I put a lot of time, effort, and money into my stereo system and music collection. I spent thousands of dollars on speakers, a music subwoofer, high-end cables and wires, an amp, and a separate preamp. I even ordered a special CD Player from England (that required a separate power transformer, of course). The finished product was incredible, and I had hundreds of CD's, kept scratch-free in their jewel cases, to enjoy it with.
Absolutely none of those things will fit on a boat.
Think of the CD's alone. A CD jewel case is 3/8" thick. Not too bulky on its own, but when you multiply that by 200 CD's, you end up with over 6 linear feet of jewel cases. On a boat, storage space is at a premium, and there is simply no way to justify devoting that much shelf space (which may be most of what is available) to a CD collection.
And the rest of the stereo system is even more impractical. My subwoofer is a massive 2' cube. There is nowhere it could go on a boat where it would not need to be straddled and stepped over multiple times a day. The subwoofer also has a 750W power supply. Like space, power consumption is also limited on a boat, and running a subwoofer at the expense of an air conditioner or navigation equipment makes little sense. For those same reasons--space and power consumption--my bulky, 400W amplifier must go as well. And, although they could run on a much smaller power supply, my speakers are simply too big for the boat. Surely they could go somewhere, but they would be impossible to place in an acoustically optimal location, and in any case, they would look ungainly on a boat.
The space and power limitations do not mean that a boat stereo has to be a bad stereo, however. The limited space is in a way an advantage. Because the volume of a boat is much smaller than that of a house, the sound system need not be as powerful. I need my giant subwoofer to fill our living room with crisp, loud bass, but a much smaller subwoofer could have the same effect on a boat. Same with speakers. And because they can be smaller than those required in a house, I can get higher quality speakers for the same amount of money. What's more, on a boat, the seating positions are more fixed and limited than in a house. For that reason, I can better optimize speaker placement than in a house, where I have to ensure that the system sounds decent from anywhere within a large room.
To solve the CD problem, I finally joined the digital revolution and converted all of my music to MP3s. I did this reluctantly because I was never happy with the sound quality of MP3's. But I converted my music at the best possible quality with the best conversion software that I could find, and I am happy with the results. Even on my stereo, which highlights imperfections in recording quality, I generally cannot tell the difference. The result is that I have condensed my music collection down from over six linear feet of jewel cases to a thumb drive the size of--well, my thumb. Even as my music collection continues to grow, any increase in physical size will be negligible. Plus, no more bulky CD player. No more standalone player of any kind, in fact, as I can plug the thumb drive right into our blueray player.
For speakers, I have decided on the Anthony Gallo A'Diva Ti speakers. They are small, high-quality speakers with an attractive, wife-pleasing design that will be easy to mount on the boat. See:
They can mount on a wall, on the ceiling, or in the ceiling, and they are available in multiple colors. I also expect them to sound better on the boat than my current speakers sound in our house. I will skip the technical details, but they are incredible. To match, I will get the Gallo TR-1 subwoofer, which has only a 100W power supply and is less than one quarter the size of my current subwoofer. I should have no problem finding a place to tuck the small subwoofer into.
Finally, replacing my separate amp and preamp receiver, I will get a Peachtree Audio receiver. The Peachtree Audio iDecco has a compact, attractive design, an integrated iPod dock, a 40W/channel amplifier, a quality digital-analog converter, and--most significantly--an integrated vacuum-tube preamplifier to smoothen out the sound of the MP3s. Take a look (that glowing object is the vacuum tube):
I will write up a final review once we have moved aboard the boat and I've had the chance to set everything up, but my prediction is that, although my stereo system will be losing a lot in physical size, it will gain in sound quality.