Rock On!


Fancy some rockin’ tunes, mellow mood music or even a bit of “doof-doof” while you’re out on the water? If so, this little unit can transform your boat into a floating entertainment unit. JIM HARNWELL reports.

APART from a few troglodytes who still like spinning vinyl, most of us have embraced the digital revolution and listen to music via iPods or other MP3 players. Walk down the street and you’ll see people wandering around with white cables hanging out of their ears. Buy a new car and chances are it will come complete with some sort of iPod docking system and a halfway decent stereo with multiple speakers. But if you buy a boat you’ll be lucky to get an AM/FM radio fitted as standard. Why is this so? Well, marine audio systems are a pretty small part of the overall market and the big guys in the industry have tended to ignore the audio needs of boaters, especially when it comes to new technology and changing consumer requirements.

Luckily, innovative NZ-based company Fusion – which has an extensive marine electronics heritage – has come to the rescue of all music-loving fishos with its range of marine audio systems.

Fusion started making a big noise about its units a few years back and since then has delivered the goods in no uncertain manner. For once all the hype – and the guys at Fusion are good at hyping things up! – has proven to be correct. These are exciting, clever and very cool products.

Fusion’s major selling point thus far is that it offers stylish, compact and easy-to-use waterproof stereos with inbuilt iPod docks, plus a range of dynamic marine speakers and subwoofers, thus enabling users to enjoy high quality sound while out on the water. A lot of people are understandably wary about taking valuable items like iPods and iPhones out in a boat, especially an open fishing boat, however the nifty inbuilt docking port on the Fusion means these devices are totally protected from the elements. 

I fitted a Fusion MS-IP600 to the Fisho project boat, a Bar Crusher 670C powered by a 175 Evinrude E-TEC, when I had the boat built mid last year. At the time I’d just gone digital, transferring all my CDs to my laptop and uploading them to my iPod, an 80 gig Classic model. I even bought and downloaded various albums and songs from iTunes, further augmenting my already large collection of hard rock and heavy metal music.

The plan was to give the Fusion a serious going over with some of my favourite bands, namely 1970s legends like Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Cold Chisel, Whitesnake and Led Zeppelin, with some newer stuff from the likes of The Mars Volta, Mastodon and the Arctic Monkeys.

The Fusion stereo I had fitted to the Crusher unit features the nifty internal iPod dock, plus an AM/FM radio, and is linked up with an eight-inch Marine Active Subwoofer (the MS-AB108) and twin seven-inch two-way marine speakers. I would have liked four speakers – two just in front of the cabin and two down the back under the transom – but the Crusher’s design configuration made mounting the rear speakers really difficult so I was limited to the sub woofer (which is mounted in the cabin under the starboard side bunk) and the two front speakers, mounted down low each side of the hull just under the cab.

The sound is pretty awesome, much better in fact than I thought or hoped for. Since the Crusher is constructed from plate alloy, I had concerns that there’d be rattles and vibration, especially when the volume is cranked up on Sabbath or Led Zep and that big sub woofer is pounding away. But the sound is remarkably clear, even at high volumes. It sounds much better than the six-speaker stereo in my car.

The unit mounted in my boat last year has been revamped slightly and now features new styling. A CD compatible unit (the MS-CD600), a DVD compatible unit (the MS-AV600), a CD and MP3 receiver (MS-CD60) and the new MS-RA200, which works with iPod and iPhone, are also available.

In terms of use, the Fusion is very simple. Push a button on top of the unit and the face swings down, revealing a slot for the iPod. The units come with a variety of plastic holders to suit all available iPods. Choose the one right for your iPod and slip it in. Close the lid and you’re ready to rock.

The Fusion offers a menu the same as that on the iPod so it’s a simple matter to select what you want to play.

If you have a big boat, you can set up speakers in different “zones” and control them from the head unit, thus meaning you could have the music loud on the back deck but quiet in the saloon or cabins.

It’s all pretty cool stuff and I have to say that I really enjoy sitting out on the boat listening to some good music while waiting for a bite.

On the downside the sub woofer chews through a fair bit of power, so you have to be aware of possible problems involving batteries being drained if you run the unit for extended periods with the engine off.

A four-hour drift session in my local waters with the Fusion cranking hard resulted in both my batteries running flat and an embarrassing jump start courtesy of the local marine rescue guys being required.

Also, the size of the sub woofer makes it difficult to install on a relatively compact boat like the Crusher. Ideally, you’d mount it up in the cabin to achieve the best sound but that was a practical impossibility in this instance. Mounting it under the starboard bunk is a good compromise but it does limit storage space somewhat.

That said, you could do away with the sub – but you’d lose a lot of the dynamic range from the system. Also, I reckon that low thudding pulse, especially when I’ve got some classic ’70s rock blasting out, has to be a fish attractor!

For more on Fusion’s exciting marine audio products, check out

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