Ask an Expert: 5 Top Tips For Getting the Best Marine Speaker Setup Onboard Your Boat

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When it comes to speakers, any audiophile will tell you, they’re not all created equal! We caught up with our resident expert, Fabian Vuine – our acoustic engineer – to talk all things speakers. And he knows plenty – after all, Fabian’s responsible for new loudspeaker developments and their integration into the next generation of audio solutions for boats and RVs.

His MSc in Audio Acoustics in the UK and his previous experience with PA loudspeakers and automotive speakers set him in good stead for this – as did his passion for building speaker boxes from a young age. Talking to Fabian reminded us what an incredible feat of engineering speakers actually are too. “If you think about it, it is quite impressive what memories and emotions music can convey, all from a vibrating piece of speaker cone. I’m always fascinated by how simple a loudspeaker fundamentally is but how difficult it remains to make good loudspeakers for all the different applications and tastes,” Fabian muses.

So, bearing that in mind – and the fact that all speakers are not created equal – what are Fabian’s top tips when it comes to getting the best speaker set up onboard your boat?

1. Think about what you want from your audio system

This may seem obvious, but you want to consider all the different possible uses for your speakers on your specific vessel. If you just want to listen to the radio, or play some background music while you’re in the marina, then rather low cost speakers may be sufficient. On the flipside, if you are buying speakers for a power-boat, and want loud and clean music on the go, it would pay to invest in amplifiers, better quality speakers and subwoofers.

2. Consider where your music will go

Alongside the above consideration, you should also be deciding if your speakers are going to be used inside or outside. Outside speakers should ideally be larger and need to have more power handling, as they need to compete with stronger engine and wind noise. Either way, your speakers should ideally be mounted so they point towards where people are likely to spend most of their time, so hence this decision goes hand in hand with the above point.

3. Make sure you’re using a marine speaker for a marine application

You might be tempted to think that any old speaker will do but, when it comes to your boat, you need fit-for-purpose. Marine speakers are particularly robust when it comes to withstanding salt fog, water and dust ingress; they’re also designed to handle the UV light, shocks and vibrations unique to a marine environment. At FUSION Entertainment, for example, we test our speakers to a water pressure of three meters below sea level to make sure they are watertight, even in the case that things go wrong.

4. Don’t be fooled by fancy-seeming specs

It’s tempting to think that more or bigger is better, but that isn’t always the case. For example, the power handling really isn’t that important overall; if a speaker has a 150W peak or a 200W peak, it will hardly influence how they sound, especially when they’re connected straight to the head unit. Far more important than individual specs is whether the system is carefully tuned – especially when external amplifiers and subwoofers are used.

5. And finally, tackle installation carefully

Following your investment in good speakers, don’t just rip into the installation as you’ll risk compromising sound quality if this isn’t done right. Copy the template 1:1 and stick it on with a water-based adhesive, using this to drill the holes first and make the cut out with the jigsaw much easier. Think about where you’re putting your speakers too; ideally they should have room to “breathe” at their back and not be stuck inside a very tiny gap.

When you get to wiring, make sure the polarity of your speakers is right, which means that the marked wire should go on the negative terminal on both the loudspeaker and the amplifier – and likewise, the unmarked wire goes on both the positive terminals. Fabian issues one last warning too: “Even the best speakers in the world will sound mediocre if they are mounted in unsuitable locations and driven from underpowered amplifiers” – so it’s worth considering the bigger picture.  

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