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Marine Amplifiers - Reviews & Guides For 2021

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Marine Amplifier Buyers Guide

There comes a time when your boat's in-built receiver doesn't provide enough power or support for the sound quality. You might have too many speakers, subwoofers, or maybe you're looking for better quality. If you don't want the waves to dampen your sound system, you need a compatible marine amplifier.

However, there are too many options with a range of power, the amps. Then there's the aspect of two or four-channels and much more. How can you choose the right marine amplifier? How many marine amplifiers would you need? If you are confused about questions similar to these, then this guide is for you.

This guide will help you discover what's truly built for you, from budget-friendly and entry-level amplifiers to the high-end system for audiophiles. Whether you're looking to steadily build the system or give your sound system a boost, here's all you need to know before you buy marine amplifiers:

What is a marine amplifier?

A marine amplifier is similar to a standard amplifier. It brings you better sound performance without compromising the quality or details. If you're someone who admires high definition sound performance, it becomes indispensable to have marine amplifiers for your sound system.

Most of the marine amplifiers are inherently bigger than the built-in receivers of the sound system. Unlike them, there isn't much of a size limitation. You can get a big amplifier to install in your boat to receive exceptional sound performance without any barrier.

However, the difference between a conventional amplifier and a marine amplifier is the added protection. Marine-grade amplifiers have a high-level of waterproof quality. The entire model has waterproofing quality with resistance against salt corrosion and much more, from external structure to internal components.

These qualities and tweaks make them a high-performing amplifier that can withstand the tolls the music system would receive on the water. Think of it this way, you can use a standard amplifier, but it won't have any form of protection against water, sunlight, salt, moisture, mold, and mildew. As a result, your standard amplifier will start declining in performance.

It will give away faster than you'd expect, and you'd have to replace a regular amplifier more frequently. Marine amplifiers might cost more initially, but they provide value for money. They will last long due to their waterproof components. The anti-UV and moisture resistant qualities will keep the performance intact. Thus, you will enjoy a full blast of the impeccable sound quality.

Reasons to use marine amplifiers

You can already guess the advantages of marine amplifiers over regular amplifiers. However, to help you with decision making, here are some additional reasons. These concise reasons would provide you with answers to questions such as 'Should I invest in marine amplifiers for my boat? Are marine amplifiers worth it?' and so on.

An essential requirement

Most marine sound systems, especially speakers, would require you to use an amplifier with them. If you want to integrate the best marine sound system, it most likely requires an amplifier to power them. Some may come with a built-in receiver for amplification, but it wouldn't provide you what the speakers can do.

If you fail to receive the performance you were promised, it's most likely that you lack the right amplifier. Therefore, it becomes an essential requirement for you to install a well-versed amplifier to complement your system and provide long-lasting performance.

Compelling entry-level choices

Unlike the amplifiers you find on-ground, marine-grade amplifiers utilize premium or high-grade components for their construction. Therefore, even the entry-level choices for them can provide you the most excellent sound performance. You don't necessarily have to look at high-end ones for better results.

The difference between the cost is usually due to added protection, better material, a bigger size, or additional system support. Hence, you wouldn't have to worry about looking at hi-fi output most of the time. Of course, you should always check to ensure the hi-fi support and quality for confirmation. But apart from that, you can be assured.

Great for customization

Are you someone who likes to build their sound system as they go? Some people like to put a sum of money aside and steadily invest in building their boats' entire sound system. It's because marine-grade sound systems cost more than the standard sound system.

Adding an amplifier right off the bat is a great way to remember the kind of sound system you're trying to build. You will be able to base your purchase around its quality and performance. Two, four, or eight-channel, you would know what you're getting into.

Buying an amplifier also brings you added leisure to customize your sound system as you like. If you like to replace your system with a new or upgraded version frequently, an amplifier is a convenient choice. Most of the marine amplifiers are future-proof to bring you uninterruptible service for years to come.

Overall, it's an excellent option for a sound lover or music system enthusiast to have freedom of customization. You can upgrade to a better system without requiring an amplifier. Additionally, with an amplifier, you don't always have to find a sound system with a built-in amplifier or receiver. You would have access to a broader range of marine speakers to make the right choice.

A long-lasting choice

If you decide to use a standard amplifier in your boat, it won't last long. There could be a short circuit, and a lack of resistance could make electricity travel around. As the water reduces people's electric resistance, you're at risk of getting electrocuted with added moisture. For your safety, it becomes integral to get marine amplifiers.

Furthermore, other amplifiers will undoubtedly wear out or give away from the constant exposure to water, moisture, sunlight, and other elements. There's no way you can stop it. If you want to add some protective storage for your standard amplifier, the cost wouldn't be worth it, and you could get a marine amplifier at that price.

