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Old 12-12-2018, 17:59   #1
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ICOM M 506 question

The ICOM M506 version with built in AIS displays the ais targets and a target list from which you can call the selected vessel. I already have a Vesper AIS on my N2K system, so don't need the M506 version with AIS. Does anyone know if the M506 version with N2K without built in AIS allows DSC calling like the version with AIS?
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Old 12-12-2018, 19:23   #2
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Re: ICOM M 506 question

No, it is electronically unaware of any AIS data. I bought that model on Amazon by mistake. Good price but no AIS!
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Old 12-12-2018, 20:32   #3
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Re: ICOM M 506 question

DSC and AIS is 2 different things. it will have DSC funtions. every radio sold today does.

(you'd have to manually enter the mmsi though... you might be able to call through the MFD, that has mixed results base on brand between MFD and vhf)
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Old 12-12-2018, 23:28   #4
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Re: ICOM M 506 question

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No, it is electronically unaware of any AIS data. I bought that model on Amazon by mistake. Good price but no AIS!


Are you sure about that? The M506 lets you select what source to use for the AIS display, and I think that still goes in the non-AIS version. You do need N2K. Iíve seen it, but have never tried it. If not for this purpose, then I donít know what that AIS source selection feature is about in the VHF.
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Old 13-12-2018, 06:39   #5
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Re: ICOM M 506 question

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Originally Posted by smac999 View Post
DSC and AIS is 2 different things. it will have DSC funtions. every radio sold today does.

(you'd have to manually enter the mmsi though... you might be able to call through the MFD, that has mixed results base on brand between MFD and vhf)

I am well aware that AIS and DSC are different things. What I'm referring to is the ability to see a list of AIS targets on the VHF and then place a DSC call. Other threads seem to indicate that you can't place a call from the Zeus AIS display, i.e. the Zeus won't talk to the M506. But if the targets are displayed on the VHF, that is fine. It is clear in the M506 brochure and manual that the AIS version can do this. What is not clear is whether the non AIS, but N2K version can show AIS data on the VHF from my Vesper transponder. I've read some older posts on other forums complaining that they couldn't even get the M506 to see GPS via N2K.

So I'm interested in hearing first hand from someone with the non-AIS, N2K version. What kind of data does the M506 access via N2K?
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Old 13-12-2018, 08:40   #6
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Re: ICOM M 506 question

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Originally Posted by Jerry Woodward View Post
...So I'm interested in hearing first hand from someone with the non-AIS, N2K version. What kind of data does the M506 access via N2K?
I don't have one myself, but according to ICOM, their IC-M506 radio that has NMEA-2000 but does not have AIS will show AIS targets on their display if connected to an external AIS receiver via NMEA-2000. They won't show targets if connected to the AIS receiver via NMEA-0183.

If the IC-M506 does not have NMEA-2000, then no AIS display capabilities are provided.

As for the IC-M506 radio having the ability to do a DSC call set-up from data shown on its AIS target display if that data does not come from the radio's own AIS receiver, I cannot offer any advice. You probably need a first-hand report from an actual owner of that particular model who has integrated the IC-M506 to an external AIS receiver via NMEA-2000. However, that might be a rare bird, as having AIS data on NMEA-2000 from an external AIS receiver tends to limit the population of possible responders.

Also, as recently mentioned elsewhere on this fine forum, the IC-M506 radio has had several firmware updates that might affect its behavior with things like AIS and NMEA-2000. The state of revision of the firmware in a particular radio might affect the outcome of your inquiry regarding DSC call set-up from an AIS target.
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Old 13-12-2018, 11:18   #7
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Re: ICOM M 506 question

The actual answer is, it depends...

Since we are talking about Icom radios, the dependency is really on the AIS source.. Which model Vesper AIS do you have?

For models, below m506, If you have an black box style model that does NOT have a display, then there is no way to select an AIS target to initiate a call, because that functionality comes from the AIS receiver side. For M506 and up, the story is different...

The Icom radios (all of the current models) can receive a DSC call request over NMEA from an external source (typically an AIS Transponder with a display (Vesper Vision, Icom MA500, etc).

So, if you have a Vesper Vision2, then feel free to get the M506 without AIS, and it will work great. Or even a 424 or 330 model. But if you have a Vesper XB6000/8000 unit, and you want to be able to initiate DSC calls without typing in an MMSI, you really need to get the M506 with built-in AIS so that it has the MMSI targets and can display a list of targets.

To be clear, the non-AIS M506 will not display AIS targets on it's own screen.


...checks Icom dealer documentation quickly before clicking Submit.... And we're good... Checked again, found more info the contradicts what I previously wrote.. update below...

