Before we bought our boat last year, I looked at many different brands of boats. Every one of them, including mine, had one thing that I really didn’t like and wanted to change. The stereo systems on the boats are largely car stereos. For what the boats cost and how nice every other aspect of them is so nice, this doesn’t make any sense to me. To be fair, my boat had a Bose system in the salon, which in the end became more of a liability, than an asset. However, the four staterooms, crew’s quarters and flybridge all came with an AM/FM car stereos w/ CD. I don’t know if others have done what I did, but the solution we put in place works really well and I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. We had a multi zone digital music server installed, along with a Crestron based touch panel controlled system throughout most of the boat. The music server rips CD’s and can hold approximately 700 CD’s worth of music. You put a CD in and it copies on to a hard drive, automatically goes out to the internet and gets the artist, album name and song titles and stores it. Once these are loaded you can control what you want to listen to from a TV screen or do as we did and have it controlled by touch screens that display the artists, songs, etc. We had color LCD touch screens installed in the master and VIP cabins, a wireless one in the salon and a wired one that controls the music on the flybridge and cockpit. The one’s in the cabins are mounted in the walls where the car stereos were in wood plates that go over the stereo opening. We used all the existing speakers and in the salon it was interfaced to the Bose unit. The screens allow you to select music from the server, satellite music channels from Direct-TV and local radio channels. The one in the salon also controls the TV, satellite TV receiver and DVD player from the touch screen. You are also able to control volume, bass, treble, etc. from the screen. The music server we selected came with three zones. This means that it can simultaneously play three different things. So on the boat we can have different music playing in different parts of the boat at the same time from the same source. Outside it can be loud party music, while down below, relaxing. You can also play the same zone in multiple locations. The other thing that is really great with these servers, is you can create playlists. Once you get a bunch of CD’s loaded, its very easy to select like six hours of music into a single playlist. You create a few of them for different types of occasions, select it to play the songs randomly and you are set for all day. It is great for entertaining; music just keeps playing. To get this done required getting an installer that handles high end stereo installs as well as a marine electronics dealer. The Crestron parts, mult-zone amplifier, music server all came from the stereo guys. They did all the programming and interfaced everything. These guys are reluctant to work on boats as it is a bear pulling cable on a boat and finding places for the equipment. They needed CAT-5 runs to each controller and speaker wire to all the speakers (which were already in place). The Crestron can control the devices directly for serial port compatible devices or through IR commands. The marine electronics guys pulled the cable and also provided a run to satellite internet access for the music server to download titles, etc. They also cut holes in paneling and got the matching wood mounting plates made up for where these went over the old stereo openings where we mounted the touch panels in the staterooms. The internet access is not necessarily a requirement, as you could load all your music from your cd’s before the server goes on the boat. Some dealers for certain brands of these will be able to load your cd’s for you. The music is copied from the CD to the devices hard drive. I spent a lot of time with the stereo guys figuring out which server to use and how it would all come together. Once it was done it all worked just as we hoped it would. The marine electronics guys who do many boats including one’s much larger than mine had never seen anything like this on other boats. I don’t know how many others have done this on their boats, but I am sure there are some out there. At least one of the server manufacturers pitches their units for boats as well as houses. I have only ever seen one mention in a boat magazine of these types of devices and it was like a press release and didn’t go into any of the controlling it and zones and such. If anyone is interested in trying to do this, I will be happy to post manufacturers of these devices. We used a Marantz and it works well, but is slower than others to rip the CD’s (which is a one time job), but supposedly does a better job converting it to hard disk. The biggest challenge you may have in doing this is to find installers of the Crestron and music server. Actually, you can do a single zone connection, controlled from your TV pretty easily on your own. Like anything on a boat, location for the hardware is a challenge as well. One thing I did to save space was use a Sony Play Station for games and also to play DVD’s. The DVD functions can be controlled with IR commands from the Crestron. This way my kids can play games and we can watch movies from the same device, since space is at a premium. One thing I do want to change for next season is the addition of a UPS on the music server. Since it is a server, I need to down it each time we switch from shore power to generator. With a UPS it will be powered by it in the few minutes it takes to switch over the power source. It’s a minor inconvenience in any event. I did show the setup to a factory rep for my boat who said more customers were looking for higher end solutions. Not sure if anything like this will become factory options any time soon, but it definitely can be done and be a totally clean and professional install.