Marine grade speakers aren't just automotive speakers in a different package and stainless steel mounting screws, they're designed and engineered specifically for the elements. Lots of sun, damp or wet conditions, salt, heat, you name it – they're expected to perform with the quality and volume of normal speakers, look great, while lasting in the harsh environment year after year. Expectations for marine speakers today couldn't be higher.
We recently completed a full stereo upgrade on a 25ft Lightning speedboat, and decked it out with Kicker's latest marine products. Our choice for speakers in the upgrade was Kicker's KM series marine grade speakers, and we were thrilled with them from the time we opened up the box.
Unboxing a Kicker KM Speaker
From the start, when you open up the box to a pair of KM series speaker, you can see the detail and effort that Kicker has put into these speakers. What stands out immediately is the aggressive and stylish speaker grilles. If you're seeking a modern-aggressive looking set of speakers for your boat or UTV, these definitely check the box. Inside the box you'll find:
- 2x KM speakers (8″ or 6.5″ depending on what you purchased)
- 2x pairs of grilles to choose from depending on your application
- 2 Charcoal
- 2 White
- 2x 0.25″ Gold Plated Crimp on female quick slides
- 2x 0.187″ Gold Plated Crimp on female quick slides
- 8x 1″ stainless screws
- 2x plastic terminal covers
- 2x 7″ zip ties
- Owner's manual
KM Series Feature Overview
Let's dig into some of the core features of the KM Series Marine Speakers, and some of the features that make them stand out!
Woofer & Tweeter
Two of the first things you see when you remove the grilles – the tweeter and woofer. The KM speakers were built to withstand the harsh UV rays. They're also stout. Suspended in front of the woofer is a 1 inch titanium tweeter. You'll notice that the structure that holds the tweeter is pretty beefy. It's one of the small but attention to detail features that we really like about these speakers. We have first hand experience with suspended tweeter speakers in the bow that last all but a season until someone kicks or sits up against it and breaks the tweeter off (not to name brands but Po*k). Kicker removed the tweeter posts to completely seal the front side of the woofer from water but they did it with this potential flaw in mind. An added benefit is that the cone has more surface area to increase its efficiency. The polypropylene woofer is UV-Treated along with the basket that holds the woofer and tweeter. It's surrounded with Santoprene, which is a well-known material resistant to drying and cracking in the elements.
Kicker went to significant lengths to prepare their KM series for the elements. It's part of what makes these speakers stand out from other marine-grade and water resistant speakers. The most important waterproofing feature that these have is that all of its internal components are completely sealed off. If you look at a KM speaker, you'll notice that the motor, coil, wires, magnet – everything is contained within the sealed casing underneath the speaker's cone.
Additionally, the tweeter post has been removed and the tweeter is actually suspended to seal off the motor and spider from the water.
But the speaker and motor aren't the only thing that need to be sealed. Obviously wiring is a big vulnerability, and can allow water to seep into the casing and into the speaker itself. The speaker terminals that enter the casing appear to be well-sealed too with a rubber grommet around them to prevent water seepage.
And for the terminals themselves, where you'll connect them to your speaker wire they've coated the terminal clips with gold plating to prevent corrosive buildup at the terminal connections. We thought this was a nice add – after a year or two on the water these connections tend to have a corrosive buildup and can intermittently cut power to the speakers when you hit a bump or chop. Pulling the speaker, cleaning the terminals and reinstalling the speaker is a waste of time, so Kicker plated the terminals with gold AND they included terminal casings to further prevent corrosion and protect your terminal (and LED connections). I wouldn't say that the terminal casings are “Water Proof” but they will absolutely help keep the terminals corrosive free so that you don't have to clean them for the lifetime of the speaker.
One last little cool feature Kicker added – and it's hard to find if you're not looking. If you pick up the speaker grille and look at the inside, there's a little notch on the bottom side of the grille. This isn't a defect, it's a drain hole! It's for when the speaker cone gets wet, and the water between the speaker and grille needs to drain out so that it doesn't sit on the inside of the speaker between the cone and grille. Obviously this is for vertically mounted speakers but I picture burying the bow of our wakeboard boat with a few folks in the front on accident with water overflowing and completely soaking the speakers. Or, when you're hosing it off at the end of the season. Kicker thought about the little details that make the difference between a long lasting marine speaker and your average IP65 rated automotive coaxial.
For those who want a show on the water at dusk and well into the night, LED lit speakers are a must have. 5 years ago, this was a new(er) concept and manufacturers have been adopting it quickly. Kicker's KM series have a seven-color LED system with the LED light mounted on the backside of the tweeter facing the cone. This reflects the LED light across the entire cone of the speaker.
To wire the LED lights, you have two options: with or without the KMLC lighting controller. Let's start by walking through the ‘without' scenario. Without the KMLC, like mentioned, you have 7 colors to chose from:
- Lime Green
You can only really have one color selected at a time without getting really fancy with the wiring (and if this is really what you want you should get the KMLC controller. But it's pretty straight forward – you simply need a positive (switched) and negative wire. The LED wires from the speaker have a power and 3 signal/ground wires and you just combine those 3 signal/ground wires in different ways to make a different color. Here's the manual:
Now, the other option is to purchase the KMLC lighting controller add on which is sold separately. This controller essentially upgrades your LED lighting to enable 20 colors instead of 7. AND it also has lighting modes that will allow you to do things like pulsing, alternating, solid, and beyond. Wiring for this is straight forward, but we would SERIOUSLY recommend that you purchase Kicker's RGB Speaker Wire. It's expensive.. ~$150 bucks for a spool of 150ft, but it has all of the wires you need to wire up your LED speakers, wrapped in a waterproof casing. You'll wire all 6 wires from each speaker and combine all of the 4 LED wires to the KMLC controller at the power source. Then, you have full control over the color and the mode from a wireless remote!
Here's a few images to show what the colors look like at night using the KMLC controller!
This may not always be the most exciting part of a speaker but we had to add it in. Here's a few detailed specs about each of the KM LED speakers broken down by speaker size.
|6.5" 45KM654L||6.5" 45KM604WL (Blue Lit Only)||8" 45KM84L|
Summary & Final Thoughts
All-in-all we were quite impressed with the KM series. Sound wise, they were loud, crisp and clear. The highs weren't too harsh and the sound was full. We love the aggressive look and grilles, but I think that our favorite features were in the waterproofing details.
What Makes Them Different
Kicker really did go above and beyond to create a true marine-grade speaker that looks like it will last. Obviously only time will tell so we'll have to update after a season or so. Some of the key differentiators about these speakers that stood out to us:
- Motor is completely concealed in the basket
- Gold plated terminals
- Comes with marine sealing
- Removed the tweeter post to completely seal the motor and spider from the water – larger surface area
- Grill has a drain hole to drain outside of the speaker
- PCB instead of lcd completely sealed in silicone on the back side of the tweeter