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Marine Subwoofer Buying Guide

Marine Subwoofer Buying Guide
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Are you interested in increasing the bass sounds produced by your boat’s audio system? If so, a high-quality marine subwoofer is exactly what you need to produce the deep bass you’re looking for. Not only that, but adding the right subwoofer can have positive impacts on the sound quality of your speakers as well.

Whether you’re completely new to the world of marine audio or considering which aftermarket marine subwoofer is right for your boat, this guide will help you find the answers you need.

Adding a Subwoofer to Your Marine Audio Setup

Subwoofers are well known for their bass-boosting abilities, but a subwoofer’s function is so much greater than that. The right marine subwoofer will also improve the quality of sound delivered by your speakers. When a speaker alone is delivering all frequencies, the audio quality of all these frequencies can suffer. But when you add a subwoofer, it takes over the low-range requirements and allows the speaker to provide better quality at mid- and high frequencies.

Not only does your subwoofer work with your speakers, it should also pair with your amplifier. Producing low frequencies requires a significant amount of power and an amplifier delivers that power to the subwoofer. Without an amp, the sound produced by the subwoofer will not be as deep or clear as it could be.

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Pro Tip: When pairing a subwoofer with an amplifier in your marine audio setup, be sure to choose an amplifier with an RMS power rating that’s equal to or lesser than that of the subwoofer. If an amplifier produces more power than the subwoofer can handle, you run the risk of blowing the subwoofer.

What to Look for When Buying a Marine Subwoofer

There are a variety of considerations that should be taken into account when choosing the right aftermarket subwoofer for your marine audio system. Those include:

RMS Power Rating

RMS stands for “root mean square,” is measured in watts, and denotes the power output that a subwoofer can sustain for prolonged periods of time. It can be thought of as the average output of the unit. It’s important to note though, that every manufacturer calculates RMS power a little differently so if you’re considering subwoofers from multiple manufacturers you may not be comparing apples to apples when looking at this rating.

Peak Power Rating

Like the RMS power rating, peak power is also measured in watts. This rating indicates the highest amount of power the subwoofer can handle without failing. This power level cannot be sustained for long periods of time and is only used for a few moments at a time as it’s needed. For example, if a portion of a song is louder than the rest or a particular sound requires more than the average amount of power output, peak power would handle that additional power requirement. In most cases, peak power will be roughly double the subwoofer’s RMS power rating.


A subwoofer’s impedance rating is measured in ohms and exhibits the amount of electrical resistance the unit has. The lower the number of ohms a subwoofer has, the more power it can handle from the amplifier. Alternatively, the higher the number of ohms a subwoofer has, the less power it can handle. Ideally, you want to look for a subwoofer with an impedance rating of 4 ohms or fewer.


We all know that space on boats is at a premium. Most subwoofers are 10 inches in diameter, but you’ll want to be sure you find the right size for your boat. If the subwoofer requires an enclosure, you’ll also want to take into account the space required for that box. Keep in mind, installing a larger subwoofer doesn’t necessarily mean that it will produce more sound or better sound quality.

Mounting and Installation

Before buying a subwoofer, be sure you have a plan in mind about where you’re going to install the subwoofer and how it needs to be mounted. Depending on the subwoofer you choose you may need to install the unit in the boat’s bodywork while others may need to be mounted in an enclosure.

Your comfort level with wiring and installation should be another consideration. If you don’t feel confident installing a complex system you may want to limit your choices to only those that require basic wiring and installation.

Ability to Withstand Marine Elements

Of course, water resistance is key when installing any kind of equipment in a marine environment. However, there are quite a few other factors that should be considered. To withstand harsh marine elements, subwoofers should resist salt, UV rays, and corrosion. Seals and gaskets should also be properly installed to prevent dust, sand, and other debris from getting into the subwoofer’s housing.

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