New NMEA 2000 stereos: Rockford Fosgate PMX-5, JL Audio MM100s & Navico SonicHub2

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.

22 Responses

  1. I have always wondered why the only player in the N2K entertainment realm has been Fusion. I’ve had three of their systems on various boats (one you can see in a front panel here: ) and love the integration with MFD’s. I’ve come to rely on that control from the cockpit, and would never go back, having used it with Simrad, B&G, Garmin, and now Raymarine. I currently have the MS650-AV unit paired with a Raymarine eS78, and while it works, the on screen controls in the Raymarine pale in comparison to both Garmin and Navico.
    Fusion was slow to get all of the various streaming and Bluetooth support integrated as mentioned above, and even now it’s not as full featured as some of the bigger vendors out there in stereo equipment. My car has far more control and visibility into playlists, album details, and even dedicated Pandora and other streaming modes.
    I always love seeing more competition, and this is one of those areas where I think we need more choices + competition to drive even more interesting integrations and growth. I absolutely love my Fusion stereo now, and am glad those guys from down under blazed the trail, but I’m looking forward to even more innovation from them and others with these changes!

  2. Sheldon Haynie says:

    We’re putting a Sonichub2 in; it would be nice if the MFD’s had the added webcam/microphone functionality to allow use as intercoms and to enable “hands free” bluetooth telephony to cell/satphone as most automobiles can do.

  3. Fredrik Johansson says:

    Have been looking into this since thinking of getting a new sailboat.
    It will have B&G at the helm so getting a SonicHub2 sounds great. The questions seems to be that B&G gang does not have a media remote for use inside the boat, or do they ? I guess one could control it from a Triton display but that is expensive to get just for that purpose.
    The next question if one gets a Fusion wired remote would it work with the SonicHub2.
    What other ways are there, controlling the SonicHub2 with a phone or tablet ?
    Otherwise just have to go with a mediaserver that has a control interface as well, like the JL audio above.

  4. Sheldon Haynie says:

    I am installing a SonicHub2 from B&G, and it came with a Bluetooth antenna, so presumably there’s ability to connect to it via some application, and/or have it access your Itunes that way.
    the Docking station for your Ios/Android is available to charge/protect the phone/ipod, but I can’t see why I would want to use it as it does not to my knowledge support remove phone usage.

  5. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Glad to see numerous good points brought up that I sort of glossed over in the entry 😉
    As best I can tell, the SonicHub2 may be problem on some boats because it lacks much choice of remote control. Using an MFD is usually great when you’re underway, but you may not want to run it or walk to it when, say, on the hook.
    And I strongly doubt that a Fusion wired remote (or their Bluetooth remote app) will work with the SonicHub2. The Fusion gear was developed before standard N2K entertainment PGNs and even if Fusion is starting to use them now (I don’t know), presumptions about compatibility may lead to disappointment!
    Plus, no matter if the MFD manufacturer is working with standard or proprietary (Fusion) PGNs, the end result will vary from MFD brand to MFD brand (and even models sometimes), as Steve experienced.
    Note that the new Rockford and JL control heads discussed above both seem to support a variety of wired remotes as well as control via N2K (which remains vague except for what Raymarine is doing).
    Meanwhile, Fusion already offers the MS-BB300R black box stereo…
    …that comes with an NRX200i wired (via N2K) remote and FusionLink. And the just launched BB100 has a small screenless wired remote which is also its Bluetooth antenna, and the box can be controlled with Fusions app (as well as stream from your mobile, two different things):
    I believe that FusionLink N2K integration is still fully supported by B&G, Simrad, Raymarine, etc. and hope that doesn’t change.

  6. steve says:

    What I would like to see from just one stereo head manufacturer is bluetooth audio out. In my sailboat the stereo head and speakers are in one end of the boat and the cockpit is at the other. In order to hear the stereo and control the volume separately in the cockpit I would need to hard wire a separate pair of speakers to a separate audio zone. That is a real pain in the neck. I have recently devised a workaround where I plugged a small bluetooth out device into the audio out of the head unit and paired it with a pair of waterproof bluetooth speakers that I hang in the cockpit. This works fine until the bluetooth unit needs to be recharged. Wouldn’t it be nice if just one stereo head unit manufacturer had this incorporated into their device. I can’t be the only one in this situation.

  7. Sheldon Haynie says:

    If you have bluetooth audio out, then what purpose does the stereo head serve?
    It has amplifiers and multiple hardwire speaker capability, and conceptually integrates/switches Bluetooth streaming, Sirius/XM, AM/FM and USB connected programs. As all of those can be broadcast on bluetooth by your smartphone, why have them in the Stereo system?

  8. steve says:

    I guess the operative word is conceptually. It is not possible to run hardwired audio out and bluetooth speakers at the same time without a workaround.

