Nothing makes a long passage go quicker than favorable winds, except for favorable winds and music. Along with all the other electrical upgrades I did this year, I also added a stereo to the boat. I opted for the West Marine WM3000RF in part because it was about 40% off at the Grand Opening of one of the new West Marine stores this year, but mostly because it was the only unit that I found that had every one of the features I wanted; RF remote, 3.5mm aux input, USB input, AM/FM/CD, and of course it had to be marinized (EDP-coated, rust-resistant chassis, conformal-coated circuit boards in this case). As an additional bonus, this unit also has SD card support, rear RCA inputs, and a IR remote. The 40% off sale just sped up my purchasing decision.
Installation of the head unit was pretty straight forward, I measured and marked out the mounting hole, fired up the inverter, and used my Dremel Trio with a 360° router bit to cut out the hole. Once cut out the mounting bracket has tabs that bend out over the inside of the cutout to lock it into place.
Wiring was simple since the electrical panel is just 6″ above the head unit, with an access hole and wiring already running into the panel enclosure. In order to get the best reception on the FM side I opted for the Shakespeare Antenna Splitter so the stereo could use the masthead mounted VHF whip. The VHF splitter is the black unit to the left side of the picture, and the RF remote receiver is the white unit near the center top of the picture.
UPDATE: I’ve had a number of questions about how the antenna splitter works. When you are not transmitting it splits the antenna signal between both the VHF and the FM receiver. While I’m certain this impacts VHF reception some measurable amount, I certainly don’t notice it. The moment you key up the VHF to transmit, it automatically isolates (disconnects) the FM receiver from the antenna so the transmit power from the VHF doesn’t damage the FM receiver. It’s maintenance free and 100% effortless, it just works.
I wired the VHF external speaker output to the rear RCA input on the head unit. This allows me to pipe the VHF output through the stereo speakers, although it did require a little soldering work inside the VHF unit to disable the auto disconnect of the internal speaker when the RCA cable was plugged into the back of it.
Everything is contained nice and compact at the top of the hanging locker where I store the life jackets and one of the cabin fire extinguishers. You can see the corner of the blue 110v outlet box in the upper right corner of the locker, the stereo is just behind that.
I installed two speakers under the settee, one port and one starboard. Even though they are installed in the cabin, I still wanted weatherproof speakers so I didn’t have issues with moisture or potential (probable) splashes that they would see. I went with these 6 1/2″ coaxial woofers. In the demo stand at the store they were the 2nd best sounding speaker, unfortunately the best sounding speakers cost more than twice what these cost, and I couldn’t justify that much additional cost at the same time I was doing all of the other electrical system upgrades.
Since that space under the settee is used for all sorts of storage I didn’t want to take a chance that the speakers would be damaged by something hitting the back of the speaker. I took the speakers to Select Plastics, whom are widely known by sailors for custom plastic work, and had them manufacture a rear enclosure for the speakers to protect the speaker, and has the added bonus of sealing the speakers to provide better sound quality.
These two speakers provide more than enough sound for anything you would want in the cabin, and can be heard sufficiently well from the cockpit as well, at least when under sail. It does get a little hard to hear when the engine is running.
In the future I may add something to the cockpit for additional sound.