use your split loom to keep them together and out of the way. It will also keep your wiring dry.

Testing Your Marine Stereo

Once you’ve connected all your wires from your unit to the battery of your boat test your application by turning on your boat’s ignition. You’ll be able to hear the sound that’s transmitting through the speakers. Use your marine stereo display to control and customize your sound.

Final Thoughts

Don’t feel overwhelmed when installing your new marine stereo. Simply refer to your user manual to see where each wire connects to. Then all you have to do is power up your stereo so you can listen to the radio or your favorite tracks while you spend leisure time on the water.

The advantage of installing your marine stereo yourself is you’re able to see where you’d like to place your unit and speakers for optimized sound. It also doesn’t require that many tools or modifications to your boat. 

So will you be installing your marine stereo the DIY way? It may be a fun task to perform and as mentioned before you’ll learn a brand new skill. 

About the author  Robert Finn

Robert has over 20 years of experience boating and selling boat equipment. His passion for the latest and greatest gear helps our clients find what they need. His favorite boating place is the Florida Keys.