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Last updated: March 28, 2023
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When you’re looking to get out on the water and have some fun, owning a boat or watercraft can be a real blessing. Especially during the summer months, most of us yearn to be near the water, so boats are a great social catalyst too. Add the music, and you’ve got yourself a party. That’s where the best marine amplifier can really put the finishing touch to a boat.
If you want to crank up the volume on your boat and not compromise on sound quality, an amplifier is essential. You’ll experience a far greater level of quality when you fit one. Adding an amplifier to your existing sound set-up isn’t too difficult to do, many marine amplifiers come with handy installation kits, and you don’t have to be a sound engineer or a genius to take advantage of the benefits a marine amplifier brings. We came up with a list of 7 best models, and the Rockville DBM25 just tops them all.
"This durable marine amp is an excellent choice if you are looking for something smaller and compact, yet powerful. Special coating and vibration resistance of this amplifier can withstand any harsh environment."
"This powerful and stylish marine amplifier is what you need to start up the loudest party on your boat. Made of stainless steel, it allows you to connect your subwoofer without the additional amplifier."
"This marine amplifier will allow your speakers reach their peak power and maintain the best sound quality. No installation issues, no searches for extra wires, this amp comes with a package for fast and easy mount."
More features: fully adjustable 12dB/Octave crossover with differential circuitry, subsonic filter, fully adjustable bass equalizer, mute and delay soft start technology, a phase control switch, distortion free
The Rockville DBM25 is a great option for budget use. This is a no-nonsense amplifier with many great features in simple 2-channel form.
The Rockville DBM25 will stay rot-proof for a long time in even the most hostile marine environment. You get waterproof silicone covers on both of the end panels. The Rockville also features a fully rustproof aluminum heat sink, and this unit will look great on your boat because it is finished in white.
All screws and mounting hardware included with the Rockville amplifier are also stainless steel and, therefore, rustproof.
All in all, this is a good amplifier and presents some versatility. It’s worth checking out the specifications if you’re on a budget. You will look long and hard before you find a better amplifier in this price bracket.
More features: rust and vibration resistant, conformal coating, speaker level input with signal-sensing turn-on
The Kenwood KAC-M1814 is a versatile amplifier that would be at home in any automotive or marine setting. It’s a 4-channel bridgeable amplifier, and it really packs a massive punch at 400 Watts.
The Kenwood KAC-M1814 features a special coating for all of the electronic components that protect it against all of the adverse effects of a harsh marine environment. This unit is also compact, and although the Kenwood KAC-M1814 is capable of supporting a subwoofer, you’ll need to be very careful to check all of the specs because its powers in this department are not limitless by any means.
Overall, the Kenwood may seem to be a little overpriced. However, we should not forget that this amplifier is a quality piece of kit and comes from an established manufacturer – so, well worth checking out.
More features: conformal coating, high-level input capable with auto turn-on circuit, 12dB/octave Butterworth crossover, muted turn-on, cast aluminum heatsink, short circuit protection, 2-year parts and labor warranty
Next up is yet another good marine amplifier, and it’s the Rockford Fosgate Punch PM600X4. This marine-grade four-channel amplifier represents a versatile package – and 600 Watts of RMS power.
You can use the Rockford Fosgate Punch PM600X4 as either a two or four-channel amplifier, and this product comes in a very sleek and compact housing. This amplifier won’t be unattractive to look at – on any boat, by any means.
All in all, the Rockford Fosgate Punch PM600X4 offers great value for money, good performance, and practical construction. It’s a good marine amplifier option. The unit looks to be built very well, it is nice and solid, and will last a while in any setting.
More features: thermal overload protection, flexible crossover, conformal coated PCB board, balanced match to all Wet Sounds products
The next marine amplifier on our list is the Wet Sounds SYN-DX. This amplifier offers some versatility and is a heavy-duty option for those that like a lot of bass. For the cost of this amp, combined with its performance specifications, it would certainly be possible to use it to power a sub-woofer – but, it is also a great option to run a simple, highly effective sound system on any watercraft.
One more thing to add about the Wet Sounds SYN-DX amplifier is the color. The black housing – and it is an extremely black housing – isn’t the most suitable casing you will ever see for marine use. Anyway, it is a recommended pick if you need to add some extra bass to your sound system or just add connect your speakers.
