web analytics

Standard Horizon GX6000 VHF & wireless RAM 4W mics, finally!

Many readers got excited when  Panbo covered the “coming soon” Standard Horizon GX6500 and GX6000 radios in October, 2016. It looked like SH was about to blaze trail once again, especially given the full Class B AIS transponder in the 6500. But then the story got confusing, even sad, as Standard Horizon’s many hoped-for ship dates failed to materialize, frustrating potential customers and embarrassing the company.

The GX6500 remains a mystery; while it’s listed in the SH 2018 marine brochure (PDF) as “NEW for 2018”,  the company’s U.S. representatives can only shrug their shoulders when asked about actual availability.

But a real GX6000 along with the trailblazing RAM4W mic materialized at my door on Friday, they’re for sale at many outlets, and I’m tentatively impressed.

The Quantum GX6000 is a big commercial-grade Class D VHF with an AIS receiver built in and oodles of added features. But what really sets it apart is support for up to four cordless RAM 4W remote mics, which use WiFi for what I expect to be outstanding wireless performance and reliability. In fact, the actual WiFi hotspot is separate from the radio, which could improve range even more, though the white SCU-30 Wireless Base Station seen at left above is an extra expense.



So one of the first things I tried was the intercom feature, which was quite easy to find and includes the ability to intercom All stations or individual ones in a larger system, which, incidentally, can be given custom names. You can also repeatedly key the Bell on the receiving station if someone is not paying attention, an extra I have never seen on a VHF intercom before.

Note the three “soft key” interface on both screens. They disappear when not in use (you can set the time delay), there are 12 soft keys total that you can scroll through with left/right buttons, and you can easily customize which of many more than 12 settings/functions appear as soft keys and where.

Looking at the backside of the GX6000, let’s deal with the possibly bad news first. Yes, those are separate antenna connectors for VHF and AIS even though VHF/AIS receive-only is usually done with just one VHF antenna and not much performance loss I’m aware of (unless you transmit a lot). The obvious reason is that Standard Horizon used the same hardware format as the GX6500, which likely required separate VHF and AIS antennas to meet the two separate type-approval requirements (which it still apparently failed to do).

But then again the same thinking does extend to the GX6000, as explained by U.S. Standard Horizon manager Hans Rooker:

The reasoning for this is the GX6000 is designed to be our high end AIS model so when the VHF radio side is receiving or transmitting you will not lose any AIS signals coming into it, in other words the AIS is continuous duty. If your boat only has room for one antenna (e.g. sailboats) then you will be required to use an antenna splitter which will cost between $120 to $250 depending on the model.

Rooker did add that they are looking for a less expensive alternative, and I suggest that they update the GX6000 manual (PDF)‘s terse entry about the dual antennas to note that a user will get even better AIS performance if they use one of the many VHF-style antennas especially optimized for the two AIS frequencies (like Vesper’s).

And the rest of the connectors are good news, I think. The upper right pair can support two wired RAM4 mics or one RAM4 and the SCU-30 WiFi hub with up to four RAM4W remote mics. The NMEA 2000 port lower middle right purportedly supports “all PGNs for Navigation, GPS, AIS and DSC functions,” which can not be said for all VHF/AISrx combos with N2K.



The white connector next is over is for the optional SCU-31 external GPS, which can give a GX6000 independent location knowledge when NMEA 0183 or 2000 sources aren’t available and also supply GPS to those protocols if desired. Finally, there’s an optional backside connector for the base station’s wired mic (being used in these photos), as well as wire pigtails for dual NMEA 0183 dual; forward and aft 25W hailers with auto fog signals and listen back; and external speakers. Marine radios at this level are systems.

So a relatively small GX6000 system is now installed on Gizmo, and I’m looking forward to more testing as I sense that the RAM4W mics and also what they’re calling the E2O (Easy-To-Operate) menu system are truly noteworthy. And note that above the same helm is the even bigger and higher-end Icom M605 installed last summer. I still love its color screen and audio performance, but the interface could use several improvements and I’m not sure how a software update could be done (while both GX and RAM4W have USB ports).

A feature comparing these two serious VHF systems is in order, but will take some time. Don’t hesitate with questions about either in the meantime. I’m back in Camden now, but the boat is short bike ride away.

Similar Posts:


Standard Horizon GX6500: a loaded VHF radio also integrated with Class B AIS
October 11, 2016

Uniden ES VHF series, late but great
December 7, 2005

Icom M506, five models of goodness
February 6, 2014

Standard Horizon GX2100, AISrx/VHF combo for most any boat?
November 24, 2009

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher since 4/12/2005, and now excited to have Ben Stein as a very able colleague. Panbo is going to the next level in 2018 and beyond.

