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Marine, Power Sports Help Keep Suppliers Above Water

With car A/V aftermarket sales posting flat to declining sales in recent years, aftermarket suppliers are stepping up their activities in the marine and power sports markets to build their bottom lines.

The Consumer Technology Association forecasts a 1.3 percent decline in aftermarket audio and video sales in 2016 to $1.34 billion following estimated flat sales in 2015 and a 9.2 percent decline in 2014.

Rockford Fosgate, which calls the marine and power sports markets “relatively untapped,” launched 72 marine/motor sports products in 2015 out of 95 products launched, and the brand went to CES to further expand its line with such products as its first products designed for specific models of power sports off-road vehicles.

JL Audio also sees the potential and went to CES to stage its biggest-ever introduction of marine/powersports products, which include the company’s first-ever source units.  “There is no question that powersports audio is a fast-growing market,” said JL president Andy Oxenhorn.

For their part, Harman’s JBL and Infinity brands announced their entry into the market, and Dual expanded its selection.

Here’s what was announced at CES:

AAMP: Under the iSimple brand, the company launched the weather-resistant $39-suggested MusicStream ISBT3 Bluetooth receiver, which sends audio to an outboard amplifier for on and off-road and off-shore listening to smartphone-stored music.

Clarion: The company expanded its marine selection with a four-zone receiver, an enclosed 7- by 10-inch two-way wakeboard tower-speaker pair, and a pair of 8.8-inch two-way speakers.

The trio will be available in the first quarter to complement a marine line that already exceeds 30 models.

The $399-suggested 4×50-watt M606 receiver features water-tight aluminum-alloy front panel, global AM/FM/weatherband tuner, USB and Bluetooth aptX inputs, Pandora control, input for a SiriusXM tuner, and wired remote. It controls the volume in four zones.

The $699/pair CM7123T wakeboard tower speaker delivers 200-watt maximum power handling and comes with aluminum swivel mount, grill and mounting hardware. The 8.8-inch CM2223R two-way speakers, priced at $199/pair, deliver 250-watt maximum power handling.

Dual Electronics:  The brand launched 14 new marine SKUs that include a high-power 4×55-watt RMS head unit, an expanded selection of Bluetooth heads, and an expanded selection of heads that control a Pandora app running on a USB-connected iPhone.

With the launches, 14 SKUs in the 2016 lineup feature built-in Bluetooth, up from 11. The 14 include all seven standalone receivers in the 2016 lineup as well as five of eight receiver/speaker packages, a carryover Bluetooth-equipped marine amplifier, and a carryover Bluetooth-equipped smart EQ.

Bluetooth lets boaters play music from their phone through the audio system while keeping the phone protected from water, the company said. Similarly, the Bluetooth amplifier and Bluetooth EQ enable can be tucked away in places protected from splashing water.

The number of heads that control the Pandora radio app on a USB-connected iPhone goes to nine SKUs from 2015’s six SKUs. That feature is available in six of seven standalone receivers, consisting of three CD-receivers, two round gauge-hole receivers, and one mech-less digital media receiver. The feature also appears in heads that are part of three receiver/speaker packages.

These heads also feature direct USB control of iPods/iPhone, a feature expanded to nine heads from eight.

For the marine environment, all Dual receivers’ displays feature high-contrast black characters on white LCDs for increased visibility in water-reflected sunlight. In addition, four SKUs, including the flagship receiver, feature large three-inch full-color LCD displays, and eight heads feature extra-wide 3.7-inch LCDs so that larger characters stand out on a scrolling display even in direct sunlight.

Harman: A speaker bar, planned under Harman’s JBL and Infinity brands, clamps onto the bars of side-by-sides, golf carts, boats and the like. An insert widens the bar, which comes with integrated GoPro mount. A mockup was shown, and the model will ship sometime this year. It’s Harman’s first power-sports product. It ships sometime this year at an undisclosed price.

Kenwood: The company added the KAC-M8005 five-channel amplifier to expand its amp selection to five SKUs. The new model is rated at 4×75 watts into 2 ohms plus 1×500 watts at 2 ohms.

Also new are three single-DIN receivers, maintaining Kenwood’s current SKU count but with a higher level of performance and features, the company said.

The top model is the KMR-D765BT, which offers dual USB inputs, NFC, aptX over Bluetooth, an enclosed CD door, and 4-volt preouts. All feature Bluetooth, 13-bandEQ, 48kHz/16-bit FLAC playback, and Android Rapid Charge.  All offer three sets of pre-outs and are SiriusXM Ready.

