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Old 03-02-2018, 20:32   #1
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Wired, or wireless for the VHF RAM

I will soon be upgrading the VHF on my Nauticat 40 to a VHF with AIS receiving capabilities. As my boat has 2 helms (one in the pilothouse and one above) I will be getting a RAM mic for the unit.

I had decided on the Standard Horizon GX 2200, but I was recently made aware of the B&G system that has AIS receive as well. The B&G system has a wireless RAM mic.

The obvious advantage of the wireless RAM mic is not needing to run cables all through the boat to get to the upper station. In my case, it's a long and tortuous run. In my mind though, I fear that wireless may mean "less reliable". After all, if it's hard wired, it's going to work right?

Am I crazy? Do the wireless systems work just as well as the wired ones or am I better off staying with the "tried and true" cables?

Opinions are appreciated!

Thanks,
Korvessa
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Old 04-02-2018, 06:51   #2
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Re: Wired, or wireless for the VHF RAM

My B&G wireless mic works.

There's some delay when you click the transmit (or any) button that takes some getting used to. There are times when it takes a while to sync up.

I bought the B&G for two reasons, the wireless mic and the little AIS display (sort of a mini-PPI.) In the end I regretted my decision. The PPI feature is far less useful than I thought it would be. I don't use the mic as much as I thought I would. The overall usability of the B&G radio leaves a lot to be desired. Scanning capabilities are a "scan all" or a tri-watch which is very convoluted to change underway. There's a bug in the software which keeps randomly switching to a weather channel. There's a fix, but you need a B&G MFD in order to install it, or pull the radio and bring it somewhere there is one.

Oh, and worst of all, the AIS receiver keeps thinking my Vesper AIS transceiver is another vessel about to collide with me, and alarms constantly. So I had to turn the AIS receiver off. And yes, they both have the same MMSI, so the B&G should know it's an "own ship" signal. Calls to B&G on this met with no positive response.
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Old 04-02-2018, 07:33   #3
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Re: Wired, or wireless for the VHF RAM

We previously had a Northstar VHF with wireless remote. It worked well for over 6 years but the problem was that if the battery ran down, the unit would shut down without warning leaving you unaware that you were not monitoring vhf. We installed a GX2200 with the Ram extension last year and are totally satisfied. The internal GPS works inside the cabin and the ability to call an AIS target directly via DSC is great. The cable run was not that difficult in our Lipari but we needed an extension cable to get to the helm. For us the need to keep the wireless remote charged was a hassle we can do without.
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Old 04-02-2018, 07:38   #4
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Re: Wired, or wireless for the VHF RAM

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My B&G wireless mic works.

There's some delay when you click the transmit (or any) button that takes some getting used to. There are times when it takes a while to sync up.

I bought the B&G for two reasons, the wireless mic and the little AIS display (sort of a mini-PPI.) In the end I regretted my decision. The PPI feature is far less useful than I thought it would be. I don't use the mic as much as I thought I would. The overall usability of the B&G radio leaves a lot to be desired. Scanning capabilities are a "scan all" or a tri-watch which is very convoluted to change underway. There's a bug in the software which keeps randomly switching to a weather channel. There's a fix, but you need a B&G MFD in order to install it, or pull the radio and bring it somewhere there is one.

Oh, and worst of all, the AIS receiver keeps thinking my Vesper AIS transceiver is another vessel about to collide with me, and alarms constantly. So I had to turn the AIS receiver off. And yes, they both have the same MMSI, so the B&G should know it's an "own ship" signal. Calls to B&G on this met with no positive response.
Good data points. Would you be happy with it if you didn’t have the vesper, but just wanted to use the AIS data output to feed AIS to a CP or computer nav program over NMEA?

Given that the OP would have challenging installation issues, I think wireless is a big advantage.

I’d also look for fog horn and hailer functionality (make sure the VHF functionality works concurrently with those functions, I once had a radio that wouldn’t transmit or receive while in foghorn mode).

If you spend a lot of time in fog, it’s also nice to have AIS transceiver functionality, not just receiving. Nice to be more visible to other traffic. Maybe not so important to have it as part of the VHF, and instead let the VHF pick up AIS over NMEA from your transceiver.
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Old 04-02-2018, 10:21   #5
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Re: Wired, or wireless for the VHF RAM

Korvessa,

I installed a B&G V50 DSC VHF radio [in our pilothouse] with the wireless H50 mike [at the outside steering station] and couldn't be happier with its function and performance. The mike induction charging cradle is mounted on the outside steering binnacle. I like not having a mike cord near the wheel in the cockpit. Too much can go wrong with that...

