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Fusion is offering a new kind of "docking" iPod head unit for marine audio models, with hopes to bring the same technology to car audio in the future.
A Fusion marine "mechless" receiver (without a CD mechanism) has a slot where an iPod can dock directly inside the head unit for protection from the elements. The unit comes with sleeves for any iPod, with the exception of the iPhone and the first-generation iPod.
Fusion claims its head units are unique on two other fronts. First, they mimic the iPod menu "exactly," showing all meta tag info formatted on a 3-inch screen, as it would appear on an iPod, rather than in a scrolling format. It also has a microprocessor buffer so that songs are accessed instantly, Fusion said. Second, the head units are designed exclusively for the marine market with varying volume controls for different zones as the boat deck requires a higher listening volume than the cabin. The units have an IPX rating of 65, so they can resist a pressurized spray and they have a die-cast rear chassis rather than the typical steel chassis that is subject to rust.
"We saw an opportunity in the marine market. Everyone was adapting product from the car" vs. designing directly for marine audio, said president Todd Crocker, calling the line, a "paradigm shift in marine audio."
"When you do a crossover product you create mega compromises. We'd hear customers say, if I get a year out of my stereo I'd be happy," he said.
The company's line includes two head units. One, the mechless MS P500G is an all-in-one AM/FM receiver where the iPod docks "inside," at a street price of $399. A second version is a two-piece head unit with a separate iPod "inside" docking compartment. The package sells for an additional $49.99.
Fusion offers a three-year warranty against water damage and charges a flat fee of $99 for an additional two-year warranty. The products are available through West Marine and through car stereo distributors. Wider distribution to car audio retailers is expected in 2009.
The company said it is looking at bringing its "inside" docking system to car audio and other consumer electronics products in the future. Other new Fusion marine products include wired remotes, speakers and separate amplifiers.