Clarion Marine CMSP speakers and XC amps, premium value?

Ben Stein

Ben Stein

Publisher of, passionate marine electronics enthusiast, 100-ton USCG master.

9 Responses

  1. Hi Ben – “really high volume listening” — we generally try to anchor far away from those guys šŸ™‚

    • Ben Stein Ben Stein says:

      Fair enough and well understood. I’m certainly not a fan of shaking the water, so maybe really high volume isn’t quite right. But, on a smaller boat on plane the volumes have to be elevated for the music to be audible. It’s at that level that the difference between Clarion’s value offering and higher end JL and Fusion speakers can be clearly appreciated.

      -Ben S.

      • Bruce C Pappas says:

        Smaller boat on plane? How do you plane on a mono-hull sailboat? Haha. I know Hartley is also a sailor, so how would these work on a sailboat?

        • I was just yanking on Ben’s leash šŸ™‚ I do understand why small open boats need a high-volume stereo if you want to have tunes playing while blasting out to frighten the fishes. We were leaving the Lake Worth entrance one time with a largish sea running in (and an outgoing current, natch!) – and one of THOSE boats went past us with tunes blaring – and when they went off the top of a wave and impacted the next one, the tunes suddenly disappeared. I guess the stereo wasn’t rated for that many G’s of impact.. I noted the crew apparently wasn’t ready for it either, as they were in extensive disarray. Didn’t slow ’em down much, tho.

          I bet those speakers would work well at the volume levels found on most sailboats! We have a pair of ancient Bose speakers in our salon, and they still work well.

  2. Colin A says:

    I always wonder with sound quality tests. Over the years I have been on and off interested in higher end audio, but really I rarely can tell the difference between good and great. I mean I can tell bad and good but that’s about it. As a teenager I had a set of 1960’s pioneer speakers my dad gave me that he had bought in Japan. They were good but the midrange Boston acoustics that replaced them seemed mildly better. Right now my only dedicated home stereo has a nice Sony amp form the 90’s and a pair of radio shack presidian speakers (less then 50 bucks a pair) that really sound 95% of the Boston Acoustics to my ears.
    I have found the same with car and boat audio, going from $20 a pair speakers to $50-$100 a pair speakers makes alot of difference in sound but I struggle to tell the difference at higher price points.
    Of course trying to rationalize performance for dollar on something subjective often leads you away from the emotional and personal preference that drives many purchases.

    • Ben Stein Ben Stein says:


      You’re definitely onto something. I often recall an anecdote from a marine audio manufacturer. They reported that when they introduced their speakers they did so at a significant discount to the known names in the business. They sold okay, but not that well. Then, a couple of years later they “redesigned” their speakers and raised the pricing to match the big names. They report that sales increased significantly from this. Sometimes, it’s about perception and if you know these are expensive speakers you will perceive them as sounding better.

      It certainly makes a case for some blind listening tests. I do believe that I could easily tell the difference between the high end of JL or Fusion’s speakers and these, but those speakers cost multiples of what these cost.

      -Ben S.

      • Ben, it strikes me that ALL comparisons of audio stuff is inherently subjective – and that means that what sounds “good” to you might be “mediocre” to me. You COULD do precise measurements of distortion, but completely distortion-free is NOT what people really want – they want distortion (either waveform or gain flatness) that sounds good the THEIR ear šŸ™‚

        As an example, look at the folks going nutsoid over tube amplifiers – because they sound “warm” – but its just distortion – if you measured exactly what that “warm” tube amp was doing, you could replicate it exactly with a solid-state amp (but you’d better mark it a “tube amp”, because the snobs would insist they could tell the difference!) Maybe with a couple glass-encased dim lights inside?

        With speakers, what’s usually going on is that the cone inside isn’t able to keep up with/move as far as or move precisely the same as the variations of current through it. For sure, costs increase as performance in these areas improves, which leads to “you get what you pay for” or, as you’ve noticed here “my speakers are better because they cost more” šŸ™‚

        For me, I’m happy to take your word for it – and there’s no doubt that an expert ear can tell a great deal by just listening!

      • Colin A says:

        I will sometimes grab one of the audio magazines in the Library and flip thru it. The descriptions of sound quality can be very entertaining. I follow Steve Guttenberg (not sure on spelling) who used to write for several online and print media on social media. I like him because he really tries not to pick on something just based on price point and seems to give things a fair shake. That said he does sometimes go down the rabbit hole on things that effect sound quality but are highly dubious (cabling etc) And he also sometimes has some absurd descriptions like most audio reviewers.

  3. Jose says:

    For me, the “minimum spec” for onboard audio has a name: Bose. Clarion, JBL, fusion, and all the rest come very short of the Bose quality.
    I have a confession to make… I used to have installed even a tube amplifier on my old trawler. Cleanliness and deep sound.
    Now I have just a small 27 but with Bose. I avoid all digital music as the devil.

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