Standard Horizon Matrix AIS/GPS and Raymarine Ray260 AIS/N2K VHF radios

Standard_Horizon_Matrix_AIS_GPS_GX2200_VHF.jpgWhile it looks and works very much like the Matrix AIS GX2100 that caused quite a splash here in 2009, Standard Horizon’s just announced Matrix AIS/GPS GX2200 very usefully includes a built-in 66 channel GPS. And it still has the same $400 MAP (minimum advertised price) as the evolved Matrix AIS+ GX2150, which will now get a $350 MAP. Two years ago Standard introduced the Explorer GX1700 — the first fixed VHF with GPS built in, and still the only one (I think) — and while I haven’t tried one myself, I think that front panel satellite antenna bump works pretty well even when installed under a fiberglass deck or top…

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard search and rescue professionals lament about how well DSC VHF distress alerts can work but how few boats are set up to send a proper one. All it takes with almost every VHF already installed is an MMSI number programmed in and a GPS connection, but even yours truly is guilty. The first season I had a Matrix AIS 2150 installed on Gizmo I wired in a Simrad AT10 to feed it GPS from the NMEA 2000 network. That worked fine, so I had AIS plotting (backup), direct DSC to AIS target calling, and a functional DSC distress button. But when I moved the Matrix up to the flying bridge before heading south last fall, I never quite got around to the GPS wiring. The Matrix is a very able VHF radio, and the RAM3 Mic I’ve been using at the lower helm also works well, but a bit of laziness meant that Gizmo’s only working DSC distress button was on the otherwise redundant Garmin VHF 200.

Raymarine_Ray260_AIS-N2K_VHF_system.jpgWhen I first installed the Garmin in 2009, it was the only VHF that could receive GPS over NMEA 2000 and also use that same connection to plot DSC calls and set up AIS target calls (on a Garmin MFD). That didn’t change significantly until the 2012 intro of the Simrad RS35 and Lowrance Link 8, which put both N2K and an AIS receiver into a VHF. Those radios had a rocky entry due to software glitches and still don’t offer AIS target calling, but several recent comments on that same entry were written by satisfied users. I’m hoping that we’ll now also hear from commenters who are using the premium Ray260 modular VHF system, which Raymarine rolled out last summer.
   The Ray260 interfaces to GPS and MFDs via SeaTalkNG (aka NMEA 2000) as well as NMEA 0183, and the Ray260 AIS model includes a two channel receiver. There’s no AIS display on the handset, but obviously this black box system is designed for integration with Raymarine screens. I think the remote speakers even match the size and trim of the i70 instruments and pilot heads. Again I don’t see AIS target calling from an MFD, which seems like an oversight (that could be fixed with a software update), but I like that the Ray260 can simultaneously track up to 5 vessels via DSC and can also record 90 seconds of VHF audio you might have missed.
   Has anyone out there tried a Ray260? Also of interest would be experience with the 
Standard Horizon GX1700, which likely has the same GPS performance as the Matrix GX2200 coming out in January.

Ray260_AIS_VHF_system_diagram.jpgPS: Thanks to commenter Carsten, I just happily read about the new Icom IC-M506 AIS VHF, which seems to combine just about every feature discussed in this entry, including a NMEA 2000 interface, direct AIS target calling, and even 2 minutes of audio playback. Bear in mind that there is no pricing or ship date yet, and the info is only at Icom UK, but here’s hoping that Icom America is planning a nice early 2014 surprise.Icom_IC-506_NMEA_2000_AIS_VHF.jpg

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Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now excited to have Ben Stein as very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Panbo is going to the next level in 2019 and beyond.

28 Responses

  1. Well, it turns out that the Standard Horizon GX1700 only has a 16 channel GPS receiver, but the company still gets reports that they’re working fine inside some stores. That sensitivity will increase with 66 channels. Tiny GPS chips can offer amazing performance these days.

