Improved design, quality key factors in success
The days of slapping an add-on stereo into a boat and calling it a day are past. Instead, buyers these days are looking for the seamless integration and sophisticated design they’ve come to expect from other industries.
“Everyone wants the integrated look, not something that looks like an afterthought,” said Tyson Kochan, chief operating officer for Roswell. “They want it in a spot that’s not going to be an eye sore, but part of their boat.”
Even when the system isn’t integrated into the boat itself, consumers want more sophisticated styling and improved displays for standalone units.
“Consumers have come to expect an upgraded level of entertainment,” said Josh Berry, Prospec. “The days of yesterday were more of a dot-matrix style display. Now, a lot of our head units are moving to a color screen. The look of the unit is certainly more sophisticated.”
A lot of this demand goes back to the influence consumers are seeing in their automobiles and other consumer devices.
“Probably a good reason why that is coming about is the automotive industry,” Berry said. “The boating industry looks at the automotive industry for certain styling, colors, things like that.”
From the connected home to Microsoft Sync in an entry-level Ford, consumers simply expect audio and technology to be a seamless part of the experience. They don’t want to step on their boat and go back 10 years in time.
“We have taken what the OEMs want and designed that for the aftermarket as well,” he said. “If we can help people add that personal touch, but at the same time keep it sleek and part of the design, people like that.”
Consumers are not only more aware of audio technology than they were just a few years ago, but also more demanding higher quality.
“It is not just about being loud,” Kochan said. “That’s why our Neptunes still sell well – they’re more of a quality, true musical speaker.”
They’re also more knowledgeable about which brands deliver that quality experience, leading to OEMs being more concerned about it. That has helped Prospec’s Harmin, Infinity and JBL brands.
“The general public is becoming more in tune with what audio system brands are being placed on the boat,” Berry said. “Before it was just a marinized unit and that was great. Now, it’s ‘I don’t want low-level audio put in my boat. I’d like to go with something brand name.’”
“I don’t want to say it helps sell boats,” Berry said. “That’s a little presumptuous on our part, but we know that people are very, very passionate about their audio systems on their boats and that’s why they’re demanding the best.”
Pontoons have offered one of the greatest opportunities for more integration of audio. It’s a growing segment that has, for the most part, not put a huge emphasis on the category.
“We’re picking up a lot of work [from pontoons], adding three OEMs just last year,” Kochan said. “For many pontoons, audio has been an afterthought. It’s not the easiest to design – it’s large, it’s a lot of space.”
But as technology continues to advance and get less expensive, we can expect to see the once-luxury become commonplace, even as new technology emerges.
“There are some cool products coming,” Kochan said. “There’s definitely technology that I don’t think has totally emerged yet.”
Audio & Entertainment Products
Beyond the trends, here are some of the newer products to hit the audio and entertainment market recently.
Shakespeare SeaWatch marine TV antennas
The new SeaWatch series of marine TV antennas from Shakespeare provide over-the-air digital HDTV to vessels, so users can watch their favorite TV shows and movies for free and in 1080 HD while enjoying life on the water. Each model features a low-noise amplifier and AC, DC and USB power adapters. All four antennas also receive all local HD broadcast signals. When paired with an optional two-way band separator between the antenna and the amplifier, they can also receive AM/FM radio signals.
Prospec weatherproof wired remote
Prospec Electronics’ INFMC30 weatherproof, wired remote incorporates a 3.5-inch TFT color screen and works as a perfect transom complement. This control is an extension of the INFPRV350, providing the same functions as the main receiver. The color screen optimizes visibility. Simple-to-push buttons enable control of the power, menu, volume and tuning. Water seals at the amp connection point ensure longevity in harsh environments.
Aquatic AV Bluetooth & USB media player
The new Aquatic AV Bluetooth & USB Media Player plays music wirelessly via a Bluetooth enabled smartphone or MP3 device, or via USB connection. Wired connections can also be made with stereo 3.5mm Jack or RCA inputs. A2DP Bluetooth allows wireless audio streaming and two-way communication, between Apple and Android devices and the media player, to view track information, songs, artists, playlists and genres on the 3-inch color LCD display. Designed, engineered and built to withstand demanding conditions on the water, the unit features an onboard 288W amplifier capable of powering up to 8x speakers, or a combination of speakers and subwoofers. Compatible with most smartphones and media devices.
Clarion’s CMS5 is a digital media multimedia system designed and engineered specifically with marine performance and durability in mind. The watertight commander is IP67 rated and features a 4.3-inch optically bonded color LCD display. The standalone black box module allows for flexible mounting as it can be stowed away in a separate location from the controller. The system allows users to play digital music files, listen to satellite radio or streaming Internet radio and offers two-zone capability with two Audio/ Video RCA inputs to drive another zone of entertainment within the boat.
JL Audio MediaMaster MM100s
The JL Audio MediaMaster MM100s is the company’s first full-featured marine audio source unit. The MediaMaster MM100s is purpose-built for marine duty, with marine-grade, weatherproof construction. The MM100s is equipped with audiophile-quality, preamp-level audio circuits, deployed in an eight-channel architecture with 4V RMS outputs. In addition to a built-in AM/FM/Weather Band tuner, the MM100s offers a wide range of connectivity options for external devices, including Bluetooth and USB.