New Edit: I found a document from Icom that explicitely says that IF you get a non-AIS unit that has NMEA2000, and the radio detects AIS target info on the NMEA2000 bus, then IT WILL show the radar display, targets list, etc and allow you to select and make DSC calls. The NMEA0183-only version DOES NOT support this.

So.. If you have a black box style AIS Transponder on board, and you want to integrate an Icom M506 radio, the best version for that would be the m506 11 (Front Mic) or m506 31 (Rear Mic).

Incidentally, this means that the CommandMic IV, if you had one for the Helm, would also show the AIS data.
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Old 13-12-2018, 11:37   #8
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Re: ICOM M 506 question

Edited my previous response...
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Old 14-12-2018, 18:21   #9
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Re: ICOM M 506 question

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Originally Posted by Sea-TechSystems View Post
The actual answer is, it depends...

Since we are talking about Icom radios, the dependency is really on the AIS source.. Which model Vesper AIS do you have?

For models, below m506, If you have an black box style model that does NOT have a display, then there is no way to select an AIS target to initiate a call, because that functionality comes from the AIS receiver side. For M506 and up, the story is different...

The Icom radios (all of the current models) can receive a DSC call request over NMEA from an external source (typically an AIS Transponder with a display (Vesper Vision, Icom MA500, etc).

So, if you have a Vesper Vision2, then feel free to get the M506 without AIS, and it will work great. Or even a 424 or 330 model. But if you have a Vesper XB6000/8000 unit, and you want to be able to initiate DSC calls without typing in an MMSI, you really need to get the M506 with built-in AIS so that it has the MMSI targets and can display a list of targets.

To be clear, the non-AIS M506 will not display AIS targets on it's own screen.


...checks Icom dealer documentation quickly before clicking Submit.... And we're good... Checked again, found more info the contradicts what I previously wrote.. update below...

New Edit: I found a document from Icom that explicitely says that IF you get a non-AIS unit that has NMEA2000, and the radio detects AIS target info on the NMEA2000 bus, then IT WILL show the radar display, targets list, etc and allow you to select and make DSC calls. The NMEA0183-only version DOES NOT support this.

So.. If you have a black box style AIS Transponder on board, and you want to integrate an Icom M506 radio, the best version for that would be the m506 11 (Front Mic) or m506 31 (Rear Mic).

Incidentally, this means that the CommandMic IV, if you had one for the Helm, would also show the AIS data.



Thanks for that info, much appreciated. It's too bad they make you search for that information.
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Old 15-12-2018, 09:08   #10
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Re: ICOM M 506 question

If you have the low end, non-AIS and non-NMEA 2000, you can purchase an AIS circuit board from ICOM for about $200. I believe the radio must go to an ICOM tech center to install and configure.
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Old 15-12-2018, 10:06   #11
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Re: ICOM M 506 question

Honestly, I have never even tried to contact another boat that appeared on my AIS via DSC, but thought it would be a cool feature since I'm buying (bought) a new VHF. Like many have said, it's easy just to hail the other boat by name on VHF 16. Since I already have AIS, it seemed a waste to spend $$$ on an AIS or even an N2K capable VHF. So, for now, I decided to K.I.S.S. and got a basic Standard Horizon GX1300 with DSC ($119 + $30.00 rebate). I attached the 0183 output from my Vesper AIS to the 0183 input on the VHF and it receives the GPS data nicely. I have AIS on my chartplotter and that's all I need for now. The other reason for getting the GX1300 was that it is the same small footprint as my old VHF so I didn't need to cut any new holes.

Thanks everyone for your helpful advice!
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Old 16-12-2018, 08:00   #12
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Re: ICOM M 506 question

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Originally Posted by Sea-TechSystems View Post
Edited my previous response...
Thanks for emending your remarks about the IC-M506 receiver. You initial response was in contradiction to mine. Since I got my information from the ICOM literature itself, I was concerned that perhaps the ICOM literature was wrong.
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Old 16-12-2018, 08:31   #13
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Re: ICOM M 506 question

On my previous Seawind, I had the Icom IC-M506 NMEA2000 version without AIS, and the Vesper XB8000 AIS. Both were on a NMEA2000 network. I could see the AIS targets on the Icom VHF screen, they showed up on a target list, etc. I did make DSC calls to AIS targets on that list two times. Both times the ship chose not to answer. Never tried again.

I had a B&G Zeus 2 plotter that showed the Vesper-acquired targets, their info would pop up when you touched the target, so it was very easy just to hail them by name on the VHF. I found when hailed that way, they always answered. Plus the 9 inch plotter screen was much larger than reading the info off of the Icom display.

So my answer is yes, it can be done. But I would only do it that way if we lost the chartplotter.
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