Though marine-grade stereos are designed to protect the equipment from direct contact with the elements, many offer the same options available in standard car stereos. You can connect an iPod to compatible hardware using Bluetooth, a 3.5mm patch cable or a USB connection, depending on which stereo you have. If your system is NMEA 2000 certified, you can connect using WiFi.
The Differences Between Marine Grade and Car Stereos
For components in a stereo system to be marine grade, they must conform to a different set of standards from car stereos, or other systems that are not directly exposed to the elements. Components are water-resistant or waterproof and designed to prevent damage from UV rays or exposure to salt. Because car stereos are not subject directly to sunlight, rain or salt spray, like boats often are, they do not have the same guidelines. The National Marine Electronics Association has set certain criteria that enable all marine electronics to integrate with each other, including the stereo, GPS and fishfinders. The NMEA standard requires signals to travel both directions along the connections and to be sent and received from a variety of places. So long as a product is NMEA 2000 certified, it meets these standards. Products listed merely as NMEA 2000 compliant may not integrate properly.
Marine Stereos with Wireless iPod Support
Though you might not be able to charge your iPod while you use them, some marine stereos, like the Pyle PLMR17BTS AM/FM Marine Receiver or the ION Audio ISP13 Sound Splash Bluetooth Speaker, have Bluetooth support, so you can pair it with your iPod and then run your iPod media through your marine stereo. FusionLINK systems allow your iPod to integrate with your boat’s entire system over WiFi, eliminating the need for complicated wired connections or Bluetooth pairing.
Marine Stereos with Wired iPod Support
Others provide other connection options, like a 3.5mm input jack or USB port like on the Dual MCP100 55-Watt x 4 Marine Mechless Receiver. The USB connection may help keep your iPod charged and allows you to control your iPod playlists through the stereo, so you can keep your iPod tucked away in a compartment and protected from the elements. Mechless also makes a slightly more expensive model, the Dual Mxcp42 Am/Fm Mechless Marine Receiver, which only has a 3.5mm input jack. Using the 3.5mm input requires you to manage your media from your iPod directly, rather than through the stereo.
Connection Options for iPods on Stereos Without iPod Support
Most marine stereos have a receiver that supports RCA inputs. While an iPod does not feature RCA outputs, you could use a product like the Pyle 3-Ft. iPod/MP3 Waterproof 3.5mm Stereo to RCA Adapter or the Pyle PLMRMP1A 2-Channel Waterproof iPod/MP3 Marine Kit. If the stereo doesn’t support iPod connection, these devices could help. Installing a marine-class receiver, like the Icom MXA5000 01 Marine AIS Class A and B Receiver or the SSL H202.200 Marine Power Amplifier, can provide RCA inputs for the stereo system, if that is what you are lacking.