Last updated on December 15th, 2019 at 11:08 pm
The best marine amplifier can make the audio on your boat go from background noise to the main attraction. Not only is an amplifier good for powering subwoofers, but it can add extra punch to all of your speakers. Nothing adds to the party like a nice, loud and clear sound system playing your favorite playlist while you’re on the water.
Finding an amplifier for your boat or marine application isn’t easy. It takes quite a bit of research, shopping around, and time to determine what’s right for you. That’s where we come in! We’ve tracked down seven of the top marine amplifiers on the market to make your search a little easier. We’ll teach you what you need to know and which units can suit your needs.
We’ve covered a wide range of marine amps with different strong suits and price points. A few things they all have in common are high quality, great sound, and a lot of bang for the buck. Whether you’re a hardcore audiophile or a newbie, chances are you’ll find the right amp for you on this list.
Who Is This Review For?
Let’s say you have a boat with the stock audio equipment and you want to give it a boost. Maybe you’re putting together a wish list of audio equipment and you haven’t found the right amp yet. The perfect amp can play a crucial role in making your whole audio system work in harmony.
You might think you need to spend a fortune to get a really high quality sound system, but that’s not the case at all. You might be amazed by what some lower-priced amps can do. While a high-end boat amp is worth every penny for its quality of construction, materials, features, and sound, there are plenty of budget and mid-range amps that can easily satisfy the causal audio enthusiast.
Whether you want to power two speakers, a half dozen speakers and a sub, or anything in between, this review has the best marine amp for you. By the time you’re done reading this review, you’ll be an expert on the best boat amplifiers money can buy.
Best Marine & Boat Amplifier List
- 4-channel Marine Amplifier
- 800 watts
- Stainless steel chassis
- Conformal coated marine class circuit board
- Matched power ratings to drive all Wet Sounds speakers
- Class H power supply for high power with low current draw and low heat
- Dimensions: 5 x 16 x 10 inches
- Weight: 9 lbs
Wet Sounds SD Series Amplifier Quick Review
Wet Sounds is one of the top names in the world of marine audio. They have a good reputation for obsessive engineering and high-quality materials. This Syndicate Series amplifier has a tough stainless steel chassis that can hold up to a lot of punishment. The impressive construction speaks to the amazing audio quality you get out of this amp. It’s a full-range 4-channel amp that pumps out up to 800 watts. If you’re a picky audiophile, this unit has a lot of controls on it so you can fine-tune the sound exactly how you like it. For a rugged, high-quality marine amp that will last forever, you can’t do much better than the Wet Sounds SYN.
- 5-channel Boat Amplifier
- 600 watts
- NexD Class D Technology reduces distortion and delivers superior efficiency
- Optional wired bass remote
- Dimensions: 13 x 8.5 x 3.8 inches
- Weight: 6.1 lbs
JL Audio M700/5 Quick Review
JL Audio is one of the chief competitors with Wet Sounds in the marine audio arena. The M700/5 is priced the same as the Wet Sounds SYN, but has an extra channel. This is a 5-channel amp making it perfect if you have four speakers and a subwoofer. Wattage is a little lower at a total of 600 watts. It produces 300 watts for four of its channels (75/channel) and another 300 for the subwoofer channel. That’s more than enough power for most systems. It delivers superb audio quality even at very high volumes. An optional wired bass remote is available from JL audio for greater control of your bass.
- 5-channel Marine Amplifier
- 800 watts
- Variable Bass Boost (0-18 DB At 40 Hz)
- Wired remote bass level included
- Dimensions: 18.8 x 11.2 x 4.6 inches
- Weight: 9 lbs
Kicker 40KXM800.5 Marine Amplifier Quick Review
For a premium product at a lower price than the Wet Sounds and JL Audio amps, this Kicker is a great option. As its name implies, the 40KXM800.5 is an 800 watt, 5-channel amp. That’s 100 watts per channel plus 400 watts for the sub channel. That’s a lot of power at this price point for a 5-channel unit. Designed with subwoofers in mind, it comes with variable bass boost and a wired remote bass level. No additional parts required. As per usual for Kicker, this amp is big on aesthetic and will look great anywhere on your boat. Hook it up to some Kicker speakers and you’ll have a serious sound system at a moderate price.
Rockville RXM8BTB Quick Review
If you need a budget amp for a lot of speakers, this Rockville might be the best boat amplifier for you. This has a whopping 8 channels and cranks out 1500 watts. It’s customizable to fit multiple different configurations. It can have 8, 6, or 4 channels or power 6.1 (6 speakers, 1 sub) or 4.2 (4 speakers, 2 subs) systems. Channels 1-4 and 5-8 have their own sets of controls for fine-tuning details like gain and bass EQ. On top of its high power and wide range of compatibility, it also comes with Bluetooth built-in. That means it technically doesn’t even need to be paired to a head unit to play music wirelessly. Just pair your phone to the amp and use it as your media player. This is a good amp if you want to power in-boat speakers and wakeboard tower speakers.
