Any boat is a harsh environment for audio equipment, but a pontoon throws even more challenges at a sound system. For starters, pontoons are relatively exposed. There’s really no place for speakers to be sheltered from the elements, as nooks, crannies, and overhangs are hard to find. That open atmosphere and potential for an abundance of passengers also makes it a challenge to achieve true, quality sound, and deliver it to passengers throughout the boat. There’s no enclosure to help with acoustics, so plenty of power is necessary to achieve ample volume and sound quality. All those bodies will also absorb sound.
Compounding the problem is the fact that most stock speaker locations throughout a pontoon boat are located within the furniture bases fore and aft. That low profile will make it hard to direct the sound up toward the listeners’ ears, as well as positions speakers in an area prone to damage, as they can easily be kicked with a toe or heel. To address the location challenge, look for speakers that offer adjustable, directional tweeters. This allows the high notes to be directed upwards toward the listeners’ ears rather than low across the floor. If possible, don’t position speakers directly across from each other; this results in sound cancellation and poor sound quality. “If you can stagger the speakers and still keeping it looking good visually that’s going to be best,” notes Roswell’s Colin Brumbaugh.
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One surefire way to boost both sound volume and quality is to invest in an external, marine-specific amplifier. Roswell’s RMA 800.5 heads a list of amplifiers from the company, and showcases marine-specific construction features like conformal-coated printed circuit boards and gold-plated RCA and wire terminals. Featuring four stereo channels and one mono sub channel, it’s able to power the entire boat while keeping size and cost within check. Love that thump-thump of the bass? Roswell also offers a variety of subwoofers, from compact 10″ or 12″ flush mounts to complete sub enclosures fabricated from waterproof materials. As subwoofers aren’t directional, they can be placed virtually anywhere throughout the boat, even in a stowage locker.
As to accessories to consider, an absolute must in today’s era of smartphones is Bluetooth compatibility. Gone are the days of bringing your CD collection aboard. Today, most of our music resides on our phones, and every family member of friend probably has their own favorite playlist. Let everyone contribute to the party by connecting wirelessly to the boat’s sound system via Bluetooth. Many modern receivers come with Bluetooth capability built in. For those that don’t, aftermarket products like Roswell’s pint-sized Cybox lets you add Bluetooth capability with ease. Cybox is a compact Bluetooth 3.0 receiver that can connect directly to an amplifier, or be used alone as an auxiliary input. Once connected, it can communicate with any Bluetooth-enabled device within 20′.
Lastly, don’t overlook the fact that you may want sound not only while you’re on the boat, but off it as well. Pontoons are good candidates for speakers pointing aft away from the back deck, as passengers may gravitate toward swimming or floating on tubes when the boat is beached or at anchor. Look for stereo systems with zone controls so you can turn these speakers off when underway.
For more information about Roswell marine audio products, visit their website.