Thank You for the Music

Music systems on s/y Charlotte Hanse 531 sailboat

We love music, and on our previous boat, we used to listen to music quite frequently. On our current Hanse 531, during our first season with her: unfortunately, not so much.

But why? Well, let’s jump into that.

The Old System

When we bought the boat, it came with not one, but two separate audio systems. One in the master cabin, running on 12V power, and another one installed in the saloon (but without working saloon speakers!), requiring 220V power. Both of these, slightly aged.

The 12V car stereo with two speakers.

The system in the master cabin wasn’t that bad and it did work without the inverter or shore power. It wasn’t, however, connected to the cockpit speakers, so almost entirely useless for digging music while being outside.

It wasn’t that good for playing music inside in the saloon, either, since the sounds appeared to come from “the bedroom”.

Also, as a final touch, it didn’t have any Bluetooth connectivity. Which meant that it wasn’t possible to use it with the standard music services we are so very accustomed to using. This was quite a big issue, in fact, since we really didn’t want to go back to using CDs or audio cables. Not many people would, I think.

The 220V stereo unit below. On top of it, a speaker switch.

The other, 220V audio system was quite likely state-of-the-art when it was installed, but hopelessly outdated today.

The main stereo (located in the cabinet above the navigation table) had a radio tuner, a CD player, an HDMI-capable DVD player, and an external subwoofer installed in one of the starboard saloon benches.

Still, no Bluetooth, so no Spotify or YouTube music. And no (working) speakers in the saloon, and the need to run it using the 220V inverter.

End result: no joyful dancing in the cockpit while sailing. No joyful dancing in the saloon either. A shame.

The New Stuff

The Stereo

My upgrade philosophy was quite simple: see what Hanse is doing in their modern boats, and copy that. Copy with pride, and perhaps also with some modifications.

So, a new Hanse 548 comes with a Garmin Fusion Apollo MS-RA770 marine stereo.

As I was a bit frustrated with all the existing holes in the interior, however, I thought it would be cool to try a headless version of the stereo: the Garmin Fusion Apollo MS-WB670 Hideaway Stereo.

The Cockpit Speakers

My first thought was to get Garmin Fusion cockpit speakers as well (as Hanse does, and they look really nice!), but that wasn’t quite as unproblematic as I had thought it would be.

Firstly, all of their speakers specified huge compass-safe installation distances. The top-of-the-line Signature 3i 6.5″ speaker, for instance, was supposed to be installed at least 310 cm from any compass. That would, sadly, have taken the cockpit speakers way outside of our cockpit.

Secondly, the currently installed 5″ speakers had their holes already drilled out. If possible, I wanted to use the existing holes rather than having to figure out how to make them bigger.

Since the extinction of CRT TVs, most speaker manufacturers don’t shield their speakers to diminish the magnetic interference. Polyplanar, happily, is one of the exceptions. And, to my surprise, they offered 5″ speakers that would fit perfectly in the current holes.

Polyplanar MA8505W – 5 Inch Titanium Series

The MA8505W are three-way speakers (meaning that they have three separate speaker elements to emphasize different frequencies), and have a rated frequency from 55Hz to 20kHz.

The Saloon Speakers

There weren’t any compasses in the saloon (at least as far as I knew), so I went back to the Fusion speakers again.

For the saloon speakers, I knew I had to drill some new (and big!) holes into the interior. The hole drilling process was a scary prospect in itself, but assuming I would get through it without colossal misfortune, I really wanted the end result to look as unobtrusive as possible.

Of all Garmin Fusion’s speakers, I found only one model I could see not-seeing as a part of our cherrywood interior: the completely pitch-black Fusion FM Series 6.5″ marine speakers.

With a frequency response of 100 Hz – 18 kHz, I did consider ordering a subwoofer as well, but moved this desire to the nice-to-have list instead.

Installing It

Cockpit Speakers

This installation was actually quite straightforward. Out with the old speakers, in with the new ones. Everything fitted perfectly.

In fact, I think the old speakers were also manufactured by Polyplanar, but possibly sold white-label under another brand name.

Saloon Speakers

Doing irreversible damage to one’s boat, although for a good reason, is a bit frightening.

I had all the tools (a big hole saw one of them), but not quite the confidence.

Musica necesse est, interiors non est necesse, however, so I picked up the huge drill and went to work.

In the images below: the holes-to-be marked and covered with blue tape to prevent splinters from the veneer.

Some nervous moments later:

Speakers successfully installed!

The Stereo

I ran the new speaker cables, and a new power cable, and brought it all together into the new headless stereo device.

It did take some time to get it all set up, but after the stressful hole-sawing episode, it was quite enjoyable to fiddle with the cables.

There Will Be Music

When everything was connected and I wanted to turn the thing on and play some music, I felt a bit confused. The box didn’t have any dials, so I needed to control it through my mobile phone, but I didn’t understand how to make the first pairing!

I opened the Fusion manual, and read the first few lines. And felt my heart skip a beat. The Fusion manual said that you were supposed to have a Fusion remote device or a compatible chartplotter to operate the headless device. Wait a minute. Had I bought something that wouldn’t actually work with a normal mobile phone?

Luckily, they mentioned some buttons on the device, and a few lines lower down, I found instructions for standard Bluetooth pairing. There were, indeed, a couple of buttons on top of the otherwise buttonless thing. And one of those was used to activate the pairing process.

I found the stereo, made the connection, and fired up the music factory.

Now there was music. And that was very lovely, indeed.

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