THE VERDICT

Practical Boat Owner - - Gear -

The ques­tion for th­ese stereos is: why buy a ma­rine stereo when you can pick up a sim­ple car ra­dio for half the price?

One an­swer is that most ma­rine stereos have coated cir­cuit boards, pro­tect­ing them from the rav­ages of salt air. The other is that if you have net­worked in­stru­ments, the abil­ity to con­trol the stereo from your plot­ter in the cock­pit is use­ful, es­pe­cially if you suf­fer from sea­sick­ness. A wa­ter­proofed con­trol head can make a dif­fer­ence on a small boat.

We also found that ma­rine prod­ucts of­fered im­proved sound in noisy con­di­tions com­pared to car stereos, which tend to be tai­lored for the qui­eter en­vi­ron­ments found in ve­hi­cles.

Most of th­ese units are de­signed for power­boats, and to use blast­ing around and at full vol­ume. How­ever, there were def­i­nite dif­fer­ences to be heard in them while both sit­ting down be­low and when un­der sail.

Force 4’s com­pact Blue­tooth stereo was sur­pris­ingly good given the small size, and would make an ex­cel­lent mini so­lu­tion on a small boat – the sound wasn’t as loud as oth­ers, but it was per­fectly ac­cept­able.

JL Au­dio’s was by far the most ex­pen­sive of all the stereos, but the sound was ex­cel­lent – crisp and clear and au­di­ble un­der­way – and with a higher-end set of speak­ers would keep even the most ar­dent au­dio­philes happy.

Fu­sion’s were per­haps the most fully-fea­tured units, with a good in­ter­face, de­cent sound and nicely de­signed equip­ment – and the abil­ity to re­place a car stereo with the same foot­print makes the RA70 a good buy. The prices are also rea­son­able.

Aquatic AV’s sys­tems sounded some­what brash, but have plenty of power and are well priced. The cheaper unit works well over Blue­tooth.

Fu­sion’s zone con­trol was par­tic­u­larly ef­fec­tive and in­tu­itive: you can re­name them to suit – here, Cock­pit and Cabin

You can also con­trol some stereos from a com­pat­i­ble chart­plot­ter: this is the in­ter­face on a B&G Vul­can 5, con­trol­ling the Fu­sion RA70N

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