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Old 08-06-2017, 06:57   #1
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Sound

Thinking idly (idly because it is not all that likely that this will get a high place on "The List" this year) about upgrading sound on board.

I've had an old Alpine XDA-100M IDA-X100M receiver with an ancient IPod, since I bought the boat, used with six car-type speakers which were part of the original build (two in the salon, two in the aft cabin, two in the cockpit).

I've enjoyed this modest setup, which gives surprisingly good sound. Really the only thing which really bothers me about it is that the UI of the Alpine is not really good for navigating a big library of music. Plus it is hard to get new music onto it (the IPlod is out of disk space). I have terabytes of music on portable hard drives, and I've started listening to it on my AV screen via HDMI from my laptop, which is not very convenient and not such good sound. I can listen to some digital formats (mp3 and wav I think) on the Alpine, using a USB thumb drive, but then you get no navigation whatsoever -- it just plays in order every audio file it finds on the inserted thumb drive.

So without spending a fortune, what would be a good upgrade path for this setup?

My on-board ship's computer will do media as well as navigation, and so this is a natural device to use for playing music, with the best possible navigation through a big library kept on an external hard drive.

I can put an in-line splitter in an HDMI cable and extract optical audio TOSLINK (or whatever it is called) in 5.1. So maybe it's worth looking for a very compact 5.1 receiver or preamp/amplifier? Maybe there's even one powered by DC? I guess it's too much to ask that it would be in DIN format so I can put into my instrument panel?

Then what if I upgrade the car-type speakers? I guess there must be good speakers available in that form factor -- I remember having some fabulous speakers in a Porsche I drove back in the '80's. And there are subwoofers which can be put into the headliner as well, aren't there?

I guess I could use some regular home-type wall mounted speakers, or maybe even an AV sound bar (which would be good for movies), but I like the fact that the car-type speakers in the headliner are out of the way.


Any tips from any of you sailing audiophiles? Remember the phrase above about "without spending a fortune." I'm not looking to spend thousands on this.
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Old 08-06-2017, 07:23   #2
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Re: Sound

You can feed the sound from your PC via the headphone jack to one of the small class D amplifiers and from there to your speakers.

The class D amps are efficient, sound surprisingly good, are not very expensive and will run directly from DC (although not nesessarily the house bank voltage). Something like the Dayton Audio DTA-100a is a good choice.

For better sound add an external DAC. This improves the sound quality considerably removing the digital to analogue conversion to an external audiophile device. Some of these are simply USB powered from the PC and feed directly into the amp via RCA cables. They will play 24 bit music if you want. Something like the Audioengine D1 is a good option.

These types of components will give much better sound than most marine systems will play directly from your computer and are not expensive.

The next upgrade is better speakers and unfortunately these are expensive.

Here is a review of the amp:
http://www.tnt-audio.com/ampli/dayton_dta100_e.html

And the DAC:
https://www.cnet.com/au/news/audioen...headphone-amp/
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Old 08-06-2017, 08:21   #3
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Re: Sound

I tried several stereos, but eventually settled on copying my car stereo. Mrs. Mac will arrive today with a 2015 Scion touch screen car stereo which will be installed at the nav station replacing an obsolete piece of gps gear. Bluetooth from our iPhones or iPads will feed over 6000 song titles from anywhere on the boat. Total cost $200.
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Old 08-06-2017, 08:52   #4
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Re: Sound

I like the small amplifiers with both bluetooth and a line in. It's super simple, without annoying menu's and displays, and you can play music from your phone or tablet, which becomes the remote control.
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Old 08-06-2017, 09:34   #5
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Re: Sound

I've had good quality boom boxes and I've had custom 6 speaker Bose systems on boats. I'll take the boombox. Why? because you don't have to carve up the boat to install everything, but more importantly, it's hard to get good sound with multi speakers on a boat. For instance, in the salon you install two speakers, one on either side. The problem is you will probably be sitting on one side. So you only get one side of the sound/unequal sound. Waterproof speakers for the cockpit are terrible sounding and require carving up the boat.
A quality boom box can be taken anywhere... onto the foredeck so you don't bother the other person who is trying to read a book, in the cockpit, in the salon etc. Also, the unit is designed with speakers and housing that enhance sound well.
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Old 08-06-2017, 09:53   #6
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Re: Sound

