One of the most gratifying features of modern marine radios is the ability to upgrade them with various remote control options. Many conventional car radios are compatible with steering wheel audio button interfaces or an infrared remote. Marine radios take this to an entirely different level with options for remotes that include color displays and even integration with chart plotters and multifunction displays. Let’s look at some specific options for marine radio remotes.
Marine Remote Requirements
If you’re buying a new radio or want to add a remote to an existing system, the first thing you’ll want to check is that the remote is designed specifically for marine applications. They should be completely water-resistant, with at least an IPX5 water-intrusion rating.
The remotes should be constructed with UV-resistant materials so the plastics don’t fade, chalk, crack or discolor after prolonged exposure to the elements. In addition, testing standards such as ASTM D4329, ASTM G154 and ASTM G155 confirm that the manufacturer has tested their products under extreme UV conditions to ensure that they will function reliably and continue to look great.
Finally, if you use your boat on the ocean, a saltwater lake or a river, the remote should resist damage from these conditions. Again, look for ASTM D5894, ASTM B117, ASTM G85, ISO 9227 or JIS Z 2371 testing to ensure that nothing will corrode prematurely.
One of the most overlooked requirements for marine electronics is that the devices meet the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) C-1500 or SAE-J1171 Ignition Protection standard for marine products. In short, this testing confirms that, under regular operation, the device in question will not ignite an air/fuel mixture and cause an explosion. This testing is more specifically intended for fuses, fuse blocks, circuit breakers, motors and switches used in engine compartments in the presence of fuel storage. But radios, remotes, lighting controllers and amplifiers should also be ignition-protected devices. The last thing you want is for your boat to explode when you try to turn on your radio.
Basic Marine Radio Wired Remotes
Since their inception almost a quarter-century ago, most marine radios have included options for often elaborate wired remote controls. For example, if you had a boat with the radio mounted near the helm or at a navigation station, your installer could add a secondary control on the swim platform, in the cabin or up on a flybridge. In addition, most marine radios use wired connections to these remotes for consistency and reliability. While this can increase the time required to add these remotes to an existing audio system, it helps ensure reliability and seamless integration.
The most basic wired remotes have dedicated buttons for volume adjustment, track and preset selection, source selection and the ability to turn the radio on and off.
Marine Remotes with Displays
As an upgrade, many marine radio remotes include an LCD screen that displays station, track or volume information. Some solutions go as far as including color displays that mimic the information on the radio with album art display from digital media files. In addition, these remotes are often compatible with hide-away radio options with no built-in controls or displays.
NMEA 2000 CAN BUS Remote Options
Another important remote option for marine radios is the ability to connect to a multifunction display or chartplotter in the helm or a nav station. Companies like Garmin, Simrad and Raymarine include options on these displays to control a hide-away radio system or interface with a more conventional marine radio. Access to source selection, volume control, track and station selection are available. Before installing a solution, it’s crucial to check that both the radio interface and the multifunction display (MFD) are compatible. Not all radio brands are compatible with all MFD manufacturers, and some have proprietary protocols outside the NMEA 2000 data structure.
Remote Upgrade Considerations
Here are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind as you and the product specialist you’re working with design the entertainment system for your boat. First, for most brands, there’s a limit to the number of remotes that can be connected to a radio. Typically, they can’t support more than three, but it’s worth checking the documentation of the model of radio you have in mind.
If you use more than one remote with a radio, you’ll likely need a Y-cable for each additional remote. In most cases, remote cables are designed specifically for each radio manufacturer, so your installer isn’t likely going to be able to mix and match parts. The same goes for remotes – you can’t use a Rockford Fosgate remote with a Hertz Marine source unit.
Additionally, remotes often have maximum cable length limits, with most being limited to 100 feet. If you’re planning multiple remotes with long cables, suggest that your installer mock up the system on a test bench before they start cutting holes and running cables.
Upgrade Your Marine Audio System with a Remote Control
Being able to control the stereo system in your boat from the swim platform, the helm or the cabin will ensure that you can always listen to your favorite music while on the water. Drop by a local specialty mobile enhancement retailer today to inquire about the remote control options available for your boat.
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