Best Boat and Marine Head Units to Buy In 2018

Stereos

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Boat head units and stereos are often overlooked. Most boaters either settle for the stock unit or buy a car stereo to install in the boat. While you can get adequate sound out of either of these methods, you can’t beat finding the a quality, high performance marine stereo. One that’s water resistant and packed with great marine specific features.

Boat stereos are different because they’re built to marine specifications. That means they use different construction and different materials to protect the electronics from ultra-violet rays from being outside all the time, and obviously from water. You might be surprised by what the a waterproof head unit can withstand.

You have high expectations for the audio in your car, why should it be any different for your boat? A marine head unit is no good without a really good set of boat speakers. Check out our review of the best marine speakers and put together the ultimate setup for the river and lake.

Here's a list of the top rated marine head units of 2018 to help you find the best products for your boat or marine application. Click a stereo to go to the full review, or just scroll down to view all of the reviews:

Our RankMarine Head UnitPower HandlingEQBluetoothPrice
1.Sony DSXM55BTRMS: 17W x 4CH
Peak: 55W x 4CH
5 BandYes$$
2.Infinity INFPRV250RMS: 20W x 4CH
Peak: 50W x 4CH
2 BandYes$$$
3.Kenwood KMR-D365BTRMS: 22W x 4CH
Peak: 50W x 4CH
13 BandYes$$
4.Dual AMCP500BTRMS: 18W x 4CH
Peak: 60W x 4CH
3 BandYes$$$
5.Clarion M205RMS: 20W x 4CH
Peak: 50W x 4CH
3 BandNo$
6.Clarion M505RMS: 20W x 4CH
Peak: 50W x 4CH
3 BandYes$$$

Who Is This Review For?

This review is for anyone who wants to make their perfect day on the water even better. I know it’s hard to imagine a good day out on your boat getting even better, but a marine stereo can do just that. Whether you’re throwing parties on your deck boat, going for a leisurely cruise on your pontoon, or making waves in your speed boat, your favorite music turned up with a proper marine audio system can make all of those experiences better than ever.

If you’ve never ventured into aftermarket audio equipment, upgrading the stereo in your boat is a great way to get into it. You’ll be amazed by the instant improvement in both the sound quality, and in the abundant features found in the all of the products on our list.

Best Boat & Marine Stereo List

Quick Stats

  • Integrated Bluetooth technology
  • USB playback supports MP3/wma/a AC/wav/FLAC
  • Siri control for hands-free control of your iOS Device
  • Convenient Wireless remote supplied

Sony DSXM55BT Quick Review

The Sony DSXM55BT is a digital media receiver. The first thing you might notice about this head unit is the lack of a CD slot. This omission of a CD player is becoming more and more popular as CDs slowly go out of style in favor of different portable digital media. It might seem like a lack of an important feature, but are you really going to leave a book of CDs on your boat? Do you already use your smartphone or some other mobile device for all of your music? This receiver has an aux jack, a USB port, NFC, and Bluetooth 3.0 connectivity. It has a multitude of audio features you’d expect from Sony like Mega Bass, an advanced sound engine, and Siri control with your iOS device.

Quick Stats

  • In-Dash AM/FM, MP3, USB Marine Digital Media Stereo
  • Single-line LCD display
  • Built-in Bluetooth
  • White illuminated button lighting
  • Power Output: Peak: 50 watts x 4 channels

Infinity INFPRV250 Quick Review

This Infinity is the only marine stereo on our list that is not the traditional single-din size. This can be a big advantage if you want to put your head unit somewhere it wasn’t originally intended to go. Since it doesn’t play CDs, it’s nice and shallow in the back so it fits in tight, compact spaces. If you’re planning on mostly using Bluetooth, this is a great option. That’s mainly because the USB port and aux jack are mounted in the back. A couple of features it’s missing are SiriusXM capability and a clock. While it’s nice when marine stereos are SiriusXM ready, it requires extra parts and a subscription. As for the clock, it doesn’t really matter what time it is when you’re on the water, does it?

Quick Stats

  • TDF (Theft Deterrent Faceplate)
  • Kenwood sound reconstruction
  • MP3/WMA/AAC/WAV/FLAC Files Playback with ID-3 Tag Display
  • Dual Phone Connection
  • Wireless Music Browsing
  • Conformal Coating

Kenwood KMRD365BT Quick Review

Kenwood is a popular brand for audiophiles who take car audio seriously. Their expertise in car audio translates well into this marine stereo. It’s a lot like a traditional single-din head unit for a car, but built to endure a marine environment. The USB port and aux jack are arranged neatly on the right and out of the way of the rest of the controls. It has Bluetooth and there’s a nice big phone button if you’re planning on taking a lot of phone calls while on the water. One of our favorite things about this Kenwood is the bright screen with variable color LEDs to match the interior of your boat.

Quick Stats

  • Single DIN Media Receiver
  • 60W x 4 Chan. MAX
  • Built-In 3-Band Parametric Equalizer
  • USB/AUX Inputs With AM/FM Radio
  • SD Card Input

DUAL AMCP500BT Quick Review

This Clarion marine stereo is a basic unit that’s still high in quality making it an excellent value. If corded digital media is your preferred method, then this could be for you. Maybe you’re looking for the best boat head unit, but don’t want to pay for features you’re not going to use. It doesn’t have a CD player or SiriusXM, and unlike almost every other marine stereo on our list, it doesn’t have Bluetooth. Maybe you have an old iPod or other MP3 player that you like to just leave in your boat for music. If that’s the case and you wouldn’t be using Bluetooth anyway, then this is a good way to save some money on a nice unit that doesn’t have features you wouldn’t use anyway.

Quick Stats

  • CEA-2006 compliant amplifier
  • Power Output: Peak: 50 watts x 4 channels / RMS: 20 watts x 4 channels
  • Designed specifically for harsh marine environments
  • 13-digit 2 line white LCD display

Clarion M205 Quick Review

This Clarion marine stereo is a basic unit that’s still high in quality making it an excellent value. If corded digital media is your preferred method, then this could be for you. It's great for those looking for the a high performance marine head unit, but don’t want to pay for features you’re not going to use. It doesn’t have a CD player or SiriusXM, and unlike almost every other marine stereo on our list, it doesn’t have Bluetooth. Maybe you have an old iPod or other MP3 player that you like to just leave in your boat for music. If that’s the case and you wouldn’t be using Bluetooth anyway, then this is a good way to save some money on a nice unit that doesn’t have features you wouldn’t use anyway.

Quick Stats

  • Marine Digital Media Bluetooth USB/MP3/WMA Receiver
  • Built-in Bluetooth
  • 3.5mm Audio Auxiliary Input & USB
  • Meets or Exceeds ASTM B117  & ASTM D4329

Clarion M505 Quick Review

This Clarion is a more advanced version of the M205 we just talked about. If you look at them side by side they’re extremely similar, but the M505 has a lot more desirable features. There’s still no CD player, but this one includes Bluetooth and it’s SiriusXM ready. If you like the look and the layout of the M205, but need more connectivity options, then this is perfect. On top of having a nice, slick look, it meets or exceeds certifications for marine use. It’s well protected from UV, salt, fog, and just about anything else nature can throw at it. This protection combined with its good look and nice features make it one of the best waterproof stereos out there.