You won't get a warranty for other amplifiers either. However, most manufacturers provide some guarantee for a marine amplifier to use in a boat. Additionally, as mentioned before, it will save you a lot of money in the long run. Standard amplifiers could work for a day, two, or a short time before giving away. A marine-grade is long-lasting and saves you quite a lot of money.

It's only logical. On one side, you have to invest in standard amplifiers continually, and on the other, you have a single-time investment for a marine-grade amplifier.

Deliver sound quality

Of course, then you finally have the sound quality. Any device's performance depends on the quality of the component it has, and the quality of the component depends on the material used. Most of the standard devices and sound systems don't use highly durable or resistant material.

For example, in marine speakers, you won't get paper but some form of soft plastic or carbon to ensure the speaker's cones' performance.

When you use high-grade material, the transmission would be exceptional, leading to undistorted quality of output. If you're someone who loves details and wants sound clarity, marine amplifiers will be an essential part of your sound system.

Factors to consider when buying marine amplifiers

To buy the right marine amplifier, you need to know about several factors. Without this guide, it can be tricky for you to buy an amplifier that’s worth the money. So, we are here with a list of factors you need to check before buying one.

Let’s have a look at a few important things about a marine amplifier:

The size factor

Your boat is limited in size, and there are specific parts where you can integrate a sound system. Some boats come with a pre-assigned segment for each installation. Others may require you to create the necessary space or compartment. Regardless of the situation, the size becomes a primary consideration.

It's true that bigger amplifiers are usually better with high wattage and power to boom out your sound system. However, it's not necessary to buy too large of an amplifier to fit your requirements. There are many compact or sleek designs available with modern technology. They bring you the same performance. So the question is, how do you choose the right size?

Know your boat

First, you might want to take a good look at your boat before buying an amplifier. If required, use a measuring tape to have a reasonable estimation of the size you're looking for. Make sure to check around the boat and see how much area the amplifier and sound system will consume.

If you're willing to compromise on the amplifier's size, then by how much and other similar dimensions. Once you get a rough estimation, possible over-under values, and such, you will be ready to buy an amplifier.

The power factor

Next in like are two essential specifications that combine to make the overall power: wattage and RMS. People often think that these two are different units. However, these are the same.

The primary purpose of an amplifier is to 'amplify' the sound by providing additional power. For that, you need an efficiently working system with your boat's power supply unit. Any ship can be highly powerful to bring you a significant power supply, so you don't have to worry about that match.

A general rule of thumb

As a general rule, you need an amplifier that is lower or equal to your speakers' RMS. Alternatively, it would be best if you had speakers equal or higher in RMS than the amplifier. It's to safeguard your speakers from an excessive power surge.

When speakers are put under stress to function higher than their capacity, they can malfunction. Most of the speaker's systems tear or distort into irreversible damage, and it would require you to buy new ones.

Hence, the general rule for RMS is pivotal to determine the right power output and efficient performance. Sure, you can buy an amplifier with higher RMS, but what if you amp it up by mistake and beyond speakers' capacity?

Marine speakers are not cheap. You might not want to damage them in this manner.

Number of channels

Now you have the right size and the right RMS for your speaker system. Next on the line is the number of channels. It might seem easy enough to buy anything that meets your requirements. However, that's not the wisest option you can opt for.

From a single channel to even up to six-channel, there are many amplifiers out there. Here's a quick overview of each of their purpose and performance.

Single-channel

A single channel brings you a mono output that is usually great for speakers connected through a single aux. Some music systems come with a subwoofer and smaller speakers that a single channel amplifier would suffice.

In simple words, it is an excellent choice to balance the power of a low-budget marine sound system. However, a single-channel is primarily used as an 'add-on' to the pre-existing amplifier system. It works as a support for your subwoofer and usually has enough power for that.

Dual-channel

These are the common choice among people looking for budget-friendly marine amplifiers. Dual-channel can usually support two powerful speakers. Thus, it suffices for small or family boats if you're not too into deep sound performance and other similar features.

Many dual-channel amplifiers have extra power to support multiple low-end sound systems by connecting them through the aux. However, RMS becomes a primary consideration as you can't take too much toll on the system.

Dual-channel marine amplifiers are entry-level choices anyone should start with.

Four-channel

This is where you start getting into the more sound quality and performance aspect. A four-channel amplifier is sufficient for most boats and sound systems. You can add enough speakers for the right level of output. While two-channels are common for people under budget, four-channel is the industrial standard for the most prevalent choice.

In this category, you will find several options that will fit your budget and other considerations easily. If you want optimum power and sufficient output, this is the best choice, and you needn't look for low-end or high-end speakers. Most of the manufacturers focus on this, and there are countless features you can get.

Six-channel

These are less common marine amplifiers primarily for people who want a powerful sound system. If you're going to connect multiple subwoofers and speakers, this is a better choice overall. It's very uncommon, and people don't usually get six channels. The best they do is get a five-channel for an extra subwoofer if they need to tweak up the depth and other aspects.

