Installing your own speakers can be an intimidating matter.
If you’re anything like us, the boat is your pride and joy. The last thing you want to do is mess it up by cutting a bunch of holes in the wrong place!
Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Speaker installation is one of the most common areas our customers ask us about. Below we dig into a list of the most frequent of these questions, and some advice from our experts to point you in the right direction.
What’s the difference between a marine and home sound system?
First off, you might be thinking this is pretty straight forward. Last summer you installed a couple of extra speakers in the lounge, and it’s been sounding fantastic ever since.
That’s great—and there are some similarities between a home sound system and a marine one, but there are also some significant differences. Besides the obvious—your boat is much more likely to get wet than your home is—the main factor you need to be aware of is positioning.
In your home sound system, you’re typically only listening from one position (or on axis as the acoustic engineers would say) – for example, on the couch while you’re watching a movie. That means your audio only needs to sound great in that position, and how it sounds from other angles is less important. With marine audio, however, your listeners are fluid—they might be up on the deck, down in the cabin, or diving off the bow.
The key takeaway from this is that you need to select and install your marine sound system so that it takes this into account, and delivers a well-balanced sound to all positions (on and off axis), rather than directing your speakers towards one particular area.
Where should I place my speakers?
As soon as you understand the difference between a home and a marine sound system, the natural question which arises is: OK, so where should I be placing my speakers then, if it’s so important?
Firstly, it’s OK to point your speakers towards where people will be the most. Just make sure not to have any large objects obscuring your speakers from projecting their sound to other, less frequented areas. Having speakers well spread out will help to get you the best of both worlds.
Pro Tip: Fusion DSP profiles include on and off axis calculations that manipulate the audio signal to the optimal compromise – meaning you get quality audio delivery at a variety of listening positions. Check out our take on DSP Technology here.
Secondly, be wary of damage. You want to place your speakers in positions that they won’t be accidentally kicked or bumped by passengers, or knocked when you’re reeling in that massive marlin. More often than not, this isn’t always possible, so it makes it very important that the speakers are marine grade, IP rated, and specifically designed and engineered for the marine environment. Also, as a general note, keep them away from areas that receive a lot of splash, such as a transom splash well.
Next, watch out for interference. If your speakers are installed too closely to batteries or navigational equipment, they might get in the way of your navigation – not what anyone wants when out on the boat!
Finally, place your speakers on a flat surface if at all possible. Installing them on a curved edge will only make your job more difficult (read: lots of caulking), and make it more likely that your speakers will become loose later on.
What type of speakers should I buy?
This might seem like we’re pointing out the obvious here, but you’d be surprised how many eager boaties don’t initially see the importance of buying specially designed marine speakers.
The difference in design is substantial—marine speakers are created to withstand higher impact (remember that marlin you’ll be landing), salt fog, UV light, water, and constant vibrations. All of these can’t be expected from the design of a non-marine speaker, which as you can imagine, leads to some significant issues.
Pro Tip: Outdoor marine speakers should be rated at a minimum of IPX5 – find out more about IP ratings here.
Another common pitfall is buying the biggest marine speakers and trusting the rest will take care of itself. To be frank, this isn’t always the best approach. If you’re after crisp, clear sound while zipping along at 30 knots/h, it’s much better to invest in decent quality speakers, and pair them with an amp and a subwoofer and make sure your system is properly tuned.
Pro Tip: Designing your audio entertainment system with a holistic approach from the start can save you time and money, and deliver you a better experience over all. Check out our guide to system design here.
How do I avoid damaging my boat?
Finally, the biggest fear many of our customers have is cutting into their vessel to install speakers, only to find they’ve done it wrong and are left with a big gaping hole for all to see.
There are a few straight forward tricks to avoid damaging your boat unnecessarily.
Firstly, follow all the steps above. Make sure you’ve really thought through where to place your speakers, and you’ve settled on the right system for your needs.
Secondly, your speakers’ paper template is a major help. Rather than relying on measuring perfectly to get the right hole cut, simply glue the template onto the area you’re going to cut, and cut right over the top to get the perfect sized cut.
Thirdly, prevent cracking any gelcoat by drilling holes for your jigsaw first, and then bevelling the edges of each hole.
It may initially seem like a daunting task, but installing marine speakers can be done without compromising on quality or causing damage to your pride and joy. Take the time to understand the difference of marine speakers, plan your layout and the speakers you’ll use, make sure to use a template when making cuts, and you’ll be zipping along listening to high quality music in no time!