The wireless mike is not light, which I am grateful for; it stays in your hand, and has a wrist strap... We also use it as an intercom, and it works well [radio or intercom] when visiting other boats anchored within a few hundred meters... [We haven't tried this in a crowded marina... I suspect the wireless range would be diminished by all the other boats and masts...]

Previously noted issues [bugs] with the radio were resolved almost 2 years ago with a firmware upgrade from B&G.

The radio can be upgraded [and has been... by us...] via our NMEA 2000 network using a B&G MFD. It is quick and painless. I don't know if it can be [owner] upgraded without a B&G MFD on the network.

Oddly, our H50 wireless mike has to be upgraded by a certified dealer, or [in our case] mailed to B&G tech support for upgrades- even though it has a USB port...

Even more oddly, B&G will only return ship an upgraded mike via FEDEX, and since we frequent remote islands in Alaska, that return [we have had to upgrade it twice in 3+ years] has taken 3-5 weeks for that 2nd day air box to finally reach us... [No Fedex service where we play... but B&G won't listen...] Clearly, B&G corporate has no boating cruisers in their wheelhouse- but seem to like having us on their customer roster...

With a new purchase, all firmware should be current [unless the inventory is aged...] Therefore I would consider having the dealer physically check/confirm this before taking the boxes to your boat for installation... [This will also provide you with insight about the level of support you can expect from that dealer...]

B&G Corporate Tech support [in the USA] is hit and miss. I don't have a dealer to fall back on. Sometimes B&G is quick and stellar, other times- not so much. But I have found if I push- in a cordial manner- I ultimately get results.

For comparison, our fixed backup DSC VHF is an ICOM with a Command mike [ICOM version of a RAM mike] hardwired to the cockpit steering pedestal. It also works great.

Having run cables from the pilothouse to the cockpit binnacle, I can attest to how fun it can be... [on our Nauticat 43, circuitous is an understatement...]

All this said, I am still very happy with our B&G centric electronics. [We performed a complete electronics refit last year...]

In case this is helpful.

Cheers! Bill

PS: Do consider adding a hailing horn as part of your initial installation. The PA, listening, and sound signaling capability built-in to the V50 are very worthwhile.

Also, here is Panbo's review of the Simrad version of the B&G [which hadn't been released yet...] They are the same sans branding...

PPS: We have not experienced any conflicting issues regarding AIS between the B&G V50 VHF AIS Receiver and our Vesper Watchmate Vision. I previously established 'Own Ship MMSI' on the B&G- which may have been part of a past software upgrade?... [We like having redundant AIS receivers as our MOB beacons are based upon AIS...]
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Old 04-02-2018, 10:30   #6
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Re: Wired, or wireless for the VHF RAM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Korvessa View Post
I will soon be upgrading the VHF on my Nauticat 40 to a VHF with AIS receiving capabilities. As my boat has 2 helms (one in the pilothouse and one above) I will be getting a RAM mic for the unit.

The obvious advantage of the wireless RAM mic is not needing to run cables all through the boat to get to the upper station. In my case, it's a long and tortuous run. In my mind though, I fear that wireless may mean "less reliable". After all, if it's hard wired, it's going to work right?

Am I crazy? Do the wireless systems work just as well as the wired ones or am I better off staying with the "tried and true" cables?

Opinions are appreciated!

Thanks,
Korvessa
I had the same decision to make with my 1983 NC-36 a few months ago when I upgraded my VHF. Since I had a Standard Horizon VHF with a RAM mike at the aft helm already, I decided to stay with Standard thinking that I wouldn't have to run a new cable. Well, of course, the microphone fot the new radio was different and so was the cable. In fact the connector on the new RAM cable was so large that I had to cut and splice the cable to get it down through the aft bulkhead. I also ended up needing an extension cable for the RAM mike since (of course) my old one wouldn't connect to the new cable.
With the new radio and RAM mike came a new problem. My old ears are not as good as they used to be and these young kids that are radio operators for the Coast Guard always seem to be in competition to see how fast they can talk. The new base radio had a very tiny speaker that even when turned up loud was nearly unintelligible. The RAM mike was worse. I ended up having to buy an external speaker from standard for both the base and the aft radio station to be able to hear and understand transmissions.
The moral to this story is to try to listen to whatever radio you wish to buy in a store somewhere before purchasing it.