Odd channels

Odd channels have a similar purpose to a single-channel amplifier. 3-channel, 5-channel, or 7-channel are some common examples of odd channels. Usually, they have even outputs for speakers (2, 4, 6) and an additional output specifically powered for a subwoofer.

It discards the requirement to bridge the connection to provide apt power for your subwoofer. Many people prefer odd-channels as it can save money and often takes less toll on the system for subwoofers than bridges.

Bridge option

Almost every amplifier will provide you an option to establish a bridge connection. It will allow you to connect the output of two channels and concentrate it to power a single unit (or speaker). Most people use bridging to power a subwoofer as it requires more power than any speaker.

However, subwoofers can take a significant toll on the bridging, making the ports overheat or malfunction. Therefore, people prefer to either add amplifiers to meet their requirements or look for amplifiers with an odd number of outputs. As one of them is specifically powered and prepared for subwoofers.

Physical features and aspects

Finally, you have the best amplifier you could look for in your budget. But aren't you forgetting something? Yes, you're on the right track. These are marine amplifiers, so what matters the most is the protective features that will also give you an idea about the build quality.

So how do you determine the quality of the amplifier and its build quality? Here's a quick overview:

Proper model

Marine amplifiers primarily have a sealed body. The structure may be metal like stainless steel, but there would be a rubber layer over them. Alternatively, the build might be premium-grade plastic. Many plastic amplifiers utilize highly-durable choices to provide long-lasting and robust performance.

After all, there are shocks and bumps from the ride that could mess up the internal components and connection. This brings you to the second consideration in the model; they should have a shock-absorbing or impact-resistant build to ensure uninterruptible performance.

Rides on boats can get very bumpy, and it's pivotal to consider it if you don't want your hardware to sustain physical damage.

Protective features

Waterproofing is a crucial aspect of any marine-grade product, so it should be obvious for marine amplifiers. However, the level of waterproofing may vary. Some come with moisture-absorbing mesh covers to further add protection, but you can buy them separately.

Anti-UV coating or polish becomes paramount, or a material that lasts long under sun's exposure. Corrosion resistance and anti-rust are the second most important aspects. The components shouldn't malfunction or corrode due to the water.

Saltwater protection might be an indispensable requirement if you want the best marine amplifier. Even if you use the boat primarily in freshwater, saltwater protection could be invaluable.

Components and controls

You can't precisely check it by opening the model, but most of the manufacturers put whether the components have protection inside or not. Some amplifiers only have an external sealed body to protect them from the elements of water. So you might want to read to check that you're getting value for your money.

Of course, if you get a sealed body with unprotected internal, you have to look at the controls. They will most likely have sealed powers with push buttons without analog under a rubber layer. It's fine if you get something like that as long as sealing is thorough.

Alternatively, look for amplifiers that bring you internal components that are separately waterproofed.

Connectivity options

You already have everything that you need to get the best marine amplifiers. However, you might want to consider the connectivity options for added leisure. For speakers, almost all amplifiers come with the standard wire connectivity, and for them, you need proper waterproof and resistant wiring to ensure optimum connection.

However, some offer you an option to connect the amplifier to your smartphones through the app for added comfort and remote control. Others offer Wi-fi or Bluetooth connectivity for the same convenience and performance. You can look for these additional connectivity options if you want 'smart controls' or something in-line with the latest technology.

FAQS: Best Marine Amplifiers

Q: When should I upgrade my marine amplifiers?

A: If you feel like your sound system can perform better, and the amplifier fails to provide an apt power supply, it's time to upgrade your amplifier. The best way to tell whether you need a new amplifier for the sound system is by checking for any form of distortion or breakage in the sound flow.

Q: What are classes in marine amplifiers?

A: The classes in marine amplifiers are the same as the regular amplifier. Class A offers hi-fi sound quality and the best performance, but they consume too much power. Class B compromises quality for better efficiency. Contrary to popular claims, there's no Class C but a Class AB that balances power and performance. Class D is more efficient with the best clarity and performance. However, they lack power and volume.

Q: How much RMS do I need for the subwoofer to work with marine amplifiers?

A: You need five to ten times more RMS for subwoofers than your speakers. For example, if you have an RMS of 50 for speakers, you'd need around 250 to 500 for the subwoofer. If you go beyond 100 Watt, then you should get 1000 RMS for subwoofers. For stock and aftermarket sound systems, 50-300 watts would do the job efficiently.

Conclusion

The price would always play a prominent role in determining the quality and output of the amplifiers. However, these aspects will enable you to shuffle through countless marine amplifiers available in the market. You can narrow down the list to choose the best that fits your requirement.

It isn't too challenging to get a marine amplifier if you don't want to meet the specifications. As long as you consider the size and the protective measures, you can have something to get by. But of course, almost everyone wants high sound quality for uninterruptible entertainment. With this guide, you will always get the best results.

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