There is no debating it - the old system has to go. True, the system is over 10 years old - which means its not only outdated, but the installation simply does not pass my asthetic eye. My goal is to update the entire system, outfitting it with a modern receiver that will handle Sirius satellite, iPod, and USB thumb drives. Why Sirius and not XM? As of this writing, Sirius seems to have more hardware available, as well as programming options - but more on that later.
I bought this boat used, and the previous owner replaced the system once, and simply cut a block of wood for the new mount - which is not up to my standards. Also, the manufacturer installed an A-B antenna switch below the stereo for the built-in TV "Flying Saucer" antenna - hidden in the helm area. The factory installed A-B switch is also marginal, so I will clean this area up.
The old system consisted of a head unit, shown above, as well as a wired remote at the helm, a 6 CD changer, and two good speakers (the outside speakers were bad). I was able to sell the old components on eBay for about $100, which helped finance the upgrade. Do not discount selling used equipment on eBay; I have found that boating-related items, even used items, sell pretty well.
The first step is to create a block diagram of what is to be accomplished, as I have shown here. The head unit is the center of the system, and everything else more-or-less attaches to it. The setup features 10 speakers and one subwoofer, and three external amplifiers. To maximize the equipment, the head unit's internal amplifiers are also utilized.
One unusual feature of the system is the attachment of a BlueTooth enabled microphone. This will be located at the helm, with an optional station in the salon. At the helm, the microphone connects to the on-board cellphone via BlueTooth, and can use the system's radar arch speakers to assist in listening to telephone conversations. This can be important as when the boat is underway, the wind noise alone makes it difficult to hear cellphone conversations.
The zoning systems allow different speaker/amplifier combinations to be used, and is thought out so that when underway, and on DC power, the high power amplifiers in the salon for Zone 4, as well as the Subwoofer (Zone 3) can be turned off - saving DC power.
The system volume level is balanced by the use of line-level attenuators for Zone 1 and 2, an Equalizer for Zones 3 and 4, and a volume control on Zone 5's amplifier. A power meter is included to help balance the different levels.
This setup has been criticized by some as being too complex, or too Rube Golderg; however, in actual practice, it does work quite well; allows minimum DC power to be used when not on shorepower, and provides a high degree of zoning.