  2. carsten says:

    I have had the Matrix 2150 (GPS fed from old Garmin 128) for the last 2 seasons and love it. It is our main AIS receiver and display (had no plotter installed). Simple interface and AIS targets shown up to 15nm. Only just added a Garmin GPSmap 557 and fed the AIS signal from the 2150. I can now see AIS targets on the plotter up to 26nm and that is inside the marina!
    Just finished the Long Range Certificate today and we talked about VHF radios. Standard Horizon was mentioned by the tutor as having a better interface then Icom. Then I found this here:
    Looks like the race is on…

  3. Wow, Carsten, excellent catch! Icom’s new M506 seems to include every desirable feature mentioned in my entry, and deserves a PS I’ll write immediately. Thanks!

  4. It’s a good sign that West Marine already has skeleton entry for the Icom M506, though you have to check the Google cached version to see the premium price of $600:
    Incidentally, Continuous Wave discovered this new radio a couple of weeks ago…
    though I’d add that the “new interface” — which looks good — was already been introduced last year on the Icom M424 and relatives:

  5. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been using a SH 1700 for two seasons, and think the world of it. It’s mounted below deck on a 34′ center cockpit sloop, with a remote mic at the helm. Receives GPS just fine, and I interfaced its GPS output to a vesper watch mate AIS, belowdecks. mostly satisfactory. The issues revolved around the AIS antenna, never the GPS output. Fine radio, and, best of all, simple. The automatic/built-in nature of the DSC/GPS was why I purchased it after a lot of thrashing unsuccessfully trying to get an older SH VHF to play nice with a Garmin chart plotter. Turn on just the radio, and you are good to go.

  6. armand says:

    I also have the GX2150 and get the lat/lon from a Standard Horizon external GPS antenna. I send the AIS output to Coastal Explorer on my laptop and all is well electronically.
    However, I can only wish that the screen showed as bright as in your picture, which may well show it as outside. Since I have the radio in my trawler’s pilothouse, brightness of the screen is just plain wimpy. When I called SH tech support, they basically said, WYSIWYG. The screen looks really poor alongside an inexpensive AM-FM-CD.

  7. Bushman says:

    Number of GPS SV tracking channels has nothing to do with sensitivity and even 12 channels are more than enough for unobstructed sky in marine applications. Only river boaters can take some advantage of extra channels and stuff, passing between the tall wet trees. Moving to 66ch chips or something like that caused by availability and price of these chips – companies like MediaTek and CSR making tons of them. It’s makes real sense for urban applications only. While it could be interesting to see more advanced chips in marine devices – uBlox, for example. Because it can utilize the phase differential methods in addition to code methods and increase the absolute accuracy (with proper differential correction service, of course).

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  9. Are there any VHF radios with built in AIS transceivers? All the VHF/AIS units I’ve found only receive AIS.

    Hugh Saunders

  10. Thanks, Bushman, but we weren’t talking about the unobstructed sky view that’s common on boats. The GPS antenna that’s built into the front of the SH radios may be obscured by a number of things on the boat. Perhaps ‘sensitivity’ isn’t the right technical term but I think we agree that more channels helps in obscured environments. The difference seems significant to me as I’ve seen the 66 channel Bad Elf Pro cold start and stay locked in all sorts of environments that challenged other GPS receivers, including deep inside my boat.

  11. Bushman says:

    Thanks for the clarification.
    In case of some built-in receiver, intended to provide the GPS coordinates for emergency signaling even in situation of improper installation, temporary installation, main equipment malfunction, modern so called “high sensitivity” (typically -159dBi) chipsets making sense.
    Using this kind of chipset increases the availability of GPS fix (that’s pretty right term for that), sacrificing the average precision (while even 600′ circle of error is good enough for leading the USCG to the proper place).
    Having more channels than satellites, generally, helping much more with reflected signals (it’s more common situation in urban environment or vessels/vehicles made of steel). It also helps much during intense maneuvering, because there are always enough channels to track satellites periodically coming into and out of view.
    That’s easy to confuse the effect of these features, because there are no low sensitivity chipsets with 40+ channels, for example.
    Quick fix actually depends on high sensitivity and high CPU power, because it finds the solution faster than it takes to receive the full almanac. Older chipsets were much weaker in algebra, so it was impossible.
    And, of course, some new chipsets are extremely skilled in power saving (that’s important while running your device from batteries) – just look, for example, on Garmin fenix – it works on tiny watch cell, knows how to hibernate and gives the fix on demand after waking up.

