Suppliers Tap Rising Tide In Niche Marine Market















By Joseph Palenchar — TWICE, 2/28/2012

LAS VEGAS – The market for marine audio is small,
but many aftermarket autosound suppliers won’t leave
any niche unexploited, especially one that is growing
modestly and could accelerate further in the coming
years as powerboat sales pick up.

Multiple autosound suppliers have introduced new
marine-rated head units, amps and speakers, and
some suppliers are adding marine head-unit features
previously available only in their automotive head units.
Dual, for instance, is adding stereo Bluetooth with
AVRCP, and direct USB control for iPods/iPhones. Kenwood added control of Pandora
on a USB-connected iPhone and control of song
selection on USB-connected Android phones.

Head units that connect the new outboard SiriusXM
universal tuner have been added by Clarion, Dual, Kenwood,
and Sony.

The introductions follow a return to growth in the
boat market after five consecutive years of declines,
according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association
(NMMA). The association estimates 2011
wholesale boat-sales growth of 16 percent in units and
18 percent in dollars to about $30 billion. The group
also forecasts continued growth through 2015.

Despite the five-year decline in boat sales, aftermarket sales of marine audio products didn’t suffer much, some
marketers said. “Consumer electronics retail sales are
primarily an upgrade and replacement business, and
because of this we did not experience a large downturn
when the sales of new boats declined during the recession,”
said Jim Warren, senior VP of merchandising at the
50-store Car Toys chain.

Kenwood senior VP Keith Lehmann pointed out that
boaters need to replace marine radios and speakers
every two to three years if the boats aren’t stored in
dry storage during the off-season.

Some marketers contend marine audio sales
are rising and could get a further bump up in
the coming years in part because of the upswing
in boat sales.

“Over the last two marine seasons, we have
seen a nice uptick in premium sound solutions,
including a nice lift in wakeboard tower systems,”
said Warren. “All in all I would classify
the category as healthy and experiencing modest
growth.”

With boat sales on the upswing again,
marine-audio growth could accelerate in
a few years when those boats’ OEM audio
products require replacement, marketers
noted.

“It’s a good thing that more boats are being built,” said
Warren. “With certainty, the aftermarket should enjoy
benefits of the increased sales.”

Retailers, however, didn’t wait for boat sales to turn
around to step up their marine-audio efforts. Retailers such
as Best Buy, Car Toys and Mickey Shorr created separate
marine-audio displays separate from their regular car audio
displays to take advantage of an incremental sales opportunity,
said Kenwood’s Lehmann. Crutchfield similarly has
a separate marine audio section on its website.

For these and other dealers, here’s what select suppliers
plan to offer:

Clarion: One of the company’s two digital media receiver
introductions is a marine unit, the M502. It features
connector for the universal SiriusXM tuner, control of
Pandora on a USB-connected iPhone, Parrot Bluetooth,
and compatibility with Clarion’s marine wired remote controls.
From the head unit, consumers will be able to control
basic Pandora functions as well as the app’s thumbs
up feature.

The MF-1 one-way RF remote is designed for marine
and in-car use. It communicates with an RF dongle that
plugs into a head-unit interface designed to connect
heads to OEM steering-wheel controls.

The remote controls on/off, volume, track up/down and
play/pause functions and is priced at a suggested $199.
The company’s first two Class D amps, designed for
marine and car use, incorporate RCA audio-signal
sensing technology to turn them on when they detect
audio signal from a head unit. The feature
makes it unnecessary to connect the amps to
a switched-power wire for automatic turnon,
though wires must still be run to the
vehicle’s battery for power and ground.

One is the four-channel XC6410
rated at 4×85 watts RMS into 4 ohms,
4×125 watts into 2 ohms, and bridgeability
to two channels. The two-channel
XC6210 is rated at 2×85 watts into 4 ohms,
2×125 watts into 2 ohms, with bridgeability
to one channel. Both feature high- and
low-pass filters and will retail from $300
to $400 on an everyday basis.

JL Audio: Three speakers include the
company’s largest coaxial with 8.8-inch
woofer at $599/pair in white or $609/pair in titanium. Also
new are two speaker pairs intended for mounting on wakeboard
towers or other tubular structures. Both are coaxial
models with 7.7-inch woofer at $599 and $799/pair.

Kenwood: Two CD-receivers are the $190-suggested
KMR-550U and $120 KMR-350U, marking a new opening
price point down from $140. The introductions join
a current $300-suggested model. Both models are also
accompanied by the $120 KCA-RC55MR and $60 KCARC35
remotes.

The KMR-550U is a full-featured model with universal
SiriusXM port, control of Pandora on a USB-connected
iPhone, and control of music stored on a USB-connected
Android phone loaded with Kenwood software. Androidphone-
stored songs can be selected by title, artist, album
and mood when the phone is placed in mass-storage
mode. The USB connection also charges the Android
phone.

In its 2011 car line, Kenwood offered multimedia-navigation
units that charged Android phones and allowed
users to navigate songs only by folder and by
using track up/down controls.

The KMR-350U also controls Pandora on
a USB-connected iPhone and provides USB
control of music on Android phones equipped
with the free Kenwood app.

The KMR-550U is available in February, and
the KMR-350U is available now.

Rockford Fosgate: To complements its marine
speaker selection, Rockford is launching
its first four marine amps, all Class D models
shipping in the second quarter. The selection
consists of two 4/2-channel models stable to 2
ohms at $449 and $299 and two 1-ohm stable
mono amps at $399 and $499 and capable of
delivering 750 watts and 1200 watts, respectively,
into 1-ohm loads.

The brand’s marine-speaker selection got its
first purpose-built speaker for installation on the
wake towers of ski and wake-boarding boats.
The speakers look almost light spotlights. A 6.5-
inch 4-ohm 75-watt RMS model and an 8-inch
4-ohm 100-watt model ship in the second quarter
at $599 and $699/pair, respectively.

Sony: The entry-level marine CD-receiver is
debuting at an expected everyday $140 replaces
a current model and adds universal Sirius
XM connector, new digital processing tuner,
slot-load design, and piano-black faceplate,
which mobile electronics business manager
Takahiro Noguchi called a new trend. Other
features include RDS FM tuner, MP3/WMA CD
playback, front aux in and white LCD display.

Two speakers replace similar models but feature
improved cosmetics with water-resistant
coating and detachable grilles.

The $69/pair dual-cone XS-MP1611 and
$129/pair two-way speakers both feature 6.5-
inch driver. The former is rated at 65 watts RMS
and the latter at 70 watts. Sony will also package
the dual-cone speaker pair with the CDXM20
head unit at $190.















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