Video: Can I Get A Marine Stereo With Enough Power So I Won't Need An Amplifier?
By Matt Champneys
One question we are frequently asked is if we have any stereo head units with enough power built in so a separate amplifier won't be needed. Its understandable since using a dedicated amp adds an additional layer of work and complication to your stereo installation.
The first thing to understand is that amplifiers generate a lot of heat. The higher the power output, the hotter it will get. Its not uncommon for an amp to get so hot during the normal course of operation that its painful to touch. A stereo head unit has heat sensitive electronics built in such as the radio and a small computer that will play digital music. In addition, there are parts that will be frequently touched. For these reasons, the amplifier built into a stereo head unit must be limited in power to keep the temperature down to a reasonable level.
A separate amplifier doesn't have these limitations, of course. The electronics built into a dedicated amp are simple and able to handle a lot more heat. The controls on an amplifier are not meant to be accessed frequently and amps are generally installed out of the way where they won't be touched very often. That's why a separate amplifier can offer many times more power output than a stereo head unit alone.
A quality stereo head unit will offer peak power output anywhere from about 40 watts to 60 watts per channel. Most have 4 channels so you are looking at 160 watts to 240 watts total. The difference may seem like a lot, but it actually isn't very significant. The average person wouldn't be able to tell much difference in volume between a 160 watt stereo versus a 240 watt stereo.
On the other hand, adding a separate amp can double, triple or even quadruple your volume. Everyone would notice that type of difference.
If you plan on listening to music mostly when the boat engine is off or you are moving slowly, then the power from a head unit could likely be enough for you. If you want to hear clearly while your boat is on the move then you may want to consider a separate amplifier.
Check out our other videos for more information on selecting and installing marine amplifiers