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Difference Between Marine and Car Speakers

James Benchman
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by James Benchman

Little can elevate the mood on a road trip or boat ride like some great music. Whether you want to make the time go by, get the party started, or just relax, music does the job.

And that means you need high-quality speakers. No one wants to listen to tunes with poor, tinny sound quality. Which means you need to know about the difference between marine speakers and car speakers.

The first question many of you may have is: what are marine speakers? Can’t I just use car speakers in my boat? If you want, you can, and depending on your situation, it may work. But marine speakers are designed specifically for boats and the unique circumstances that seacraft must navigate.

To decide what type of speakers are right for you, you need to understand the distinctions between marine speakers and car speakers. Follow along, and you’ll learn everything you need to know to make an educated decision.

Marine Speakers vs Car Speakers Differences

Typical Marine Speaker
Kicker 6.5 Inch Speakers
Typical Car Speaker

Marine stereos and car stereos are, simply put, designed for different circumstances. That leads to some significant variation in certain features. Let’s take a look at them now.

1. Durability:

The most notable difference is durability. Car stereos, of course, are designed to stay inside your car. They are typically not exposed to the outdoors, so there’s no need to emphasize this type of durability. Even if you have a convertible, you can put the top up when the weather gets bad, and either way, the sea is another game entirely.

Marine speakers, on the other hand, are built to withstand the elements. That means not just the wind and rain, but also the corrosive properties of salt. If you have a boat you intend to only use on fresh water, you might not consider this necessary. However, long-term exposure to sun and water will still wear down your speakers over time.

That means marine speakers are built for the long haul; if you’re not interested in regularly having to replace your boat’s sound system, you should definitely consider a marine stereo.

2. Sound Quality/Performance:

Here is another difference that is driven by the relative environments of cars compared to boats. Car interiors are relatively small, confined spaces. Therefore car stereos are designed to produce optimum sound quality in precisely that type of environment.

Most unmodified car speakers won’t project the sound very far beyond your vehicle’s window, and that’s because they don’t need to.

On the other hand, boats are typically uncovered, and if you want to listen on the move, you’re going to need a very different type of audio performance if you’re going to be able to hear. They’re not designed for the small detail of car speakers, but rather to project loud sound in an open space.

So it comes down to the type of sound you need. If you want more quiet precision, that’s what car speakers are for. But if you need projection through open spaces and over wider distances, you’ll need to turn to a marine speaker.

3. Wiring:

Again, this all comes down to the environment and need. In a car, the odds of moisture or salt reaching your wires are slim to none. Therefore, an emphasis on protecting or concealing the wiring in a car stereo is not nearly as important.

In a boat, however, the wiring must be protected. The wires of a marine stereo are always protected under a layer of waterproof material, as they would otherwise be in constant risk for damage.

Further, the circuit boards of a marine stereo must be protected as well. Accordingly, they are covered in sealants, where car speaker circuit boards are not.

4. Materials:

A feature that ties into the aforementioned difference in durability, marine speakers are always made with more heavy-duty materials. Each individual part of a marine speaker has to be waterproof, or else the entire system would be vulnerable.

Car stereos don’t have to worry about that. For example, most car speakers use paper cones. For a car, that’s not an issue at all. But in a boat, that would destroy the speaker. Accordingly, marine speakers use plastic cones.

That’s just one example; each component that could be exposed to water or even accumulating moisture needs to be made from a sturdy material.

5. Cost

As we’ve discussed, marine speakers have to handle different conditions and have to be able to stand up to harsher elements while projecting sound over greater distances. Accordingly, marine speakers typically cost more than car speakers.

As car speakers don’t have to worry about anything other than creating sound, they aren’t typically as expensive to make. Marine speakers are not only generally made from more expensive materials, and they are more labor-intensive to build; both of those drive up the price.

Cost is one area where car speakers have the advantage over marine speakers, and many people choose to use car speakers in their boats due to up-front affordability.

However, be sure to weigh the risk and think long term when evaluating the cost. While car speakers are cheaper initially, they are at a much greater risk of getting damaged and may need to be regularly repaired or replaced. Marine speakers are more of an investment at the beginning, but they are built for the long haul and are more likely to last longer.

The Final Word

Many people wonder whether they should use car speakers or marine speakers in their boat. Each option has its own strengths and weaknesses.

Car speakers deliver more precise sound and are less expensive, but are less durable and typically don’t project their sound over greater distances. Marine speakers are sturdier and much easier to hear out in the open over the sounds of your boat, but are costlier and can be more prone to sound distortion.

If you want to use car speakers in your boat, you absolutely can. They are certainly more convenient and wallet-friendly, at least upfront. However, if you’re looking for a long-term investment, we definitely recommend utilizing marine speakers. Ultimately, it comes down to whatever is the best fit for your situation.

About James Benchman
James Benchman
James is an Automotive Mechanic with over 20 years experience and 300+ car repairs. He is an expert with cars and has worked with different models from the biggest brands. James is a Mechanic , Husband , Father of 3 , and head of content at Caraudiologic. Learn more about us
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