Onboard Entertainment: The Digital Files Converge
Marine entertainment systems can accommodate pretty near any content you care to cart--or stream--aboard. "Electronics Review" from our November 2011 issue.
The SonicHub ($350) from Navico is actually a black-box version of the Fusion RA200 with an NMEA 2000 connection that lets a Simrad or Lowrance multifunction display become your entertainment control head. It might make a traditional navigator wince, but I enjoy being able to browse my iPod playlists and watch video content using a bright, 12-inch color screen at the helm.
The SonicHub can also be operated with a Fusion wired remote when you don’t want to have an M.F.D. running, but note that both it and the RA200 use about 50 percent more power than Fusion’s 600 series because Class D amplification was left out for economy. Then again, Fusion has just announced a refresh of its entire marine stereo line, and I’ve added some details to the end of this column.
Poly Planar's MRD80i
While Fusion may have been the first to tightly mix iPods with marine stereos, this once-sleepy niche has woken up to this and other integrations made possible by modern consumer electronics. Poly Planar, for instance, has added the MRD80i, priced at $300, to its well-regarded line of purpose-built marine audio components. This stereo has a sliding-drawer dock that includes both a USB cable and a headset jack so that it can accommodate most any portable audio player or smartphone. The design also means that there’s no need for the individual device sleeves that Fusion uses, which may need replacement if you get a new size of iPod or iPhone. The MRD80i supports audio on SD cards and USB sticks, and though it doesn’t claim Class D amplification, it was nearly as power efficient in my testing as Fusion’s D models. The Poly Planar unit also has more buttons than Fusion models, which means that a user has direct access to more functions, even if the controls are necessarily smaller. More details of my Fusion and Poly Planar testing are available in my Cruising World blog entries.
While I haven’t tested a Clarion marine stereo on my own boat, I’ve often seen them installed on high-end offshore center-console fishing machines, which is quite a credit to their durability. In fact. I won’t forget seeing a Clarion CMV1 ($700) successfully play a DVD on its own little color screen and on an M.F.D. while bouncing along at 50 knots off Galveston, Texas. And whereas Clarion’s newer model CMD6 ($400) is able to control an iPod via USB cable, it wouldn’t be surprising if the next DVD model can also handle iTunes video.