I own last years version of this Pioneer unit and it is the best bang for the buck in terms of flexibility, power and input combinations. You DO NOT want a stereo with a front AUX input it WILL get snapped off by someone trying to adjust the volume in a sea! It's 179.00 at Crutchfield but I know you could find it for less and it would fit into your budget..
Speakers are indeed subjective but the above posters are right on the money when they say the Poly Planars suck! They do & I have two pair in my basement, collecting dust, that came as standard equipment on my 2005 Catalina that were removed and replaced imediately. You want Pioneers, Sony's, JVC's marine speakers or even some Jensens but listen to them first.
Poly Planar puts their own display in marine stores for a reason and it's so you can't compare them to the Sony's and find out how bad they sound. Also many of the Poly Planar displays have a sub woofer running that CAN'T be turned off so the tiny speakers you heard with the big bass will NOT sound that way on your boat! The main thing you want in a marine speaker is efficiency. You also want the biggest driver surface area you can fit. If you can fit a 6.5 inch do it and don't waste your time with a 5" or 5 1/4. You need surface are to move air and make bass. Speakers outdoors ie: cockpit have a very tough time reprodicing bass because the low freq's like enclosed spaces like a cabin or a living room to resonate off of the walls.
Put in a CD at West Marine and then, without changing the volume on the stereo, switch between the different speakers and you will see and hear which speakers are easily driven (efficient) vs. ones that are power hungry (inefficient). Car stereo out put at 22w RMS is not much and you need efficient speakers to get any sort of bass response with your cockpit speakers.
Read below for iPod info...
I love my iPod, actually my five iPods, and find it to be one of the best additions to our boat since the innerspring mattress. Below is an easy breakdown of the iPod integration knowledge I picked up over the last few years. I have condensed it hear and it should save you time, headaches and make integrating an iPod easy..
Step 1- My first advice is to buy a car stereo from Wal*Mart or Best Buy or even a car stereo from Crutchfield. Don't waste money on a marine grade unit! I have only had one marine grade stereo in my 15+ years of having stereos on boats and the marine one was the only one to fail it also sounded sub par. Since that time I have been using inexpensive car CD players with high output like 18w X 4ch or more. I think my Pioneer is 22w X 4ch and I paid $169.00 for it. My current stereo is a Pioneer with an AUX input and also the option to add a Pioneer integrated iPod interface. I use the AUX input, as opposed to the iPod interface, for only one reason and that is because we have a radio frequency (RF) remote control for the iPod. When searching for car stereos I think it is important to decide wether you want to control the volume from the car stereo or the iPod. Most car stereos come with a remote control option but keep in mind these remotes are IR and line of sight meaning they are virtually useless from the helm.
There are two output paths on an iPod one is from the bottom or "dock" connector and is a fixed pre-out volume level. The nice thing is that if you buy the additional iPod adapter from the stereo manufacturer like Alpine, Pioneer, Kenwood etc. you'll have only one cable feeding your iPod and that cable will feed the signal to the stereo and charge your iPod. The other output is on the top of the iPod in the form of a headphone jack. This output is variable and will allow the volume to be adjusted with a wireless iPod remote control like the one in the link below but will require two cables to the iPod one for the music signal and one for charging.
When deciding on the type of stereo with AUX input to buy keep in mind that a front mounted 3.5mm female headphone jack AUX input with have a plug sticking out the front side of your stereo to connect to the iPod. This is dangerous on a boat and can be easily broken off by someone adjusting the stereos volume in a sea. I recommend stereos with the AUX input on the rear side of the stereo and wiring the iPod directly to that. You can usually read the specs to determine if the AUX is front mounted or rear mounted.
Step 2 - Consider an iPod Remote! The remote we use is made by ABT and is called the iJet. It's a RF (radio freequency) not a line of site remote like a TV remote so it will work form anywhere on the boat without having to point it at the stereo. The iJet consists of two parts, a receiver, which plugs into either the bottom, on 5G (G=generation) iPods or the top of 3G & 4G ipods and a remote fob. The actual remote is the size of a key fob for a car and will allow you to adjust volume, track up & down, turn the iPod on & off and pause/play.
This device is by far the best $40.00 I have ever spent on my boat. It allows me to velcro the water resistant remote to my pedestal and keep my iPod mounted next to my stereo dry and safe.
Step 4- iPod mounting - You will need to decide where you are going to keep your iPod. The easiest solution, I found, is next to the stereo on a strong aluminum powdercoated pedestal bracket made by a company called Panavise. The model is a Slimline - Model 727-06 at the link below
The second product connects to the pedestal and holds the iPod. It's called a Gripmatic CM30 and it bolts directly to the Panavise (the holes are already drilled on the Panavise to fit the Gripmatic) and holds the iPod perfectly. Don't just use the links I posted for buying these items search around for the best price as they vary widely. I think I paid $15.00 for the Panavise and $9.95 for the Gripmatic.
You can see the Panavise and the Gripmatic in the picture below. Good luck you'll love your iPod I have my entire music collection on mine and it's about 28gb of data!!!!
Pic 1 - ABT iJet remote attached with velcro next to the plotter (upper right).
Pic 2 - Griffin Air Click receiver mounted to a 4G iPod.
Pic 3 - 5G iPod mounted in the Panavise/Gripmatic combo and the Pioneer stereo.