Panbo

Sony Marine CDX-M60UI, Jeffrey Schwartz review

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on May 25, 2011
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Seen above is the Sony head unit Jeffrey Schwartz installed as part of an elaborate stereo system on his Benateau. You may recall that Jeffrey has also installed the Mas-Tech M200 Yanmar-to-N2K system discussed here recently, which he wrote a thorough comment about. Now his thoughts on the Sony...

The need to change out the stereo system on board our 1996 12 meter Beneteau was brought upon by a devastating lightning strike that hit our boat. This strike took out all electronics including the existing "aging" top of the line Sony head unit and other related sophisticated stereo equipment. Since the original head lasted well more than a decade and sounded fine I decided to replace it with a similar Sony model, the CDX-M60UI Xplod Radio/CD/Mp3/Digital Player unit.

Although the power of 52 watts x 4 at 4 ohms is not all that much, this set up originally had three separate Phoenix Gold power amps for the four Alpine marine speakers in the cockpit as well as the Diamond Audio speakers in the salon. The speakers were mostly OK after the lightning strike, but some of the crossovers were blown out and since the original power amps had such a high audiophile reputation I decided to have them repaired by the factory.

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Another reason that I chose the Sony Marine CDX-M60UI is that it had a similar install foot print, similar cable hook ups as the original Sony head unit and the new model has a CD slot under the faceplate vs. the audio cassette the original Sony had. The new model has rear "UniLink" cable connection to hook up other Sony accessories available which I used for the new Sony 10 CD changer CDX-75MX that replaced the original "fried" model. The CDX-M60UI has many other accessories available such as the RM-X50M/L a round wired remote control (the head does come with the small and easy to use RM-X151 wireless remote, seen in the top photo), an optional Rotary commander RM-X4s, the XT-100HD an HD radio tuner, and there is a separate Sirius Sony Package that would allow the M60UI to display satellite radio on its face. The Sony XA-300 auxiliary input adapter for other Sony UniLink receivers is also compatible with this head unit. For boaters that need to put this unit in a wet environment there are "universal" marine face covers; the Metra 99-9005B and Scosche ACM1 that fit the M60UI and the head unit can be installed with up to a 45 degree mounting angle. This marine model has "Conformal" coating circuit boards and UV-resistant faceplate to protect it from the "marine" environment".

Installation was straight forward, a plastic face trim ring removes from the metal frame to be able to mount the unit into a cutout area; all connections are located in the rear except for the front panel mini-jack Auxiliary input. Wiring harness was clearly marked and color coded. The three pairs of RCA preamp outputs for front, rear and subwoofer were easy to access, as was the USB port which I use with the matching iPod cable for my Nano. IPod info comes up on the front display. The subwoofer volume can be adjusted separately and of course it has Balance and Fader level controls for the speakers. There is a 3 band EQ with options for seven music types and can also play MP3/WMA/AAC files in addition to standard store bought music Cd's. Wiring the unit was also straight forward with option for "Power" to be supplied to the unit even with the "supply" breaker off. This way the presets are not lost each time you power the circuit panel off.

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The LCD display can display two lines of text; source, artist, track, playback time, menu, clock and is dimmable. Of course there is an AM/FM antenna input terminal and you can preset 18 FM and 12 AM stations. This model has many other special options that it can do, we don't use them and would not think that many do but its special features are too many to list but can be seen on the web at Sonystyle.com web site product page.

One item that I personally like is the fact that it has a "rotary" knob for volume...I prefer rotary vs. push button...call me old fashioned. The unit sounds fine albeit it is being heard via three Phoenix Gold "audiophile" power amps with high end Diamond Audio speakers in the salon area, four speakers with two tweeters and crossovers and one subwoofer. The cockpit has four Alpine M600 speakers with crossovers and two tweeters. Overall I believe this Sony M60UI is well built, easy to install, has a solid feel, looks great and sounds good; it does all that I want it to do for a relative low street price of between $130.00 - $199.00. No issues and would install this model again if I had the choice.

