Clarion CMS4 Multi-Zone Marine Receiver Review

Clarion CMS4 Multi-Zone Marine Receiver Review
For our readers who enjoy spending some quality time on the water or find solace trekking through sand dunes in their powersports vehicles, we’re going to take a close look at one of the most popular multimedia hub receivers currently offered.

The Clarion CMS4 is a brilliant solution for anyone who wants quality audio performance combined with the convenience of multi-zone capability. With the CMS4, you can control up to four completely different zones of entertainment from one spot, or you can add individual controllers for each zone. If you want some relaxing tunes below deck and some upbeat dance tunes to get the party started on deck, while the captain monitors the built-in weather band from the bridge, the Clarion can do it all. Zones can be configured in either standard or multi-zone mode. Standard mode utilizes a single audio source for all of the connected outputs. You have front and rear fading capability and a fixed line out can drive another device like a home receiver. In multi-zone mode, you have the ability to choose from multiple sources for each of the four zones. All four zones have independent volume, EQ, gain, and other configurable settings.



A hidden away “black box” makes the connections to your audio sources, and includes Sirius XM capability, USB connectivity, Pandora, and Bluetooth streaming. Everything is controlled by a rugged and watertight IP66-rated LCD controller. In addition to a bright and easy-to-read LCD screen, the CMS4’s controller features large, easy-to-use knobs, customizable colors, and more! Built into the CMS4 is Bluetooth aptX technology, USB, auxiliary and camera inputs, and 12 channels of audio output (left, right, and sub outputs for each of the four zones). The globally compatible tuner includes AM/FM and Weather Band, which can be a life saver on open water. Compatibility with select iPhones and Android smartphones is built in, and the CMS4 supports audio playback, metadata display, control, and charging for Apple iOS 8.0+ devices with a Lightning connector.  Playback of your favorite tunes via a USB drive is as simple as plugging it in, as the Clarion unit will play MP3, WMA, and FLAC file types.

On the audio side of things, the CMS4 comes with a four-channel, MOSFET-powered amplifier, rated at 18-watts-per-channel into four ohms. The 3.5-volt pre-amp outputs are designed as high-voltage, low-noise sources for driving outboard amplifiers. The front and rear channels have an adjustable high-pass crossover with your choice of all-pass, 60, 80, or 120 Hz settings. The same frequencies are used for the subwoofer’s low-pass filters. Additionally, your choice of either 12-dB or 24-dB slopes are available from the LCD controller. Independently adjustable subwoofer-level control is also selectable from the watertight controller.

A seven-band EQ is included, and there are 11 available EQ presets, or you can create your own custom curve.



Given Clarion’s reputation for building well-engineered, good-sounding units, I was not the least bit surprised to see that the CMS4 fared very well on the test bench. The amplifier exceeds its rated power, signal-to-noise and stereo separation are good, and the frequency response is nice and flat. The only odd thing I noted in the entire test was that the sub outs require more signal to drive them to the same levels as the front and rear outputs, even when the sub-level control was at maximum output. Not a big deal when your sub amp has an adjustable gain pot, but odd nonetheless.



Anyone shopping for a multi-source, multi-zone audio hub for a boat, powersports vehicle, motorhome, RV or a classic car ready for a hideaway entertainment system, need look no further than the Clarion CMS4. With a vast array of sources and the convenience of four independent zones, this is the perfect choice for nearly any application you can think of. For more information, go to, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.




  • CEA-2006A Power per channel (all channels driven, @ 4 ohms): 19.3 watts/ch x 4
  • A Wtd S/N Ratio (ref to 2V/1W @ 4 ohms) Amplified output: 75.2 dBA (Aux)
  • THD+N @ 2V/1W @ 4 ohms 1 kHz: 0.14%
  • Frequency Response (-3.0 dB): 20 Hz – 20 kHz (Aux)


  • Max Usable Output Voltage: 3.9 Vrms
  • A Wtd S/N Ratio ref to full output voltage: 88.1 dBA (CD)
  • Output Impedance: 240 ohms
  • Frequency Response (-3.0 dB): 20 Hz – 20 kHz (Aux)







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