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Installing Your New Boat Sound System Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult

Suggestion: You can network the Clarion CMS4 along with an MFD using the optional MW6 NMEA 2000 interface adapter. It ties the sound system right into an onboard NMEA 2000 backbone to manage the audio on compatible MFDs from Garmin, Lowrance, Simrad and other popular brand names.

A marine stereo can be as easy or sophisticated as you like. Systems such as those from Clarion, Fusion, JL, Polk, Prospec and Rockford Fosgate provide lots of room for expansion. Beyond a head unit and speakers, you can add functions like amplifiers, subwoofers, tower speakers, remote controls, SiriusXM and speakers with LEDs to produce a rockin’ audio/visual experience.

However a lot of today’s aftermarket setups prove less ambitious, including a source unit, control/display and four marine speakers. A few include an amp and NMEA 2000 networking to control the sound through a multifunction display screen.

Here we outline DIY steps when it comes to a basic yet cutting edge Clarion Marine Bluetooth- and SiriusXM-enabled stereo that provides the versatility to add components later.

Ability Level: 4 of 5
Finish Time: Approx. 12 hours

Tools and Supplies

Clarion CMS4 digital marine source unit and display/controller
Clarion XC2410 marine amplifier
Clarion CM1623RL 6.5-inch marine coaxial speakers
16-gauge marine duplex speaker wire
Marine-grade cable for powering amplifier
Various butt and terminal connectors along with heat-shrink collars
Diagonal cutters, wire stripper and crimping tool
Heat gun
Drill motor and drill bits
Phillips screwdriver

Install Source Unit

Clarion’s CMS4 black-box source unit has a footprint of 7.5 by 9.75 inches. We used the four supplied self-tapping screws and washers to secure the module to a bulkhead on the inside of the helm console to keep it completely dry. Check behind the mounting surface area prior to drilling. Using the pigtail wires on the female portion of the Molex-style plug, attach the fused yellow wire to a 12-volt DC positive source of power. Link the black wire to ground.

Install Amplifier

We added the compact (3.23-by-7.17- inch) four-channel, 400-watt Clarion XC2410 marine Class D amp in order to enhance audio, installing it inside the helm console. Connect the red fused 12-volt DC positive power line directly to the output terminal on the battery selector switch, and connect the black wire to ground, making use of the properly sized cable for the length of both of these runs.

Set up Display/Controller

The water resistant 4-by-6-inch CMS4 display/controller flush-mounts. Use the provided template and jigsaw to make a cutout at the helm in order to drop in the display screen, after that use the supplied bracket to secure the system from the backside. Direct the control cable from the back of the display screen (together with the display controller USB cable and video cable) through the cutout and tighten the two provided nuts over mounting studs so as to secure the brace.

Install and Connect Audio Speakers

We set up two sets of Clarion’s new CM1623RL high-performance marine coaxial 6.5-inch-diameter audio speakers– one pair in the inwales of the bowrider area and one more in the inwales of the aft cockpit– marking holes and after that cutting all of them using a jigsaw. Once the speaker holes are definitely cut, run aquatic duplex speaker wire from the source unit to every location, connecting the speakers making use of the supplied water resistant Deutsch connector plugs.

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It really IS possible to have a completely odor-free system!

You’ve probably read or heard, over and over again, that the key to odor control is the “right” hose, that the “wrong” hose permeates with sewage and causes the system to stink.  That’s folklore…a little truth coupled with a lot of misunderstanding.  The real key to odor control is in knowing how to incorporate proven sewage management principles—the same ones used in composting and sewage treatment—into the installation of the entire system.  What very few people in the marine industry have learned, and why there is so much folklore about odor, is the very nature of sewage itself and how it breaks down, what creates odor and what prevents odor from forming.  Once we understood these principles and learned how to apply them to onboard systems, we were able to install systems that are completely odor-free and correct the ones that weren’t.  Once you understand it—and it’s so simple!—you can do the same thing.

Marine Holding Tank Odor Solutions

There are two ways to deal with marine holding tank odor: try to reduce it, mask it and contain it after it’s formed, by using chemicals and filters—which has never proven very successful…or prevent odor from forming in the first place.

Sewage contains both aerobic (needs oxygen) and anaerobic bacteria (functions in an airless environment); neither can function in the other’s environment.  Why is that important?  Because  only the anaerobic bacteria in sewage  produce foul-smelling gasses!  Aerobic bacteria break sewage down, as does anaerobic bacteria—but aerobic bacteria do not generate odor.  So as long as there is a sufficient supply of air to the tank and an aerobic bacteria treatment is added to aid that which naturally occurs in sewage, the aerobic bacteria thrive and overpower the anaerobic bacteria and the system remains odor free.

A bio-active (Iive aerobic bacteria) holding tank treatment, such as our own “K.O.”, works with the aerobic bacteria in sewage, eliminating odor, completely emulsifying solids and paper and preventing sludge from forming.  Enzymes do little if anything—a brief respite from odor immediately after adding them, then odor begins to build again.  Chemical products mask odor with another odor and they kill not only odor-causing anaerobic bacteria, but beneficial aerobic bacteria as well—not good, because the aerobic bacteria are needed in the system to break down and emulsify solids and paper.  Otherwise, they only break UP and dissolve them into little tiny particles that settle to the bottom of the tank, along with chemical residue, to become sludge that turns to concrete.  Chemicals, unlike bio-active products, are also unwelcome in landside sewage treatment facilities and are especially unappreciated by those living and working near them!

The bacteria in sewage produce a variety of sulfur monoxides and dioxides (which are the malodorous gasses), methane—which has no odor but is flammable—and carbon dioxide, which also has no odor but creates the environment in which the aerobic bacteria cannot function but allows the anaerobic bacteria to thrive.  Carbon dioxide does not rise or fall, it is ambient—like the atmosphere, but heavier than air.  Without a sufficient flow of fresh air through the tank to allow it to dissipate, it simply lies like a blanket on top of any pool of sewage (whether inside hose or a holding tank) and builds, suffocating the aerobic bacteria and creating the perfect environment for the anaerobic bacteria to take over.  The system literally “turns septic” and the result: a stinking boat…or at least foul gasses out the vent line every time the head is flushed.

Importance of Discharge Hoses in Marine Holding Tanks

To prevent this, let’s start with the head:  the discharge hose, no matter whether it goes overboard, to a Type I or II MSD, or to a holding tank, should be installed, if at all possible, with no sags or low places where sewage can stand. When a marine head is not flushed sufficiently to clear the hose of sewage and rinse the hose behind the sewage, that sewage sits in low spots in the hose or bits of it cling to the walls of the hose—getting no air, allowing the anaerobic bacteria to thrive and produce their stinking gasses.  If sewage stands in a low spot which gets no air in hose which is susceptible to a high rate of water absorption, it will permeate the hose.  This is what has given rise to the myth that the “wrong” hose causes odor. Therefore, it’s important to flush your head thoroughly enough to clear the entire hose of sewage and rinse behind it.  And when you leave your boat to go home, flush the head thoroughly one last time, this time with fresh water.  Until marine holding tanks came along, the hose was the source of most odor, but incomplete flushing was the real cause.