Marine Audio Systems: The latest “source units” take control.
There are numerous marine audio systems available, and each has its own set of features, capabilities, and components to help make the most of your music preferences. Some have enough power to let every cottage or camp around the lake listen to your favorites, but building a sound system that doesn’t blow out at high volumes and is just as crisp and clear at low volumes is the trick.
Southern Boating provided a review of some of the best marine speakers in the May 2023 issue and to keep the components tuned together, we’re including six stereo receivers, or source units as they’re now known, built to withstand the harsh marine environment and are the centerpiece of the marine audio system.
Clarion’s CMM-30 is a full-featured, NMEA 2000 network-connected, all-in-one, multi-zone source unit that boasts an ultra-modern, weatherproof chassis (IP66-rated), and an ultra-bright, three-inch, full-color LCD display. Add to that the built-in AM/FM with U.S. NOAA weather radio, Radio Broadcast Data System global tuner, Bluetooth 5.0 streaming, auxiliary input and USB connection with iPhone album art support, and SiriusXM capabilities, the CMM-30 has all the functions you need on board. Large controls and an uncluttered interface with big text and backlit buttons make it easier to use when underway, and because it’s NMEA 2000 certified, control functionality is compatible with MFDs from Garmin, Lowrance, Simrad, and more. The CMM-30 offers boaters an excellent variety of must-have features. MSRP $479.99; clarionmarine.com
The world’s first touchscreen marine stereo with the Apple AirPlay 2 software feature and built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, Garmin’s Fusion Apollo RA770 can customize audio profiles for each zone on your boat. Audio streaming with Wi-Fi technology provides high-quality audio with a faster data transfer rate as well as seamless superior streaming from your music app via AirPlay 2. The 4.3-inch touchscreen includes play, pause, and skip functions using touch display commands, and you can control your music from a compatible multifunction display, smart device, or Garmin watch. Built on the True-Marine design philosophy from Fusion, the Apollo RA770 stereo has an IPX6- and IPX7-rated water-resistant front panel and has been tested to a high level of protection against salt fog, temperature, vibration, and UV rays. When it’s connected to an NMEA 2000 network and has an appropriate speed sensor installed, selecting Speed vs. Volume from the stereo’s settings menu enables audio volume to be automatically adjusted based on your boat’s speed. Faster is louder; slower is quieter. Compatible speed sources include speed over ground, speed through water, engine rpm, or wind speed. MSRP $699.99; garmin.com
The JBL-R4500 from ProSpec Electronics is the face of JBL’s WAKE series of premium audio components. The mechless (meaning it doesn’t have a slot for a disc) source unit receiver features outstanding audiophile performance, and its most striking element is the full-color four-inch LCD screen. The unit has a five-way push-button and rotary controller that makes using the receiver easy, even while underway, and is protected with its IPX7 weatherproof faceplate. A key feature is the NMEA 2000-ready connectivity as playback can be controlled using a multifunction display. It also works with the JBL Click wireless Bluetooth steering wheel controller for key functions to play music from any digital device. Bluetooth BT5.0 with ID streaming allows connectivity up to 100 feet away with an ultra-fast transfer rate.
The built-in amplifier of the JBL-R4500 source unit produces 4 x 55 peak at 4 ohms, and with 2-ohm stability, up to eight 4-ohm speakers can be wired. Able to provide formidable, distortion-free volume to be heard over the roar of engines, it delivers crisp, clear, and accurate sound at standard listening levels. MSRP $449.95; prospecelectronics.com
JL Audio MediaMaster Marine Source Unit is a premium marine stereo receiver that offers advanced connectivity options and NMEA 2000 compatibility. The receiver is specifically engineered to withstand the harsh marine and powersports environment to deliver excellent sound quality. The MM105 is IP66-rated weatherproof and offers oversized controls and a super-bright, full-color, 3.5-inch LCD display, large, easy-to-use backlit controls, and customizable lighting themes for nonstop action day or night. The certified NMEA 2000 connectivity is included for direct integration with vessel networks, allowing control functionality from a variety of multifunction displays, including Garmin, Lowrance, Raymarine, and Simrad. Sound quality is the top priority for JL Audio, and the MM105 is not designed to drive loudspeakers directly, but offers 12 channels of audiophile-quality, preamp level outputs to deliver crystal-clear signals to the amplifier. The signals are setup to create four audio zones each with its own control options for volume, tone, subwoofer output, and volume limits. MSRP $699.99; jlaudio.com
The KMC5 Premium Marine Media Center is KICKER’s top-of-the-line source unit that delivers 240 watts peak power to the speakers. More amplifiers will add power to the sound in the front, rear, subwoofer, and Zone-2 RCA outputs. The controller is IP66-rated weatherproof and features a color, non-glare, 3.5-inch LCD screen, Bluetooth, AUX RCA input, USB charging, thumb-drive playback, and a camera/video input operated by a trigger wire or push button. That’s right, an exclusive video input that can configure in a variety of ways, such as a backup camera or for watching skiers and riders. This six-channel unit powers up to 12 speakers and is NMEA 2000 compatible to work with other instruments. It includes an AM/FM/weather-band radio as well as being Sirius XM-ready. MSRP $599.99; kicker.com
The latest receiver in the Wet Sounds lineup is the WS-MC-5 with an AM/FM digital tuner, Bluetooth streaming, an auxiliary input, and a 2.7-inch LCD display. Connectivity options let you choose your favorite music through Bluetooth, radio, or Android and iOS devices, and is the perfect choice as an introduction to Wet Sounds’ media center product line. A 50-watt internal power amplifier with four 2-ohm max output drives speakers in the front and rear zones as well as Zone 2 preamp outputs. The front panel-mounted display has day and night illumination with dimming function and an independent secondary zone control for the full range or a subwoofer. It also has front and rear preamp outputs with fading capability. The WS-MC-5 shares the same compact design as the MC-2 which allows it to be the perfect solution for any marine or powersports application. An optional transom remote is in design and will be available soon. MSRP $249.99; shop.wetsounds.com
-by Jeremy Peters
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