More features: signal sensing for automatic turn-on, variable bass boost (0 to +18 dB), aluminum alloy heatsink, short circuit protection, variable high- and low-pass filters with crossover mode selector
The Pyle PLMRA420 is a four-channel amplifier that is fully bridgeable and offers a relatively versatile option. This is a very nice looking amp, and it’s fabricated out of heavier-duty aluminum, so it’ll take a knock when needed. The Pyle kicks out a truly weighty maximum 1000 Watts, so maybe wear some ear protection before you crank it up. This is a powerful amp with some great things going for it.
The Pyle PLMRA420 has an IP01 rating. It means that it is better to install it in the dry place inside of the cabin or other structure. However, it still can withstand some amount of moisture and show good results on the boat.
More features: 12dB / octave high-pass filters, low-pass filter for subwoofer channel, possible to connect with HD-RLC remote level control
The JL Audio M700/5 is a five-channel marine amplifier that produces 75 watts RMS. The unit itself is finished in a lovely white and gray powder-coat and all of the hardware is stainless steel, so it won’t rust in a hurry.
The JL Audio M700/5 has a dedicated subwoofer channel, which is a great feature and saves buying an additional amp. The channel capabilities, sleek and compact looks, and the bass capability it possesses certainly make this amplifier one that will turn a lot of heads.
This is a quality-constructed, well designed, and high-performing marine amplifier. It will be very hard to beat when shopping around, and that’s why it’s sitting right at the top of our list.
The first thing to say about the KICKER KMA450.6 marine amplifier is that you get a lot of material for your money when you buy one. The manufacturer is well known for providing excellent customer support, and the KICKER KMA450.6 comes in a comprehensive package that offers all you will need to install, run, and most importantly – enjoy your whole set-up at sea.
You get a conformal coating on all of the electronics, so you won’t get water ingress issues here. The whole thing just looks really well made, and this is a great option for anyone that wants a no-fuss installation and good times as soon as possible. If technical fiddling isn’t for you, then this might be the amplifier to choose.
What stands out?
Great overall package
What cons did we manage to find?
Black housing won’t suit all boats
Things to Consider
Marine amplifiers are a great addition to any leisure or pleasure craft, and when you get out on the water, what could be better than to be able to listen to the sounds you love? Marine amplifiers come in many different shapes and sizes; there’s a model for everyone and every use.
What to look at when choosing the best marine amplifier
Selecting a highly technical product like a marine amplifier has its challenges. There are many features and specifications to take into account, and the task can seem quite daunting – especially if you’re new to the concept of audio systems. For that reason, this helpful buying guide is going to examine most of the crucial factors you’ll need to have a basic knowledge of in order to make a great choice when it comes to buying your own new marine amplifier.
Whether you’re on the water, or on the sofa, great sound is a pleasure to listen to – so, stick with us while we look at some of the most important features to look out for when you’re considering amplifiers for marine use.
All products come in a variety of shapes and sizes – and marine amplifiers are no different. You’ll find a wide range of different casings, dimensions, and weights out there when you look at these products. Respectively, your choice should be influenced by how reliable they are, how much room you have available to site your new amplifier, and when you are going to set it on your watercraft.
The stronger the casing, the more knocks and abuse your amplifier will be able to withstand. In terms of the size of your amplifier, be sure that you buy something that fits in the space that you have available – and pay heed to any recommended clearances.
When it comes to weight, more powerful amplifiers will generally weigh more than less powerful models. Although they don’t weight much, be careful of any weight limits your craft specifies. The best compact marine amplifier won’t necessarily be cheaper than larger amplifiers.
Number of channels
The more channels your marine amplifier has, in theory, the more versatility you get. More channels, with the right planning, means that you can extend a sound system later if your initial budget is limited. Having a couple of spare channels also means you can bridge channels to install a more bass-oriented speaker – but more on that later.
In short, if you want to run and stick with a couple of speakers and keep things simple, a two-channel amp will do the job.
Remember that the best marine stereo amplifier only needs two channels – the rest depends on what you want and need.
RMS power rating
RMS power is something you’ll need to take greater account of when it comes to planning your sound system. That goes for even the simplest of marine audio set-ups, not just when you get into more complicated systems. If you don’t match up the RMS ratings of speakers with their assigned channels on our marine amplifier, you are going to hit trouble immediately. When you begin thinking about any marine audio system, in any setting, and with any equipment configuration, the main thing to remember is to pay attention to the RMS ratings of all pieces of the sound system.