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How about a big thanks to Jeffrey. And I'm throwing in a final shot behind that handsome main panel with the Diamond Audio speakers, largely because I've been spending lots of recent hours with typical cruising boat wiring complications like this. I thoroughly understand that they exist to support the gadgets we love, but, man, don't we need a simpler way? -- Ben

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Comments

First of all, welcome Jeffrey ...

I did frown my brow at "52 watts x 4 at 4 ohms is not all that much..." On a sailboat???

3 amplifiers each 500 Watts driving those loadspeakers is just overkill, IMO. A 500W amp uses ten times more electricity but sounds only twice as loud (see http://www.animations.physics.unsw.edu.au/jw/dB.htm and be sure to read the part where it read Experimentally it was found that a 10 dB increase in sound level corresponds approximately to a perceived doubling of loudness.)

How often do you turn up the power beyond halfway? At that level you're probably getting 1W out of the speakers. Probaby less, like 0.1 or 0.01 W.

Posted by: Kees at May 26, 2011 3:39 AM | Reply

This unit and the speakers suck the most steady-state power on our boat -- more than the reefer and freezer combined. And we run our M60 through a very modest set of Bose amps and speakers.

Power issues aside, this unit seems to render disc stored mp3 a bit more warmly than most units. While they still don't sound like vinyl or .wav, it's allowed us to seriously compress our on-board music library. We still port a lot of solid state stored wav's to the Aux plug though.

One observation. Our M-60 is a retrofit from an M-30 that appears to have failed from overheating after five years of modest use. We've installed a muffin fan behind the panel just in case the same vulnerabilities are in play here. (no pun intended).

We have also found the sub-woofer seems to attract dolphins, at least the ones that like Mahler.

Posted by: Christopher at May 26, 2011 7:14 AM | Reply

Good piece Jeffery, and nice work, you gotta have tunes. Ben I looked at the pic "behind the panel" you added, and certainly agree about the complexity in our boating life, but I see is good news with Jeffery's set up. It is well lit, all of the terminal blocks are labeled, The panel lies flat providing excellent access to all of the wiring. Try working on a panel that doesn't open completely, with nothing labeled, holding a flashlight in your mouth, using one hand, while trying to avoid the AC side of the panel. A last note Jeffery, is that original Grateful Dead version of Scarlet Begonias playing, or the Buffet cover?

Posted by: Bill Bishop at May 26, 2011 8:15 AM | Reply

I installed this radio or one of its "marine" CDX cousins on the flybridge of my Bayliner 4087. It lasted a bit longer than a non-marine radio but did die just after the 1 year warranty expired.

My bridge is generally dry - being about 15 feet above the waterline and with full strataglass enclosure. So the radio was really just exposed to humidity and the general salt air environment. Nevertheless, I would not classify it as "marine" to the same extent as a chartplotter.

So does anyone have a recommendation on a AM/FM head unit that will withstand this sort of environment for more than a couple hundred days? Jensen has an IPX6 rated unit but have not gone down that road yet.

Thanks.

Evan

Posted by: Evan Bauman at May 26, 2011 9:20 AM | Reply

Keen eye you have Bill in noticing that the main power panel ternimal blocks are labeled, this not the original layout for sure and there are other panels on board.
Yes to the Dead, original "Scarlet"...Dead Head from way back in the late 60's...although I find myself listening to Opera now almost as much!

Posted by: Jeffrey in reply to Bill Bishop at May 26, 2011 10:40 AM | Reply

In response to Kees suggestion that this is "overkill"... Fist let me say nowhere did I say 500 watts of power. The boat does have "Tri Amp" set up with two "Old School" Phoenix Gold M50's and one M25 stereo power amp models. I have pasted the exact specs below for those interested. These power amps are still available on the second hand market and as far as I can tell they are "coveted" for those in the know.