Al, S/V Finlandia
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Old 04-02-2018, 10:43   #7
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Re: Wired, or wireless for the VHF RAM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Korvessa View Post
I will soon be upgrading the VHF on my Nauticat 40 to a VHF with AIS receiving capabilities. As my boat has 2 helms (one in the pilothouse and one above) I will be getting a RAM mic for the unit.

I had decided on the Standard Horizon GX 2200, but I was recently made aware of the B&G system that has AIS receive as well. The B&G system has a wireless RAM mic.

The obvious advantage of the wireless RAM mic is not needing to run cables all through the boat to get to the upper station. In my case, it's a long and tortuous run. In my mind though, I fear that wireless may mean "less reliable". After all, if it's hard wired, it's going to work right?

Am I crazy? Do the wireless systems work just as well as the wired ones or am I better off staying with the "tried and true" cables?

Opinions are appreciated!

Thanks,
Korvessa
I have the same VHF, a B&G plotter and two helms (pilothouse and aft deck) and faced the same issue. I decided that if I considered the use of VHF on deck in terms of safety and not convenience, I would opt for the cable. If it's important to communicate with 25 watts from the outside, then I'm not going to put in wireless there. Consider that if the wireless went down, you would have a displaying mic (maybe) but just silence. A wired mic, drawing power on the same cable, would go blank, alerting you to go below or at least to whip out a handheld VHF.

By contrast, I will have a wireless repeater to my outside helm display, which will likely be a waterproofed tablet, however, because I will have a group of audio alarms in the pilothouse to warn us of radar/AIS "guard ring" proximities and I only need the helm display to rely fluxgate compass headings and speed...it's just a check, really.
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Old 04-02-2018, 10:43   #8
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Re: Wired, or wireless for the VHF RAM

Korvessa,
suggest not to waste your money going half way with receive only. You are basically defeating 80% of the ais intention and permitting yourself false expectation.

For a very robust and simple cornerstone for a navigation system look at the Vesper 8000 watchmate series. Besides very good company support, the system is both wifi and hard wire capable, will readily support NEMA 0183 and 2000 as well as translate both to a wireless viewer (I Pad, Android) . Install with a dedicated tuned antenna and the system is an independent communication device, translator, gps, and anchor watch. The AIS system is also expanding with robust future intents including weather, nav aids, and local information.

Avoid combining the ais and vhf antenna via a splitter unless a last resort.

Why 80%better for full ais vs receive only- The AIS -Automatic Identification System provides you the longer range ID of another transmitting AIS. This permits you to to avoid that transmitter. When you are transmitting the same goes for the other transmitter. Additionally, if the transmitter is a commercial vessel, the vessel will be alerted/ electronically notified if you are inside the set guard ring. Therefore, for your single eyes looking out- the commercial vessel has human and electronic eyes on you.

The Vesper among other stand alone AIS units permit the user to transmit or receive only , useful in areas determined to be dangerous.

Save your money on the receive only units- and the "combo" vhf-ais units- Being permitted only in the recreational market they tend to be priced to sell and not the quality anticipated.
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Old 04-02-2018, 10:44   #9
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Re: Wired, or wireless for the VHF RAM

Love my wired RAM with AIS display from Standard Horizon. As others have stated, I am not sure the wireless units are ready from prime time just yet.
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Old 04-02-2018, 10:49   #10
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Re: Wired, or wireless for the VHF RAM

I would also add that with my SH GX-2200, I also have the optional hailer horn/fog horn. One seemingly undocumented aspect of this PA horn is that it appears to have a mic inside it: from inside the pilothouse, I can hear conversations on boats dead ahead and can hear comments from the Admiral on the foredeck, meaning we no longer need to use either hand signals nor family-band PTT radios when anchoring. Pretty good for $50! I realize this doesn't directly answer your question, but it's a vote for going for the full package of PA/Fog horn plus RAM mic should you opt for the Standard Horizon VHF. Which is also very good at AIS targets, though I port those to my plotter as the display is basic on the VHF.
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Old 04-02-2018, 15:31   #11
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Re: Wired, or wireless for the VHF RAM

Thank you everyone for the thoughtful replies and first hand experience. It appears this decision is common amongst us pilothouse sailors.