  12. Capt John says:

    The SH radio screens are difficult to read in the bright sun and suffer from glare problems. Brightness and contrast controls don’t help much.

  13. TheOffice says:

    I’d love to see a VHF with NMEA 2000 without GPS to connect to my E7. I have the GPS, plus IPad and Iphone back-ups, so I don’t need to pay for a radio with GPS. Everything I look at is NMEA 0183. What product am I overlooking?

  14. TheOffice, happy to say you’ve got several choices. The Garmin VHF 200, the Raymarine Ray260, the Simrad RS35, the Lowrance Link 8, and the coming Icom M506 can all get GPS over NMEA 2000 and also output DSC (and sometimes AIS) info over N2K. If you dig around in the entry there are links to more detail about all of those radios. And there are doubt more N2K VHF radios coming…

  15. TheOffice says:

    Ben, I should have mentioned that I have an AIS transponder. I guess I’ll wait for NMEA 2000 to make its way into the cheaper units. The Simrad RS12 seems to be close to what I am looking for.

  16. Jim Hebert says:

    Re having NMEA-2000 on a VHF Marine Band radio, or an AIS receiver:
    In the case of a radio like the Standard-Horizon GX2200 with its own internal GPS receiver and internal AIS receiver, and with a NMEA-0183 multiplexer that puts all the data onto one TALKER stream, the need to have an NMEA-2000 is not critical. The GX2200 is only going to interface with one other device in most installations: a chart plotter. That chart plotter ought to have a NMEA-0183 interface. The integration of the radio into the boat communication system via NMEA-0183 is not particularly difficult. It would be nice to have NMEA-2000 on the GX2200, but I don’t think the lack of it makes the radio particularly handicapped. Also, if you look at the price differential between the GX2200 and the coming ICOM-506 (that will have NMEA-2000), it looks like the ICOM is going to be priced about $200 more.

  17. Todd Huss says:

    We have an aluminum boat, anyone know if the GX2200 will support an external GPS antenna (but without needing a separate GPS receiver)?
    I love the idea of an all in one unit like this hooked up to a wifi transmitter with the ipad! Then our aging chartplotter just becomes a backup that we can leave turned off.

  18. Eric says:

    The Icom 506 looks like a winner.

  19. Charles Williamson says:

    We’ve ‘spoken’ before and I’m back with a few questions. I recently purchased 2 Standard Horizon radios (the 2200 & the 871) to install on my trawler.
    My first question involves the MMSI. Since we are planning a Loop trip in the not too distant future I think we need an International version. Can you provide links to get that?
    Second, being the electronics Guru, what can you provide as to the connection of the 2200 to a 740s Garmin chartplotter and then the chartplotter to a Garmin HD radar?
    Guess that’s it for now.
    43 Albin Sundeck

  20. Jim Hebert says:

    As a USA citizen, you need to get your vessel MMSI from the FCC. You will need to obtain a ship station license, and request an MMSI be issued with it. I recently went through this process. You can only interact with the FCC for licensing through their Universal License System. To use the ULS you need a FCC registration number, FRN:
    Start here:
    You may find my narrative of the process to helpful. See
    This process is best performed with careful reading and no intoxicating influences, as there is a lot of data to be entered into automated forms.

  21. chriggel says:

    Does anybody know whether the GX2200 has two separate AIS receivers in parallel or is it switching one receiver between both AIS channels (dual channel receiver)? The specification and manuals do not clearly state that information.