We actually do not listen to music much when on the boat as a family…. don't get me wrong we love music but when sailing we like the "quiet". If I go out alone or when working on the boat I do crank it up a bit…when working on the boat we are plugged in to shore power so power use is not an issue. From the specs below at 4 ohms each of the 50’s puts out 50 WRMS; current consumption is shown at 15 amps but would be surprised if this is what we ever used per unit...that would mean we use nearly 40 amps to power up the three amps two 50’s and one 25... I doubt that very much, but have never noticed one way or the other since we don't use it much anyway. We do have three 4D AGM "Lifeline" house battery bank and a 6kw Panda gen/set to recharge so this did not concern me at the time. Don’t get me wrong we do care about 12 volt power consumption, I have changed all interior lighting to LED’s, spreader lights to LED’s and mast top anchor/tri-light Lopo LED light. When we do have the music on at anchor it is usually very low volume and with as many “high end” Diamond Audio speakers that are on the boat having the power behind the “low” volume makes for quality sound. To me if a stereo system sounds good at low volumes, meaning it sounds “Clean” at both the low and at higher sound levels, it generally is a quality set up. Below are the specs from the M50 and I assume the M25 would have similar with half the power. I believe that the (15 amp) current consumption spec below would be at max volume max base response etc… nowhere near our normal listening volume.

This is link to some photos of the unit http://phoenixphorum.com/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=18542&start=0
and a link to the Diamond Audio Speakers http://www.diamondaudio.com/content/view/175/199/

link to specs of the M50s
http://narbi.free.fr/manuels/Amplis/Phoenix%20gold/M50.pdf

Posted by: Jeffrey at May 26, 2011 10:43 AM | Reply

Ah yes, a little "Scarlet Fire". I suspected, but didn't want to presume.I don't mind a little Delibes myself.

Posted by: Bill Bishop at May 26, 2011 11:39 AM | Reply

Pretty typical sailboat panel from the back.
Manufacturers didn't think about future expansion much.
Most of the stuff installed above the breakers is aftermarket.Not enough space to make it tidy but I've seen worse!
Nothing I've seen can compare to the Westbay Sonship Yachts built in Delta BC.The electrical panels were works of art with everything detailed and labeled perfectly.
(slightly biased opinion as I used to be an electrician there(;)

Posted by: Peter at May 26, 2011 11:50 AM | Reply

I've gone through THREE of the Sony CDX-M50 head units in three years. They work fine initially and I like the features; but over a short period of time, the front panel controls seem to stop working, and eventually the "Eject" button behind the front panel fails. I originally thought it might have to do with the connector for the removable front panel, but it seems to go beyond that.

And this is in fresh water, too. The boat is only in the water about five months a year up on Lake Superior, so there are no saltwater corrosion issues.

Jeffrey, I'd like to hear how the unit is working in several months of saltwater sailing. I'd really like to get another Sony, as I already own the XM receiver and wired remote that go with this series, but I'm a bit gun-shy until they fix this issue. -- Fred

Posted by: fgstreet1 at May 26, 2011 11:52 AM | Reply

Fred - Our unit has been on board for more about a year or so now, used very little for sure, but on Biscayne Bay 12/7 the photos were from last week and unit works like brand new. I would return to Sony and see if they send you a new one.

Posted by: Jeffrey in reply to fgstreet1 at May 26, 2011 11:56 AM | Reply

Evan, I think Fusion, Clarion, and Poly Planar all offer stereo head units that are designed (not just modified) for marine use. You can find out more in Panbo's archives, either by searching the names or browsing the "Entertainment" category.

Bill, I didn't mean to imply anything particularly negative about Jeffrey's behind-the-panel set up. In fact, I noticed the terminal block labels too, and they're great.

