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Everything you need to know to upgrade your ATV or marine stereo system

Why choose a specialized Marine stereo or ATV sound system?

The audio systems designed for boats and ATVs look very similar to those made for automobiles, and they serve a similar function. So why choose a specialized ATV or marine stereo system?

It has everything to do with the environment they’ll be used in: open, exposed to moisture and water, and lacking the closed environment of a vehicle that provides a very different listening experience. These components are more rugged than the versions found in cars, they are water resistant and boat speakers are tuned differently in order to compensate for being used in an open environment—often with enhanced bass and treble projection.

Marine speakers, head units and other components

A boat stereo system uses the same basic components as a typical car audio system.

Powering everything will be a head unit with a built-in amplifier, usually equipped with AM/FM radio and a CD player. Many are capable of Bluetooth connectivity so you can stream audio from your smartphone. Versions intended for use in a boat may come with a remote control, allowing you to control the audio from anywhere on the boat instead of having to be right in front of the receiver.

ATV and boat speakers look similar to the versions sold for car audio systems, but they will be more rugged and able to withstand rough movement, with rubber surrounds and accommodation for water drainage. For easy installation, some manufacturers also offer soundbar style speaker arrays for boat and ATVs. These incorporate flexible mounting options that minimize drilling, including being able to clamp onto a roll bar.

VHF radio and GPS units

You may also want to equip your boat or ATV sound system with a GPS receiver for navigation without having to use your smartphone. But the most popular addition (especially for boats) may well be Very High Frequency radio (better known as VHF radio). This long-range radio protocol is used for communicating with harbours, marinas, marine services such as bridges, and for emergency assistance.

Marine audio systems and ATV sound systems can be upgraded, just like your car’s entertainment unit.

If you want your music to sound better on the water or when touring cross-country, a new head unit and/or new speakers will make a world of difference. However, when purchasing a boat stereo or a new audio system for your ATV, be aware of any special wiring and installation requirements to ensure a smooth upgrade.