From car stereos to home studios, bass and treble settings are often solutions for fixing the sound quality of your speakers. When it comes to marine audio, however, sound system installation requires a greater deal of consideration.
Boat speakers are in constant competition with the elements, which means a setup needs to cut through the sound of the wind, waves, and engine noise to be heard. Without the right configuration, a sound system will seem tinny (lacking in bass), muffled (lacking in treble), or downright inaudible.
Here are four steps to achieving the best possible sound quality from your speakers.
This seems obvious, perhaps, but the system itself is crucial. Many sailors settle for coaxial speakers, which combines the tweeter (treble component) and woofer (bass component) into a single unit. This is perfectly fine for listening to the radio—especially for sports fanatics who enjoy hearing the game in style—but for music, the sound quality is merely adequate.
In component speakers, the tweeter and woofer are entirely separate. This eliminates phase distortion and provides the freedom for better positioning; both factors allow your sound system to achieve greater tonal clarity. Furthermore, component speakers are commonly fitted with dome tweeters, which are of much greater quality than the semi-dome model found in coaxial speakers.
The positioning of each component should reflect the type of sound it is producing. Tweeters, for instance, produce higher frequencies and should be positioned at or above ear level. In the same way, the woofer produces bass frequencies that perform better at hip or knee level.
Moreover, the overall sound should be unified but not congested: if the components are too far apart, their frequencies will reach the listener at different times; too close and the audio will seem muddy. It is essential to test the sound quality during installation to ensure optimal positioning.
Sound can only be heard when radiating off a surface. Systems installed below deck have plenty of surfaces that allow the sound to radiate. For on-deck systems, however, this is not necessarily the case. Tweeters are highly directional, and treble frequencies can be significantly affected by wind; as such, these components must be aimed directly toward the listener to be heard.
Once your marine sound system installation is complete, you can add the finishing touch with an external or subwoofer amplifier—or both. An external amplifier supplements a sound system to ensure it can be heard perfectly under any circumstance. Similarly, a subwoofer reproduces and amplifies bass frequencies to complete your system with a richer, fuller sound quality.
Both these amplifiers are especially useful for vessels that cannot accommodate large speakers. Furthermore, many external amplifiers can be installed away from view, whereas subwoofers are best positioned beneath a seat.