We have this https://www.amazon.com/SiriusXM-SXSD...ius+xm+boombox with a receiver for Sirius XM , however I have come to dis like SiriusXM . I like Pandora plus their 5 dollar a month subscription playing through my Iphone and the boom box . As far as just the electronics , I like it because it is simple and self contained and runs on 12v it will run on shore power but I like 12v . Sound is good by our standards , but our boat is small so we don't need the multiple speakers or any extra amplification . Over the years we have had different set ups but we like this the best .
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Old 08-06-2017, 10:10   #7
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Re: Sound

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Originally Posted by msponer View Post
I like the small amplifiers with both bluetooth and a line in.
Bluetooth is very convenient. Unfortunately, many units have poor sound quality. There are technical solutions that can make bluetooth transmission sound reasonably good, but not many manufacturers implement these options, probably because most consumers don't realise there are alternatives. If you want reasonable sound quality do some research. The aptX codec is one of the good options.

The differences are not small even with cheaper speakers and amplification.
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Old 08-06-2017, 10:40   #8
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Re: Sound

The HimBox HB01 works well for me. It adapts any standard submini plug to bluetooth, allowing any device to stream to the boat's sound system*. It has sufficient range to allow devices anywhere on the (~41') boat to connect without dropping, is easy to pair and provides great sound quality.

*The new "marine" sound system we purchased has bluetooth built-in, but it has about a 3' range. Pretty useless...
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Old 08-06-2017, 11:08   #9
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Re: Sound

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
I've had an old Alpine XDA-100M receiver with an ancient IPod, since I bought the boat, used with six car-type speakers which were part of the original build (two in the salon, two in the aft cabin, two in the cockpit).
I looked up your Alpine but could only find IDA-X100. Not sure of the differences.

Can you run audio out of your AV screen to an auxiliary input on your Alpine? Then you can run HDMI from computer to screen and audio from screen to Alpine with which apparently you are otherwise happy. Gives better movie sound as well.

Alternatively you can get little Bluetooth devices that plug into the old 30-pin iPod connector and let you stream from more current devices (smartphone, tablet, computer). You're limited by BT audio quality but I don't find that a problem. YMMV.
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Old 08-06-2017, 11:18   #10
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Re: Sound

I haven't gone far down that path because quality amplification is going to cost power. Something not abundant on my boat at this time.

I hated the Sony "marine" stereo from day one, and it finally gave up the ghost last winter. The power section of the PC board was all corroded. Probably could have fixed it, but why? Among other sins, its default mode was to try to play all 8,000 songs on my phone in alphabetical order. As a result, I never want to hear The Barenaked Ladies "A" again. Ever.

I replaced it with a middle-of-the-line Fusion marine stereo. Happy so far. This thing is a real marine device with a sealed chassis. Plays nice with the iPhone. And it has decent upgrade paths. One consideration was whether to keep a disc player in the stereo or go fully digital. But jeez, the laptops don't even have disc drives any more. Fusion's top model has a cd/dvd player with HDMI out. But I didn't go that way for now. I don't know that I would ever add a large video monitor to my boat, but a compact HD projector might be a possibility some day.
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Old 08-06-2017, 11:23   #11
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Re: Sound

Oh yeah - one other feature that Fusion and other new "marine" stereos have is NMEA 2000 integration. So you can control them from most new MFDs as well as your phone.
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Old 08-06-2017, 12:06   #12
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Re: Sound

Itís been a while since I purchased anything from them, but Crutchfield has had a good selection of gear going back to the 80ís at least. Including explanations of the differences between units, & components in technical speak that laymen can understand. https://www.crutchfield.com/S-5ecTOYJvm01/

The early 80ís were when I started racing, & a LOT of boats didnít have stereos. That or they had poor ones, & or no cockpit speakers. So we would buy (car) speakers with waterproof (polymer) cones, & make our own speaker boxes. Running wiring for them to various locations onboard. And using the controls on the stereo itself to direct which speakers we wanted the tunes on. That & at times weíd install simple switches so that it was possible to shut off the music in specific areas of the boat, such as belowdecks where the off watch was sleeping. And you can even install outlets for speakers in various locations onboard. A dedicated set for the cockpit isnít a bad idea, though you may want them to be just inside of the companionway, & have long enough wires on the speakers (boxes) to be able to situate them in the right place topsides.

