Surprisingly, for a big name in the stereo business, Pioneer Electronics has opted not to produce any marine stereos. Instead they encourage boaters to use their car audio products in their vessels. We think this is a mistake. On a boat, circuitry is exposed to a lot more humidity and salt than in a car and our experience is that life expectancy for a car stereo on a boat is about 1 year.
Pioneer has offered a waterproof wired remote so that you can mount the stereo in the cabin and mount the remote outside, but availability has been sparse. Of course, not all boats even have a cabin, so we don’t find that to be a very good tradeoff.
On the bright side, Pioneer has been producing marine speakers for quite some time and they are in use on many boats. The sound quality is good and the durability is acceptable, but I would not call them high end speakers by any means.
Marine stereos are typically one to two years behind car audio equipment in terms of technology. Often, someone will be looking for features they have in their car in their boat, but they find that the systems available are lacking. Kenwood is one of the few manufacturers who has stayed a step ahead and offered a lot of the same great features in their marine products as they do in their automotive lines.
While most manufacturers were only offering iPod or iPhone connectivity via a special cable with a 30 pin connector, Kenwood had a USB connection for their products. That decision proved to be prophetic as Apple went with a USB connection for the iPhone 5 and completely abandoned the 30 pin connection that had been the staple of their products.
Kenwood also offered one of the first marine stereos with Pandora and I Heart Radio compatibility to the delight of many fans of those services. Now they could be enjoyed on boats.
Of course, Kenwood marine stereos also have the ability to play MP3 files from smart phones other than Apple products and also MP3 players and thumb drives.
JBL marine stereo equipment is actually produced by a company called Prospec Electronics. They license the JBL brand and their production is completely separate from the main company. Prospec has a very tight focus on marine stereos and they are very good at what they do.
The JBL speakers they produce are a good mix of quality and economy. The MS6200 6 1/2″ round coaxial speakers offer sound quality similar to many higher end products, but only cost around $120 for a pair. They are also very durable and can easily handle rain and splashing and even getting hosed down from time to time. They can handle up to 60 watts RMS and 180 watts peak each.
The MS9200 JBL speakers are 6 x 9 oval shaped and they are built to the same quality standard, but with even better power handling. These can take up to 100 watts continuous and 300 watts of peak power at any given instant.
On the lower end is the MS6100. These are dual cone speakers so they don’t have quite the frequency response of their more expensive brothers. However, the sound is quite decent for a speaker with no tweeter.