It's just that I'm trying to install yet more gadgets on Gizmo and am experiencing "too damn much wire! frustrations. However I did manage to usefully reroute and even remove some fat battery cables yesterday, and everything still works, no smoke ;-)

Posted by: Ben at May 26, 2011 11:58 AM | Reply

Ben, no worries, I didn't perceive anything negative about the panel, or your inclusion of the pic, it was a better panel than most I see, and has excellent access. Getting rid of wire is alway an issue, and a conundrum. Over tie wrapping everything to death means cutting it all apart the next time something has to change, and makes it difficult to see where wires are going. Not enough means things can rock and roll, to the eventual detriment of the system. I like things to be neat, but not at the expense of future access. Some times spatial constraints means doing the best you can, while making it safe. No smoke is always a good thing, because I smoked my DVM yesterday. The good news is I found the short to ground that was eating the zincs. Oops!

Posted by: Bill Bishop at May 26, 2011 12:39 PM | Reply

Thanks for a great writeup, Jeffrey. Does the remote communicate via IR or wireless? I've been looking for a marine stereo with a wireless (radiowave) remote as my spot for the stereo doesn't face towards the cockpit. I've used the Radioshack IR repeater with good results, but I have an all DC boat now.


Dave Calhoun
Freedomrider II
Hunter 29.5
San Francisco Bay

Posted by: David Steven Calhoun at May 26, 2011 4:00 PM | Reply

Ours remote is IR. We use a convex mirror in the corner of the nav station to bounce the signal. So far so good.

Posted by: Christopher at May 26, 2011 5:12 PM | Reply

David - the remote that came with this Sony is IR so line of sight is needed or a repeater. Sony does make a "Wired" remote commander unit for this that can be wired at the helm but did not add this option. I can use the IR remote from the cockpit so long as I have sight of the head unit down at the nav station in the salon.

Posted by: Jeffrey in reply to David Steven Calhoun at May 26, 2011 5:59 PM | Reply

I put a similar Sony in my aluminum cat, replacing the Sony CD model. The advertising said that it would play music from an ipod Nano which goes on a tray inside, or from a USB thumbdrive. I bought a 64GB thumbdrive and copied my whole music library to it (36GB). Silly me for not reading the small print. The Sony would only read and play the first 128 albums. The small print in the instructions points this out - 128 albums, 500 tracks per album. So I did a work-around and put my music on a pile of 8GB thumbdrives. Now I have one for each type of music - classical piano, jazz vocals, rock, etc. It works, but it is a pain to change when I want a different type of music.

Posted by: Gary at May 26, 2011 8:15 PM | Reply

Kees and the group. It is common practice in broadcast and recording studios to allow 20 dB or more of "headroom" in audio systems in order to faithfully reproduce the high peak to average power ratio of audio. Since that is 100:1 in power Jeffery's 200 Watt (assuming they are run in mono bridged mode) amplifiers can be run at about 2 Watts to preserve the capability to deal with absolute peaks. Spread among 3 speakers that isn't an unreasonable power level as most speakers are only 1% or so efficient in converting electrical power to acoustic power (btw 1 acoustic Watt is Very Loud). Two Electrical Watts average isn't all that much. Lest you think that the "headroom" in the original recording doesn't get through to the end product, ordinary CDs have a dynamic range of 96 dB so there is plenty of opportunity to preserve the headroom and still have a very good signal-to-noise ratio.

Cheers,

Richard D
s/v RED
www.OurREDboat.com

Posted by: RichardD in reply to Kees at May 26, 2011 9:58 PM | Reply

Richard the system is wired for "Stereo" speakers.
in the salon area there are three speakers left side and 3 speakers right side or actually 3 forward and 3 aft on the port side, these left/right speakers (with crossovers) are made up one Tweeter, one 5.25" and one 7" sets of speakers then there is a much larger sub woofer on the starboard side. Sub gets the M25 amp, and these others get the M50 amp. The other M50 powers up the 8 total speakers in the cockpit (also with crossovers) four 6" two aft one on each side port/starboard with each having its own separate tweeter. The salon sounds far better "warmer" than the cockpit but ok sounding for our use. I am not sure just how much of power amps gets used and do not know how many amps we use from the house bank to power up the system but with 3 AGM 4-D's it does not seem to be much.

Posted by: Jeffrey in reply to RichardD at May 27, 2011 7:14 AM | Reply

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