Kenwood KAC-M1824BT Quick Review
Kenwood is a trusted name in car audio and they’re no strangers to marine audio. This compact amplifier has a wide range of uses from automotive to marine and beyond. Its small design is about the size of a child-sized shoebox. Don’t let its size fool you. This Kenwood is plenty powerful. It’s a 4-channel amp making 400 watts. While that number isn’t as high as the crazy numbers you’ve read about on the previous models, it’s as much as most people need. There’s a good chance it will play nicely with the speakers you already have. If you’re just looking to add a little boost to your 4-speaker marine stereo, this is perfect. Like the Rockville, this has built in Bluetooth plus a Bluetooth remote. Pair it to your mobile device and play, pause, seek, and control the volume via the included remote. Either hook it up to your head unit or use it on its own if you’ll always be streaming your music through Bluetooth.
JBL MA6004 Quick Review
This JBL marine amp offers good audio from a respected brand at a budget-friendly price. With 600 watts, this little amp is capable of big sound. Not only does it get loud, but it still sounds good at high volume assuming you’re using suitable speakers. For a lot of power and crisp sound quality without breaking the bank, this JBL is a great pick. It’s a 4-channel amp so its application is similar to the Kenwood. The ideal setup would be 4 speakers, but you can also add a subwoofer if you’d like. Its low-key white design with the JBL logo and 3 LEDs give it a nice look without being too showy.
Pyle PLMRA420 Quick Review
This Pyle amplifier is the only one on our list under the $100 mark. This budget amp has 4 channels and pumps out an impressive 1000 watts. It’s marinized, but still has nice ventilation helping to keep it cool and efficient. It gives you plenty of control over your sound making it great for budget conscious audiophiles. It has variable electronic crossover network, variable bass boost, and variable gain control. The blue LED in the middle give this amp a cool glow perfect for marine style. If all you need is a no-nonsense amp that cranks out a lot of power, this Pyle might be the best marine amplifier on a budget.
Best Marine Amplifiers: What to Look For
There’s some audio lingo that you’re going to want to know before getting into your research. If you’re already familiar with car audio, then most of this will be familiar to you. To find the best marine amplifier for your boat, there are a few specifications you need to understand.
- Channels – How many channels an amplifier has is one of the main ways they’re categorized. Each channel on an amp is basically a different power output. A good rule of thumb is to get an amplifier with a number of channels equal to how many speakers you’re looking to power including subwoofers. While it’s possible to power however many speakers you want with any number of channels, we recommend each speaker to have its own dedicated channel on the amp. This ensures you’re getting the best quality and volume from your system. So what’s the difference between amps with different channels?
- 1-Channel (Monoblock) – A single-channel amp or a “monoblock” is a good low-budget way to power one subwoofer. None of the amplifiers on our list are monoblocks. What we’ve reviewed here is intended for a more sophisticated full-range audio system.
- 2-Channel – 2-channel amps are nice, multipurpose units. They have left and right channels making them good for simple stereo setups. These are very common in aftermarket car audio.
- 3-Channel – 3-channel amps aren’t very common, but they’re good for powering a set of speakers plus one or more subwoofers. It’s basically a 2-channel amp combined with a monoblock.
- 4-Channel – Most of the marine amplifiers you’re about to read about are 4-channel amps. These are common for marine use because they’re perfect for a boat with four speakers. If you have four speakers and don’t want or need a subwoofer, a 4-channel amp is perfect.
- 5-Channel – A 5-channel amp is basically a 4-channel amp plus one extra channel for a subwoofer. If you need to add a little more kick to your 4-speaker marine stereo with a subwoofer, go with a 5-channel amp.
Basically, even-numbered channels are good for an even number of speakers while odd-numbered channels are good for speakers plus a subwoofer.
- Wattage – The wattage of your amplifier needs to be consistent with your speakers. Every speaker has a range of wattage that it can handle on its own. If you’re planning on adding an amp to the speakers you already have, it’s important to check the maximum wattage and make sure it’s higher than what your new amp will be feeding it. If you’re shopping for new marine speakers as well, again, make sure those numbers match up. A speaker receiving more wattage than it can handle is doomed to blow. Sound quality factors in as well. If your speakers are at their maximum wattage tolerance at high volume, they aren’t going to sound very good. So when you’re looking for an amp, make sure you align the RMS power rating from your speakers with the amp’s RMS power ratings.
- Bridging – Bridging is a common feature on multi-channel amplifiers. When you bridge two channels, their power is combined to give more output to one dedicated channel. This is good for giving more power to a subwoofer. It can also be used to add more power to your speakers if you have more channels than speakers. If you do this, make sure you do the math on the wattage so you don’t blow your speakers.
- Construction – While all of the best boat amplifiers on our list are suitable for marine use, some have higher quality construction than others. Consider what your amp is going to endure. Will it be exposed directly to the elements or will it have some protection in a compartment in the boat? If you know your marine amp will really take a beating, consider one of the amps with tougher construction.