In terms of on deck tunes, you can run a piece of bungee between a pair of eyestraps to create a setup thatíll hold a speaker in place on deck, up against the cockpit wall. Assuming that is, that you donít just by dedicated, mountable, waterproof speakers for the cockpit.

Also, of course, you can get stereo systems which have remotes, thus enabling you to control what it is youíre listening to, & at what volume, from pretty much anywhere on the boat.
And there has to be a way to configure your belowdecks computer thatís filled with all of the music, via a cell phone, or something similar. Thus using it like a remote. Could you rig up something using Wifi?

Iíll be curious to hear what you come up with if youíd be so kind. And at least in my experience, car audio guys are pretty good at helping you design your system acoustically. Since in a car there are various types of background noise to contend with, which you kindaí want to design your way around them. Much like on a boat. And unlike a home stereo system, where thereís little to no competing sound(s).

No Music = No Life!



PS: Don't go nuts & buy crazy expensive compenents. Find some that are reasonably priced & "good enough". As sometimes due to the marine environment you'll be replacing things every couple of years.
Gottaí have tunes!!!

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Old 08-06-2017, 12:12   #13
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Re: Sound

Bose SoundTouch 30 Series III Wireless Music System Black SOUNDTOUCH-30-III-WIRELESS-SYS - Best Buy
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Old 08-06-2017, 16:43   #14
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Re: Sound

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Originally Posted by noelex 77 View Post
Bluetooth is very convenient. Unfortunately, many units have poor sound quality.
Thanks -- I didn't know that. I'll see if I can hear the difference next time. We randomly switch between bluetooth and the headphone jack, depending on which device has the music we want.
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Old 08-06-2017, 16:53   #15
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Re: Sound

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
I've had an old Alpine XDA-100M receiver with an ancient IPod, since I bought the boat, used with six car-type speakers which were part of the original build (two in the salon, two in the aft cabin, two in the cockpit).

I've enjoyed this modest setup, which gives surprisingly good sound. Really the only thing which really bothers me about it is that the UI of the Alpine is not really good for navigating a big library of music.

...

My on-board ship's computer will do media as well as navigation, and so this is a natural device to use for playing music, with the best possible navigation through a big library kept on an external hard drive.
Just based on the above, it seems that you are pleased with the sound quality you currently get, and your single biggest problem right now is how to manage and play music? If this is indeed problem #1, then the simplest upgrade, assuming your computer is reasonably close to your Alpine stereo, is to connect the headphone out of your computer to your Alpine. If the distance is longer than 6 ft, or you find some noise or loading problem, you could make a custom cable out of shielded balanced audio cable, and maybe add a 100 ohm loading resistor across each channel of the cable at the Alpine end.

(EDIT - sorry, the above assumes you have some sort of EXT audio input... do you? If not, an audio to FM adaptor could work. Or Bluetooth).

As far as upgrading sound quality, the most variable quality factor in a sound system is the speakers. So you should do some careful listening of your current speakers, taking note of whether they have any actual damage (buzzing, crackling, fuzzy) or whether their character seems lacking (tonal balance, clarity). You may be able to replace the speakers with better models that can still be driven by the Alpine. Try to audition different speakers at a dealer's before purchasing.

Repositioning speakers can also make improvements but it's not exactly something you can do with flush-installed units, is it. Small boxed speakers often sound better than car-type speakers, but they take up more room and may require more drive from the Alpine than what you currently have.

So those are the cheap ideas.

For the record, I've not yet heard a subwoofer installation in a sailboat or sub-35ft motorboat or cat that sounded any good to me. You need solid boundaries, room volume and careful positioning to generate accurate and pleasing bass from a subwoofer. A buzzy thwack is what most subs on boats sound like, usually. Not worth the effort, IMO.

***

On the smaller end of the scale, I bought a Sangean portable stereo radio ($100) for our small 19' sailboat, instead of installing a car-type 'marine' system. It's a model that has received great reviews for sound and for receiver performance. It also has a jack for iPods etc. We can move it to anywhere, even take it home. Runs on batteries or on boat 12v using a step-down board. So far, very happy.
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