25 Responses

  1. Head’s up: If you get a new VHF, you may be surprised to see that some channel numbers are shown as four digits starting with “10” like 1007 instead of 07, 1018 instead of 18, etc. The USCG explains here:

    https://www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=mtVhf

  2. I’m glad to finally see SH go wireless with a decent handset. For the last few years I have been using the B&G V50 with the wireless handset, and the handset is not that great from the quality of sound and speaker side of things. I recently replaced it with a good, trusty GX2200 and the wired RAM3 mic, but would have much preferred a wireless one. Unfortunately, all of the ones I’ve tested in the last 6+ years have had their issues.

    Seeing SH use WiFi for the remote gives me hope that the clarity and quality will be good enough. Looking forward to a longer term review around the wireless remote!

  3. Saffy The Pook says:

    I know I’m likely in the minority here but I’m not a big fan of wireless instruments and radios on boats. The functions of these devices are critical, I don’t feel much need to be able to roam while using them, and wires are much more reliable. I do like SH’s trend towards allowing multiple RAM mics off the same head unit and I’m glad they’re finally embracing N2K. Now if they can just get that integrated AIS transceiver issue worked out they’ll have the perfect package.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree with you regarding wireless equipment.

      The problem is that many manufacturers insist on supplying cables with permanently mounted connectors that are impossible to pull through some of the spaces on boats. I have a wired remote microphone on the fly bridge of my boat and ended up having to cut and splice the cable in order to route it. The manufacturer specifically told me not to do this; yet the connectors on the cable wee not field replaceable.

  4. The main reason that SH is unable to ship their GX6500 VHF/AIS tranceiver is that the internal class B transponder is a Amec CSTDMA type transponder. The patent on this technology is held by their fierce competitor SRT since July 2015. Until SH (Amec) and SRT sort out this issue there will be no product in the shops worldwide. Apart from this legal / commercial issue, preliminary tests appear to show that the GX6500 only just barely complies with some relevant standards. Authorities are not very happy with these results and seem reluctant to clear the GX6500.

  5. Hi Ben,
    The information cited was published on the Dutch Sailors’ forum by a (long known and trustworthy) professional in the VHF / AIS field. He said (Nov ’17) that a Dutch SH representative told him about the patent issue. I cannot verify this in person, but I have no reason to doubt his words given his reputation in the Netherlands.

    The same goes for the troublesome compliance of the AIS transponder. He claims to have thoroughly tested the Amec transponder involved (his company installs and tests VHF and AIS equipment for both industry and government for a living) and reported the ‘meager’ outcome: just barely compliant. He mentioned that ‘jitter’ was particularly an issue and that this seems to be one of the main reasons that SH can’t get the EU approval stamp on the GX6500.

    Let me be clear, I’m not an expert myself, just repeating what information is available. I’m an enthusiastic user of SH equipment and I know many boaters would be interested in a combined VHF/AIS transponder. It would be far better if SH themselves would clear up the mist around the GX6500. But for some reason the mist is very, very persistent.

  6. Jim Hebert says:

    Re the cause of the Standard-Horizon GX6500 lacking approval by the USCG and FCC being due to infringement of a patent (as proposed above by Timo):

    I join Ben in being skeptical that approval of the GX6500 is being withheld due to a patent infringement. The two regulatory agencies involved in granting approval in the USA are the FCC and the USCG. I don’t believe either of those regulatory agencies are concerned with protection of intellectual property. If there were a patent infringement, the owner of the patent would have to seek redress in some other venue than with the FCC or USCG. I am not a lawyer, but I believe that in the USA the federal court has exclusive jurisdiction over patent disputes.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Jim, I may have been unclear in my previous posts, but as I have understood there are two separate issues at hand: one is a possible patent infringement, the other an approval issue. These issues are unrelated I guess. As Ben pointed out, the patent issue may be solved or non-existent anymore, but apparently the technical issue(s) seem to remain. This lies with the FCC / USCG in the USA and with a notified body in the EU.

  8. Chris Cumming says:

    Hi Ben,
    I am considering purchasing a GX6000 and have attempted – unsuccessfully – to get answers from SH to the following question. Perhaps you know the answer.

    If the unit is connected to only one antenna via the “VHF” port, and the radio is connected to a NMEA2000 network on which I’m operating a separate AIS transceiver (Simrad NAIS-500), will AIS target data be made available on the radio?

