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Marine Electronics Journal Blog

Best audio systems for 2018

Long gone are the days when boaters packed a portable transistor radio or CD player for entertainment. Cruisers and offshore fishing machines now sport sophisticated sound systems that rival the best in home audio. Some of the go-fast variety serenade wake boarders and skiers—any anyone else in the vicinity—with high-velocity sound pushed out by amplified tower speakers.

This week we continue our look at the best electronics in 2018. Marine Electronics Journal does this exercise every year as part of the Buyers’ Guide. It works like this: We ask manufacturers to identify the one model they produce in a particular category that they consider to be the Best & Brightest—not necessarily the most technically advanced or newest but rather the one they rate highest in the product line for one reason or another. Could be the functions and features it offers, or maybe it breaks new ground in maximizing effectiveness or utility, or maybe it’s the most popular as measured by sales to boaters.

The Best & Brightest list includes 17 categories of electronics, from AIS and autopilots to satellite TV and wireless devices. Last week we rolled out the top-dog radars. This week it’s audio systems.

Simrad/Lowrance/B&G SonicHub 2

SonicHub2 gives users complete control of songs, radio stations as well as video from Lowrance, Simrad and B&G multi-function displays and is also the first marine audio system built on the newly implemented NMEA 2000 Audio Entertainment protocol. A drop-in replacement for the original SonicHub entertainment system, the enhanced black-box solution provides independent dual-zone control and features built-in Bluetooth audio streaming, dual stereo AUX-IN connections, integrated support for Pandora Internet radio via smartphone or tablet without the need for additional hardware, and compatibility with the WM-3 SiriusXM satellite radio/marine weather module (subscription required). SonicHub2 is compatible with both iOS and Android platforms, comes equipped with a video output for USB video playback, has dual USB ports for connecting/charging multiple devices, and includes a built-in AM/FM antenna.


Aquatic AQ-MP-5UBT-S

The AQ-MP-5UBT-S marine stereo has a built-in SiriusXM receiver, ready to access over 170 satellite radio stations. Play music wirelessly with Bluetooth-enabled smartphones or MP3 devices, or connect with USB. View track information, songs, artists, playlists and genres on the three-inch color LCD display. Smartphone running out of battery? No problem. Charge your USB device from the internal USB input or the rear USB charging cable.  Also includes a surface-mounting USB socket to easily connect with a USB flash drive or a USB cable from your smartphone or MP3 player. Features an onboard 288 watt amplifier, high-quality RCA (phono) pre-outs for connecting an external amplifier or powered subwoofer and FM/AM radio with 30x pre-set memory and dust cover/dummy faceplate.


Clarion CMS4

Boasting exceptional performance and broad music source connectivity, the CMS4 from Clarion is the only two-piece source unit in its class to offer an ultra-bright color TFT LCD display optically wet bonded to Corning Gorilla Glass. Offering 280 watts of power, and four multimedia source zones each with independent zone volume control, the iP66-rated control unit was engineered for years of trouble-free high-performance audio playback in the most extreme environments. Featuring Clarion’s new marine design signature, the CMS4 has a beautiful brushed metal face design, machined metal-look knobs, black and chrome trim ring options, and buttons that provide excellent tactile feedback. For boats with integrated electronics, the CMS4 can be seamlessly connected to the NMEA 2000 network and controlled from multi-function displays from leading manufacturers (Clarion MW6 interface required).


Fusion Apollo RA770

The new Fusion Apollo RA770 is the world’s first purpose-built marine entertainment system with a one-piece glass touchscreen display, built-in WiFi streaming, Digital Signal Processing Technology (DSP) and PartyBus capabilities. Featuring a brilliant, optically bonded, full-color LCD display touchscreen, the Apollo RA770 makes trying to locate the right button a thing of the past. Users can simply tap the screen to pause and play, or swipe through a playlist to find their favorite song. Offering more source options than ever before, the world’s first marine WiFi stereo lets users finally stream music from a mobile device via Universal Plug and Play (UPnP), providing high-quality audio streaming. With the built-in WiFi, the Apollo RA770 can also wirelessly connect multiple Apollo stereos without running cables, reducing installation time, cost and complexity.


Poly-Planar ME70BT IPX6

This complete all-weather Bluetooth audio system features a remote display keypad, 4x45 audio power out, 100 meter Bluetooth range, iPhone/Android charging, AUX input and USB music player. The ME70BT IPX6 is NMEA 2000 certified and has multiple EQ preset options along with backlit three-line display with adjustable illumination. Works well with Poly-Planar’s ACX-11 panel mount adapter.


Harman Infinity

The Infinity by Harman (INFPRV315.2) combines an alluring industrial design with key features to result in a receiver that would make any boater proud. This stereo incorporates a 2 Ohm stable chipset, allowing wiring of up to eight coaxial speakers without having to purchase a separate amplifier. Other key features include three pairs of pre-outs, 3.5 inch color screen, Bluetooth audio streaming with ID tagging, and a round 3.5 inch cutout for installation. The Infinity features an easy user interface and notable dependability.



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Comments | Leave a Comment
Page 1 of 3 ( 11 comments)

Hard-Over with Brushed APilot Pump:(12/18/2017 5:37:05 PM) "Jim.
What do you mean by ...."Garmin GHP 20 with SmartPump...Because it is a brushless system, it is fail-safe and won’t execute a hard-over turn the way a brushed pump can."

Thanks for the note. Since the description came from Garmin I contacted the company for an explanation. Here's what one of their engineers told me:

On brushed DC actuators, a single-point failure in the drive circuit (shorted wire or blown component inside the controller) could cause the motor to run full speed in one direction and take the rudder all the way to one rail. A brushless actuator relies on timing-controlled commutation, so a short or component fail would cause the actuator to stop moving rather than moving at full speed.

Hope this helps,

trawlerdeejay:(10/13/2017 3:46:51 PM) "Excellent article. I had no idea what the differences were between o183 and 2000, Thank you so much."
Darryl:(3/27/2017 10:17:15 PM) "Putting the MSRP with each unit reviewed would have been helpful. If each unit was actually tested, the reports on each unit would have been helpful too.

Thanks Darryl---we generally don't mention prices due to confusion over so many variations---MSRP (mfg. suggested retail price), MAP (min. advertised price), MRP (min. resale price) and then there are internet prices on some websites that go their own way. But your point is well taken--buyers need to know if something is in their price range. We'll work on it.
There is independent testing of some of these products on sites like but the information we receive from manufacturers rarely cites the results of any shootouts they may conduct against the competition's products. "
Laurie Seibert:(2/16/2017 2:00:20 AM) "Thanks EV Collier for sharing this informative blog. It is important to know the causes of EMI filters. We use these parts in our daily life in the electronic products so we should know that what are the causes are cures of EMI Filters.

Great job and keep updating!

Laurie Seibert"
Yes:(2/10/2017 7:22:40 AM) "EMI/RFI filter causes and cure. There are very few people who share such information with everyone. I was looking to read such informative blog!

Great job!

Lisa Wilson
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