Fusion Marine Stereo, test install


I’ve had fun down in the shop/lab the past couple of days doing a dummy install of a fairly sophisticated Fusion Marine Stereo system, and in the process learned a lot about all the ways you can rig this gear. Impressive! The shot above, bigger here, suggest one possible layout: the MS-IP500 head unit, dual 7” two-way speakers, and the 10” sub-woofer on the big panel in back could put a lot of audio into a sizeable main salon, while the little panel with wired remote and 4” two-ways might be fine for a cozy stateroom.
  But to really get a feel for the variables, check out the back side of these panels, shown below. However, please don’t proceed if you’re offended by funky wiring (though good enough for testing). And to get totally in the mood you might fire up the same mellow John Lee Hooker mix that was playing in this scene (though wrongly titled in my MP3 collection, and thus on the iPod Touch that’s inside the head unit). 

So for a discussion of details pull up the bigger (and uglier) image. I’ll start with the cable gaggle sprouting from the head unit and one of my few Fusion complaints. Which is those spindly speaker wires going to the 7” two-ways; the value of heavier gauges may be somewhat mythical, but if not, stepping these up involves splicing (as the back of the head is nicely sealed up). Note the Zone 2 speaker wires sitting lower right in the big panel. I could (and did earlier) run these to the 4” two-ways, but in this shot I’m using Fusion’s little MS-AM702 25 watt zone amp to power the “stateroom” on Zone 3. Zones 1 and 2 can be powered by the head unit (or amped) while zones 3 and 4 need amps. The subwoofer also requires a separate amp, like this very tweakable Fusion FM-402 (though there are many possibilities from the car audio world).
   Other cables of note: at top is a coax connection to the lab’s Glomex Polaris directional AM/FM antenna and an auxiliary line in so, among other things, I can compare the audio quality coming from the iPod’s headset jack versus the internal dock. Coiled bottom left is the DIN cable (actually a CANbus) that connects head unit to remote. Fusion has extension and splitters and you can have up to four remotes (which are not necessarily associated with zones but can be set to control a single zone’s volume). And that unconnected blue wire at bottom could go to the head unit to control the little amp’s on/off but wasn’t really needed as it can alternately turn itself on and off based on speaker line signal.
   You’re probably getting the system flexibility picture, but wait till you hear the audio. Things got even uglier when I applied some bubble wrap to the speaker backs to simulate some enclosure, but the system sounds very good. I should say “systems” as I’ve tried several combinations of this gear. I’m hoping to let you hear some test clips in a future entry, which will also detail some of Fusion’s mostly clever control ideas.


Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

8 Responses

  1. DFord says:

    I have been very interested in this system since you first wrote about it. In Car Audio the Multi-Zone (really 2 zones) also allow different sources to each zone. I emailed Fusion asking about this and have gotten no response. In you testing have you noticed if it’s possible to play say a CD in Zone 1 and the Radio in Zone 2?

  2. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    No, it’s multi-zone but not multi-source. But I’ve been thinking about that issue.
    It strikes me that if this is an issue, one possible solution is to use a conventional CD/AM/FM or similar in a zone where you’d like multi-sourcing, but with its aux input connected to the Fusion so that when one source, like maybe an iPod or Sirius, is agreeable, it can be play on all zones.
    Does that make sense?

  3. DFord says:

    It does, but not the most flexible arrangement. I do find it odd that they are going after the larger boat segment, yet they don’t support Multi-Source. I have a 45′ sailboat, it would be nice to let the kids watch a DVD in the salon while we adults enjoy music in the cockpit. Sometimes, it’s the opposite. I have my Garming 3210 Video Source coming from my DVD Player. I will probably end up with and Automotive solution, but this looks promising. Have you pinged their support email? I wonder how responsive they are to real issues.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Before cassettes became completely obsolete, we had a bunch of them and mounted a car stereo casette player in the aft cabin with 2 speakers. Then we had a CD car stereo for the main cabin which also powered cockpit speakers. For a while I had a transfer switch to be able to listen to the CD in the aft cabin (selecting between the cockpit speakers and the aft cabin; but since we don’t want to get up and change the CD and had no remote it was never used.
    Too many wires so I removed the transfer switch. Now I plan to get a Sony IPod with a remote which also does CDs and we can either keep the cassette or remove it and leave the speakers and use the remote! It has an aux front panel inpout I believe so we could connect another source.
    In reality we don’t do much music on board – mostly radio VHF, weather and SSB so the audio stuff is less and less important. We do like to converse and not sit there listening to music when we are together. When I am alone I occasionally have music on.
    The IPod solution is very boat worthy as we don’t have to haul cassette. CDs have several copies for home car office and boat… just take the little Ipod which contains our entire music collection. Thanks Steve Jobs! We saved weight too!, plastic and so forth… very environmentally friendly too.
    Did I mention, my hearing is going south too so hi end audio is not in my future either.

  5. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Darrell, I did call Fusion U.S. tech support a few days ago; I got right through and received good advice. I didn’t tell them I was writing a review.
    There is a marine multi-zone multi-source audio system, the Poly Planar MRD70/RD44 system. I gave it a Sail FKP award two years ago, but somehow failed to put it on Panbo. I’m going to fix that!
    Meanwhile, I was tickled to hear from Fusion that they have a new AV product introducing next week at METS. Sounds neat, and might work for you. But I’m curious about the automobile multi-source multi-zone systems you’re looking at?
    Anonymous, my first marine audio system (in 1971) used 8 track tapes. iPod way better.

  6. Mike says:

    Multi-zone quickly gets complicated, expensive, and it breeds wires like bunnies.
    the solution we adopted was pretty simple: we put a Jensen AM/FM/CD/WX/iPod/Sirius “radio” in each cabin, the main saloon, and the deck house. not all have the optional Sirius receiver module nor the optional iPod input, but this approach works very well because it is *simple*.
    the only shared facilities are the antenna/preamp and a standard 72-ohm coax distribution tree.
    the speaker wires don’t leave the room, and the tiny wired or wireless remote mitigates the issue of where to put the “box” in the compartment.
    moreover, it was inexpensive and saved all the complexity of the remote control wiring, shared amplifiers, home-run speaker wiring, etc, etc.
    what i’ve found interesting is the level of use. The deck-house and saloon units have Sirius and are usually tuned to “Margaritaville”. While the cabin units don’t get a lot of use, we have found having NOAA Weather channels in the cabins to be great for that first (or last) weather check from the comfort of your rack.
    true, this scheme doesn’t give “great demo” like the all-singing, all-dancing multi-zone, multi-source, multi-everything entertainment systems. it just lets you play a CD, listen to your iPod, check the weather, catch the local news, and visit the islands “in abstentia” at low cost and without miles of extra wire.
    your mileage will almost certainly vary.
    M/V “Bebop Tango”
    ps – the television system looks strikingly similar with some added complexity caused by the KVH G4, but there are also fewer TVs!

  7. Mark says:

    Any idea if the canbus cable they use can connect to an actual bus to reduce the number of cables running around?
    Would make life easier if this would just ride an existing NMEA2000 backbone, wouldn’t it?

  8. pete Mendenhall says:

    Hi guys iam stuck between systems for my boat I hv a fusion deck so here is what I want to do in my boat
    6 -6 1/2 speakers
    4-10in subs
    Iam looking at memphis & kicker & fusion so if oanyone can help me out on the fusion and how to set it up for the best s ound let me know or call me 918-697-8660

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