Tips For Great Audio
5 Ways to Max Out Your Audio System
For most, a good sound system adds to the joy of being on the water. Whether it is cranking up the volume while wakeboarding or surfing – or clean sounds while on a sunset cruise. A great system and fun playlist just compliments your time on the lake. This quick overview was provided by Roswell Marine. Stop in to PULL and check out our Roswell line up!
Set Your Goals and Your Budget
When it comes to audio systems, your only limits are your budget and the size of your boat. “You can go as simple or elaborate as you want,” says Colin Brumbaugh, vice president of Roswell Marine Audio at Roswell Global. “If you’re on a budget, you could stop at a head unit with an onboard amplifier and four speakers. The next step is getting dedicated amplifiers for your speakers. Then subwoofers, tower speakers, and it goes on and on.” Set your goals and your budget from the outset, then go from there.
Amp It Up
Onboard amplifiers are relatively weak, so while they’ll suffice for a basic setup, you’ll need to add dedicated amplifiers for your speakers if you plan on taking your system to the next level. “With an amplifier, you can get much greater amounts of power as well as a better audio signal because you’re not relying on a catchall device,” Brumbaugh says. “That amplifier’s only job is to provide clean power to your speakers.” The most important thing to consider when shopping for an amplifier is what’s called headroom. “If you have 50-watt speakers, you don’t want to buy an amplifier that only puts out 50 watts per channel, because that means the amplifier is working as hard as it can to give those speakers the power they can handle, which overworks the amplifier and the speakers.” Brumbaugh says a good rule of thumb is to get an amplifier with 20-30 percent more wattage than your speakers require.
Durability is key in any marine environment, especially in saltwater, so you need to make sure your new components will hold up to the elements of your boating environment. “You want to look for certain types of plastics like Centrex,” Brumbaugh says. “Materials that have good UV resistance and salt resistance.” Also, make sure crossover and amplifier circuit boards are conformal coated, so they’ll hold up in a humid environment.
Bass From Above
A tower provides additional real estate to expand your audio arsenal. When it comes to hanging speakers, options abound, but they’ll likely fall into two categories—soundbars or self-contained tower speakers. The biggest advantage of soundbars is space. They cluster together multiple smaller speakers, so they don’t extend as far down as dedicated tower speakers. However, what you save in space you’ll give up in the level of the audio. “For wakeboarding in particular, if you’re tying to get sound 60, 70, 80 feet back to someone behind the boat, those soundbars aren’t going to be able to get as loud as larger hanging speakers,” Brumbaugh says.
Test Drive Your Tunes
You wouldn’t buy a boat without test driving it, so why would you buy a speaker or amplifier without hearing it. Instead of scouring websites for specs, head to your local dealer so that you can actually see, feel and, most importantly, hear the product. “We have displays at our dealerships that come in a variety of configurations,” Brumbaugh says. “You can demo various boat speakers, subwoofers, Cybox, so you can see and hear everything. There’s no substitute for trusting your ears.”
Expert advice on speaker placement for the best sound quality
Optimal placement of speakers makes a world of difference in the quality of the sound from your marine stereo system. Choosing the right spots can also help prevent inadvertent damage to a speaker and interference with other marine electronics. To learn more about speaker placement on different types of boats, we talked with Colin Brumbaugh, vice president of Roswell Marine Audio.
Speaker Placement for Wakesports Boats
Most boats built for wakesports today come with stock cutout locations with angled base plates for pointing the sound toward the ears of passengers. With no angled base plates, use coaxial speakers with adjustable tweeters, Brumbaugh advises.
Best quality usually results from a pair of speakers in the bowrider area, a pair under the gunwales amidships and pair in the aft seating area, he says. Most wakesports boats also have a subwoofer, and the storage area under the port console ranks as one of the best locations for the boomer. A well-built enclosure will boost the sound quality and output.
Finally, nearly all boats designed for wakeboarding or wakesurfing have two or more aft-facing tower speakers to project the sound to the rider. Use the stereo’s zone controls to turn these speakers off when there’s no rider behind the boat.
Speaker Placement for Runabouts
Today’s runabouts often have stock cutouts for four to six marine coaxial speakers, usually with two in the bowrider area and two or four in main cockpit, says Brumbaugh. Make sure all speakers are high enough to keep from being kicked. Getting the speakers higher also helps with perceived sound quality. “Nobody I know has ears on their knees,” Brumbaugh points out.
Marine coaxial speakers with adjustable tweeters, such as those found in Roswell’s Elite Series, let you direct the high notes upward for better sound quality. If you want to add a subwoofer, choose an above-deck stowage locker, such as within one of the consoles.
If your runabout has a wakesports tower, hang a pair of aft-facing tower speakers for the listening pleasure of tubers, skiers and wakeboarders. Get a stereo with multiple zone controls to turn these speakers off once riders are back in the boat. Another option is to add Roswell’s Dual Zone Volume Control as a low-cost alternative to buying a new head unit with built-in zone control.
Speaker Placement for Pontoon Boats
Pontoons come in a wide range of sizes and interior layouts, but most of the time, seat bases in the bow and stern areas are the only locations for speakers, according to Brumbaugh. “That said, new pontoons are getting better when it comes to offering locations for speakers,” he adds.
Again, make sure speakers are installed above foot level to prevent damage. Also, avoid pointing speakers right at each other, as this can lead to sound cancellation and poor sound quality.
Coaxial speakers facing the swim platform offer entertainment when family and friend are swimming and lounging on rafts off the stern. “Get a stereo system with zone controls or add the Roswell Dual Zone Volume Control so you can turn those speakers off when everyone is back in the boat,” Brumbaugh advises.
If you want a subwoofer, place it in a stowage locker in the bow, amidships or stern. “Also, if you have space available, installing the subwoofer in a well-built enclosure will almost always improve sound quality and output,” Brumbaugh adds.
Speaker Placement for Center Consoles
With center-console boats under 25 feet in length, space is consideration. Typically, you will want a pair of coaxial speakers in the bow area, a pair under the gunwales amidships and another pair in the interior bulkhead of the transom.
If the boat does not have a full transom, place the speakers under the gunwales in aft cockpit, but avoid pointing them directly at each other in order to prevent sound cancellation. Position the speakers so that they are not easily damaged by a foot or knee as anglers in the aft cockpit or along the gunwales.
If there’s room, you can install a pair of speakers below the helm area of the center console, but be careful to avoid magnetic interference with compasses and other sensitive marine electronic equipment, says Brumbaugh. Many hardtops also have stock cutouts for flush-mounting speakers, and this negates the need to install a pair in the console.
Buy coaxial speakers with adjustable tweeters that direct the high notes in the directions you wish. If you want a subwoofer, inside the helm console can make an ideal location.
Learn more about how to upgrade your boat audio and then check out available products