A/V Luxury and Reliability ... at Sea
A ship that rocks and rolls with audio, video and control systems.
November 12, 2013 by Grant Clauser

Long journeys at sea can be tedious and full of hazards—not Life of Pi kinds of hazards, but more like the kinds of hazards that happen when your Internet connection goes out or the satellite TV doesn’t work. That’s why the owners of this 180-foot luxury yacht decided to prepare for any eventuality by investing in a complete home automation and A/V system before they left port.

Custom electronics pro Don Russell, president of Southern Cinema Design, Cumming, Ga., has done integration systems on yachts before, but this 180-footer with five decks, including a helicopter pad, was the biggest he’d ever tackled. “It’s probably the equivalent of a 3,000-square-foot home,” he notes.

There’s a big difference in putting in A/V and automation gear into a house versus a home at sea. With a boat you can’t simply cut into drywall or drill into wood studs. On this ship, the walls and ceilings are constructed of panels. To run wires in a wall you need to remove whole panels, which could involve hundreds of screws for one wall. And since ships rock, sometimes a lot, you need to secure all the wires inside the walls with clips every few feet to make sure they don’t rattle or shift in bad weather. Compounding that, the ship’s walls only offer a little more than an inch of depth, so Russell couldn’t use the kind of large conduit that’s preferred in home installations.

The floating nature of the installation also influences many of the equipment choices. This particular boat was originally built in Norway, then upgraded a few years later in the United States. As a result, different parts of the boat use different voltage standards. In addition, at sea the boat depends on a generator, while at dock it’s connected to land AC. All of that demanded a rock-solid and flexible energy management solution. Russell used a combination of Furman and Panamax energy products to keep everything running. A custom program also helps manage the shift from land power to generator power when the ship leaves port.

For control and automation, Russell selected Control4. “Control4 is dual voltage, so we primarily used Control4 for everything.” Dual-voltage products were critical for this installation. Unfortunately sometimes that information is hard to get from a manufacturer. Russell found out the hard way when a Blu-ray player that was supposed to be dual voltage perished in a puff of smoke. Most of the TVs on the boat are from LG, because they’re dual voltage like the Control4 system.

System Design & Installation
Southern Cinema Design, Cumming, Ga.
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Even though this is a pretty big boat, space is always at a premium onboard. “We picked the smallest products we could,” says Russell. Don’t look for large, elaborate equipment racks with shelves of blinking LEDs to show off. Russell had to squeeze gear into any storage area he could find. “One of the main racks is in an under-the-stairs closet that was already filled with communications and satellite equipment for navigation,” he says. “We had a tiny spot and had to turn the rack 90 degrees, slide it back and turn it again, push it in, then fasten it to the floor so it wouldn’t move.”

Even something seemingly as simple as TV reception had to be customized to the environment. Because the ship travels so far (family trips to South America are not uncommon), Russell installed two DirecTV systems. One for U.S. DirecTV service, and another for when the ship passes beyond the U.S. satellite’s range.

Because a long trip at sea may include a lot of time doing nothing (there’s a crew to take care of all the important stuff), this boat includes plenty of audio and video entertainment. Each family member’s cabin includes a TV and audio with access to DirecTV and Internet content, plus game systems for the kids. A 400-disc Blu-ray player also is available for home theater use. There are two surround-sound systems; one in the main salon and one in the master stateroom. Each includes a Sony ES receiver and a large LED TV with a Media Décor Razor motorized system that hides the TV behind custom artwork when not in use. A “Sky Lounge” in an upper deck, which offers grand views of the ocean, includes its own video system. Eight additional audio zones ensure that no one has to be without tunes.

In addition to this impressive boat, Russell also put a similar system into the family’s houseboat, which stays in freshwater, and an RV for land excursions. Russell notes that the family’s main home actually has the least high-tech system, probably because with so many cool toys, they’re hardly ever there.

Internet at Sea
A good network, both for Internet access and for local network communication, is critical for an elaborate audio/video and control system, but getting high-speed Internet while in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean is a bit of a challenge. “We made it very clear to the client that a lot of this stuff doesn’t work without the Internet,” says Russell. Every stateroom, plus the main living room, has access to online movie and music services. Plus, the control system is IP based and requires Wi-Fi for the iPads and iPhones to connect. For the ship’s Internet connection, Russell installed a KVH system that can receive broadband nearly anywhere in the world (nearly—it’s not 100 percent guaranteed). For the onboard network, Russell relied on products from Luxul to manage the network, and Apple Airport Express for Wi-Fi base stations. Wi-Fi is a particular challenge onboard, because the ship is predominately built of aluminum, which does not play well with Wi-Fi signals.

Check Out More Marine Installations:
Automation Makes Smooth Sailing for Yacht, Home
Automation and Entertainment on a 165-foot Yacht
High Tech on the High Seas

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Grant Clauser - Technology and Web Editor, Electronic House
Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.

