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Marine head units work well in boats, motorcycles and other external applications because they can withstand light rain, moisture and damaging sun rays. If you need a stereo that can survive your outdoor activities, a marine stereo is exactly what you are looking for. Marine receivers are specially designed to handle harsh conditions such as water, fog, salt, and UV rays.
Marine stereos are designed with conformal coated circuit boards, which help protect the circuit board from moisture and prevent rust and corrosion. They also have a sealed gasket, which prevents water from penetrating through the CD slot. The buttons and LCD display are also designed to be water resistant.
To clarify, the term ‘water resistant’ means that while these are built to survive outdoor elements, marine stereos are not completely infallible. Water resistant models only protect against moisture. They will guard against rainfall and water splashes, but the units are not completely waterproof. A splash cover offers extra protection from water damage. Consider purchasing a splash cover if you anticipate that your stereo will be frequently exposed to water. You get this extra protection for only a small additional cost, and it is simple to install the splash cover.
Marine stereos, like car stereos, include controls for your AM/FM tuner. They all play CDs, and most marine stereos also have MP3, WMA, and AAC playback capability. They also include standard controls for volume, balance, tone, fader, and source selection. Most include special skip protection, built-in crossovers and equalizers.
Many marine stereos are compatible with satellite radio. Satellite radio offers clear broadcasting signals almost anywhere, as well as commercial-free channels with premium content. If you purchase a tuner, antenna and subscription to XM or Sirius, you can listen to satellite radio while sailing (as long as you are within 200 miles of shore). If you plan on using satellite radio, make sure the stereo you purchase is satellite radio ready. This means you will be able to control the satellite radio through the stereo controls. While you can add satellite radio to a stereo that is not satellite radio ready, you have to use your aux inputs to plug in portable satellite radio players. Portable players are impractical for outdoor environments, since they are typically not water resistant and they won’t be able to withstand the outdoor conditions that marine technology is designed to endure.
The top of line marine head units include features such as digital HD Radio, Bluetooth capability, and inputs for iPod and USB use. Bluetooth controls allow you to send and receive phone calls using hands-free Bluetooth technology while sailing on your boat. Marine head unit designs configured with iPod, USB, and SD Card inputs allow you to play the music on your portable media player through your marine receiver. Now you can leave your CDs at home and control your portable players through your marine head unit.
Some marine stereos are only compatible with aux inputs for portable media players. With an aux input, you only use the stereo to control the volume. For the other playback controls, you will still have to use the portable player. Some marine stereos are able to control the music from your iPod and charge your iPod while it is plugged into the stereo. Usually you will need to purchase an additional adapter to do so.
Most marine stereos are standard DIN sizes, but some are custom, oversized models. Another option is to install your marine stereo in a gimbal stereo mount. This allows you to externally mount your head unit under the dash, or anywhere else you think it would be safe and convenient. If you want to control your marine head unit with a wireless remote, be sure to mount the stereo in a spot where the remote can communicate with the face of the stereo.
Written by Gary Brikowski
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