When it comes to the task of speaker specification, take great care to ensure that you buy an amplifier which features a top RMS output per channel that in no way exceeds the top RMS rating of each speaker that you’re going to be installing. Failing to take this step correctly will mean that your whole sound system will fail to work properly.
All amplifiers are constructed and designed to operate within a set band of frequencies. Sometimes the range of frequencies is broader, and sometimes it’s more limited and narrower. Your amplifier will only perform as well as the frequency range specified. It’s important to match the whole system frequency response with your amplifier to get the full range of high-quality sound.
Some amplifiers have filters. There are two main types. Passive filters affect the sound signal by eating up some of its energy. Active filters are different. It’s very important when designing a system that you remember active filters incorporate a power gain, so they need an external power supply. Passive filters only need to sound input to operate.
Bass boost circuits in amplifiers are a way of providing a channel which can run special bass speakers. You’ll find that a bass boost option gives a channel with less distortion and is capable of running a subwoofer in some cases. Not all amplifiers feature a bass boost option.
When it comes to bridging channels, you’ll need either good advice or good technical audio knowledge to get it right. Many people bridge channels to gain the power required to run a sub-woofer so they can get more bass.
This can work well as long as all the calculations are done correctly and ultimately, as long as the amp can handle it. If you are not sure how to do that, ask a specialist.
All products that have installation kit options require varying degrees of technical competence. If you do intend to install your own amplifier, make sure when you look at the kits different amplifiers come with, and get one that suits your particular technical abilities. This is especially important if you’re not familiar with audio technology. If that’s the case, look for a kit with good instructions.
Much like with any electronic product, you’ll find that when you’re choosing a marine amplifier, the more features and power your amplifier has, the more expensive it will tend to be. That’s not a hard and fast rule, but it will apply to most amplifiers. When you’re looking for your own marine amplifier, unless your budget is limitless, it’s a great idea to work out what you want your own product to be able to do and to adjust your expectations to suit your budget. Prices may vary from 100 to 750 bucks or more. Prioritize what’s most important to you, and you won’t go too far wrong.
Although it’s important to adhere to your own specific budget, especially when your amplifier is part of a build or refurbishment and you have lots of products and materials to buy – it’s also important to bear in mind that skimping too much on the price is bound to affect your listening experience. Sometimes, the best marine audio amplifier is the best one you can afford.
There may be several differences between a boat and a car amplifier, but all models and brands vary. However, you’ll find that all marine amplifiers are water-resistant to some degree. Bear in mind that water-resistant does not mean waterproof. Marine amplifiers will have protective coatings on electronic components and circuit boards, to prevent corrosion and water damage. You may also find that a marine amplifier incorporates some sort of public address channel or facility, which is a very handy feature on any watercraft and helps with safety.
Matching your speakers to your amplifier can seem slightly technically daunting at first glance. However, when you remember some simple things, you’ll find that the task is made easier. It’s very important to get the matching aspect of your amplifier installation correct. The main things to remember are to pay heed to the RMS ratings. When it comes to examining your speakers, make sure only to purchase an amplifier which has a top RMS output per channel that is no higher than the top RMS rating of each speaker. If you’re working from the other end, apply the same principle to the speakers you choose.
That will depend on some things, but it’s advisable to buy a dedicated specialist amplifier if you want to run a sub-woofer – especially if you aren’t technically minded or you’re unfamiliar with audio systems. In theory – which is a wonderful thing – you can bridge certain 4-channel amps to run a sub, but you’ll often find they won’t be able to handle the demand in reality and will end up in protection mode due to overheating. It’s well worth buying a subwoofer amplifier if your bass is important to you.
So, there we have our list of the best marine amplifiers out there on the market. We’ve looked at the important features, talked about prices and technical details, and the one that came out on top was the Rockville DBM25. It’s a great amplifier, and it will be an attractive product to many people out there.
In second place on our review list of the best marine amplifiers available was the excellent Kenwood KAC-M1814, which will tick a lot of boxes in terms of what many people out there are looking to find in a marine amplifier. Great features and a good build.
Last, but certainly not least on this rundown of the best amplifiers for marine use was the Rockford Fosgate Punch PM600X4. This too will suit many buyers and came with some brilliant features. We looked at some great products in this article, and high standards were set. This marine amplifier fully deserves its place in our top three.