Technical Article: #015

Title: Hustler Rewire Part 5 – Installing a New Stereo
Date Added: 16th March 2013
Article Author: Andy
Hustler 30 – Hariette B

Rewiring a boat is no task to undertake lightly. It can be a very complex task and many different things need to be taken into account. This article is intended to share my experience. Hopefully it’ll help other Hustler owners when considering rewiring or even just adding a new electrical component to their boats. To cover this in one article isn’t practical so I’ll be splitting my experience over a number of articles namely:

Rewire Part 1 – Considerations and Planning

Rewire Part 2 – The Tools, Rewire and Battery installation

Rewire Part 3 – Installing a Sterling Pro Split-R

Rewire Part 4 – Installing a Solar Charger
Rewire Part 5 – Installing a new Stereo

Rewire Part 5 – New Stereo Installation
Last season Hariette B did a fair bit of sailing that was essentially a full day at sea. This was usually followed by a lazy evening at Anchor watching the sunset after a nice BBQ meal and glass of red or two. It was wonderful. However, something was missing, we realised it was music! Sometimes listening to music on those longer sails helps to break the journey up, when it’s rough it can raise morale and when at anchor or moored in a marina acts as the background to our conversation. We resolved that Hariette B deserved a Stereo.

What Stereo to Buy?
Budgets are tight this year so I wanted to do this as cheaply as possible with the minimum of installation. I’d set around £350 aside as a target with 50 quid as a reserve bits and bobs contingency budget.

I didn’t want to pull apart the interior of the boat and I didn’t want to drill any more holes in my woodwork. In addition, I was really reluctant to drill any holes in the cockpit to mount speakers as I didn’t want to lose locker space or keep hitting my back or knees on protruding speakers. I decided on using box speakers in the cockpit and box speakers down below. Finally I wanted to be able to play music from any of the families iPhones/iPods and use the same system as a charging mechanism for all the Apple based music devices.

There’s so many options ranging from the usual car stereo head unit from Halfords to a full marine ready head unit. I had seen a vendor selling Fusion marine stereos at previous Southampton boat shows as I remembered the inflatable green aliens we received (Who says gimmicks don’t work?!) :-). When I visited Fusions stand I thought the build quality of the units was pretty good not only that the sound quality of the speakers was excellent. I had the usual trawl around the web and to be honest I didn’t really see that much else that could offer me a fully waterproof unit that was built for the sea at a reasonable price point and fulfilled my requirements.

The Specification
So with Fusion being the brand of choice I looked at what they had to offer. I settled on the Fusion RA50 head unit as it had just what I needed, radio, iPod and it wasn’t a rigging shaker when it came to sound output.

Another key factor in selecting the RA50 was the fact it was one of the few stereos that had a dedicated gimbal cage mount so there was no drilling huge holes to fit it. However, things are never that easy. Fusion do not sell the mount in the UK. I had to order mine from the US via eBay and get it shipped over (although it was worth every penny).

Fusion RA50

The Fusion RA50 and Mount Bracket in the background

Speakers wise I found the Fusion True Marine IP65 Waterproof Box Speakers (To mount on my rail outside) and some Pyle PLMR25 300W 4 inch 3-Way Weather Proof Marine Mini Box Speakers for the interior.

All the gear

The Fusion IP65 speakers on the left and Pyles on the right

So that was everything right?… Umm no. When it all arrived I opened the Fusion RA 50 box and the cable needed for the iPhone/iPod was missing, it was an optional extra! Grrr! So how much did this all come to?

Fusion Marine RA50 Head Unit: £98
Fusion IP 65 box speakers: £96
Pyle Box speakers: £30
Fusion RA50 mount inc. post/tax: £50
Fusion Marine iPod to RA50 lead Part No. SM233-IP15L3: £30

Total: £306… still in budget… so far!

NOTE: It’s really important to get the right cable as it’s the only one that works with the RA50. After multiple attempts of trying to buy the cable only one chandler got this right (Force4 take a bow please!). So far so good, time for the install!

I had planned for the possibility of a stereo when I started the rewire so I knew exactly what gauge of wire I’d be using and how I’d route it around the boat. A key principal of installation was to maximise the use of dead space. I hate having wasted space, I wanted to ensure that everything was installed in locations where the stereo wouldn’t get in the way and maximised every area of space in Hariette B. I measured everywhere prior to ordering the speakers and head unit to ensure everything fit.

Head Unit Mounting
This was going to be mounted in a place where it wouldn’t be in the way and used up some dead space. The ideal place was on the port side mounted under the little shelf. I thought there may be some magnetic interference with the compass but this turned out to be unfounded. It was also an ideal place to mount the FM aerial. I found a cunning place to install the aerial. I bought a cheap Halfords 7.99 car aerial. Extended it fully then ran it in the space between the deck and the interior of the cabin so it runs just under the side deck. It gets a very strong signal and is out of the way.

Stereo with Gimbal mount fitted

Gimbal mount bracket fitted for size

So before mounting I thought I’d just connect everything together to check the speakers worked and the stereo worked.

Testing, Testing, Testing

Everything ready for testing

Arial fitted, external speakers connected, internal speakers… hang on there’s no additional cables for the interior speakers!