Systems and Equipment

** Wiring Required to Retro Fit Yacht
6 HD Video and Control Wiring from main System Location to Stateroom TV’s
2 HD Audio and Video Cabling to extend Bar TV across to corner cabinet
4 A/V Line Level Cable to “Tether” Salon Surround and Master to Video System
2 Speaker Wiring for each Speaker Not Currently Wired/ Redo Outdoor Wiring

**Main Equipment/ Mechanical Room Installation
1 Middle Atlantic SRSR Aluminum Slide out and Pivoting Racks
4 Mid Atlantic Locking Aluminum Rack Shelves for Each Component in Racks
2 Furman Elite 15PFI Power Management/ Filtration System
3 Furman M1500UPS - Uninterruptible Power Supply
3 Southern Cinema Custom Engineered 120 Volt Step Down Transformers
3 Netgear Wifi Booster for enhanced internet access of installed system
1 Apple Extreme Router
1 Control4 HC1000 - Main System Controller
1 Control 4 System IO Expander
1 Control4 TUN2-EB AM/FM Tuner
1 Control4 XM Upgrade and External Antenna
1 Control 4 16 Zone Audio Switcher
2 Control 4-C4-16-AMP-B Channel – 8 Zone Power Amplifier
1 Sony CAV12ES Component Switcher
1 NeoPro 8X8 Component Switcher
1 Sony DVPNX7000ES 400 DisC BD, DVD and CD Changer
1 Netgear FS726TP 24 port switch w/ 12 ports of POE
20 Generic RS232 Cabling and Network Patch Cables Throughout System
9 Apature Component Video Connections for each Video Source in Yacht
12 Apature Analog Audio Interconnects From Switchers to Amplifier, Streaming Music
148 Straightwire Gold Plated Banana Plugs
1 Snap AV Low Voltage Enclosures and Doors
3 Snap AV Low Voltage Panel Modules

**Main Salon Equipment - Surround Sound System
2 Middle Atlantic SRSR Sliding Equipment Rack
8 Mid Atlantic Locking Aluminum Rack Shelves for Each Component in Racks
1 Nuvision 55” Lucidium FX5 - “Mirrored TV”
1 Media Decor Illusion Razor Motorized Art w/ Monet Reproduction Oil on canvas
1 Panamax 5102 Power Management/ Filtration System
1 Control4 HC200 TV Interface, Local System Control
1 Control 4 Apple Ipad Licensing fee
1 Sony STRDA5600ES - Surround Receiver
1 Sony BDPS590 Bluray Player
5 Klipsch R5800W – IN Ceiling Surround Sound Speakers
1 Paradigm Millenia Subwoofer for Surround Sound System
1 Apature 15’ HDMI Cable with control wire from receiver to TV
4 Apature HDMI, Audio Cabling for Local Bluray Player, Satellite Receiver
1 Snap AV Powerlink Pro Kit to Tie in TV to Power Management System

**Staterooms (All Rooms have the same gear)
5 LG 32LE5300 LED TV with Built in WIFI Access for Simple Internet Browsing
5 Snap AV Ultra Slim Mount Bracket
5 Panamax Max2 Inwall Surge Protector
5 Control4 HC200 TV Interface, Local System Control
5 Apature Cable Pack to Connect HC200 to Local TV

**Sky Lounge
1 LG 47LE5300 LED TV with Built in WIFI Access
1 Snap AV Ultra Slim TV Bracket
1 Sony STRDA3600ES – Audio/ Video Surround Receiver
1 Panamax 5102 Power Management/ Filtration System
1 Middle Atlantic SRSR Sliding Equipment Rack
3 Mid Atlantic Locking Aluminum Rack Shelves for Each Component in Racks
1 Panamax Max2 Inwall Surge Protector
4 Pair Paradigm AMS250 In Wall Speakers
4 Pair Paradigm AMS150RX - Extreme Moisture Application Speakers Outside
1 Control4 HC200 TV Interface, Local System Control
4 Apature Cable Pack to Connect Sources to Local Gear, TV

**Crew Quarters
1 LG 26” LCD TV (dual voltage)
1 Panamax Max2 Inwall Surge Protector
1 Universal Remote MX450 remote Control for Crew
1 Sony Bluray Player/ DVD Player w/ Wifi
1 Sony MICRO System for Crew Sound

**Master Suite
1 Sony STRDA3600ES – Audio/ Video Surround Receiver
1 Panamax 5102 Power Management/ Filtration System
3 New Slider Style Volume Controls in all 3 rooms
4 New Paradigm AMS250 Inwall Speakers for Master Stateroom and Sitting room
1 Middle Atlantic SRSR Sliding Equipment Rack
4 Mid Atlantic Locking Aluminum Rack Shelves for Each Component in Racks
1 Nuvision 55” Lucidium FX5 - “Mirrored TV”
1 Media Decor Illusion Razor Motorized Art w/ Monet Reproduction Oil on canvas
1 Apature 15’ HDMI Cable with control wire from receiver to TV
1 Panamax SP8AV Power Strip Style Surge Supressor
1 Control 4 HC200 Local Control Interface with Advanced Remote
4 Apature Cable Pack to Connect Local Equipment
1 Sony BDPS590 Bluray Player

** Dining Room
2 pair Monitor Audio CPC in Ceiling Speakers

**Main Deck Aft – New Outdoor Area
6 Paradigm AMS100RX - Extreme Moisture Application Speakers
1 Control 4 SR250 Remotes For Outdoor Areas

**Upper Sundeck Area – Helicopter Pad
4 Paradigm AMS100RX - Extreme Moisture Proof Speakers
1 Control 4 SR250 Remotes For Outdoor Areas

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