A marine stereo is a stereo unit that can be used on board a boat or other marine-type vehicle. Typically waterproof and often sealed from the elements much better than a typical automobile stereo unit, the marine stereo will withstand direct contact with water and sun much better than non-marine units. Major differences in the construction and design of the marine stereo include closing covers that aid in the reduction of water contact with the unit. Also, weatherproof contacts are often used in the wiring attachment points, such as speaker wires and antenna wires.
The stereo head is not the only specialty component of a marine stereo. Special waterproof speakers are also used in the wet environments. Advancements in polymers have lead to very high-quality speakers that not only resist water damage, but create a marine stereo system that actually sounds good. Some of the higher-end manufacturers offer all of the components found in a quality automobile audio system in a comparable marine version. Amplifiers, equalizers and crossover boxes are mounted in waterproof enclosures that are used to create a high-quality stereo system for use on the open water.
An addition to many marine stereo systems is the inclusion of a marine weather radio to the head unit. This allows the user to enjoy the quality of the stereo while providing the added protection of a warning system in the event of inclement weather. In this scenario, the weather channel is able to preempt the music channel to flash any weather-related warnings or information that might be helpful to a vessel on the water. Some versions of the marine stereo also include a two-way marine radio in the head unit. This allows the boat to signal for help if needed, as well as to communicate with the coast guard or other boats in emergency situations.
Typically, a marine stereo will cost more than a comparable vehicle audio system. This is due in part to the high quality of the components used within that protect the unit against corrosion in the wet environment, as well as the waterproof enclosure that contains the head unit. The speakers are also more costly than typical auto components due to their waterproof construction and often a compact size due to space limitations within most boats. The installation of a marine stereo is also more costly due to precautions needed against fire as well as the difficulty in grounding a stereo system on a fiberglass vessel.