The Big Mistake
What I didn’t realise when I ordered the stereo was the RA50 was 2 x channel only. This means only one pair of speakers can be wired up. It was at this point I banged my head repeatedly against the bulkhead for not checking the specs thoroughly! Gaahh!! So how do I fix this?

I had an idea, I could use a speaker switch box! I found this 2 way Loudspeaker Selector on Amazon that allowed me to plug the stereo into the box and the physical switches are used to switch between external, interior or all speakers. Genius! This little device was only a tenner too.

2 way speaker box

Genius and only a tenner!!!

I had an ideal space to mount the box so it was out of the way and close to the Stereo. I mounted the box by using double sided rubber pads from the Chandlers. In order to ensure it was strong enough I also applied a liberal amount of additional adhesive to ensure it stayed put! This was a much better solution than I had planned for. The solution worked a treat when tested so now I could mount the head unit and the speakers.

Plan Your Cable Route!
Just a reminder to plan your cable route BEFORE mounting anything. You’d be surprised by how much cable is used when running cable around bulkheads.

I found that some of my cable wasn’t long enough and needed additional speaker cable. I connected these together by using Gel Connectors. Gel Connectors are similar to Scotch locks but much better. When you clamp the cables together via the Gel connector a glue is released sealing the joint making it waterproof. To make absolutely sure the cables were sealed I used self amalgamating tape to seal the cable and the connector.

Gel Connectors

Gel Connectors freshly used, note the gel oozing out.

External Speaker Mounting
After last seasons adventures with the hole saw I really didn’t want to do this to my lovely cockpit. So box speakers were the order of the day. I was going to mount these on the pushpit rail. Drilling into stainless tubes isn’t easy at all. So I decided to mount the speakers using jubilee clips. I then covered the clips with self amalgamating tape. This provided a sealed rubber coating for the clips turning allowing them to be gripped without anyone hurting themselves.

Jubilee Clips Attachment

Attaching the speakers to the rail with no drilling

This solution worked really well as the speakers do not move at all. All wires from the speakers are tied to the pushpit and run through the deck. This is why it was really important to get IP65 rated speakers as they will be exposed to the elements at all times. They should stand up to the rain and the spray. Time will tell how well they work but they blend in quite well and don’t get in the way.

Finished Speaker Mount

Speakers mounted and everything back on the rail (Note the rubber grip)

Internal Speaker Mounting
As we all know every Hustler is different. I have an alcove on the port side which uses lots of space. It’s big enough as a small shelf but too big to hold large things securely. The upper part of this alcove is ideal for the box speakers although it was awkward to tighten everything up.

Internal Speaker Mounts

Speakers tucked away maximising space in Hariette B

The End Result
I’m extremely pleased with the solution. The RA50 performs well the radio is superb as it picks up all the track information around what’s playing, the show that’s being broadcast and so on. The iPhone connector is brilliant it charges and it shows all playlist information on the stereo screen.

The RA-50

The Fusion MS-RA50 in action

WARNING: I noticed that different Apple devices had different connection requirements. The iPhone 4S needs to be switched to Airplane mode otherwise after 3 minutes the stereo stops playing the music but the iPhone is. This is due to Apple changing their standards even though the RA50 has been certified by Apple. This is likely to happen with other stereos so watch out for this. iPods played fine as did the iPhone 4. In all cases though play lists were fine and the devices charged. The Fusion cockpit speakers are brilliant and even though I didn’t really want rigging shakers they certainly are. The Pyle interior speakers I’m a little disappointed with as they are not up to the Fusion quality as there was some distortion at higher volumes. They are good enough for down below though.

Extremely happy and well worth the effort as you can see from the picture below the installation is unobtrusive and blends with the interior. We will have a system on board where everyone gets an hour each and we all have to listen to everyone else’s choice. This way it charges all devices and it will certainly make the journey interesting listening to other peoples music. I know the stereo is going to increase our enjoyment on board even more :-)

Everything Installed

The finished job, the cable is tucked away when not in use.

NOTE: In the picture above Hariette B is looking a little naked that’s because she is still in winter mode and all furnishings have been removed. Tools and spares are also everywhere still :-)

UPDATE: Dec 2013
At the start of the 2013 season I had all sorts of problems with this unit. It would only play my playlists with my iPhone 4S switched to flight mode. More seriously the RA50 had an intermittent fault whereby after around 40 minutes of user per day. It would start crackling, the audio sounded as though the speaker wires were loose i.e. sound one minute then not. After that nothing came out of the speakers. I spent many frustrating hours replacing wires, speakers and so on. I then ended up returning the RA50 to FUSION.

They sent me a replacement unit after around three months (apparently it went to Holland for testing before they would send me a new one). Does the replacement unit work? I don’t know. I had no time to fit it by the time it came back to me. I will be re-installing as part of my winter fit out. Hopefully the playlist issue will be resolved as well as the cut out problem. At the moment the jury is out as to whether this is a solid buy or not.

HOA NOTE: The article above is related to works that the author has carried out to their own boat at their own risk. This article is intended to share the authors experience with other readers only. It is not intended to be a comprehensive step by step instruction guide. Anyone choosing to do any work as a result of reading this article do so at their own risk. If there is any doubt about whether to conduct work on your own boat call a professional to assist.