technology – audio/video/control
At Home on the Water
Custom installation in the luxury boating world.
By Steve Panosian
INTEGRATED MARINE SYSTEMS (IMS) in Newport Beach, California, integrates the same type of connectivity and entertainment systems on luxury yachts as customers enjoy in their homes. Whether you are the owner or a guest, stepping on board is an instant mood enhancer, with elegant music, movie and lighting solutions setting the tone.
Audio and video source solutions for entertainment are most often acquired via satellite TV. Signals are received by the installation of a marine satellite dome. The preferred service is overwhelmingly DirecTV. Marine solutions for satellite TV domes – KVH and Intellian – have introduced 4K for HDTV reception and the size of the vessel and its anticipated cruising distance determines the size of the dome in order to effectively lock onto an orbiting satellite’s signal.
Audio brand solutions that dominate the mainstream marine audio marketplace are Fusion, JL Audio, Wet Sounds and Rockford Fosgate. Each of these companies produce receivers that provide an AM/FM tuner, built-in Bluetooth/Airplay 2 capability, Sirius/XM radio and include multiple zone outputs.
Most offer an app for control of the unit via Bluetooth that gives the owner the convenience of streaming their favorite music service while being able to control volume and other features.
IMS’ preferred brands of interior speakers and subwoofers choices are Sonance’s Visual Performance Series Ultra-Thin Line speakers for indoor overhead use. They sound great and are only 1.43 inches deep. This is ideal for salons and staterooms where there is almost zero space above the ceiling panels. Sonance also has a terrific line-up of custom sound bars and various sized active subwoofers to fill in the bass notes. The “mighty mouse” Sonance D8 active subwoofer packs a considerable punch and is ideal for marine applications considering its diminutive size.
Exterior speakers and subwoofers choices are Sonance and James Loudspeaker products. James has an incredible line of marine grade speakers that can be made to fit anywhere. IMS has called on James countless times to build custom soundbars for specific sizes and areas or bury large subwoofers in exceedingly small spaces. Their line of Powerpipe subwoofers permit the subwoofer driver/enclosure to be in one location and the piped head (the sound output) to vent into the intended sound space.
Streamed HD Video content is equally popular and delivered by Apple TV and Roku devices, as well as Smart TVs themselves. Ultra-high-end systems are outfitted with the Kaleidescape Terra Movie Server and include a Stratos Room Player at each TV location. This solution allows the onboard guests to select any movie in the collection available and play it back instantly on the desired TV display. Intuitive access points include touch screens, handheld remotes, or personal mobile devices.
On 110-foot and larger mega-yacht class vessels, IMS prefers to start with the goal of having one main A/V system on board that can be accessed from stateroom to stateroom or in common indoor and outdoor areas.
IMS is the only certified Crestron Marine Dealer in California and they install Crestron Marine Solutions for audio and video switching, distribution, lighting and automated window treatment control, HVAC and security systems. The beauty of Crestron technology solutions is that they provide audiophile quality multi-channel digital audio over standard network cable, making retrofit projects easier to execute by simply running CAT5 cable to the various endpoints.
To control the system, yacht owners – just like homeowners! – are obsessed with their smart phones and tablets, but IMS goes the extra step by including Crestron’s TSR-310 handheld touch screen remotes in guest staterooms that give the users visual icons for intuitive control. During the discovery process IMS will also work with the owner to include touch screens for the Salon or Master Stateroom and smaller in-wall touch screens where desired.
For mobile communications, IMS provides a commercial grade cellular modem with the required antennas on the vessel’s hardtop for connection to the internet. This system is then distributed throughout the vessel to supply high-speed internet connectivity in a wired and wireless fashion. Mobile vessel communication options are available in three primary forms, VHF radio communication with a range of 60 nautical miles, Single Side Band radio (SSB) for distances that exceed VHF range and satellite data connections.
Any yacht designed for traveling long distances is almost always outfitted with a satellite data connection that will allow texting and satellite phone calls. There are several apps that now allow a user to communicate using an existing smart phone provided the satellite data plan supports the region the vessel is traveling into.