  22. The Standard Horizon AIS receivers have been “true dual channel” since the first model:
    I don’t think that there are many AIS receivers still being made that try to listen to both channels with a single receiver, which is good.

  23. Sandy Daugherty says:

    I am remiss in reporting our experience with the SH 2150 connected to a Garmin 540 aboard Siesta. With two trips down south and back I can confirm that this simple (and now elderly) setup works flawlessly. SH published the wiring connection, and they were set up with only one call to SH’s superb customer support. The radio uses our one masthead antenna for both AIS and communication. My only complaint lies in the fact that at 65′ above the water, it receives too many AIS targets, of all flavors; A, B, aircraft, and even what must have been an experimental ATON. It also revealed a stealthy Navy missile cruiser that our ancient Raytheon Radar couldn’t see at a half mile! (of course.) So here’s my report:
    Connection: Complete instructions available, piece of cake with 3M connectors. A+
    Setup: ditto, A+
    Power draw: negligible between radio transmissions. A+
    Information overload: avoided by keeping the data on a separate page with customization: A-
    Intuitive operation: satisfactory considering the complexity of the process: solid B. And they play well together: A+
    Downside: Receive only. But I’m so happy with what I’ve got I won’t even think about buying anything else until SH produces a VHF/DSC/AIS Transceiver.

  24. Anonymous says:

    How do i wire my Furuno 1870 chartplotter to the S-H GX 2200?

  25. BayMarineElectronics says:

    GP1870’s don’t have NMEA0183 ports, so you’ll need a NMEA2000 to NMEA0183 bridge (Such as the Simrad AT10 mentioned in the article), plus a NMEA2000 network if you don’t already have one.

  26. Unfortunately the AT10 does not translate AIS messages from NMEA 0183 to 2000, but apparently the new Furuno IF-NMEA2K2 ($195) can:
    Heck, the GP1870 brochure even shows 0183 AIS and VHF GPS being handled by an IF-NMEA2K2. The NMEA2K2 looks quite capable but it has different modes so it may take two of them do both AIS to the GP1870 and GPS to a VHF that doesn’t have its own (like the unusual S-H GX2200 has).

  27. Anita says:

    Hi Ben
    I would appreciate your advice as we are in Canada using our GX2200 and the Manual reads “GX2200 does not require a special VHF antenna to receive AIS transmission. The GX2200 does not transmit AIS signals, it is NOT recommended to use an antenna dedicated for AIS operation’.
    For our boat and terrain, we were advised by dealer that without an external antenna we are in fact risking damage to the unit with continued use as is. Furthermore dealer insisted the external antenna is required if we are to access dependable Channel 16 function re Weather and also Distress Call (Mayday) i.e. both outgoing/incoming Distress Call success.
    Currently we have the Mayday function but no Weather incoming. So… we are shopping ‘Shakespeare’ now for a compatible external antenna, ratchet rail mount (1 and half inch) and coax cable. Question: will a 3 foot antenna do the trick on our Stanley aluminum 16 foot leisure/fishing powerboat ? The various blogs suggest that the 3 ft is only suitable in achieving additional gain performance for sailboats (i.e. when mounted on the mast). Feedback appreciated, and any additional suggestions, options to consider and installation etc. ! thanks. Anita

  28. Hi Anita, I think that your dealer and manual are both right. Yes, the radio absolutely needs an external VHF antenna. All the manual is trying to add is that the antenna should not the specialized VHF antenna that’s often used with AIS transponders (AIS only uses a narrow section of marine VHF band).
    As to the exact VHF antenna you should use, there’s a lot to getting optimal performance — antenna, placement, cable length and quality, connector quality — but many will work. I have mainly used 3′ VHF antennas on my powerboat, but bigger is better, and mine are mounted pretty high anyway.
    Truth be told, marine antennas is very good area to spend money on professional advice and/or installation.

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