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 best boat 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 best waterproof head unit can withstand.
You have high expectations for the audio in your car, why should it be any different for your boat? The best boat 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 best boat stereo on the lake.
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 the best marine head unit 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 instantly noticeable improvement in both the sound quality and in the abundant features found in the best marine stereos.
What to Look For
Let’s go over some the audio lingo we’re about to use to make sure you find the best marine head unit for you with all the features you need.
- Bluetooth - If you have a smartphone, you probably have Bluetooth. Even before the smartphone revolution, it’s been a common short-wave communication method for portable devices, especially cell phones. A marine head unit with Bluetooth can talk to your device wirelessly and stream your favorite music while your phone stays in your pocket. The best thing about it is there are no cords or other additional equipment needed to hook it up. Once you get used to this feature, you won’t know how you lived without it.
- USB - USB stands for Universal Serial Bus and it’s the most common way to connect a device to a computer with a wire. Why do you need USB if you already have an aux jack? The advantage of USB is it allows the stereo to get information from your phone other than just a signal to play music. With USB, you can get access to Pandora, iHeartRadio, and several other apps from your phone straight to the stereo depending on your head unit. It also makes the metadata (song title, artist, etc.) show up on the screen of the head unit. Another nice bonus of a USB port in your boat is it can charge your device while it’s playing music.
- SiriusXM - You’re probably familiar with this popular satellite radio service, but did you know you can get it in your boat? Many of the best waterproof head units come with SiriusXM capability, but that does not mean it works with SiriusXM right out of the box. It requires additional equipment sold separately and of course a subscription.