  9. Martin TMartin T says:

    Hi Ben,

    I would like to see the new handheld HX890 tested if you have possibility to do so:
    http://www.standardhorizon.com/indexVS.cfm?cmd=DisplayProducts&DivisionID=3&ProdCatID=85&ProdID=2869

    Thanks for a great site and bog!

    br,
    martin

  10. Thanks, Martin! I didn’t even know about the new HX890. And while I don’t know if we’ll get to test it, it does look like a nice update on what already seemed like a great feature set in the HX870:

    https://www.panbo.com/standard-horizon-hx870-handheld-vhfgpsdsc-powerhouse/

    I particularly like the addition of an FM receiver. I still have a working SH HX471S multiband handheld — no longer made but still listed here: https://goo.gl/hHy4Km — and have found its FM band quite nice to have on many occasions. And I see that SH has new compact HX40 handheld also with FM (but no GPS or DSC): https://goo.gl/23xpPd

    Incidentally, the HX890 (and 870) have the “Easy to Operate Menu system” similar to what I’ve testing on the GX6000 and which I like a lot. It really is fairly easy to find your way around and I especially like how you can customize the interface for quick access to the features you use a lot.

    You can even setup the GX6000 interface (and update firmware) with a Yaezu PC program and a USB cable to the radio. I’ve done it and plan to write about how well it works. And if you look in the Files list at SH for the HX890 and 870, you’ll see that they have the same capability.

  11. Rick Vicik says:

    Has anyone tried to display AIS target information from a GX6000 on a chartplotter via NMEA2000?
    A friend of mine has been unable to get this to work using Coastal Explorer. Another friend who is associated with Coastal Explorer put a sniffer on the NMEA2000 bus and found that the longitude in the PGN 129039 was off by about 21 degrees east. Latitude was correct. Lat/Long on the GX6000 display was correct for the target.

    • Yup, SH messed up the NMEA 2000 AIS translation in the original GX6000 firmware (which is hard to understand given how long it took to market). But they fixed it with the AIS Firmware Update V1.00.02 that you’ll see in the Files section of their GX6000 page, https://goo.gl/Wo4yM9 (though they should probably be more proactive about the issue, and maybe I should have been too.)

      I reported the problem some time back, not completely sure if it was the radio or something wacky on my N2K network, and they got the update out on 8/1. I used the YCE08 PC software to do the updates and can confirm that it works. AIS targets now show the correct location on the Garmin and Raymarine plotters that are on the same network. But I do have MFD screenshots showing vessels in my harbor as 3,508 miles away though the radio correctly showed them at 0.1nm away.

      The good news here is that the radio can be updated fairly easily, and the PC software can also be used to customize the interface easily, like which soft keys to show where and local channel descriptions.

  12. Rick Vicik says:

    Thanks very much for the fast reply and detailed information. I was going crazy trying to get it to work for my friend. I’ll help him with the update next time we can get out to his boat.
    —rick

    • Rick Vicik says:

      We finally updated the AIS firmware on my friend’s GX6000. The process appeared successful and the version displayed afterward was v1.00.02. We did not update the “Radio” firmware because it was 2.00.04 which seems to be current. The end result is that it now puts nothing on the NMEA2000 bus. My NMEA sniffer shows it doesn’t even negotiate for a bus address. It’s acting like a parameter is set to disable NMEA2000, but I couldn’t find one. The NMEA2000 setup options only allow setting device and system “number”. The “Search” selection in that sub-section seems to be intended to list other devices on the NMEA2000 bus, but nothing appears. The AIS and GPS position info output via 0183 works OK. The SH support person who has been working with us agreed to let my friend send the unit back. The serial number was 7T020098 and it was purchased in May2018.

      —rick

  13. davidurelldavidurell says:

    Hi Ben – Thanks for the early notes. I am curious how the RAM 4W is working out. A good solution or better to wait? I have a sail boat so I am looking for something not as intrusive as the iCOM 605 down below, and I love the idea of a wireless unit for the cockpit. Thinking this might be my best solution if it works well. Your thoughts? Thanks

    • Hi David, I think that the RAM 4W wireless mic is great. The battery life, range, and audio quality are all excellent, and the screen/button interface works very nicely, especially if you customize the soft keys for your favorite commands, as I mentioned here: https://www.panbo.com/standard-horizon-gx6000-bad-and-good-news-plus-new-hx890-and-hx40/

      There is a weirdness, though. The mic has contacts for a charging holster, but SH doesn’t include or offer one as an option, and apparently has no plans to (and I asked recently). It’s not terrible to use the USB port to charge one but I can so picture one or more RAM 4W’s neatly stowed and fully charged in simple wall cradles mounted on a companionway bulkhead, or flybridge, etc.

      I will eventually write a comparison of the GX6000 and Icom 605, but the short story is that I wish the latter had the former’s interface or that the latter had the former’s stunning color screen. They’re both excellent VHF radios, but if a wireless mic is important, the 6000 will likely make you happy. There are other radios with decent wireless remotes, but not on this level of RX/TX quality and feature sets (in my experience).

  1. August 22, 2018

    […] the GX6000 I began testing in June photographed at the same time I grabbed the Garmin 742 screen at top. Note the realistic bearings […]

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published.