Kenwood’s top-end marine receiver, the KMR-D765BT, offers dual USB inputs, NFC, aptX over Bluetooth, 48kHz/16-bit FLAC playback, and Android-phone rapid charging.

The KMR-M315BT features a short chassis for ease of installation in tight areas. 

JL Audio: The company entered the source-unit market with three models, all for the marine/power-sports markets. The company also unveiled new amps and its first line of vehicle-specific enclosed subwoofers for off-road, all-terrain vehicles.

The three all-weather source units are the MBT-RX Bluetooth receiver, MBT-CRX Bluetooth controller/receiver, and the $549 four-zone MediaMaster MM100s, which is due in March for marine use. The IPX66-rated head unit lacks CD and built-in amplifier but features AM/FM/weather bands, 3.5-inch full-color LCD display, Bluetooth with aptX, USB 2.0 connection to an iPhone or USB storage device, satellite-radio input, and aux input.

Three zones feature independent bass, midrange, treble and balance controls, plus absolute or relative volume control. Zone four is a fixed-level zone. Optional MMR-20 round remote controls can be installed throughout a vessel.

JL Audio’s first source units include the $549 four-zone MediaMaster MM100s digital media receiver for boats.

The head unit “creates an opportunity to build a full JL Audio marine sound system, from source unit to amplifiers, speakers and subwoofers,” said JL president Andrew Oxenhorn.

The MBT-RX Bluetooth source unit is a hideaway Bluetooth receiver that connects to outboard amplifiers and lacks playback controls. The MBT-CRX adds keypad to control the volume, track up/down, and play/pause phone-stored music.

A NMEA 2K-compliant CAN bus is on board to connect to compatible marine electronics.

The MediaMaster MM100s will be sold by JL Audio’s car audio and marine audio dealers and will be available as OEM equipment in select boats.

For the marine and power sports markets, the company also launched the MX Series amplifiers, VeX Pod speaker systems, and Stealthbox subwoofer systems.

The VeX Pod coaxial speakers are enclosed in ruggedized enclosures that can be bolted onto off-road vehicles’ roll bars. The MX powersports amplifiers can be used in UTVs, motorcycles, watercraft and other open-air applications. Two mono subwoofer amplifiers and two four-channel amplifiers will be offered.

Eleven Stealthbox vehicle-specific subwoofer enclosures, sold with included subwoofers, are designed to fit a range of UTVs with a precise fit and maximum enclosure volume for strong, deep bass output, the company said.

Rockford Fosgate: The latest element-ready products include two new head units. One is the compact $149 PMX-0 Bluetooth receiver, due in the first quarter for off-road and on-water use. It sends a Bluetooth stream to an outboard amplifier, but it also offers an optional aux input. A rotary knob controls volume. It lacks a display. It’s designed for small audio systems in space-constrained vehicles and measures 2.6 inches in height and 4.1 inches in width.

For more elaborate systems, the company unveiled a hideaway digital media receiver controlled by a cable-connected shallow-mount controller with 5-inch color display. They ship in the summer.

The  hideaway receiver is the $399-suggested PMX-8BB, which features AM/FM/weatherband, 4×50-watt amplification, USB and Bluetooth connections to smartphones, Sirius XM tuner input, Pandora control via USB or Bluetooth, Android compatible, iPhone support with folder-browsing capability, four-zones with four-source capability, seven-band DSP equalization, aux in, and reverse-camera input.

The receiver can be controlled by the $299-suggested PMX-8DH display-head controller with mounting depth of only 0.8 inches. The controller features 5-inch color display and hard buttons. And measures 8.3 inches in width and 5.1 inches in height.

The company also unveiled its first line of motorsports audio products designed for specific vehicles, in this case select 2014-2016 Polaris RZR models. The products, which fit factory locations, consist of multiple SKUs starting at $349 for the RZR-Stage1 digital media receiver. A $699 package consists of the receiver and two speakers, and the top package at $2,199 features the receiver, two outboard amps, four speakers, and a subwoofer.

Also new: the Punch 6.5-inch coax speaker at $299/pair, new Punch marine two-way wake-tower speakers in cans with 359-degree rotation at a suggested $599/pair, an add-on tweeter at $199/pair, and mini tower enclosed speakers for motorsports applications with 359-degree rotation on a roll bar at $499/pair.