With regard to the B&G bugs, that sounds horrible. Hopefully they are now fixed, but it makes me wonder what else might go wrong. At least Standard Horizon and ICOM have been doing this a very long time and presumably have learned their lessons...

I appreciate the experience with the B&G AIS functions. That's a very important part of how I plan to use the radio. I DO have an AIS transceiver with a dedicated antenna on the mizzen, but I wanted to have the redundancy of having AIS receive on my VHF. If its hard to use, that's a strike against the B&G.

I guess I'm going to have to bite the bullet and run the cable. Considering how highly I prize the VHF (and backup AIS) as a critical safety device, I think I'll be happier in the end with the more tried-and-true brand and the hardwired cable.

Before I decide for sure, I will go to the store and have a listen to the unit. I appreciate the advice about poor speaker quality.

Thanks!
Korvessa
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Old 04-02-2018, 20:20   #12
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Re: Wired, or wireless for the VHF RAM

FWIW:
we have an older Icom VHF with a wired command mike. The system has worked fine for some years with the exception that the mike cable connector, which takes some abuse out in the cockpit, is very fragile. They may have improved that in newer models, if not it would be a deal breaker for me. Been through several cables and mikes so far, and the current one is failing as we speak. Stupid design...

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Old 04-02-2018, 20:25   #13
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Re: Wired, or wireless for the VHF RAM

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FWIW:
we have an older Icom VHF with a wired command mike. The system has worked fine for some years with the exception that the mike cable connector, which takes some abuse out in the cockpit, is very fragile. They may have improved that in newer models, if not it would be a deal breaker for me. Been through several cables and mikes so far, and the current one is failing as we speak. Stupid design...

Jim
Thank you for that experience. Buying ram mics on a regular basis sounds like fun.... only different.

Do they fail at the same spot such as the mic end or where it connects?

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Old 05-02-2018, 07:39   #14
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Re: Wired, or wireless for the VHF RAM

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Would you be happy with it if you didnít have the vesper, but just wanted to use the AIS data output to feed AIS to a CP or computer nav program over NMEA?
Not really. There's the B&G bug that treats "own ship" as an imminent collision. Even if I had a B&G MFD and was able to install the fix, I still wouldn't be happy with receive-only AIS.

That said, having the B&G as a backup AIS receive source (I'd turn it back on if the Vesper failed) is some comfort. And if you're determined to go with receive-only, this is as good a source as any.

Another selling point, the tiny radio screen for AIS target tracking, is a great idea, but I don't find it very practical in real-world use.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wrwakefield View Post
The radio can be upgraded [and has been... by us...] via our NMEA 2000 network using a B&G MFD. It is quick and painless. I don't know if it can be [owner] upgraded without a B&G MFD on the network.

With a new purchase, all firmware should be current [unless the inventory is aged...]
Maybe I'll work on finding someone at our marina with a B&G MFD and talk them into plugging my radio in for the update. Obviously it's quite a chore to de-install it, drag it somewhere, and re-connect the power and N2k.

I've never bought from an electronics shop which would be able to connect up a radio on a test bench and do an update. West Marine can't, and certainly the on-line sellers won't.

I've found it's the first 6-12 months after purchase when the majority of bug fixes are released. I suspect no matter how quick the store's turnover may be, there WILL be fixes shortly after purchase.

It's good to hear the "own ship" problem with the B&G is fixed. When I called they didn't seem to comprehend why this might be a problem. And of course not having it randomly switch to the weather channel would be another reason to pursue an update.

Using the hailer as a fog horn, as well as an intercom with the foredeck, is an under-utilized feature of most VHF radios, but they're both very handy.

As for the sound, most radios suck. An external speaker, closer to ear-level, is always a good idea. Even if you don't need it in good conditions, you'll be glad it's there when you do.
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Old 05-02-2018, 19:24   #15
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Re: Wired, or wireless for the VHF RAM

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... An external speaker, closer to ear-level, is always a good idea. Even if you don't need it in good conditions, you'll be glad it's there when you do.
Unless it's mounted RIGHT NEXT TO the ships compass, as it was on my first boat. As I was delivering it home, it didn't take too long to figure out what was going on, especially since North was ALWAYS to starboard.
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