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Best marine audio systems for 2019

Like everything else electronic on boats marine audio system technology has come on like gangbusters. It’s added features and functionality like iOS, Android and SiriusXM compatibility along with the fire power of Bluetooth and WiFi and NMEA 2000 connectivity—all in a very compact package. No doubt about it, they’re miles apart from the stereo on your father’s old boat.

Here are seven audio systems that are the pick of the litter. The lineup is part of an exercise we do at Marine Electronics Journal every year—we call it the Best & Brightest Boating Electronics. We ask manufacturers to tell us which model in 16 categories of marine electronics products they consider to be their best—not necessarily the most advanced or latest but the one than delivers the highest marks overall. That could be their most popular model or the one that has passed the test of time. Our categories range from fishfinders and radars to electronic charts and wireless devices. Next week we’ll tell you about the Best & Brightest in underwater lighting. If you’re looking for great sounds, read on:

Fusion Apollo RA770

The Fusion Apollo RA770 is the world’s first purpose-built marine entertainment system with a one-piece glass touchscreen display, built-in WiFi streaming, digital signal processing technology (DSP) and PartyBus capabilities. Featuring a brilliant, optically bonded, full-color LCD display, glass touchscreen, the Apollo RA770 makes trying to locate the right button a thing of the past. Users can simply tap the screen to pause and play, or swipe through a playlist to find their favorite song. Offering more source options than ever before, the world’s first marine WiFi stereo lets users stream music from a mobile device via Universal Plug and Play, providing very high-quality audio streaming.
Aquatic AV’s CP6 fully waterproof marine stereo is the most compact stereo Aquatic AV has ever produced, giving the utmost flexibility to install in the most limited spaces. Not to be fooled by its compact size, the quality of audio and options are uncompromised. The CP6 features a powerful 288 watt amplifier to power up to eight marine speakers, variable brightness display and is remote control-compatible (sold separately). Bluetooth, USB, DAB+, MP3, AM, FM and auxiliary inputs are all supported. Fully waterproof, rated IP65, and salt/fog and UV resistance ensure reliable performance in the toughest environmental conditions.
The CMS20 from Clarion is a media powerhouse designed for marine applications.  The "mechless” two-piece system includes a compact black box for installation flexibility and a weather-protected controller. The controller’s backlit dot matrix display provides users with source and track information at a glance, and can be configured to show two, three or four lines of text. With the addition of a Clarion MW6 interface adapter, the CMS20 can be easily integrated into the NMEA 2000 network of any boat and controlled from MFDs from leading manufacturers. 

JL Audio MediaMaster 50
The MediaMaster 50 from JL Audio is a high-performance, single-chassis, powered source unit, engineered to deliver outstanding fidelity and advanced audio features on any boat. Equipped with a variety of audio source options, the MM50 includes a digital AM/FM tuner, Bluetooth connectivity, a USB connection for a USB drive or iPhone and an analog AUX input, all designed to ensure non-stop playback music, no matter how bumpy the ride. A rugged, weatherproof (IP66 rated) chassis houses a 2.8 inch full-color LCD display, with separate day/night lighting themes for visibility, even in bright sunshine. When in motion, boaters will also appreciate the clean, uncluttered user interface with big text and large backlit controls.

Simrad/Lowrance/B&G SonicHub2

SonicHub2 gives users complete control of songs, radio stations as well as video from Lowrance, Simrad and B&G multifunction displays and is also the first marine audio system built on the newly implemented NMEA 2000 Audio Entertainment protocol. A drop-in replacement for the original SonicHub entertainment system, the enhanced, black-box solution provides independent dual-zone control and features built-in Bluetooth audio streaming, dual stereo AUX-IN connections, integrated support for Pandora internet radio via smartphone or tablet without the need for additional hardware, and compatibility with the WM-3 SiriusXM satellite radio/marine weather module (subscription required). SonicHub2 is compatible with both iOS and Android platforms, comes equipped with a video output for USB video playback, has dual USB ports for connecting/charging multiple devices, and includes a built-in AM/FM antenna.

Poly-Planar MRD87i IPX6

The MRD87i IPX6 digital media entertainment system features "ultimate” audio 4x45 sound. SiriusXM ready, it is made for iPhones and iPods and has a NOAA weather band and USB/3.5 mm aux input inside drawer/dock. The marine radio is NMEA 2000 certified and sports a remote control interface. Couple it with Poly-Planar’s Ocean Series MA-OC6 high-performance waterproof speakers for clear, crisp sound with cool blue LED lighting. These two-way coaxial speakers are blue lit, low profile, IPX6 waterproof rated and resistant to sun, salt and corrosion. They offer a high power, long-excursion woofer with a 35 mm voice coil and are available in two sizes: 6.5 or 8 inches. The 6.5 inch MA-OC6 speaker boasts 480 watts/pair; the 8 inch MA-OC8 speaker provides a powerful 500 watts/pair.

Harman Infinity KAPPRV515

The new Infinity by Harman Kappa, KAPPRV515, an all-in-one "mechless” waterproof faceplate stereo receiver from Prospec Electronics, has all the desired options expected from a luxury brand. What sets it apart is the ability to control RGB speakers and accessory LED colors from the unit without mobile apps or an additional remote (part required: MIL-LEDPWR). Other features include 50 watt x 4@4 ohms and 2 ohm stability, four zones—front, rear, sub and secondary, 3.5 inch color TFT screen, AM/FM/WB/RDS, Sirius/XM-ready and NMEA 2000 ready. It’s made for iPod/iPhone/Album artwork, video input, BT audio streaming, USB input, Aux input, and requires a 3 ½ inch hole cutout for installation.

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