  9. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I agree with you, Steve. It would be nice to make what you’re doing easier and maybe Bluetooth out could be easily treated as a new and separate zone since it would need little power. That way the existing amp/speaker options of a head unit would remain the same.
    It won’t help with consumer confusion, though. The Bluetooth logo on a stereo could mean:
    * Accepts BT streaming (hopefully both iOS and Android flavors)
    * Can be controlled by app over BT
    * Can stream to BT speakers
    * some or all of the above
    Sheldon, I can’t count how many ways I’ve used various Fusion marine stereos that wouldn’t be possible with my phone or I just don’t want to do with my phone. If you got under the shrink wrap right now, you’d find that the Fusion had an old iPod full of music in it, and a similarly loaded USB stick. You’d also see how its antenna input goes via a Vesper Marine splitter to a good, high VHF antenna (and I yearn for a dedicated FM stick), and there’s also an aux input set up so that I can easily attach it to the boat’s computer/TV when I want that system’s sound to be big and clear. Frankly I rarely take my phone to the fly bridge (BT connected hearing aids help), but when I do it’s often so I can control podcast streaming to the Fusion. (I can also control the Fusion via an app, that’s via WiFi and the Ethernet connection Fusion seems to be moving away from.)

  10. Sheldon Haynie says:

    I can agree with Bluetooth speakers out as an additional zone;
    I think I can probably find an RCA input to Bluetooth converter for that if I looked. (I looked:
    How many separate bluetooth zones? That pairing would be fun, and might reduce stray magnetic fields. (the Grateful Dead Deviation problem…)
    I do have mine already unboxed, screwed down and wired along side the NAIS, Navico Antenna Splitter & H5000, but with the masts down have not fired anything up yet. Given my 50′ main mast bridge clearance on the VHF whip, I’m good with taking the FM off at the splitter rather than a deck level stick, though for the mastless I can see your point.
    Yup there’s a place for Sirius/XM and a place for USB as well, with the BT100 going into the Aux as I recall.
    I keep my phone in a zippered pocket, or a charging cradle while within range unless racing, and would like to have the Fusion/Stereo heads support it over the system with a simple remote phone protocol using the speakers, as I have in my cars.

  11. steve says:

    There are several bluetooth trnasmitters on the market, the only drawback is that they cannot draw power from the head unit and must be recharged every now and then. Then, being when you are in the middle of an outing!

  12. Sheldon Haynie says:

    This one has a 5VDC input based on photo… maybe USB +/or a plug type.

  13. I had the original SonicHub with a wired remote, and while it gave me enough control for basic things, it was sure hard to flip inputs or change other settings compared to my full head unit on the current boat.
    It was nice to have the MFD control of the SonicHub because of the size of the screen, and access in different places around the boat, but as Ben mentioned, having to use a MFD all of the time was annoying. The electrical draw too was a concern on the sailboat – might not be for everyone though.
    The MS-AV650 that I have now has so many inputs/outputs that zones aren’t an issue, and I would think you could grab one of those and use a BT transmitter to send to a remote location if needed.
    I would caution on BT usage on the boat – I have found several areas where even though I am well within the spec of the distance for BT while moving around with my iPhone, it gets choppy or outright disconnects from the head unit. In some cases it’s as close as 10 feet. I’d definitely test a few times before relying on an install of BT with all of the extra EMI on a boat.

  14. steve says:

    I have a 51ft sailboat with the head unit in the salon just aft of the forward stateroom and I have no trouble getting a bluetooth signal to a speaker in the cockpit. As a matter of fact I found a bluetooth speaker that has solar panels on one side so I hang it from a bar in front of my dodger, or from the boom when I am not sailing and it works like a charm. Unfortunately there is no way to use one of those zones for the bluetooth out. I have had numerous conversations with Fusion and finally resorted to the work around stated above. Maybe someone from Fusion might read this thread and realize it would be a great add on/solution for the boating community.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for this article.

  16. SanderO says:

    My issue with boats and audio systems… is too many boaters have no respect for others and play their music too loud.
    We have a real problem with people destroying their (and others) hearing with over modulated sound and most of it is from music systems including earphones and ear buds.
    Please keep it down!

  17. Anonymous says:

    Also remember WiFi integration on the Navico product

  18. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Well, OK, but what audio and/or SonicHub2 WiFi integration is that????
    Oh, maybe Anon means running a SonicHub2 using a GoFree WiFi app on a phone or tablet? I think that will work, but you’d still need to have an MFD powered up, not even on Standby, I think.

  19. Brian says:

    Just a note to everybody.
    The PMX-5 comes in 2 varients.
    The PMX-5 and the PMX5-CAN
    The PMX5-CAN is ‘freshly’ released and talks to their PMX-CAN N2K interface.
    The interface box to allow NMEA Media Control MFD’s to talk to the unit.
    If you buy the wrong PMX-5 one you have to go through a world of return hurt to get the correct one. Especially if you install the wrong one first before realizing your purchase mistake.
    That said both units sound great.
    Having 2 separate source zones is wonderful. Having deck music and cabin music allows the deck watch to pick their own soundtrack.
    But I wanted N2K control of the unit.
    My B&G Zeus2 controls the PMX-5CAN through the PMX-CAN very nicely.

  20. Why can’t these folks make the N2K interface part of the radio? I was all ready to order one, saw that it’s price is similar to Fusion, but then found out you have to buy a $170 CAN-BUS connector. That really drives the overall price up, even though they have some differentiating features.
    Would be so nice not to have even more bits to stuff in the innards of the boat for something as simple as N2K.

  21. Orin Guidry says:

    Is the Navico Sonichub 2.1 still available? Can’t find it on the Simrad website.


  22. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Hi Orin, I think it’s just plain SonicHub2 and I see it for sale from many outlets and here at Simrad:

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