Staying connected to the world is an expectation at home or when we are on the go, and on a boat it is no different. IMS provides affordable, dedicated – and secure – high-speed internet connections. The available solutions deliver a more robust connectivity experience versus what is provided by a marina service or by relegating a smartphone as a hot spot that must serve the owner and everyone else on board, including crew. A dedicated high-speed internet service is a must for email, web surfing, and streaming HD movies on mobile devices and diplays located throughout the vessel.
LED lighting is now the standard on all luxury yachts. For legacy vessels, IMS will refit halogen or incandescent lights to address power conservation and better visual appeal. They are currently working on an 85-foot yacht refit replacing over 130 light fixtures and switches/dimmers onboard the vessel. The energy savings that will result from this are significant. Companies like Quick Marine Lighting and Imtra Corporation have complete lines of interior and exterior corrosion-resistant LED lights designed for the marine environment. LED lights also offer multiple color temperature choices in one fixture. These lights usually have an operating range of 10VDC – 32VDC, although the standard is either 12VDC or 24VDC. Local control of these fixtures is executed by Vimar switches and dimmers, while the ship-wide Crestron control system supports remote dimming, presets and one-button scene setting.
Yachts that have large salons (living rooms) and large master staterooms are sure to feature automated window shades. Brands like Ocean Air, Lutron and Crestron are all common in these types of spaces. They provide the same benefits they do in a home – privacy, UV protection and lighting control. Keypads for local control are standard, and integration into the Crestron system affords the luxury of controlling window treatments from a central location and/or mobile device.
Owners are also homeowners and we have already touched on their expectation of having the same technology features onboard their yacht as they have in their homes. This applies to security as well as music, movies and lighting solutions. IMS starts with the visual monitoring of the vessel with Flir or other outdoor-rated (IP6X) HD IP cameras. Better known as ‘eyeball’ cameras, they allow the owner or Captain to view what is happening on their yachts while they are away. Areas of interest are the salon entry door, cockpit, flybridge and engine room.
There are other marine standard vessel monitoring systems that display engine data, navigation information (GPS coordinates), power, fuel and water tank levels on the yacht’s marine electronics displays or dedicated displays located at the helm. These monitoring systems permit the Captain of the ship to constantly be aware of the vessel’s critical systems.
Water purification equipment (known as water makers) are quite common on yachts. And if you are an ocean cruiser who takes extended trips longer than a few days, a water maker (de-salinator) is a must. Brands like Bluewater Desalination make modular systems capable of outputting up to 1,850 gallons per day. The need for potable water is obvious, especially when there is a large guest and crew compliment onboard for extended times at sea.
Air handling on most yachts under 150 feet is one of the few onboard systems that is not centralized. Each significant space is assigned an HVAC unit capable of heating or cooling depending on the need. Basic filters provide air purification. These devices are commonly referred to as ‘chillers’ or ‘blowers’ and are tucked away inside cabinetry, under beds or in closets. Selection of heating or cooling and set point temperatures are accessed by a wall mounted controller.
Power for a yacht is one of the most critical subsystems on the vessel and a specialty of IMS’. Using a combination of DC (batteries) and generators, IMS has the complicated task of designing battery charging around any mix of using an alternator output from the vessel’s engines, solar panels or dedicated generator. The goal of course is to know how much battery capacity you have at any given time utilizing battery monitoring systems from Victron energy and Xantrex. These battery chargers connect to dedicated displays which provide real-time information on amp hours (ah) or time (in hours and minutes) of available power and can also communicate with the vessel’s navigation and monitoring systems, so the Captain and crew are constantly aware of the vessel’s power consumption and power availability.
The world of yachting is not unlike that of performance homes – energy management, clean air and purified water strategies, acoustics, music, lighting and security are all integrated into one manageable and controllable system. Integrated Marine Systems excels in discovering the needs of the owner and executing intuitive and resilient solutions that make any yacht a floating home.
For more information, contact Dave Sell, Owner and President of Integrated Marine Systems in Newport Beach, California. Dave has over 35 years of experience in the professional audio/video industry. He is certified by 16 different manufacturers of A/V and Marine product lines and is known as a subject matter expert in both industries.