Panbo

Gigando iPod interface, on Alexis

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Oct 20, 2008

Alexis_iPod_interface_cPanbo

So what do get when a very successful software developer cuts loose on an Azimut 55? Among many other things, the biggest iPod interface I’ve ever seen. I didn’t quite get all the details but I’m pretty sure that Alexis’s super-fine entertainment system includes a Yamaha home theater system, XM Satellite Audio, KVH stabilized HD TV, a Logitech Harmony 1000, and some gizmo that transmits the tunes over an FM channel to whatever nearby radios want to tune in. But my interest in the yacht was mainly its Simrad GB60 system…

You see Alexis was perhaps the first U.S. yacht to install a GB60 system, and I visited owner Mark Levey and his family when they cruised to Kennebunk in 2007 and again in Camden last summer. Some aspects of the system were impressive from the start, like the camera system shown below, and bigger here. Starting at lower right, that’s a FLIR Navigator fixed thermal cam pointed straight ahead (down the Kennebunk river), a low light engine room cam, a stern cam, and the Levey’s special “napping kid” cam. Talk about flying bridge situational awareness.
   But that first summer the GB60 a wee bit buggy. And hence I wasn’t enthused to write about it until I stumbled on the Leveys again and realized, especially in light of last summer’s Furuno fires, how they’d wisely let the system catch up to them, instead of letting themselves get caught up in its initial problems. My thinking ended up in a just-out PMY column called Early Adopter that’s a little headier than my normal fare. I’m curious if you early adopting Panbots think I came near the mark.

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Comments

Glad to hear that Simrad has figured out their problems, but I guess I am surprised you didn't write about the problems back in 2007. The whole thing with early adopters is that we rely on them (us really) to let us know when early products are or are not ready for adoption. If early adopters and the press don't report product problems those with less technical abilities won't know about the problems.

Posted by: ibsailn at October 20, 2008 11:09 PM | Reply

Gram, There's more to the "didn't write" story; when I first visited Alexis I was planning to profile the family and electronics for a column I did in Voyaging magazine called Helm Shot. But Voyaging ceased publication shortly after the visit.

Besides, there was very little to say about Alexis's early GB60 problems. It wasn't a matter of bad design, missing features, etc. The problem was that the whole system crashed way too often and at that point they didn't know if the bug was isolated to this particular install or a particular combination of components...

Posted by: Ben at October 21, 2008 8:59 AM | Reply

Details of Alexis entertainment system (thanks Mark!):

The boat came with 4 FM Car Stereos. One in each stateroom and one outside. These stereos always get terrible reception. I don’t think Azimut hooks up antennas to them. I wanted to leverage these stereos.

I first bought an FM Transmitter at Best Buy but it came thru with a lot of static. It was unusable. I then found this FM Transmitter on the internet:
http://www.hobbytron.com/1-watt-fm-transmitter.html

It is high powered on the verge of being illegal. They actually give you instructions to make it more powerful and illegal. I did not need to do that.

The Yamaha receiver is a YAMRXV661. The reason I chose this receiver is it has an IPOD attachment, FM, XM, Surround and 2 zones. Additionally it has HDMI connections.

Connected to the Yamaha is the following:

* DirecTv High Definition Receiver (I use the KVH M7. It’s a little big for a 55 Azimut but I needed it to get reception to Directv Latin America in St. Thomas).

* LG BlueRay / HD DVD Player. I bought this before BlueRay won the war.

Zone 1 is wired to my main salon and the Yamaha receiver supplies surround sound to the 5 speakers and one sub-woofer. Zone 2 is connected to the FM Transmitter.

Having 2 zones enables me to listen to one source in the salon and a different source thru the FM transmitter. I can play XM, IPOD, FM, DVD or DirecTv sound on Zone 2. This is useful if my daughter is watching TV in the salon thru zone1 and I could be sitting on the back of the boat listening to music on zone 2.

I sometimes play the DirecTV source on Zone 2 because if I am sitting on the back of the boat and want to watch the TV. I could hear it on the outside speakers. Also I hooked up the salon TV signal to one of the Simrad GB 60 video ports. So if I am driving the boat I can put the TV picture on one of the Simrad displays and listen to the sound thru the radio. Good for a Sunday afternoon football game.

The Yamaha receiver has a video output port that I connected to my 37 inch LCD screen. This video port sends out info from the Yamaha receiver.

It allows me to see and control the IPod or XM of the Yamaha. That’s what you saw on my LCD screen in Camden.

Also connecting the transmitter to Zone 2 allows me to also fix the volume setting on the receiver so the volume level is constant. This is important. You don’t want someone increasing the volume in the salon and having all the radio volumes go up.

To get all the devices to work together is challenging.

I use a Logitech Harmony 1000 Advanced Universal Remote that is programmable. This way my wife can operate the system.

Posted by: Ben at October 21, 2008 9:30 AM | Reply

Nice system!

Just an added bit of info - that transmitter is available in kit form for $269 from the manufacturer, Ramsey. They have others, much smaller, that are quite suitable for a short-range boat application... although having a marina- or anchorage-wide low-power FM station certainly has some interesting possibilities.

Cheers from Nomadness,
Steve

Posted by: Microship at October 21, 2008 11:59 AM | Reply

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