Installing a High-end Audio/Video System Onboard


Thu07242014

Last update04:46:40 AM

Yachting You are here: Home How To and DIY Upgrades Installing a High-end Audio/Video System Onboard

InstallEnt250My gawd! Don’t we all just love our music and video these days! A cruiser, power or sail boat from twenty years ago was not likely to have a TV onboard. Even a built-in sound system was not always a standard feature. But today, the new boats all come with a system; small boats get audio and bigger boats get audio and video systems. From the mid-30 foot range up, two flat screens are common and three or even four are not unheard of!

The LCD flat screen TVs have been a big driver for this change. The smallest sizes fit almost anywhere and screens in the 20 inch size are often fitted in the salon. But, those are generally on North American built boats.

We joined Warren Whitmore and Jon Moles of Toronto Yacht Services aboard their client’s brand new Jeanneau 54 Deck Salon yacht, built in France. The boat is gorgeous, but it was ordered with no audio or video other than a pair of basic 12-volt stereo radios, each with two speakers.

The mission: to install a home theatre quality audio video system on this new Jeanneau 54. Of course, it had to be great. Adding to the challenge, the owner of this magnificent new 54-foot yacht was quite knowledgeable about electronic equipment and he strongly held the opinion that the equipment had to be as unobtrusive as possible. Invisible until needed would be best.

Raising the ante further, the owners wanted all the components to function in concert.

The start was to replace one factory stereo with a Sony audio system that had an iPod interface and a wired remote at the helm. That delivers full control of the tunes above decks. The iPod itself is below at the navigation station. The iPod docking station is under the chart table where it is charging at all times and secure from weather or theft. Toronto Yacht Services installed four Bose 131 speakers in the cockpit area to upgrade the fidelity but the new Sony is otherwise a plug-and-play addition to the boat. Neat but not a huge challenge. The big story was the home theater system in the salon.

Warren Whitmore said to us, "We spent a lot of time helping the owner choose the right pieces and then adapting the system to all of the technologies that they wanted to have onboard. The owner wanted a lot of technical sophistication from a really simplified equipment list."

Jon added, "Probably half of the job was locating all the necessary pieces. This may look like a simple installation now but, in fact, we sourced pieces from all over the world. The Bose system came from Bay Bloor Radio here in Toronto but some of the equipment hookups required specialized connectors on 50 feet of cable because of this yacht’s size. That is simply something most people would never need in a home installation."

Beyond the cockpit Sony system, the components they wound up choosing started with a Bell HDTV receiver fed by an Intellian satellite antenna which mounts on the front of the mast. The Intellian was selected for its very compact size. The box that controls the Intellian system sit on top of the Bell HDTV receiver and that, in turn, sits on top of the Bose 3•2•1 GSX Series III Home Entertainment System. All three components are discreetly tucked away in a cabinet by the navigation station. Although the pieces themselves are not big anyway, this is a very discreet and almost invisible installation. Adding to the convenience are tiny infrared repeaters for the remote controls. You can run this from almost anywhere onboard.

The only thing that really shows is the Sony Bravia 26-inch LCD high-definition television which was mounted on the forward bulkhead. By home theater standards, it's not a particularly big screen but as Jon from Toronto Yacht Services explained, "This was the largest size of set we could fit to the bulkhead. That was the limiting factor and in order to maximize the versatility, we located and adapted a special articulating bracket so that the set can be pulled out and viewed from virtually any angle in the salon."

So, let’s quickly summarize what has gone into this boat, because it may not seem like a lot. There was the Sony audio system with the remote at the helm, the Intellian satellite antenna, Bell satellite HDTV television box and the Bose 3•2•1 GSX Series III Home Entertainment System. But, perhaps you've heard the expression, "It is more than the sum of its parts."

As compact as it is, the Bose 3•2•1 plays CDs, DVDs and even has its own iPod dock. It is also an AM/FM receiver and sound system. Where this system gets really “trick”, is that the owner also has an Apple Mac Air Book. Part of what Toronto Yacht Services did was to install the appropriate cabling and connections for the Air Book so the owner could download a movie at home and play it on the boat – pretty neat!

We should also mention that the Bose 3•2•1 GSX Series III Home Entertainment System appears to have only two speakers and they are tiny ones at that. Based on their size alone, you wouldn’t expect much but you would be in for a real surprise. Toronto Yacht Services carefully concealed the Bose Acoustimass module under the bench seat in the dinette. Mounted securely in this space, the cabinetry becomes an even larger sound box and has the effect of making the really low frequencies sound almost as clean and powerful as your local theater’s THX system. Bose TrueSpace digital circuitry works with Dolby Digital, DTS and Bose Videostage 5 decoding circuitry to help the 3•2•1 systems deliver much of the performance of a five-speaker home theater system.

Remember, in absolute square footage, this is still a fairly small space we are talking about. The tiny Bose speakers actually contain two speakers in each box and these are pointed at slightly different directions and provide both direct and reflected sound that very effectively mimics the much more cumbersome effects that a five-speaker system could deliver. You'll just have to trust me on this, but the sound is extremely transparent from these little speakers. While the Acoustimass module lets you virtually feel the low frequencies, the mid-range and higher frequencies seem to be everywhere in the salon in a very realistic way.

When it’s time to cast off and do some serious sailing, one of the neatest things Toronto Yacht Services accomplished is that the Sony Bravia can become a full repeater for the Raymarine E120 system, enabling any member of the family to relax in the comfort of the salon while they chart a course or provide input to the navigator.

We have to say, mission accomplished. This yacht has an unobtrusive, almost invisible set of audio and video systems that will do just about everything their new owner could ask from making navigation into a family activity to blowing the hatches open with theatre quality sound.

Will your boat be the next one for a refit?

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Read more