Stereo Upgrade

Project date: 2002

This project details the installation of a new stereo system. There are a couple of deficiencies in the current system. First, it has no capability for a wired remote. Secondly, it overheats occasionally, which requires the removal of the unit - disconnect the power cable - and reconnect the power cable (which resets the unit).

For marine use, there are basically two choices. First, you can select a true marine unit - which includes conformally coated circuit boards, o-ring sealed knob shafts, and other weatherproofing techniques. The other choice is for a standard automobile system - which isn't itself weatherproof. When this is the case, a waterproof case or some other method should be used to keep the unit out of the weather. For my boat, the radio is located below in the cabin, which will not (hopefully) get wet.

Unfortunately, the "marine" units - those that are truly marine, are not always the most feature-filled systems. For my system, an auxiliary input is highly desireable, since I would like to connect a satellite receiver, DVD player, or other device to the stereo. This feature is not found on most systems. Also I want a stereo with knobs! Call me old-fashioned, but I like a unit that has the traditional controls - not those units that have up/down switches for volume, and crazy looking buttons, or those that are placed in goofy angles.



The last requirement is for a unit that has capability for a wired remote. I do like the Sony and Clarion wired remotes the best, at least the versions that have a LCD readout.

The brand names on my list were Sony, Clarion, and PolyPlanar. Clarion and PolyPlanar each made marine units. I do not believe I need the ruggedness of the Clarion and PolyPlanar units, since my stereo will be located below decks, so I would like to use at a Sony unit. I have come up with a list of Sony units that are wired remote capable. They are:
- Sony CDX-CA810X
- Sony CDX-MP30
- Sony CDX-MP40
- Sony CDX-M630
- Sony CDX-M800
- Sony CDX-MP70
- Sony CDX-MP80
- Sony MEX-5DI

After much research, I found the Sony CDX-MP70 to have everything I wanted. Looks like a traditional stereo, has plenty of blinkie lights, is wired remote capable, and has aux/line inputs.

Please note that the major aftermarket car-stereo companies change models quite frequently - so you may not find these specific models. Therefore, you may wish to look at websites or other sources for an acceptable unit having all of the desired features you want.

Phase I - Starting Point

At the start of any project, I like to take a before photo. At the bottom of the electrical bay, you can see the existing stereo system. The mounting configuration consists of a flat panel (painted black) with a cutout for the stereo, and the panel itself mounted to the electrical panel. An early objective was to come up with a more stylish mounting plate for the new stereo.

The first step is to fabricate a new mounting plate, which is made out of Corian countertop material. Corian machines well with standard woodworking tools. I obtained the shine by progressively sanding with finer grit sandpaper - up to 2000 grit wet/dry, used wet. As an added touch, I am including mounting handles. First, they look cool. Secondly, they provide some protection from brushing up against the stereo unit. With the stereo unit mounted in the Corian, you can see how the handles work to keep from bumping into the knobs.

DuPont has recognized the artistic applications of Corian, and you can purchase small quantities for woodworking and other art projects at:

Art Specialties (1-800-724-4008)   

You just won't be able to buy it wide enough to install a kitchen countertop, as you can only buy the material up to 15" wide here. Another possible source is your local kitchen shop. You may be able to buy a sink cutout from them. Of course, eBay always has odd quantities and colors available.

Here are the new and old units for comparison. The new unit is to the left, and the removed unit is to the right.

My boat includes a stereo adapter cable. Fortunately, many stereo systems today use a standard color code, so it was a pretty simple task of retrofitting the adapter cable to the new unit. The next step was to simply install the new unit in the mounting location for the original system.

For interconnection details, view the Stereo Schematic

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