Sound Advice

Expert advice on speaker placement for the best sound quality.

Optimal placement of speakers makes a world of difference in the quality of the sound from your marine stereo system. Choosing the right spots can also help prevent inadvertent damage to a speaker and interference with other marine electronics. To learn more about speaker placement on different types of boats, we talked with Colin Brumbaugh, vice president of Roswell Marine Audio.

Optimal Speaker Placement: Wakesports Boats
Optimal Speaker Placement: Wakesports Boats Roswell Marine

Wakesports Boats
Most boats built for wakesports today come with stock cutout locations with angled base plates for pointing the sound toward the ears of passengers. With no angled base plates, use coaxial speakers with adjustable tweeters, Brumbaugh advises.

Best quality usually results from a pair of speakers in the bowrider area, a pair under the gunwales amidships and pair in the aft seating area, he says. Most wakesports boats also have a subwoofer, and the storage area under the port console ranks as one of the best locations for the boomer. A well-built enclosure will boost the sound quality and output.


Finally, nearly all boats designed for wakeboarding or wakesurfing have two or more aft-facing tower speakers to project the sound to the rider. Use the stereo’s zone controls to turn these speakers off when there’s no rider behind the boat.

Learn how to max out your wake experience with tower accessories.

Optimal Speaker Placement: Runabouts
Optimal Speaker Placement: Runabouts Roswell Marine

Today’s runabouts often have stock cutouts for four to six marine coaxial speakers, usually with two in the bowrider area and two or four in main cockpit, says Brumbaugh. Make sure all speakers are high enough to keep from being kicked. Getting the speakers higher also helps with perceived sound quality. “Nobody I know has ears on their knees,” Brumbaugh points out.


Marine coaxial speakers with adjustable tweeters, such as those found in Roswell’s Elite Series, let you direct the high notes upward for better sound quality. If you want to add a subwoofer, choose an above-deck stowage locker, such as within one of the consoles.

If your runabout has a wakesports tower, hang a pair of aft-facing tower speakers for the listening pleasure of tubers, skiers and wakeboarders. Get a stereo with multiple zone controls to turn these speakers off once riders are back in the boat. Another option is to add Roswell’s Dual Zone Volume Control as a low-cost alternative to buying a new head unit with built-in zone control.

Optimal Speaker Placement: Pontoon Boats
Optimal Speaker Placement: Pontoon Boats Roswell Marine

Pontoon Boats
Pontoons come in a wide range of sizes and interior layouts, but most of the time, seat bases in the bow and stern areas are the only locations for speakers, according to Brumbaugh. “That said, new pontoons are getting better when it comes to offering locations for speakers,” he adds.


Again, make sure speakers are installed above foot level to prevent damage. Also, avoid pointing speakers right at each other, as this can lead to sound cancellation and poor sound quality.

Coaxial speakers facing the swim platform offer entertainment when family and friend are swimming and lounging on rafts off the stern. “Get a stereo system with zone controls or add the Roswell Dual Zone Volume Control so you can turn those speakers off when everyone is back in the boat,” Brumbaugh advises.

If you want a subwoofer, place it in a stowage locker in the bow, amidships or stern. “Also, if you have space available, installing the subwoofer in a well-built enclosure will almost always improve sound quality and output,” Brumbaugh adds.

Optimal Speaker Placement: Center Consoles
Optimal Speaker Placement: Center Consoles Roswell Marine

Center Consoles
With center-console boats under 25 feet in length, space is consideration. Typically, you will want a pair of coaxial speakers in the bow area, a pair under the gunwales amidships and another pair in the interior bulkhead of the transom.

If the boat does not have a full transom, place the speakers under the gunwales in aft cockpit, but avoid pointing them directly at each other in order to prevent sound cancellation. Position the speakers so that they are not easily damaged by a foot or knee as anglers in the aft cockpit or along the gunwales.

If there’s room, you can install a pair of speakers below the helm area of the center console, but be careful to avoid magnetic interference with compasses and other sensitive marine electronic equipment, says Brumbaugh. Many hardtops also have stock cutouts for flush-mounting speakers, and this negates the need to install a pair in the console.

Buy coaxial speakers with adjustable tweeters that direct the high notes in the directions you wish. If you want a subwoofer, inside the helm console can make an ideal location.

Learn more about how to upgrade your boat audio and then check out available products from Roswell Marine.